In the previous FIBA Oceania Post-Mortem, we featured Asian runner-up Philippines and how its speed and tenacity might cause trouble for Australia and New Zealand. In this installment, we'll discuss the last Asian team in the 2014 FIBA World Cup, one with a physically intimidating roster and dominating style of play.
Hamed Haddadi, shown here after winning the FIBA Asia title in Manila, will be the focal point of Iran's offense in Spain 2014.
While the Islamic Republic of Iran is more known for football than for basketball, it is in the latter sport that it is more visible. Hulking 7'2" center Hamed Haddadi, signed in 2008 by the NBA's Memphis Grizzlies and now with the Phoenix Suns, is the face of the game in the Gulf region and was voted Most Valuable Player in the recent 2013 FIBA Asia Tournament, averaging 18 points and 10 rebounds a game.
However, Iran is more than just Haddadi. Memi Becirovic also relies heavily on crisp passing and accurate outside shooting anchored on point guard Mehdi Kamrani and small forward Samad Nikkah Bahrami. Bahrami, for his part, was named into the FIBA Asia Mythical Team. Iran also plays suffocating defense, winning over Malaysia by 90 points and beating the defending champion China by 19 points. In fact, all of their games in Manila were decided by 14 points or more, a testimony not just to their scorching offense, but also their defensive tenacity.
Match-up with Australia: This game should be fun to watch. While Iran has Kamrani running the point, Australia has Patrick Mills calling the shots. Seeing these two cerebral playmakers trying to outwit each other will be quite a treat for basketball purists, with Mills relying more on speed and Kamrani going for a half-court set. Both guards, however, are able to change tempo as they see fit. Haddadi has already proven himself as a force in international play, being the leading shotblocker and rebounder at the 2008 Olympics; however, his offense will be tested against Australia's equally tall and tough frontline. This hypothetical matchup could go either way, the difference being the steadiness of both teams' wing players.
Match-up with New Zealand: Haddadi seems to have the upper hand in the inside matchups, especially with a much thinner Alex Pledger manning the paint. However, New Zealand has the advantage in physicality across the board, so fans expecting a grind-it-out affair will not be disappointed. Thomas Abercrombie versus Samad Nikkah Bahrami is a fun head-to-head match-up as both of them are explosive scorers who could will their team to victory. In the end, though, Iran will pound the ball into the paint, and there will be too much Haddadi for the Tall Blacks to handle. New Zealand will lose this game, but will make life difficult for Iran while doing so.
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