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2008 Olympic Basketball Preview: Iran

This is the sixth in a series of team previews for the 2008 Olympics done by the SBNation sites Green Bandwagon and At the Hive. Already profiled: Greece, China, Russia, Argentina, and Australia.You can refer to the right-hand sidebar either here or at Green Bandwagon for quick access to the profiles.

Population: 65,397,521

Size in Comparison to a US State: 524 times the size of Rhode Island

Suffrage: Universal at 18.

Interesting Fact: Iran is bordered by 10 different countries (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Oman, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Iraq and Turkey).

Not So Fun! Fact: Satellite TV is banned throughout the country.

Recommended Reading:
Arabian Nights.

World Rank (Courtesy of FIBA): 33

Qualified: Asian Champion

Dream Match Up in Beijing: United States (for, um, non-basketball related reasons)

Dream Match Up That Did Not Qualify:
Lebanon- Iran won the tightly contested 74-69 final of the Asian Championship in 2007. The winner won a spot in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Recent News: Iran was smashed by China 75-46 in the 3rd place game of the Diamond Cup, a tune-up tournament for the Olympics. Even worse than that, they lost their best player Hamed Haddadi to an ankle injury.

Before I begin, let me just offer a word of warning. Ironically enough, I spent the longest time of any on this post, but it might seem a little less informative than the others. For example: the "English" version of the team's website. Yeah. So my apologies in advance.

Iranian Roster

Ali Doraghi - A 6'11" forward/center. He's been the featured center for his Iranian club Petrochimi Bandar Imam BC for the last 4 years. He originally joined the team at age 20. Although Doraghi wasn't a huge factor statistically during Iran's 2007 Asian Championship run, he is best known for doing the "dirty work," a player in the mold of the Junkyard Dog. He will not shy away from contact, and with his huge frame, that makes sense. Doraghi is just 23 years old.

Amir Amini - Another 23 year old, Amini has some impressive credentials given his age. He's been on the Under 18 team, Under 20 team, Under 21 team, and joined the national team at age 19. Wikipedia mistakenly lists him as a shooting guard/combo guard, as most other Iranian forums and analysts list him as among the purest point guards in the international game. A pass-first 6'3" player, Amini is also a great defender for his height and size.

Javad Davari - Davari complements Amini very well. Also a point guard, Davari has a more score-first mindset, drives well, and will be on of Iran's first options to break through zone defenses. However, his defensive skills aren't quite up to par, and he has been beaten consistently by other point guards at the international level. He took somewhat of a backseat to Amini in the 2007 Asian Championships, and I don't expect that to change in Beijing. Davari turned 25 just three months ago.

Mehdi Kamrani - The 5'11" point guard just recently returned from injury. He's expected to make a full recovery and take over starting point guard duties for the team. A relatively veteran on the team (26 in June), Kamrani's playmaking and distributing ability will be huge in determining how this team does. Kamrani's talented enough to have had European league scouts discuss him, and it has been said that Iranian politics is the only thing still keeping him in the Iranian Super League.

Saeid Davarpanah - Another extremely young guard (21). At 6'2", Davarpanah has played the 2 more than the point in his career in the Iran Super League. His biggest asset is his quickness despite a bulky frame- in that regard, he's similar to Clippers' draftee Eric Gordon. His size will allow him to post up smaller opposing guards while his speed will allow him to blow by bigger ones. In the last two years, Davarpanah has literally single-handedly made a name for his ISL club Kaveh, taking it to the 3rd in the overall standings.

Iman Zandi - The grizzled ol' vet of this team. The 27 year old Zandi missed Iran's qualification in 2007 due to a broken leg but figures to play a prominent role on the team. He was co-captain of the squad in the past, and will be on the court for one reason- scoring. He's a terrific shooter from the perimeter, but you have to wonder how much his 6'1" frame will hinder him in Beijing.

Hamed Afagh - Basically a younger, more talented version of Zandi. The 25 year old Afagh has shot better percentages than Zandi from three point range and the perimeter throughout his career and is also categorized as a pure off guard. He's said in the past that he models his own game off of Detroit's Richard Hamilton, but therein lies one of the more prominent critiques of his game- he can't create his own shot and relies almost exclusively on point guard play and good ball movement to score. And again there's the height issue; will a 6'3" pure shooting guard really be able to excel internationally?

Hamed Sohrabnejad - 25 year old power forward who also plays for Petrochimi Bandar Imam BC in the Iranian Super League. While I haven't been able to find an official weight anywhere for him, the pictures I've seen would suggest that he weighs no more than 230-235 pounds. He makes up for being undersized by shooting the three ball exceptionally well.

Oshin Sahakian - I feel FIBA's player profile for Sahakian tells more about him than I ever could:

Oshin is Iran’s Charles Barkley. You will always get 110% from him and can count on him to do the dirty work, which is why Coach Toroman loves using him, despite his 196cm [6 foot 7] frame, at the 4 position. He is a relentless player who will dive on and grab loose balls, hustle for rebounds, and also hit the outside jumper. They say you play like you practice and its no coincidence why Oshin plays with his heart – because he practices with it.

Interesting. Sahakian is only 22 years old.

Mousa Nabipour - A tall (7'0") but rail thin (212 lbs.) center. He's 24. And I literally got nothing else. I've scoured the internets, the Googles, the DraftExpresses, even the Ebays. Nothing.

Samad Bahrami - aka Mohammadsamad Nik Khahbahrami. Samad is the heart and soul of the Iranian team. At 6'7", he has pure shooting guard skill but has been forced to play small forward due to the plethora of shorter 2 guards on the roster. He's known to be a great rebounder for his size, a plus shooter, and an exceptionally hard worker. Oh, and he's Iran's captain. His brother and teammate- Aidin- was tragically killed in a car accident just before New Year 2008. Aidin played a prominent role in Iran's qualification at the Asian Championship 2007. Samad has been praised highly for the way he handled the difficult situation, and according to reports, has taken on an insane workload to make up for the void left by his brother's death. All in all, this is a guy I will definitely be rooting for in Beijing, whether he's playing against us or not.

Hamed Hadadi - If Bahrami is the heart of the team, Hadadi is the... er... blood vessels. (That sounded way better in my head, I swear). He was simply dominant at the Asian Championships last year, collecting 31 points and 13 rebounds in the final against Lebanon. DraftExpress oddly doesn't have an entry for him even though Hadadi has said that he will play in the NBA after the 2008 Olympics. At 7'2" and 254 pounds, Hadadi meshes great size with athleticism. Reports are that several NBA teams expressed interest in him as much as a year ago. Don't be surprised to see the 23 year old center playing NBA ball as early as next year.

Final Thoughts - Numerous people say the Iranian team is an enigma, but they're really not. I don't mean to be overly mean or pessimistic, but a look at their friendly results should be a pretty good predictor of their future. They've lost to Australia thrice by 29, 44, and 23, they've lost to Croatia twice by 22 and 21, and they've lost 75-46 to China. Sure, they had a pretty close showing against Gold Medalists Argentina (10 point loss), but overall they're not a terrific international team. Yet. 9 out of 12 players on the roster are under 25, so this team could potentially make a huge splash in Lithuania 2010 and in the 2012 Olympics. Additionally, highly regarded 22 year old, 7'5" Jaber Rouzbahani is not playing. Even if Iran struggles this year, Bahrami and Hadadi could lay the foundations for a potential international powerhouse in the years to come.