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On Top of the Worlds

Ian Thomsen
Sports Illustrated

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

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, this aging group will be hard-pressed to keep its edge after a half decade on top.

3. SPAIN Top players: C Pau Gasol, SG Juan-Carlos Navarro, SF Jorge Garbajosa Skinny: The Spaniards' nucleus has been together for several years, their backcourt 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 Bleus are capable of winning it all.

5. BRAZIL Top players: SG Leandro Barbosa, PF Anderson Varejão, PF Tiago Splitter Skinny: This young, skilled team could spend the next quadrennium contending for gold medals.

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

7. LITHUANIA Top players: SG Arvydas Macijauskas, PF Darius Songaila, SF Mindaugas Zukauskas Skinny: Even without NBA sharpshooter Sarunas Jasikevicius, this deep team is capable 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 and rookie PF Uros Slokar) and scorers at every position, this tiny country (pop. 2 million) could be the tournament's Cinderella.