Why Team USA has no margin of error at the FIBA ​​World Cup



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Let's have a real conversation about Team USA.

He has played five exhibition games in anticipation of the 2019 FIBA ​​World Cup, and alarm signals go off. Americans have little power over stars and international experience. Their great men may be suspicious, their shooters are inconsistent and their lack of chemistry appears all the time, especially during wild crowd attacks.

It's not exactly the same thing, but it's reminiscent of the pre-Olympic period of 2004 when the Americans fled oil on an exhibition trip across Europe, en route for the Athens Games. There were more than a few rumblings that led to those defeats and this bronze medal.

Even the 84-68 win against Canada in Sydney on Monday morning was not an impressive performance. Their defensive intensity has improved since their defeat against Australia this weekend, but they did not score 3 points in the second half – they were only 2 out of 14 in the match – and had more than turnovers that help, among other issues.

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At this point, a handful of countries are probably thinking that they can win the two-time defending United States World Cup when the tournament begins this weekend in Shanghai. Earlier this month, Sasha Djordjevic, coach of the Serbian team, said: "Let's leave [Team USA] Let's play basketball and we'll play ours, and if we meet, God help them. "

Australians have already beaten the United States. The Spaniards and the French probably also have a quiet belief. The Greeks will have the best player of the tournament in 2018-19, the most useful player in the NBA, Giannis Antetokounmpo. And in a 40-minute match, anything is possible.

"We learned," said US team goalkeeper Donovan Mitchell, "that it will be an aerial fight."

Here is why Mitchell and the rest of the US team have no real room for error as this unannounced group prepares for its opening match Sunday in Shanghai:


Team USA has no proven rescue option

In the past 12 years, whenever the Americans had problems at a FIBA ​​event, they had a white star (or three) to bail them out. Kobe Bryant played this role, as did Carmelo Anthony. Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, LeBron James and so on.

Americans do not have that – at least one guy who has proven it – on which to support when:

  • They have a bad night of shooting.

  • One of their big hitters is in big trouble (that's what happened with Mitchell in the loss to the Australians).

  • They have a bad defensive quarter.

  • The other team is shooting very hard.

This reality requires an urgency that the national team has not been used to. It's a formula that explains how gold medals disappear.


The US team could go as far as Kemba Walker and Donovan Mitchell. Joe Murphy / NBAE via Getty Images

This group is well – here's why it's not great

OK, now that we've said that, it does not mean bad luck. These FIBA ​​games often resemble NCAA tournament games, in which the game of the guard is vital. The United States have the best guards of the tournament: Kemba Walker and Mitchell will easily outperform their opponents sometimes; Marcus Smart, when he gets into shape after his calf injury, will get into the heads of the other teams; and Joe Harris could be the best 3-point shooter in the competition.

But as in March Madness, it is often a less talented team, but rich in experience, who faces a busy but unproven alignment. Chalk wins a lot, but upheavals occur in part scenarios. At the 2016 Olympics, US Guards were Irving, Kyle Lowry, Klay Thompson, DeMar DeRozan and Jimmy Butler. These are five stars. This team has an All-Star guard at Walker.

Also consider shooting fights. Before Monday's dismal 3-point effort, this group shot more than 40% long-range in exhibition games. From Brook Lopez to Harrison Barnes via Khris Middleton, the punching power is considerable, although Middleton has generally fired pretty badly so far. They have a range of dangerous shooters. If they reach 40% in any match, they will probably win with some ease.

But if and when they are absent, they do not have an internal score to count on. Walker and Mitchell form a small backyard by elite standards and their size can bother them. In addition, they do not have many isolated players, although Jayson Tatum displays flashes.

They worked to remedy this by creating a transient offense, but their sharing and assistance varied enormously – so you can count on dangerous moments because of it.


Lack of stellar power but no clarity

As a member of the team before the World Cup, these challenges seem to be accepted. In the past, the United States lost their competitions because they did not respect their opponents or were prepared at random. That does not seem to be the case here.

Coach Gregg Popovich is very serious about this job and has spent months in preparation. He and General Manager Jerry Colangelo are generally active in different areas of the basketball world, but from this point of view, they have worked together to create an infrastructure that offers the United States the best chance possible.

This is no one's fault, it's a team with the lightest star power since the beginning of the Dream Team. This is a combination of factors, from schedule changes to new rest procedures, to injury trends.

After some losses in the 2000s, the stars overlapped to participate in the recovery of the ship. Now that the team has not lost in a major competition for 13 years, the urgency is diminished. This is not cool at the moment for the biggest names, and they are looking for reasons to drop it. Players are more concerned about the perception of being cut than by the desire to win a place.


This is the reality and this has put a strain on the USA Basketball operations, which had been successful at the platinum level. Often, in basketball, defeat is the result of a dozen small anomalies. If there is no gold on the neck of Americans on September 15 in Beijing, it is perhaps what happened.

But the other side of the coin may also be true: if the 2019 version of Team USA manages to overcome these difficulties and meet these challenges, it will have been a real achievement. Winning this one is absolutely not a given, and that alone could make it more valuable.

This is something that everyone in the team is very aware of when they are heading to China.

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