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 EST

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. Lakers claim Tarik Black off waivers, create roster spot by waiving Xavier Henry

    Dec 28, 2014, 6:00 PM EST

    Houston Rockets v Sacramento Kings Houston Rockets v Sacramento Kings

    Nice move by the Lakers, who pick up a promising big man prospect with an inexpensive non-guaranteed contract.

  2. Kyrie Irving to miss second straight game, out Sunday vs. Pistons

    Dec 28, 2014, 4:29 PM EST

    Cleveland Cavaliers v New York Knicks Getty Images

    Knee injury suffered on Christmas Day will continue to keep Irving sidelined.

  3. Kobe Bryant will return to Lakers lineup Sunday vs. Suns

    Dec 28, 2014, 3:30 PM EST

    Los Angeles Lakers v Sacramento Kings Getty Images

    Bryant has uncharacteristically sat out the previous three games simply to rest.

  4. PBT’s Top 10 NBA stories of 2014, No. 9: Eastern Conference inadequacy

    Dec 28, 2014, 9:30 AM EST

    Eric Bledsoe, Marcus Morris AP

    Western Conference ends season with huge advantage, begins another right where it left off

  5. John Wall with another 360 layup (VIDEO)

    Dec 27, 2014, 9:00 PM EST

    Boston Celtics v Washington Wizards Getty Images

    He’s done it twice in the last two games.

  6. Hornets’ coach explains why Noah Vonleh barely sees the court

    Dec 27, 2014, 8:02 PM EST

    2014 NBA Rookie Photo Shoot Getty Images

    A sports hernia kept him out of training camp and the rookie has never caught up with the learning curve.

  7. Rodney Stuckey says Pistons’ downward spiral began with Chauncey Billups trade

    Dec 27, 2014, 2:00 PM EST

    Chauncey Billups Chauncey Billups

    Stuckey says the trade robbed the locker room of accountability.

  8. Tobias Harris trash talked LeBron, then LeBron goes off, leads Cavs to win

    Dec 27, 2014, 12:30 PM EST

    Cleveland at Orlando Getty Images

    LeBron James was in “chill mode” and this team is vulnerable when he is.

  9. Rumor: Ray Allen leaning toward retirement, not return

    Dec 27, 2014, 9:30 AM EST

    2014 NBA Finals - Game One Getty Images

    This option was always on the table for him, people around the NBA just never thought he’d choose it.

  10. Rumor: Heat to target Andray Blatche when he returns from Chinese team

    Dec 27, 2014, 7:59 AM EST

    Chicago Bulls v Brooklyn Nets - Game One Getty Images

    He won’t be available until February or March, the Heat may not want to wait that long.

Featured video

Who will land Josh Smith?
Top 10 NBA Player Searches
  1. K. Durant (9132)
  2. K. Bryant (8282)
  3. J. Smith (7485)
  4. K. Martin (7212)
  5. K. Leonard (6894)
  1. C. Bosh (6833)
  2. Z. Randolph (6375)
  3. T. Parker (6177)
  4. T. Jones (6108)
  5. D. DeRozan (6041)