What the FIBA World Cup draw means for the Boomers

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Late on Saturday night, FIBA held the draw for the World Cup in Shenzhen, which featured the two most popular figures among Chinese fans: Kobe Bryant and Yao Ming.

Here's what you need to know from an Australian point of view.

The Boomers' medal path is set

The Boomers' path to a maiden major tournament medal has crystallised a little further after the just-concluded FIBA World Cup draw held in Shenzhen, China.

Placed in Group H, the Boomers will be pitted against Lithuania, Canada and Senegal.

Whilst the preliminary round is now set, the road beyond remains unclear due to a revised format.

In this iteration of the World Cup, a convoluted two-stage group phase will determine the quarter-finalists. In the first group phase, the top two teams from each of the eight groups will advance to a 16-team second group stage; 16 teams are then split into four new groups.

Second-round groups will be formed via pairs of top two teams from each group via the first phase. As an example, the top two teams from Group A join the top two teams from Group B to form a new Group I.

Teams only play two games in this second phase (they do not play the side that advanced with them from their group).

The draw

The Boomers will be based in Dongguan in the first phase of group play.

It's a tough draw. The Boomers' group features perennial powerhouse Lithuania -- currently ranked 6th in the world -- and Canada, a rising nation that could feature Jamal Murray (Denver Nuggets), Kelly Olynk (Miami Heat), Tristan Thompson (Cleveland Cavaliers), and Cory Joseph (Indiana Pacers). Senegal too are dangerous, boasting Gorgui Dieng (Minnesota Timberwolves) and Youssoupha Ndoye.

For some added context, in 2010 the Boomers finished third in a tough group that included Serbia, Argentina, Angola, Germany and Jordan. They were ultimately thumped by Slovenia in the round of 16.

In the 2014 edition, the Boomers again finished third in their group which included Lithuania, Slovenia, Mexico, Angola and South Korea. In that tournament, Slovenia's Goran Dragic accused the Boomers of deliberately losing to Angola in their final game of the group stage in an attempt to avoid Team USA until the semifinal stage. The Boomers were subsequently bundled out in the round of 16 again, this time by Turkey.

The road to China

The Boomers were never truly tested during the qualification stage through the Asian region. The indelible events at Bulacan, Philippines notwithstanding, their path to the World Cup was relatively straightforward, gorging upon their opponents within the qualifiers that included wins over Chinese Taipei, Japan, Philippines, Qatar and Kazakhstan.

The only blips were a 79-78 defeat to Japan in a return bout in Chiba, and an 85-74 loss to Iran at Tehran in their final qualifier, with qualification already well and truly secured.

Quick reaction

This is potentially tricky for the Boomers.

The overriding sentiment should be one of caution. It's too early to forecast with any grain of certainty what version of teams and rosters we will see at the World Cup.

Big picture-wise, Team USA will always field the starriest squad. However, if most teams fielded full strength squads, a number fit snugly within that next tier of medal hopefuls.

The Boomers are strong but so too are their opponents, who also harbour expectations of success. In short, the quest for a medal remains perilously difficult.

Their opponents in the first group phase include Lithuania, who could field Domantas Sabonis (Indiana Pacers), Jonas Valanciunas (Memphis Grizzlies), Mantas Kalnietis. Former Knick, Mindaugas Kuzminskas, struggled during qualification. Canada are strong, and the game against Senegal will not be easy.

If the Boomers finish top two in Group H, they will be drawn into a second phase group that could include France. France breezed through qualifying and potentially have the likes of Rudy Gobert (Utah Jazz), Tony Parker (Charlotte Hornets), Nicolas Batum (Charlotte Hornets) and Evan Fournier (Orlando Magic) to headline their squad.

Germany also looms with Dennis Schroder (Oklahoma City), Maxi Kleber (Dallas Mavericks), Robin Benzing, and Paul Zipser.

Still, a relatively full strength Boomers outfit holds no fear for anybody - not even Team USA. A record number of Australians plying their trade in the NBA has conditioned this generation to welcome competition against the very best. There is no inferiority complex.

Barring injury, the Boomers will also field their most talented ever line-up - yes, more so than in Rio. Jonah Bolden and Thon Maker are just two of the new generation who could potentially join the Rio core of Patty Mills, Joe Ingles, Andrew Bogut, Matthew Dellavedova and Ryan Broekhoff et al.

Tournament play is of course a different beast. Every game is cut-throat.

If the Boomers manage to navigate out of the second group phase, the competition stiffens significantly. Scouting will be more extensive. Talent and discipline ratchets up.

Under Andrej Lemanis, the Boomers thrilled us at us at Rio with an amalgam of selfless team basketball and a hard-nosed edge. They were a joyous collective for purists in every sense.

The Lemanis ecosystem privileges equal opportunity over hierarchy. Whirring motion system of side-to-side player and ball movement, dribble hand-offs, players on the move with a head of steam in positions to succeed. It can be glorious to watch.

But like all systems, it can be muddied by smart defences and well-prepared teams. Talent and the creativity to create out of nothing are crucial ingredients.

The elephant in the room remains the availability of Ben Simmons. The Philadelphia 76ers All-Star is the jewel in the crown of Australian basketball, and the single addition that could vault the Boomers into the head of that contending tier. He is the one guy who can add entirely unique dimensions to the Boomers, both in transition and individual creativity within the half-court.

Without Simmons, Joe Ingles defaults to the Boomers' best overall player. Aron Baynes has developed further (particularly on the defensive end), and Patty Mills remains the spark. They are Boomers stalwarts and demand respect, as do the rest of this potentially stacked roster.

Still, Simmons elevates the ceiling; he raises the margin for error when smart opponents snuff out the Boomers' actions. Does he commit to the medal cause?

Time will tell.