Community Shootaround: Is Team USA Still The World’s Best?

At least they were better than Poland.

Team USA wrapped up a disappointing World Cup experience this morning with a 13-point win over the Polish contingent in a battle for seventh place. It’s not what the Americans expected going into the tournament or where they appeared to be headed when the invitations for training camp went out last month.

But that was before Anthony Davis passed on the chance to play in China, followed by James Harden, Eric Gordon, Bradley Beal, Damian Lillard, Tobias Harris, Kevin Love and a host of other NBA stars. The final 12-man roster didn’t have enough shooting, size or cohesiveness to compete with the world’s best teams, resulting in the worst finish for the Americans in a major tournament since NBA players started participating in 1992.

It’s easy to dismiss this year’s results and expect Team USA to be back on top at the 2020 Olympics. But Kobe Bryant, who helped re-establish American dominance after a similar performance in 2004, isn’t buying it.

“It’s not a matter of the rest of the world catching up to the U.S., it’s that the rest of the world has been caught up for quite some time,” Bryant told Brian Windhorst of ESPN. “And it’s to the point now where us in the U.S. are going to win some, we’re going lose some. And that’s just how it goes.”

Windhorst believes the Americans didn’t underachieve, but finished about where their talent level should indicate. They lost to France and Serbia in the tournament and dropped an exhibition game to Australia, leaving their overall record at 7-3. It would have been 6-4 if not for a fortunate win over a Turkish team that let a victory slip away because of missed free throws.

Whatever the roster looks like for 2020, Team USA won’t have the overwhelming talent advantage it has gotten used to in Olympic play. LeBron James will be 35. Kevin Durant may still be awaiting his return from an Achilles injury. Kawhi Leonard has never played in an Olympics or World Cup and isn’t a sure thing to participate.

As Bryant noted, the rest of the world has been catching up for a while. Many teams are filled with NBA players and work together frequently, while the Americans will be starting from scratch when Olympic training camp begins.

We want to get your opinion. Does the World Cup performance mean that Team USA’s Olympic crown is in jeopardy? 

Head to our comment section below to share your feedback.

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15 thoughts on “Community Shootaround: Is Team USA Still The World’s Best?

  1. phillyballers

    So the 5th or 6th best USA squad lost to teams with NBA players? Shocking. If the top players played, it’s not even close. World Cup means nothing to the players tho.

  2. Tazza

    I’m from NZ and worldwide USA is still the best obviously but when all the stars pull out it doesn’t look good for the team or the game of basketball really. Compare it to the amazing Jordan teams from way back.

    I never really like the World Cup team. Thought Harris isn’t very good, Brown isn’t a great impact player, Barnes is average, Plumblee is a locker room guy, Lopez didn’t even get minutes, it was all strange.
    Spida Mitchell is great, love his work ethic and leadership, Marcus Smart again great both sides of the floor and a guy that will always try his hardest. Thought they should’ve got a couple more young guys in who would want to prove themselves and make a scene, Trae Young, John Collins, Mo Bamba even. Melo would’ve been great.

    I’d have it
    1. Paul. Young
    2. Mitchell. Smart. Harris
    3. Tatum. Tucker. Melo
    4. Griffin. Kuzma.
    5. Turner. Jordan. Bamba

  3. bowserhound

    Each player in the Olympic wins a medal. World Cup teams win a trophy. Who cares.

  4. afsooner02

    This was literally our 5th string nba team….that’s not even a joke.

  5. IslandFlava

    FIBA rankings value more the World Cup than the Olympics, as it should be, a lot easier to win the Olympics. At the world cup you have all the best teams competing, at the Olympics a lot of the great teams are missing. For example next year is a great chance that teams like Serbia, Slovenia, Turkey, Greece, Canada, Lithuania won’t be there… Which it will make winning the Olympics way easier, but I suppose some people just prefers to win the easy tournaments instead of the real ones.

    • politicsNbaseball

      If those teams are so great why won’t they qualify for the Olympics?

  6. afoss

    Where is the upside? It’s seems like all risk, no reward.

    From the team’s perspective: These guys are on multi-million dollar, multi-year contracts their team would only have the 50% injured player exemption to offset the loss. That can devastate a franchise.

    From the fans’ perspective: I don’t see the games on TV and the games don’t even get a mention on any evening news sports segment.

    I think the Big3 league should send their players.

    • Stefan Ishii

      The World Cup is a WORLD event. Games were shown in most countries. I’ve seen approximately 30 games. With more time, I would have been able to watch all matches via stream in my country.

  7. Stefan Ishii

    Is Team USA still the World’s Best?
    I don’t look at it as pessimistic as Kobe Bryant. I think, the USA are still the best. They have for sure the highest highest level of individual class. But that doesn’t win championships, if you’re not a team. To come to China this year and just simply show up and take the trophy, is not possible anymore. They have to become a team. Just like Spain or Argentina are.

    It’s not just only a question of NBA talent. Giannis Antetokounmpo did not help Greece. Dennis Schröder did not get Germany further than the First Round. Most teams have some NBA players nowadays. But that alone doesn’t really cut it anymore. Argentina has only an old Luis Scola, but they reached the gold medal game because they are a team. And they are proud of playing for their country. I wonder, where is all the pride and patriotism in the US?

    • takeitback

      While I get what you are saying, a team made up of Harden, Westbrook, Curry, Thompson, KD, Kawhi, Lebron, Anthony Davis, Mitchell, Kyrie, etc could still just show up and win every game. Hell, the US could literally send two teams and end up playing each other in the championship.

      They just can’t send a group that wouldn’t even win an NBA championship like they did this year.

    • x%sure

      Nice wrap Stefan. As for the question, few players seemed to have anything they wanted to prove and the fanbase took that cue… a problem that kind of fixed itself by finishing 7th!

  8. x%sure

    American players heard, “Don’t get injured”.
    French players heard, “Win this for France”.
    That is more than enough to make up for a talent discrepancy favoring USA, even with the top Americans skipping it.

    Don’t expect hater Kawhi to show up. Older & injured players SHOULD skip. James had a movie in production. Next year the comeback with would-be avenger-heroes? News at 11

  9. JonnyLucas

    Of course a team that features AD, Lebron, Kawhi, Lillard, the big KAT, Steph, Durant, etc. would totally dominate every team, including the 92 dream team.

  10. Danthemilwfan

    If they want to be they will be. If everyone quits and everyone still playing just plays for fun they obviously can be beat

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