Without Big-Name Stars, Is Team USA Still the Team to Beat?
With the United States men’s basketball team poised to defend its FIBA World Cup championship this summer in China, the vast majority of the sport’s biggest names will be sitting the competition out. The roster was already without the likes of LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and Kawhi Leonard, who previously withdrew themselves for various reasons. Now, the squad has suffered several more blows in the past few weeks, as Team USA lost its two biggest remaining names in Anthony Davis and James Harden.
The alarming rate at which American stars have pulled out of the competition continued when Damian Lillard and Tobias Harris made it known they’ll be sitting out, followed by Bradley Beal, who withdrew due to the impending birth of his child. The first pick of this year’s draft, Zion Williamson, also recently made his unavailability for the tournament official.
So, who’s left?
Team USA Includes Just Three All-Stars
Of the 20 USA-eligible players from this year’s All-Star teams, only three remain on Team USA now. And one of those All-Stars, Kyle Lowry, may not be ready for duty after undergoing thumb surgery following the Raptors’ NBA championship run. The other two All-Stars included on the roster are Khris Middleton and Kemba Walker, who’s the sole player from this year’s All-NBA team to remain on the national squad for the World Cup.
After all the dropouts thus far, here’s a quick look at the current roster for Team USA:
• Andre Drummond
• Kevin Love
• Myles Turner
• Julius Randle
• Thaddeus Young
• Brook Lopez
• Paul Millsap
• Kyle Kuzma
• Khris Middleton
• P.J. Tucker
• Jayson Tatum
• Harrison Barnes
• Jaylen Brown
• Kyle Lowry
• Kemba Walker
• Marcus Smart
• Donovan Mitchell
Now, head coach Gregg Popovich leads a Team USA that looks very different from the squad that had to leave Lillard off the roster five years ago due to the amount of star power already included. With that in mind, is this roster still the one to beat?
Is Team USA Still the Favorite?
The depleted roster of Team USA may end up with even more talent missing come tournament time at the end of August, with the likes of Kevin Love reportedly “on the fence” about playing, but is this squad still the favorite? According to the odds, yes.
Coming in at -300 to win the tournament, Team USA is still an overwhelming favorite. Next up is the Serbian team at +450, followed by Spain (+1100), Greece (+2000), and France (+3300). Of the 32 squads taking part in the tournament, three relatively strong teams sit at +5000 odds: Canada, Australia, and Lithuania.
So, while Team USA is the favorite to win its third consecutive FIBA World Cup title, there are legitimate contenders in sight, especially considering how much talent is sitting out for the top roster. With the next-best odds, Serbia is a real threat. The Serbians lost to Team USA in the 2016 Olympics championship game, and will now be led by Nikola Jokic, who turned in an outstanding year for the Nuggets.
If you look at the number of NBA players on these international rosters, Canada looks like a strong bet. Behind Team USA, Canada has the most NBA talent, which appears to be 17 at the moment. And with Raptors head coach Nick Nurse at the helm, you would expect a strong performance from the Canadians. However, Canada will face tough competition to make it out of their own group, with Australia, Lithuania, and Senegal making up their opponents.
Yet even with the progress of international competition and the mass exodus of NBA superstars from the domestic squad, Team USA remains the team to beat at this year’s FIBA World Cup.
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