How Did They Get Here?
The United States Men's National Basketball Team has once again qualified for the FIBA Basketball World Cup. Despite winning the Olympics in 2016, rule changes by FIBA resulted in the USA's Olympic Gold not guaranteeing their spot in the World Cup.
In fact, due to a change of schedule, Team USA's roster has fluctuated more than ever. With the qualification process overlapping with the NBA season, qualification was won by an entirely different coach (Jeff Van Gundy) and an entirely different squad - comprised of mostly G-League players.
2019 FIBA World Cup Qualifiers Roster
|Josh Adams (#4)||Guard||Raptors 905|
|Kyle Casey (#15)||Forward||Memphis Hustle|
|Charles Cooke (#6)||Guard||Sioux Falls Skyforce|
|Michael Frazier (#5)||Guard||Rio Grande Valley Vipers|
|Reggie Hearn (#10)||Guard||Stockton Kings|
|Tanner McGrew (#11)||Forward||Salt Lake City Stars|
|Xavier Munford (#9)||Guard||Wisconsin Herd|
|Chinanu Onuaku (#13)||Forward||Greensboro Swarm|
|Cameron Reynolds (#14)||Forward||Stockton Kings|
|Travis Trice (#8)||Guard||Austin Spurs|
|Stephen Zimmerman (#12)||Center||Westchester Knicks|
|Jeff Van Gundy||Head Coach||USA Basketball|
|Mark Fox||Assistant Coach||USA Basketball|
|John Thompson III||Assistant Coach||USA Basketball|
|Ed Lacerte||Athletic Trainer||ProSports Therapy, Inc. (Waltham & Westford, MA)|
|Stephen Foley||Team Physician||Sanford Health (Sioux Falls, SD)|
This roster was assembled to advance through qualification and into the FIBA World Cup. Unfortunately, none of these players will join the team during the actual World Cup phase of the tournament. Those roster spots will go to a currently undefined group from a pool of players.
Team USA has gone through some massive changes. The 2014 edition of their squad had significant star power. Boasting the likes of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Demar Derozan, and Anthony Davis, Team USA did not have their Olympic best but sported a clearly superior outfit.
As of July 25th, thirty different players have chosen to withdraw from the 2019 FIBA World Cup for Team USA. Star names include LeBron James, Stephen Curry, Demar Derozan, Paul George, Kawhi Leonard, and Anthony Davis to name a few. Head Coach Gregg Popovich will have his hands full picking twelve, from a weaker, but not incapable, preliminary roster of seventeen. Of those seventeen, only five are NBA All-Stars.
|Kyle Lowry||6-1, 196lb (185cm, 88kg)||Toronto Raptors (CAN)|
|Donovan Mitchell||6-3, 215lb (190cm, 97kg)||Utah Jazz (USA)|
|Marcus Smart||6-4, 220lb (193cm, 99kg)||Boston Celtics (USA)|
|Kemba Walker||6-1, 184lb (185cm, 83kg)||Charlotte Hornets (USA)|
Team USA may not have their most dangerous assets in the backcourt available, but they certainly aren't lacking for talent. Due to their limited depth and the flexibility of international competition, it is likely to see all four guards make the cut.
Reigning NBA Champion Kyle Lowry is expected to lead the line for Team USA. He is the most decorated NBA All-Star on the roster and is a veteran of their 2016 Olympic Gold Medal team. He'll be supported by Marcus Smart, as stout a defender as he is and a late addition to the side.
They won't be lacking for scoring and creativity in their backcourt either. Kemba Walker and Donovan Mitchell are explosive offensive options, with the ability to take over the game from any area on the court.
|Harrison Barnes||6-8, 225lb (203cm, 102kg)||Sacramento Kings (USA)|
|Jaylen Brown||6-7, 220lb (201cm, 99kg)||Boston Celtics (USA)|
|Montrezl Harrell||6-8, 240lb (203cm, 108kg)||Los Angeles Clippers (USA)|
|Kyle Kuzma||6-9, 220lb (206cm, 99kg)||Los Angeles Lakers (USA)|
|Khris Middleton||6-8, 222lb (203cm, 100kg)||Milwaukee Bucks (USA)|
|Julius Randle||6-9, 250lb (206cm, 113kg)||New York Knicks (USA)|
|Jayson Tatum||6-8, 208lb (203cm, 94kg)||Boston Celtics (USA)|
|PJ Tucker||6-6, 245lb (198cm, 111kg)||Houston Rockets (USA)|
|Thaddeus Young||6-8, 221lb (203cm, 100kg)||Chicago Bulls (USA)|
The forward position is likely where we will see the majority of the cuts being made. They have a diverse group of scorers, defenders, and rebounders, but the roster only has room for twelve.
With Gregg Popovich at the helm, one would have to imagine he will be looking for players to be stars in their roles - rather than starring on their own throughout the tournament. Role players PJ Tucker, Thaddeus Young, and Montrezl Harrell are some of the best at their skills - defending, shooting, and rebounding - but are somewhat limited in a pinch.
Jayson Tatum will be entering his third NBA season and doesn’t turn 22 until March. pic.twitter.com/GlkXccPbPo— Damon Lincoln (@ByDamonLincoln) July 27, 2019
Seemingly locked into a spot are Celtic star wings Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum for their two-way ability. First-time All-Star Khris Middleton also presents a skillset worth maintaining, while Harrison Barnes would be one of two players (along with Lowry) to return from the 2016 USA Olympic team.
