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. Tony Parker hits a back over-the-head halfcourt shot (VIDEO)

    Sep 21, 2014, 5:00 PM EDT

    Tony Parker Tony Parker

    I’m pretty sure Popovich doesn’t want him taking one of these in a game.

  2. Hornets’ Jeff Taylor says he’s recovered from ruptured Achilles

    Sep 21, 2014, 3:30 PM EDT

    Dallas Mavericks v Charlotte Bobcats Dallas Mavericks v Charlotte Bobcats

    He’s going to fight for minutes at a crowded wing spot in Charlotte.

  3. Andrew Wiggins says he doesn’t feel much pressure heading to Minnesota

    Sep 21, 2014, 2:00 PM EDT

    Timberwolves New Players Getty Images

    Nobody expects much from the Timberwolves or Wiggins this season, outside of a few highlight dunks.

  4. Report: Zoran Dragic “in advanced discussions” to leave Europe for Suns next season

    Sep 21, 2014, 12:30 PM EDT

    BASKET-EURO-2013-SRB-SVN Getty Images

    A team is going to have to pay him at least $2 million a year to make it worth his while.

  5. Jeanie Buss ‘not worried’ about Kobe coming back and contributing for Lakers

    Sep 21, 2014, 9:30 AM EDT

    Boston Celtics v Los Angeles Lakers Getty Images

    Lakers president believes Bryant is ready after he missed all but six games last season due to injury.

  6. Timberwolves ‘not necessarily in a rush’ to agree to contract extension with Ricky Rubio

    Sep 20, 2014, 11:00 PM EDT

    Ricky Rubio AP

    Rubio may not like it, but Minnesota can retain his rights in restricted free agency next summer.

  7. Report: Gustavo Ayon’s deal with Real Madrid worth $6.6 million over three years

    Sep 20, 2014, 9:30 PM EDT

    Australia v Mexico - 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup Getty Images

    Big man from Mexico preferred to remain in the NBA, but took the payday to return overseas.

  8. Kobe Bryant may join ownership group attempting to purchase Italian soccer team

    Sep 20, 2014, 6:30 PM EDT

    Kobe Bryant Kobe Bryant

    With two years left in the NBA, Bryant has an eye on life after basketball.

  9. Taj Gibson says he’s fine coming off the bench for Bulls: ‘Please miss me with the drama’

    Sep 20, 2014, 5:00 PM EDT

    Taj Gibson Taj Gibson

    A previous report said Gibson was less than thrilled with remaining a reserve.

  10. Andray Blatche signs deal to play in China next season

    Sep 20, 2014, 3:30 PM EDT

    Cleveland Cavaliers v Brooklyn Nets Getty Images

    Blatche can play, but the NBA offers simply weren’t there.

  11. Giant LeBron James banner approved to hang in downtown Cleveland once again

    Sep 20, 2014, 2:00 PM EDT

    lebron-banner

    10-story-high banner will return after a similar one was taken down when James left in 2010.

  12. Report: Ramon Sessions signs 2-year deal with Kings

    Sep 20, 2014, 12:28 PM EDT

    Ramon Sessions AP

    Sessions could start at point guard for Sacramento.

  13. Report: Former NBA player Rex Chapman arrested for stealing product from Apple store

    Sep 19, 2014, 9:45 PM EDT

    Rex Chapman, Ashley Judd Rex Chapman, Ashley Judd

    Chapman played four years for the Suns, and is facing charges in Scottsdale, AZ.

Featured video

What players stood out at World Cup?
Top 10 NBA Player Searches
  1. R. Rondo (2656)
  2. L. James (2606)
  3. E. Bledsoe (2506)
  4. K. Bryant (2415)
  5. D. Rose (2287)
  1. K. Irving (1953)
  2. R. Allen (1810)
  3. K. Durant (1646)
  4. N. Young (1593)
  5. G. Oden (1474)