The opening ceremony of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics is set for Friday, and soon after it will be time to begin the men's basketball tournament. Always one of the most anticipated events of the summer Olympics, this year's edition will begin on Saturday, July 24 with the opening group stage game between Iran and the Czech Republic.
Much of the focus, both here in the United States and around the globe, will be on Team USA. They are going for a fourth straight gold medal but could be in for a real challenge this time around. During their pre-Olympics exhibition schedule, they often looked disjointed and lost to both Nigeria and Australia. They finished those exhibition games with a 2-2 record.
Bradley Beal (health and safety) and Kevin Love (calf) are no longer on the team and have been replaced by Keldon Johnson and JaVale McGee. Adding to questions about the roster, Khris Middleton, Jrue Holiday and Devin Booker will be arriving late and exhausted after their Finals appearances.
Internal issues aren't the only reason that Team USA could be denied gold for the first time since 2004, however. While basketball has always been a global game, there's more elite talent around the world now than ever before. Just take Nigeria, for example. When they played Team USA in the 2012 Olympics, they lost, 156-73. Earlier this month, when the two teams met in an exhibition game, Nigeria beat Team USA, 90-87.
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As we head into the tournament, here's a look at all of the international NBA players who will be representing their countries in Tokyo.
- Leandro Bolmaro -- Minnesota Timberwolves
Bolmaro hasn't played in the NBA yet, but we'll include him because he was the No. 23 overall pick in last year's draft, and could arrive in the league as soon as next season. If you're unfamiliar, he's a 6-foot-6 guard with a lot of flair to his game and has a chance to be one of the breakout stars of this summer.
The veteran guard finally made his way to the NBA last season after starring overseas with Real Madrid. One of the most competitive and hard-working players around, Campazzo was inserted into the starting lineup during the playoffs after the Nuggets suffered a number of injuries and helped the team reach the second round.
If you were like most people and gave up on the Thunder last season when they started intentionally trying to lose every night, you might have missed Deck's arrival. He signed in April and ended up playing in 10 games, averaging 8.4 points, four rebounds and 2.4 assists.
- Luis Scola -- N/A
OK, cheating a bit again here because Scola doesn't play in the NBA anymore, but we have to show him some love. After a decade in the league, the now 41-year old forward is still going strong, and just a few years ago led Argentina to the gold medal at the Pan American Games.
Baynes won a championship with the Spurs -- and fellow Australian Patty Mills -- in just his second season in the league, and has since built himself a nice career as a tough, reliable big man. Coming off a disappointing season with the Raptors, he should have extra motivation for this tournament.
The former No. 5 overall pick was once an extremely promising prospect, but it just hasn't worked out for him because of injuries. He only played six games this season due to a calf injury, and since entering the league in 2014, he's played 245 of a possible 574 games.
Ingles has emerged in recent seasons as one of the most versatile forwards in the NBA, and a truly elite 3-point shooter. He's shot at least 39.1 percent from downtown for five straight seasons, and his career-high 45.1 percent mark this season was good for fifth in the league.
Green was the No. 18 overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, but he didn't get much of an opportunity in his rookie season, which isn't all that surprising given former head coach Rick Carlisle's style. Green ended up playing 39 games and averaged 2.6 points and two rebounds.
- Patty Mills -- San Antonio Spurs
The longtime Spurs guard has built a reputation as one of the most steady backup guards in the league. But when he puts on his country's jersey, he seems to reach a new level. Already one of the best Australian players ever, he'll try to add to his legacy this summer when he leads the Boomers in search of their first Olympic medal.
Thybulle was born in Arizona, and has actually spent most of his life in America, but lived in Australia for many years as a child and has dual citizenship. Despite having played just two seasons in the NBA, he's already made his name as a terrific perimeter defender and was named to the All-Defensive Second Team this season.
A former second-round pick, Satoransky has become a pretty solid player with the Wizards and now the Bulls. Currently the only player from the Czech Republic in the NBA, he's led the country to their first Olympic appearance since becoming independent in 1993 and will be a flag bearer at the opening ceremony.