Kyle Kuzma and Julius Randle are wildcards at the forward position. They are big, capable scorers. Unfortunately, they are inconsistent on the defensive end. Their offensive potential is great, but their streakiness and poor record defending the ball may leave them out.
|Andre Drummond||6-11, 279lb (211cm, 126kg)||Detroit Pistons (USA)|
|Brook Lopez||7-0, 270lb (213cm, 122kg)||Milwaukee Bucks (USA)|
|Mason Plumlee||6-11, 235lb (211cm, 106kg)||Denver Nuggets (USA)|
|Myles Turner||6-11, 250lb (211cm, 113kg)||Indiana Pacers|
The center position will be a point of contention for Team USA going into the 2019 FIBA World Cup. While the NBA has gone away from valuing the pivot position in recent years, it is still very much alive and thriving in the international scene.
There is one thing each center on the roster shares in common, they are all defensively adept. Plumlee and Turner are the most versatile defensively, while the rim-protection of Drummond and Lopez will be greatly valued.
Centre has never been a priority for Team USA. Jeff Van Gundy's qualifiers roster touted only one center, while the 2016 Olympic Gold Medal team only had two. Popovich loves capable screeners and passers out of his pivot, so the one to show the most versatility in their role will likely make the cut.
Is the USA's Status As the Favourites Generous?
The USA will always be the power in the realm of world basketball. The United States produces the most talent and maintains the worlds top leagues. However, as time passes, the world is drawing closer and closer to their standards. They'll have their toughest tournament yet, as their greatest stars have forsaken them.
If you can think of an NBA star, they likely aren't participating in this FIBA World Cup. LeBron James and Anthony Davis are too busy filming Space Jam 2, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George seem more interested in the season to come, while Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson need to tend to their wounds. The current USA team is not untalented, but they are certainly being seen as weakened by their opposition.
Team USA opens at a -286, favorites in the tournament. They are trailed by Serbia, Spain, and Australia. But not far behind are the likes of France, Canada, and Brazil. There will be a lot of pressure on Team USA. There is only a total of five NBA All-Stars on the current roster. The new faces will need to prove they're up to the challenge.
Who Is the USA's Toughest Competitor?
This will be one of the most competitive FIBA World Cups in recent history. The simultaneous weakening of the USA side and strengthening of their competition lends itself to some epic showdowns. Some teams will be much more concerning for them.
Serbia will be going into this competition looking for revenge against the United States. They lost to them by a slim margin in the earlier rounds of the 2016 Olympics, but were blown out by 30 points in the final. This is their chance at redemption.
Serbia will boast a side that will likely have the best player on the court should they face off with the USA. Nikola Jokic is coming off of an MVP-calibre season and has a game that is perfect for international play. Add in NBA veterans Boban Marjanovic and Nemanja Bjelica and youthful gunner Bogdan Bogdanovic, Serbia is a force to be reckoned with.
The USA beat this side in the Olympics with their pace. Three years later Serbia maintains a talented squad of their own that seems able to keep up with the upstart Americans. If the USA can shut down Jokic, the Serbian offence will slow down with it.
Giannis Antetokounmpo was named the best player in the world last season by winning the NBA's Most Valuable Player award. See a trend here? Antetokounmpo leads a less talented overall side than the USA, but there isn't a player that looks to be able to stop him.
Greece has some veteran pieces at their disposal in Kosta Koufos and Georgios Printezis. The Greek team is, for the first time in a long time, an interesting mix of up and coming youngsters and established talent.
Antetokounmpo has led lesser players to greater heights in the past, and there wasn't an NBA player that can stop him this past NBA season. The USA will need to either shut him down, or take his rest of his team out of the equation if they hope to take a victory.
The Canadian side has amassed what is likely the most talented team in the history of their basketball program. Led by Jamal Murray and rookie sensation RJ Barrett, Canada seems primed to make noise in this tournament.
Of their current 29-man preliminary roster, there are only seven that ply their trade outside of the United States or Canada. In fact, their players who run for international sides are some of the best in the league at their position (Brady Heslip, Melvin Ejim, Aaron Doornekamp).
The present is bright for Canada, while the future is even brighter. If there is a downside to their team it is that the side has never played a significant amount of games together. On top of that, they are a team of fantastic NBA-calibre players but not a single team-leading star. It looks as if their success will be based on how quickly a leader can be established.
Team USA Group Phase Predictions
The United States were drawn into Group E in the opening round of the FIBA World Cup. The teams in Group E are:
- Czech Republic
- United States
The United States are major favorites to win their group. They open at a -3335 to win Group E, with Turkey trailing in second place at a +1000.
Turkey is easily predicted to join the United States in advancing to the second round. A renowned basketball country, Turkey has the talent to outmatch even the USA given the right circumstances and play style. With the likes of Cedi Osman, Furkan Korkmaz, and Ersan Ilyasova leading them, Turkey will at least be able to score with most of the group.
The Czech Republic enters with expectations of finishing third in the group. Not so much off of head-to-head comparison, but due to their ability to qualify in a more competitive Eurobasket Qualifier. NBA veterans Tomas Satoransky and Jan Vesely lead the line for the Czech Republic.
Japan looks to be the weakest team in the group but owns three incredibly interesting players on their roster. Top ten pick in the 2019 NBA Draft Rui Hachimura, defensive ace Yuta Watanabe, and naturalized player Nick Fazekas play a massive role in the success of Japan. While they lack the depth of their opposition, the success of these three is capable of driving their team to success.
2019 FIBA World Cup - Team USA - Odds & Predictions
The United States is the clear favorite going into the 2019 FIBA World Cup. Despite not having their greatest weapons, they still have the talent advantage against most countries.
They will lean on their depth in the group stage of the tournament. However, the true challenge will show its face in the knockout round when the USA need a true star to step up.
Group Winner - Group E Odds
|Team||888Sport NJ||BetStars NJ|
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Winner Fiba World Cup 2019 - USA Odds
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