The NBA season doesn't begin for weeks, but international basketball is here in the meantime to give us a peek at some of the game's best players. Tony Parker, Dirk Nowitzki, Pau Gasol and others are suiting up as competition for qualification to the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro continues.
From Europe to Asia to the Americas, national teams across the world are battling to make sure they'll be there when the Olympics open in Brazil next year. The United States' spot is secure after winning the gold medal at the 2014 FIBA World Cup in Spain. Three other teams have also earned spots. Brazil is in as the host nation, Australia topped New Zealand last month to win FIBA Oceania's bid and Nigeria won at AfroBasket 2015 to clinch its spot.
That leaves eight remaining spots in the field for the 2016 Olympic tournament, and a whole bunch of NBA players are battling to help their countries get in. Five teams will clinch spots over the next few weeks via EuroBasket (Sept. 5-20), the FIBA Americas Championship (Aug. 31-Sept. 12) and the FIBA Asia Championship (Sept. 23-Oct. 3). All of the games will be streaming live on WatchESPN, so you'll be able to watch if you get the channel.
With so much talent on hand battling for international supremacy -- or at least the chance to take on Team USA -- there's a lot to watch. Here's a rundown of the NBA talent competing in each competition over the next few weeks:
Led by Nets forward Bojan Bogdanovic, Croatia is looking to make its name on the international stage again after huge success in the early-1990s. Bogdanovic is joined by a roster that includes Magic first-round pick Mario Hezonja, Sixers 2014 first-round pick Dario Saric and Timberwolves forward Damjan Rudež. Ante Tomic, one of the best players in Europe, is also a key contributor.
This is one of the most talented national teams in Europe. France could roll out a starting lineup of Tony Parker, Evan Fournier, Nicolas Batum, Boris Diaw and Rudy Gobert each game. Other top players on the roster include Nuggets forward Joffrey Lauvergne, former NBA players Nando de Colo and Mickael Gelabale, and 20-year-old big man prospect Mouhammadou Jaiteh. Even if Parker's not in his prime, there's a lot of talent here.
The German team happens to be led by arguably the greatest foreign player in NBA history, Dirk Nowitzki. The other player to watch is Hawks point guard Dennis Schroder, who's coming off a breakout sophomore season with Atlanta and will soon take Dirk's place as Germany's top player.
There's one huge name to watch with this team: Milwaukee Bucks wing Giannis Antetokounmpo. One of the most exciting young players in the NBA, the "Greek Freak" is also an emerging star for his national team. That's good news, because Greece could use a dynamic NBA talent like Giannis to take on some of Europe's top teams. Other familiar names on the Greek team include Kings big man Kostas Koufos, Nuggets forward Kostas Papanikolaou and former Grizzlies guard Nick Calathes, who now plays for Panathinaikos in his native country.
Led by Nuggets forward Danilo Gallinari, who's entering a make-or-break season in Denver, Italy appears to have its best roster in years. Several NBA players, including Andrea Bargnani, Marco Belinelli and Luigi Datome, are also around for support.
Lithuania is looking to clinch its spot in the 2016 Olympics behind Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas, who stands out as one of the best players in the tournament. He'll be joined by a number of national team veterans, plus one more intriguing name: Domantas Sabonis. The 19-year-old son of legendary big man Arvydas Sabonis is set to be one of college basketball's top players this season at Gonzaga and should become a stalwart on this team going forward.
There isn't quite an NBA star to be found on Serbia's roster, but many of the players have ties to the league. Ognjen Kuzmic, Miroslav Raduljica and Nemanja Nedovic each briefly played in the NBA in recent years. Nemanja Bjelica recently signed with the Timberwolves and could be a key contributor in Minnesota this season. Bogdan Bogdanovic was the Suns' 2014 first-round pick and could make the move to North America at some point. The same can be said for Nikola Milutinov, who was drafted by the Spurs this year. There's also 28-year-old European star guard Milos Teodosic, who is the team's leader.
Spain boasts a roster loaded with talent despite key guys sitting out. There's a likely future Hall of Famer in Pau Gasol, and a potential breakout candidate in Bulls teammate Nikola Mirotic. Mirotic was born in Montenegro, but is a naturalized Spanish citizen and was approved to play for the national team this summer. They'll be joined by national team stalwarts Rudy Fernandez and Sergio Rodriguez in the backcourt. Other interesting pieces include former Blazers forward Victor Claver and 21-year-old big man Guillermo Hernangómez, whose rights are held by the Knicks after a draft-day trade with the 76ers.
Before Pistons fans get to see Ersan Ilyasova in Detroit, they can watch him try to get Turkey back to the Olympics for the first time since 1952. Ilyasova will be joined by
Pelicans big man Omer Asik (UPDATE: Asik won't play with a back injury) and 76ers forward Furkan Aldemir on one of the few teams to boast three active NBA players.
Other notable pros
Wizards big man Marcin Gortat is the centerpiece of the Polish team, which is trying to make its first Olympic appearance since 1980. Kings wing Omri Casspi and former Mavs guard Gal Mekel lead the Israeli team. The Czech team has NBA ties, too, with former Wizards forward Jan Vesely and point guard Tomas Satoransky, who was drafted by Washington in 2012 and could make the NBA leap next year. Between Gortat and Satorasnky, Wizards fans have a couple notable names to keep their eyes on.
FIBA Americas Championship
Luis Scola may no longer be a major contributor in the NBA, but he remains a true star for Argentina at the international level. The 35-year-old forward went off for 35 points and 13 rebounds against Canada in the team's second game at this year's tournament:
Vintage Scola performances aside, the most familiar face on Argentina's current roster is former Bulls forward Andres Nocioni.
This could be the beginning of Canada's rise to prominence on the international basketball scene. The current roster includes Andrew Wiggins, Nik Stauskas, Kelly Olynyk, Robert Sacre, Anthony Bennett, Andrew Nicholson and Cory Joseph. Only the United States boasts more active NBA players on its national team. Many of these players are quite young, too. Canada lost its opener to Argentina, 94-87 thanks to Scola's aforementioned heroics, but it's one of the most exciting teams playing right now.
Other notable pros
Mexico, which is hosting the tournament, has one active NBA player in Bucks guard Jorge Gutierrez and one former player in Gustavo Ayon. Mavericks guard J.J. Barea and former Rockets forward Francisco Garcia are also representing Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, respectively.
FIBA Asia Championship
Official rosters have not been announced yet for the FIBA Asia Championship, but there aren't many players with NBA ties who could make appearances. One is former Bucks and Nets forward Yi Jianlian, who has been a finalist for the Chinese national team's roster and considered a likely inclusion. Another is Filipino guard Bobby Ray Parks, who has tried out with several NBA teams and became the first Filipino player in the Summer League this year. He played for Philippines at international competitions this spring and could be back for another run.