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USA Basketball Has Stiff Challenge Down Under

Gregg Popovich has big shoes to fill as USA Basketball heads into their final stretch before the FIBA World Cup. Replacing for USA Basketball head coach, Mike Krzyzewski, was never going to be easy. It’s even harder when so many top NBA players decided to drop out for various reasons.

This is where Jerry Colangelo’s pool system will truly be tested. When Colangelo took over USA Basketball he changed the structure to resemble a true national team. No longer was USA Basketball going to throw a team together based on names. It can be safely said that Team USA’s roster isn’t a roster of “names”.

As the Team USA heads to Australia for a three game exhibition schedule, turnovers must be a concern. In the 90-81 victory over Spain, Team USA turned the ball over 17 times and it resulted in 27 points for the opponent. The number of unforced, live ball turnovers were staggering especially when you consider that Spain wasn’t really pressuring the ball.

This could be, in part, because of the lack of true point guards on the roster. The irony behind that is the NBA is in the golden era of point guards. Never has there been this much depth at that position but there is only one true point guard on this roster, Kemba Walker. De’Aaron Fox dropping out late in the process really was a real blow to the construction of this roster.

Team USA will need to find points in the paint, in their half court sets. Mason Plumlee and Myles Turner aren’t exactly guys you dump the ball to down in the paint. How Popovich handles that will be a big key. What Plumlee and Turner do provide is inside toughness and the ability to outwork opposing bigs for rebounds.

That follows the theme for how Team USA can win the FIBA World Cup. Defense, turnovers and rebounding will be the keys. The roster isn’t constructed to overwhelm teams offensively. If Marcus Smart is healthy, he is one of a few lock-down defenders on the roster. Jaylen Brown and Derrick White can also provide on-ball pressure on the perimeter.

The better Team USA defends, the less half-court offense they’ll play. That is a must if they want to beat the top teams in the tournament. Getting in transition will take some pressure off of the lack of depth at the point guard position. It will also open up three’s in transition for the likes of Khris Middleton and Joe Harris.

Team USA will get a stiff test against Australia. Despite not having Ben Simmons, the Aussies still have a solid core of NBA players starting with Patty Mills (San Antonio Spurs) and Joe Ingles (Utah Jazz). Aron Baynes (Phoenix Suns) and Matthew Dellavedova (Cleveland Cavaliers) along with former NBA-er, Andrew Bogut, will provide problems for Team USA.

Despite having an NBA roster, Team USA doesn’t have a lot of International experience. When Colangelo decided not to extend an invite to Carmelo Anthony the team lost out of a chance to add a multi-gold medal winning player with a ton of International minutes.

Exhibition Schedule

Aug. 22: Team USA vs. Australia, 5:30 a.m. (NBA TV)
Aug. 24: Team USA vs. Australia, 12 a.m. (NBA TV)
Aug. 26: Team USA vs. Canada, 5:30 a.m. (NBA TV)

Current USA roster (must cut to 12 before FIBA World Cup)

Kemba Walker
Brook Lopez
Myles Turner
Khris Middleton
Mason Plumlee
Joe Harris
Marcus Smart
Donovan Mitchell
Jayson Tatum
Harrison Barnes
Derrick White
Kyle Kuzma
Jaylen Brown

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