Men’s Basketball Olympic Qualifying Picks: Bet Bahamas, Puerto Rico as Long Shots

Men’s Basketball Olympic Qualifying Picks: Bet Bahamas, Puerto Rico as Long Shots article feature image
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(Photo by Cesar Heredia/Eurasia Sport Images/Getty Images) Pictured: Deandre Ayton.

The NBA season may be over, but it'll be a quick turnaround for some players looking to compete this summer.

Before we get to the Olympics in late July, we have four qualifying tournaments on the men's side to determine the final four spots of the 12-team field in France.

The teams that have already qualified are the following:

  • Europe: Germany, Serbia, France
  • Americas: Canada, United States
  • Asia: Japan
  • Africa: South Sudan
  • Oceania: Australia

And here are each of the locations and teams for the remaining qualifying tournaments, with each field producing one winner to determine the final four Olympic teams.

  • Valencia, Spain: Spain, Angola, Lebanon, Bahamas, Finland, Poland
  • Riga, Latvia: Latvia, Georgia, Phillippines, Brazil, Montenegro, Cameroon
  • Piraeus, Greece: Greece, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Slovenia, New Zealand, Croatia
  • San Juan, Puerto Rico: Puerto Rico, Italy, Bahrain, Lithuania, Mexico, Ivory Coast

Here are two long shot bets we've already sprinkled on ahead of each tournament.


Bahamas to Win its Tournament (+650 at FanDuel)

Bryan Fonseca: The Bahamas are ranked No. 57 in the world, but they will present a squad worthy of your consideration for their first-ever Olympic bid in this tournament.

To qualify for this tournament spot, they had to run through a tournament in Argentina by defeating Argentina. Argentina, consistently a world power and even now still No. 8 in the world, lost the right to even qualify for this pre-Olympic bracket as a result.

The Bahamas beat Argentina in Argentina twice. Their roster included Deandre Ayton, Buddy Hield and Eric Gordon, among others. They may have Kai Jones as well. Klay Thompson has been seen working out with the team, though the expectation, for now, is that he won't play. Isaiah Mobley has also been seen working out with the team.

Spain is great, a world power and the big favorites here, but they're overpriced. The Bahamanian team has more than enough talent to warrant a sprinkle as a 6-to-1 long shot, especially since it will just have to beat Finland or Poland to reach the knockout stage in its bracket. Assuming Spain takes care of Lebanon and Angola in group play — it will be double-digit favorites for both games — the Bahamas will have a pathway to avoid Spain until the finals.

And honestly, if you can beat Argentina in Argentina, you can at least hang with Spain in Spain, if not beat them outright.

Joe Dellera: Looking at this tournament, Spain is a clear favorite based on its pedigree; however, there’s opportunity to bet against them with the Bahamas national team.

Thompson was seen working out with the team, but the cost associated with him playing would be too steep considering his prior stint with Team USA. Regardless, this is a roster littered with NBA talent, including Ayton, Hield, Gordon and potentially Naz Reid. They present a 3-point shooting monster.

That proficiency from deep along with strong interior play from someone like Ayton is enough to garner a bet against a Spanish team that is not the same powerhouse it has been over the last 15 years.

The number is long, and as Bryan mentioned, there’s a path to the finals, where they certainly would not be +650.


Puerto Rico to Win its Tournament (+470 at FanDuel)

Bryan Fonseca: I'm Puerto Rican. This is not a homer bet. If it was, Dellera wouldn't allow it, but also, I know the limitations of my squad: We are small, and we are not better than Lithuania.

However, as showcased in the World Cup, Puerto Rico can shoot.

Lithuania is the deserved favorite for this tournament and likely to win, but it won't have Jonas Valančiūnas. They'll still be big and win probably every rebounding battle in the tourney.

So, here’s why the sprinkle: Puerto Rico has Italy and Bahrain in its group — both of them should beat up on Bahrain to hit the knockout stage.

Puerto Rico and Italy will play each other and the loser will get Lithuania first, assuming Lithuania avoids an upset from Mexico or the Ivory Coast.

Puerto Rico is worth a long shot for two reasons. One, they're the host. Puerto Rico has never hosted an Olympic qualifying tournament, and it is going to be one of the best crowds you could find anywhere in the Americas — which is saying something.

And two, shooting. In the World Cup, Puerto Rico shot 38% from 3 on 30.4 attempts per game. Italy shot 32.6 3s per contest but hit less than 30%. Lithuania hit 42% but only attempted 25.5 3s per game. Puerto Rico's shooters include Tremont Waters, Jose Alvarado, Chris Ortiz, Stephen Thompson, Gian Clavell and Jordan Howard. Alvarado and Clavell are two of the program's most important players and neither were available for the World Cup.

It's a small team, but they could play the math battle. I like them as a +470 'dog as a light sprinkle — and ideally, you could hedge off them for Lithuania later.

Joe Dellera: Again, this is an opportunity to bet against a favorite in a tournament style bracket. Fonseca writes eloquently about the personnel and the current roster construction.

Lithuania will be missing Valančiūnas, whose size and rebounding proficiency is elite on the international stage. Without that, it cuts down on some of those extra possessions Lithuania has been able to rack up in previous contests.

Puerto Rico has the formula based on its roster and the ability to stretch the floor while playing fast. There’s enough NBA talent that can translate onto the international stage, especially with their personnel. You have gritty and physical players that can adapt to the international game such as Alvarado.

I want this number and will decide if I want to hedge off it in a potential championship game if Lithuania is still in contention and looks good.

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