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On Top of the Worlds

Aug. 14, 2006
Aug. 14, 2006

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Aug. 14, 2006

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On Top of the Worlds

Rededicated after a sixth-place finish at the last FIBA World Championship, the U.S. will be a heavy favorite in Japan, with any of seven other teams in contention for a medal. Here's SI's predicted order of finish for the 24-team tournament, which begins on Aug. 19 and ends on Sept. 3, in Saitama.

1. UNITEDSTATES
Top players: SG Dwyane Wade, SF LeBron James, PG Gilbert Arenas
Skinny: The Americans (right) must bond quickly; among the contenders, theywill draw the toughest opponent in the knockout round of 16.

This is an article from the Aug. 14, 2006 issue Original Layout

2.ARGENTINA
Top players: SG Manu Ginobili, PF Luis Scola, SF Andres Nocioni
Skinny: While the 26-year-old Scola will be out to prove he's NBA-worthy, thisaging group will be hard-pressed to keep its edge after a half decade ontop.

3. SPAIN
Top players: C Pau Gasol, SG Juan-Carlos Navarro, SF Jorge Garbajosa
Skinny: The Spaniards' nucleus has been together for several years, theirbackcourt is exceptional, and the versatile Gasol is a matchup nightmare.

4. FRANCE
Top players: PG Tony Parker, PF Boris Diaw, SF Mickaël Pietrus
Skinny: With the help of NBA big men Ronny Turiaf and Johan Petro, Les Bleusare capable of winning it all.

5. BRAZIL
Top players: SG Leandro Barbosa, PF Anderson Varej√£o, PF Tiago Splitter
Skinny: This young, skilled team could spend the next quadrennium contendingfor gold medals.

6. GERMANY Topplayers: PF Dirk Nowitzki, C Patrick Femerling, PF Ademola Okulaja
Skinny: No opponent is safe against the unstoppable Nowitzki, who led Germanyto a silver medal at last year's European championships.

7.LITHUANIA
Top players: SG Arvydas Macijauskas, PF Darius Songaila, SF MindaugasZukauskas
Skinny: Even without NBA sharpshooter Sarunas Jasikevicius, this deep team iscapable of frightening the perennial powers.

8. SLOVENIA
Top players: PG Jaka Lakovic, SF Bostjan Nachbar, C Rasho Nesterovic
Skinny: With five NBA players (including C Primoz Brezec, PG Beno Udrih androokie PF Uros Slokar) and scorers at every position, this tiny country (pop. 2million) could be the tournament's Cinderella.

PHOTOJOHN W. MCDONOUGHEIGHT ILLUSTRATIONS