- Nic Batum -- Los Angeles Clippers
It wasn't long ago that Batum's career seemed to be winding down. Injuries limited him to 22 games in 2019-20, and he eventually came to terms on a buyout with the Hornets. When he signed with the Clippers prior to this season, expectations weren't very high. But he surprised everyone by becoming a key part of their run to the Western Conference finals.
After spending the last six-plus seasons with the Magic, Fournier was traded to the Celtics at the deadline. Unfortunately, he got COVID-19 shortly after arriving and never really made much of an impact. As he prepares for free agency, the Olympics will give him a chance to show teams just how much he's worth.
- Rudy Gobert -- Utah Jazz
The first few conversations in the French locker room between Batum and Gobert might have been a bit awkward after the Clippers came back from a 2-0 deficit against the Jazz in the playoffs. While the big man faces his fair share of criticism, he's one of the best defensive players in the league and a walking double-double.
Since being drafted late in the first round in 2016, Luwawu-Cabarrot has already played for four different teams, and at one point found himself out of the league. He kept working, however, and eventually earned a spot on the Nets. While their playoff run came up short, he proved he belongs in the NBA.
Knicks fans had high hopes for the former No. 8 overall pick, but things haven't gone to plan. While he's shown promise as a perimeter defender, his offensive game hasn't been good enough. On the international level, however, he was instrumental in France's bronze medal finish at the 2019 FIBA World Cup, where they beat Team USA in the quarterfinals.
- Isaac Bonga -- Washington Wizards
A former second-round pick, Bonga showed some flashes when he was first traded to the Wizards, but saw his playing time reduced this season as they made a run to the playoffs. He's set to be a restricted free agent this summer, and it will be interesting to see what his NBA future holds. A good showing in Tokyo could help him get a new contract.
- Mo Wagner -- Orlando Magic
Interestingly enough, Wagner was traded to the Wizards from the Lakers along with Bonga. Now, they'll team up again for Germany. Like his former and current teammate, Wagner is facing an uncertain future in the league. When the number of teams you've played for (four) is higher than the number of seasons you've played (three) that's usually a bad sign.
There are currently no Iranians in the NBA.
The veteran forward signed up with the Hawks last summer in free agency, and it turned out to be a brilliant move for both team and player. Gallo got one last big payday, and the Hawks got an important player for what ended up being a surprise run to the Eastern Conference finals. Now, Gallinari will lead Italy in their first Olympic appearance since 2004.
Mannion has spent most of his life in the United States, but he was born in Italy when his father was playing there professionally and has represented the country since his U-16 days. As for his NBA career, it hasn't been too noteworthy so far. He made the Warriors as a second-round pick but played limited minutes in just 30 games.
- Nico Melli -- Dallas Mavericks
After a successful career in Europe, Melli finally made his way to the NBA in 2019 when he signed with the Pelicans. Though ostensibly a floor-spacing big, he's struggled to shoot it from deep in his first two seasons and was traded to the Mavericks at the deadline. He's another player who could use a good showing in Tokyo ahead of restricted free agency.
- Rui Hachimura -- Washington Wizards
Though still only 23 years old, Hachimura is already one of the best Japanese players of all time. The No. 9 overall pick in 2019, he was the first Japanese player ever drafted in the first round, and is also the only Japanese player to ever play in the playoffs. While he's struggled with injuries so far, he's also shown plenty of promise with the Wizards.
- Yuta Watanabe -- Toronto Raptors
Watanabe is probably best known for being the brave defender on Anthony Edwards' unbelievable dunk last season, but he should be known for being a trailblazer. When he made his NBA debut with the Grizzlies back in 2018, he became just the second Japanese player to ever play in the league.
The only NBA player on this team who actually grew up in Nigeria, Achiuwa moved to the United States as a teenager and quickly became a high-level prospect. Last year, he went No. 20 overall in the draft to the Heat, and earned a spot in the rotation thanks in large part to his hustle and energy off the bench.
