The 2019 FIBA World Cup will get underway in approximately 12 hours, as Angola and Serbia are scheduled to tip off at 3:30am eastern time on Saturday. Team USA, meanwhile, will begin its quest for a gold medal on Sunday morning with a matchup against the Czech Republic.
There has been plenty of hand-wringing in recent weeks over the exodus of talent from USA Basketball’s preliminary World Cup roster. James Harden, Anthony Davis, Damian Lillard, and many more All-NBA stars have pulled out of the competition, leaving Team USA with a roster headlined by Kemba Walker, the only player on the squad with more than one All-Star appearance on his résumé.
Outside of Walker, Khris Middleton and Brook Lopez are the only other former All-Stars in the 12-man group. The roster is rounded out by up-and-coming youngsters like Donovan Mitchell, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Myles Turner, and Derrick White, along with veteran role players Harrison Barnes, Marcus Smart, Joe Harris, and Mason Plumlee.
It’s not exactly a star-studded roster, but it’s still the only 12-man squad at the World Cup that will be made up exclusively of NBA players. Team USA will have a depth advantage over every other national team in the field and will have a versatile enough roster to match up with any club it faces. It also has one of the sport’s best coaches of all-time in Gregg Popovich.
On the other hand, Team USA’s dozen representatives aren’t particularly accomplished in international play, and NBA experience isn’t everything in these tournaments — the last time USA Basketball lost a major international competition, in 2006, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul, Chris Bosh, Carmelo Anthony, and Dwight Howard were among the stars representing America. They fell to a Greek team without a single player on an NBA roster.
In international play, and particularly in the single-elimination stage of these tournaments, a hot five-man lineup – or even a single player – can be enough to pull off an upset.
The oddsmakers at BetOnline.ag view Team USA as the favorites to bring home the World Cup gold from China, but not overwhelmingly so — the line for Team USA is -170, meaning you’d only have to risk $170 to win $100.
Nikola Jokic and the Serbians (+350) are considered strong challengers, with Giannis Antetokounmpo and Greece (+1000) in the mix as well, along with Marc Gasol and the Spaniards (+1600). Tom Ziller of SBNation.com also views Australia, France, Lithuania, and Germany as teams with the potential to knock off Team USA — Australia already did so once in exhibition play, snapping the program’s 78-game winning streak in international contests.
What do you think? Is Team USA still a slam dunk to win this year’s World Cup, despite all its missing stars, or is this the year that the country’s streak of gold medals comes to an end?
Vote below in our poll, then head to the comment section to weigh in!
Trade Rumors app users, click here to vote.