Skip to content

World Cup preview: No Durant, no problem USA still one of two teams with legit shot to win gold

Aug 28, 2014, 8:45 AM EDT

Team USA Showcase Getty Images

Think about at the Team USA wins this summer: By 17 points over the world’s 10th ranked team Brazil; by 43 over the Dominican Republic (world No. 26); by 26 over Puerto Rico (world No. 17); then by 30 over the world’s 13th ranked team Slovenia.

So far the Americans have outscored their opponents by 35.4 points per 100 possessions (via John Schuhmann of NBA.com). A ridiculous number.

Team USA has not seriously been challenged — and most of the FIBA World Cup will look very much like that.

So much of the pre-tournament focus has been on who is not there for the Americans. No Kevin Durant. Or Paul George. And all that came after Kevin Love, Blake Griffin, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, LaMarcus Aldridge and a host of others said no. Those are big time talents.

Doesn’t matter — the USA is so deep with guys who can ball that coach Mike Krzyzewski can still throw out a long, athletic, sharp-shooting team that will play pressure defense, run, be active, and knock down threes and flat-out overwhelm nearly every opponent. Just as they have pretty much everyone since Team USA last lost a game back in 2006.

Team USA is still loaded — Anthony Davis, James Harden, Kyrie Irving, Stephen Curry, Derrick Rose, DeMarcus Cousins, Klay Thompson, Kenneth Faried, Rudy Gay, DeMar DeRozan, Mason Plumlee and Andre Drummond. No other team in the world can match that depth. Not even close The USA’s starters (Irving, Curry, Harden, Faried, Davis) have been fantastic at both ends of the floor in the tune up games (almost doubling the score on its opponents).

The obvious strength of Team USA is the guard spot — Irving and Curry have scored very efficiently, while Harden is the team’s leading scorer so far. Then off the bench the bring the slashing athleticism of Rose and more sharp shooting with Thompson. As for all that size up front, it lets Coach K almost hockey substitute them every couple of minutes to keep the legs fresh and the energy up for their high-intensity style of play.

That group will overwhelm everyone the USA faces when it starts group play Saturday.

First up is Finland, ranked 39th in the world (a team chosen as a wild card over better, more deserving teams because Finland travel well sand FIBA wanted the cash from ticket sales), followed Sunday by a Turkish team that is well behind the USA and is likely second best in Group C. After that it is New Zealand, a Dominican Republic team that the USA already destroyed, then the Ukraine. None of those teams are a threat to a USA squad that gives even half effort (and they will as they try to find themselves).

After group play teams are seeded for a single elimination tournament and again Team USA gets a soft touch — Groups C and D fill out half the bracket and the best team is Lithuania, ranked fourth in the world and they just lost starting point guard Mantas Kalnietis due to a dislocated shoulder. Lithuania is led by the NBA’s Jonas Valanciunas and Dontas Motiejunas, both of whom are nice bigs but a couple of steps behind the USA’s front line. That’s it. No other real threats. The USA has a fairly easy path to the title game.

There is only one real threat to Team USA — Spain. And those two would not meet until said gold medal game if Spain makes it. Playing at home they probably will, but their side of the bracket will have reigning European champion France (without Tony Parker), Brazil, Argentina and Greece. Spain should advance but they have the harder road.

Spain boasts three quality NBA bigs — Marc Gasol, Pau Gasol, Serge Ibaka — plus a back court of Ricky Rubio and Rudy Fernandez. They have fallen to Team USA the last two Olympic gold medal games but played the USA close (Spain was right in it in 2012 in London until Marc Gasol had to leave with foul trouble). On their home court in front of their home fans foul trouble is not going to be an issue for Spain.

Spain poses a legitimate threat, which is why there are four centers on the NBA roster — to match up better with that size. More than that the USA will count on its athleticism and pressure to force mistakes and to make Spain uncomfortable in their offense. The USA will need Curry, Thompson and everyone else to hit their

But that’s it. The only real threat to the USA should be Spain.

It doesn’t matter who didn’t show up for America, the guys who did can flat-out ball and fit the USA’s aggressive, up-tempo style. The USA is rightfully still a gold medal favorite.

It doesn’t matter who showed up, so long as the guys that did are ready to play.

And Team USA looks ready.

Latest Posts
  1. Reports: Mavericks re-sign J.J. Barea for two-years, $5.6 million

    Jul 6, 2015, 6:44 PM EDT

    J.J. Barea J.J. Barea

    This is a solid signing, but the Mavs need more help at the guard spot.

  2. Report: Cavaliers, Clippers discussing Jamal Crawford for Brendan Haywood trade

    Jul 6, 2015, 6:01 PM EDT

    Toronto Raptors v Los Angeles Clippers Getty Images

    This trade could work for both teams if the Clippers can flip Haywood’s contract again for a big man.

  3. Reports: David West agrees to veteran minimum deal to play for Spurs

    Jul 6, 2015, 5:01 PM EDT

    David West David West

    West left $10.6 million on the table to go to a contender.

  4. Report: Dallas thinking of bringing back Jason Terry

    Jul 6, 2015, 4:12 PM EDT

    Dallas Mavericks v Houston Rockets - Game Two Getty Images

    Signing Terry would go over well with the fan base in Dallas

  5. Manu Ginobili tweets he’ll play next season

    Jul 6, 2015, 2:40 PM EDT

    LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 10:  Manu Ginobli #20 of the San Antonio Spurs gestures to a teammate in the game against the Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center on November 10, 2014 in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Can the Spurs keep Patty Mills and Boris Diaw, too? Ginobili must still negotiate a contract

  6. Report: Cavaliers-Nets Joe Johnson trade talks stagnate

    Jul 6, 2015, 1:36 PM EDT

    Brooklyn Nets v Cleveland Cavaliers Getty Images

    Nobody wants Anderson Varejao and his contract

  7. Report: Nuggets hire Ed Pinckney as assistant coach

    Jul 6, 2015, 11:30 AM EDT

    Fred Hoiberg, Ed Pinckney AP

    Michael Malone lands a good lieutenant

  8. Who is left: 15 best free agents still on the board

    Jul 6, 2015, 8:30 AM EDT

    Dallas Mavericks v Indiana Pacers Getty Images

    The best guy widely available? David West.

Top 10 NBA Player Searches
  1. L. Aldridge (6398)
  2. D. Jordan (4129)
  3. D. Wade (4054)
  4. W. Matthews (4017)
  5. R. Rondo (3556)
  1. K. Bryant (3308)
  2. T. Harris (3199)
  3. R. Lopez (3173)
  4. L. James (3163)
  5. R. Hibbert (3104)