A second-round pick back in 2018, Metu made his start in the league with the Spurs. However, he never really found a consistent role there and spent time in the G League before eventually getting waived. That wasn't the end of the road for him, though, as he eventually linked up with the Kings and closed the season with a number of encouraging performances.
Some players spend their whole career searching for a ring; Nwora got his after just one season. While he only saw limited playing time as a rookie, Nwora and the Bucks took down the Suns in the NBA Finals earlier this week. Now, he's on his way to Tokyo to check off another milestone early in his career by representing his country in the Olympics.
The No. 3 overall pick in the 2015 draft, Okafor was one of the early faces of "The Process" in Philadelphia. Unfortunately, his rookie season with the Sixers turned out to be his best, and he's bounced around with the Nets, Pelicans and Pistons in recent years.
- Josh Okogie -- Minnesota Timberwolves
One of four Timberwolves players heading to Tokyo, Okogie was the No. 20 overall pick in 2018. He's impressed as a perimeter defender through the first three seasons of his career, but saw his playing time decrease this season in large part because of his struggles on the offensive end.
- KZ Okpala -- Miami Heat
Okpala was a second-round pick back in 2019, but since making the Heat roster he hasn't really done much of note. So far he's struggled to find any consistent playing time in a crowded frontcourt, and has bounced up and down from the G League. In 42 games he's scored 99 points.
- Miye Oni -- Utah Jazz
After a storied collegiate career, Oni was the No. 58 pick in the 2019 draft. As a result, he became the first Ivy League played drafted since 1995, and the first player from Yale drafted since 1987. He appeared in a career-high 54 games this season for the Jazz as they earned the best record in the Western Conference.
- Gabe Vincent -- Miami Heat
After going undrafted, Vincent went the G League route and worked hard to improve his game. The effort paid off, as he was named G League Most Improved Player in 2020 and earned a call-up to the Heat. This season he broke into the rotation and averaged 4.8 points over 50 games.
- Marc Gasol -- Los Angeles Lakers
The younger Gasol joined the Lakers last offseason in search of another ring, but things didn't quite work out for him or the team. He'll have another chance next season, however, as they'll be one of the favorites if they can stay healthy. On the international level, Gasol is back at the Olympics after missing the games in 2016.
- Pau Gasol -- N/A
The elder Gasol brother no longer plays in the NBA, but we have to give him a shoutout as he continues to lead the Spanish national team. This will be the fifth straight Olympics for Gasol, as he looks to add a fourth medal to his already extensive resume.
- Juancho Hernangomez -- Minnesota Timberwolves
The younger Hernangomez was the No. 15 overall pick back in 2016, and spent the first three-plus seasons of his career with the Nuggets before being traded to the Timberwolves. While he's shown flashes here and there, he hasn't really fulfilled the promise that led to him being a first-round pick.
- Willy Hernangomez -- New Orleans Pelicans
The elder Hernangomez made the All-Rookie First Team with the Knicks back in 2017, but so far has not been able to build on that initial success. He's since spent time with the Hornets and the Pelicans, never playing more than 58 games in a season. It will be interesting to see what happens next for him as he hits unrestricted free agency this summer.
- Ricky Rubio -- Minnesota Timberwolves
Once one of the most exciting prospects in Spanish history, Rubio has been playing with the national team since he was a teenager, and made his Olympics debut back in 2008. While he's never become a star, he's had a long and solid career in the NBA with the Timberwolves, Jazz and Suns.
- Vlatko Cancar -- Denver Nuggets
Cancar was originally drafted by the Nuggets in the second round in 2017 but didn't come over to the NBA until 2019. Since then, he's bounced between the Nuggets and the G League and has been unable to earn any consistent playing time. In two seasons he's appeared in 55 games.
- Luka Doncic -- Dallas Mavericks
The young phenom is not only the best player in Slovenian history but is already one of the best players in the NBA after just three seasons with the Mavericks. At this rate, he's well on his way to being an all-time great. This summer, he'll lead Slovenia to their first Olympics since they became an independent country in 1991.