Doncic playing for Slovenia. GETTY IMAGES

The Mavericks superstar will join his national team in Greece in order to access Paris 2024, as long as his knees hold up after playing in his first NBA Finals, which start on Thursday.

Slovenian coach Aleksander Sekulic announced on Wednesday the list of 16 players, including Luka Doncic, who are candidates for a spot on the roster that will play the qualifying tournament in Greece, starting on 2 July.

The European team will face the Greece of Giannis Antetokounmpo's, who confirmed his presence a few days ago, the Dominican Republic, New Zealand, Croatia and Egypt, who will all fight for a single spot to qualify for Group A, among the 12 men's teams that will participate in the Paris Games that will start in 50 days.

"If it's okay, I'm going to play." Doncic's words were direct and clear on Wednesday at the media day of the NBA Finals in Boston, and he said that the knee problem he has been dealing with in these playoffs would be the only obstacle to overcome.

Doncic celebrating Dallas' conference championship - © Getty Images
Doncic celebrating Dallas' conference championship - © Getty Images

Strong national duty

If Slovenia qualifies, Doncic would play his second Olympics after Tokyo 2020, which were moved to 2021 due to the pandemic. The versatile Mavs number 77 has also played in the EuroBasket twice (winning in Turkey 2017 when he formed a lethal tandem with Goran Dragic), and, of course, last year's World Cup.

The heavy game load doesn't seem to be a headache for the 25-year-old. In the press conference itself, a journalist told Doncic that, if the Finals were played to 7 games, he would play close to a hundred games since NBA tip-off of the season last October.

However, the Slovenian was careful to point out that the figure is even higher, having played in the World Cup in September, where Slovenia finished seventh after beating Italy for that position weeks before returning to the training dynamic in Dallas.

Another issue is whether he would make it to the friendly against Brazil on June 28 as preparation for the qualification in Greece. In a series of 7 games, the last one would be on the 23rd, so Doncic, if available, would go from changing the Mavericks jersey to Slovenia in the same week.

No surprises for Slovenia

Vlatko Cancar, one of the national team's biggest names, whose serious knee injury has kept him from helping the Denver Nuggets this year, and Edo Muric are back for international duty. The biggest problem, though, may be the absence of Josh Nebo, Maccabi's powerful center, whose naturalization has been rumored in recent months.

The 16-man roster includes veterans Jaka Blazic and Zoran Dragic of Cedevita Olimpija, plus the promising Luka Scuka; reliable shooter Klemen Prepelic of Galatasaray; Miha Cerkvenik, Jan Span and Leon Stergar of Krka; Ziga Dimec of Anwil Wloclawek; Gregor Hrovat and Aleksej Nikolic playing in the French league; Tibor Mirtic of Kansai Helios Domzale; Bine Prepelic of Spirou; and naturalized Mike Tobey of Red Star Belgrade, Slovenia’s interior threat.

A path full of thorns

Eight of the 12 teams battling for gold have already secured their places. France qualified as the host nation, along with seven other teams. United States are the top favourites, joined by reigning world champions Germany and powerhouses Canada, Japan, South Sudan, Serbia and Australia, who qualified on the back of their strong performances at last summer's World Cup in the Philippines.

Slovenia is one of the teams that did not get direct entry. That is why they will compete from 2 to 7 July for the other four places, which are contested by 24 nations. There are four qualifying tournaments, with six nations in each, and the winners of those four venues will advance to the Paris Olympics. Sekulic's men were placed in Group A, with Croatia and New Zealand as their opponents in the group stage. If they advance, hosts Greece are expected to be the team to beat in the other group, B, which also includes the Dominican Republic and Egypt.

Of these six countries, only one will be able to enter the war that will take place in the possible group of death, with the winner playing alongside Australia, Canada and the winner of the OQT in Spain, which has the Iberians, reigning European champions, as the main favourites to go to the chaos of Group A at Paris 2024.

Slovenia vs Australia bronze medal game during 2020 Tokyo Olympics - © Getty Images
Slovenia vs Australia bronze medal game during 2020 Tokyo Olympics - © Getty Images

Group of death?

Group A could be a real problem. Australia (bronze at the 2020 Olympics) and Canada (bronze at the 2023 World Cup) as two emerging institutions in the FIBA panorama already qualified. They have to wait for two other places that will surely be made up of Greece or Slovenia, and the other by Spain.

On the other side, Group B, already has Japan, Germany and France in a group that promises to be rocky, and which the winner of the OQT in Riga will join. Brazil or the host, Latvia, are the favorites to get the place.

The greatest challenge should come from Group C with the United States, Serbia and African underdogs, South Sudan. Lithuania, Italy and Puerto Rico will fight for the remaning spot in the Caribbean country's OQT.