USA Basketball finished their disappointing FIBA World Cup by losing to Serbia, 94-89, in the fifth place game.
Serbia led by as many as 25 points in the first quarter. USA basketball battled back and got as close as 2 but never could get over the hump.
USA Basketball’s performance have led people say the craziest things. One of my favorites was a college assistant coach saying that France has a better national program than USA Basketball. I admit, I snickered when I read it.
The FIBA World Cup was the first time where we saw how Jerry Colangelo’s changes would work when none of the top American NBA players were available. Whether people like this or not, what happened to this team is what should’ve been expected.
The construction of the team was flawed from the beginning by no fault of anyone’s.
You can’t start with the center position. USA Basketball head coach, Gregg Popovich, had the task of trying to use big men like Brook Lopez and Mason Plumlee. Two solid NBA players whose games don’t translate to the FIBA style. That’s by no fault of those two players. They were forced into uncomfortable positions whenever they were out on the floor. This forced Popovich to go small too much against a team like France.
The point guard position was another issue. As well as Kemba Walker played, there wasn’t a backup that could cause the same match up problems as Walker. Derrick White isn’t the answer. Moving Jaylen Brown over there isn’t the answer. The point guard is more than the guy who brings the ball up the floor. Looking at USA Basketball’s 2018-2020 roster pool, there are are whose who of point guards who decided not to play. Surely Chris Paul, Steph Curry, Russell Westbrook, Kyle Lowry, or Mike Conley Jr. would’ve helped this team.
USA Basketball also didn’t have enough two-way three point shooters. This is where a Bradley Beal or CJ McCollum would have played a pivotal role on this team.
It’s also important for fans to understand some differences between the NBA and FIBA.
Spacing and driving lanes in the NBA are enhanced by the length of the three point line and how well it’s shot along with the illegal defense rules. This opens up the floor and allows players to stress the defense in ways you don’t necessarily you see in the FIBA game.
When you look at some of the better teams in FIBA, driving lanes and open shots are generated through action. By forcing shifts in the defense along with schematically causing mismatches on switches, it allows a player like Rudy Gobert to be a tremendous offensive threat.
USA Basketball didn’t have a big player on offense that could stretch Gobert. This allowed Gobert to be the clear difference to in France’s win over USA Basketball. Without having to worry about illegal defense rules, Gobert impacted the game in ways he wouldn’t have had USA Basketball had Anthony Davis. Gobert is a great defensive player in the NBA with the illegal defense rules, he’s even better in International play.
Before you bring up the “college kids” there are issues there also. The NCAA still plays with two halves, a 30 second shot clock, and 1-1 after seven fouls. Though USA Basketball sent a Big East all-star team to the Pan Am games, I can’t imagine if they sent a college basketball all-star team that the result would’ve been that much different.
With all this being said, most reasonable people expect for USA Basketball’s Olympic roster to look different. USA Basketball will be favorite to win gold in Tokyo. Don’t expect a bunch of 30 point wins though. There were a record number of NBA players in the FIBA World Cup. It tells you how global the NBA is. Among the four major professional leagues in the United States, the NBA is number one globally and it isn’t even an argument. So expect some tense moments in Tokyo but it will be ok.
Barring a staggering number of “no’s”, USA Basketball will be fine so relax.
2018-2020 US Player Pool
|Harrison Barnes (Sacramento Kings)|
|Bradley Beal (Washington Wizards)|
|Devin Booker (Phoenix Suns)|
|Jimmy Butler (Miami Heat)|
|Mike Conley Jr. (Utah Jazz)|
|DeMarcus Cousins (Los Angeles Lakers)|
|Stephen Curry (Golden State Warriors)|
|Anthony Davis (Los Angeles Lakers)|
|DeMar DeRozan (San Antonio Spurs)|
|Andre Drummond (Detroit Pistons)|
|Kevin Durant (Brooklyn Nets)|
|Paul George (Los Angeles Clippers)|
|Eric Gordon (Houston Rockets)|
|Draymond Green (Golden State Warriors)|
|Blake Griffin (Detroit Pistons)|
|James Harden (Houston Rockets)|
|Tobias Harris (Philadelphia 76ers)|
|Gordon Hayward (Boston Celtics)|
|Kyrie Irving (Brooklyn Nets)|
|LeBron James (Los Angeles Lakers)|
|DeAndre Jordan (Los Angeles Clippers)|
|Kawhi Leonard (Los Angeles Clippers)|
|Damian Lillard (Portland Trail Blazers)|
|Kevin Love (Cleveland Cavaliers)|
|Kyle Lowry (Toronto Raptors)|
|CJ McCollum (Portland Trail Blazers)|
|Khris Middleton (Milwaukee Bucks)|
|Victor Oladipo (Indiana Pacers)|
|Chris Paul (Oklahoma City Thunder)|
|Isaiah Thomas (Washington Wizards)|
|Klay Thompson (Golden State Warriors)|
|Myles Turner (Indiana Pacers)|
|Kemba Walker (Charlotte Hornets)|
|John Wall (Washington Wizards)|
|Russell Westbrook (Oklahoma City Thunder)|