As the 2023 FIBA World Cup Begins, is Team USA Ready?

With a roster loaded full of young talent, most are expecting Team USA to be the favorites to win this year’s World Cup. While that may indeed be the case, will the road to gold in the Philippines be harder than it looks?Anthony Edwards is defended by Austin Reaves

After all, the United States is coming off of their worst-ever performance, back in the 2019 World Cup in China, when they finished in seventh place. In order to avenge their last performance, the Americans will have to get through their round one group that includes New Zealand (26th ranked), Greece (9th), and Jordan (33rd). 

Notably, the players on this new USA team have zero international playing experience.

“It’s really a great young group, very young team, considering the national teams over the past decades or so,” coach Steve Kerr said, via ESPN’s Tim Bontemps. “It feels like the next wave of guys that’s coming up. It’s really exciting because they are all so coachable. They are playing so hard, and the attention to detail has been great. Wonderful group of guys, I’m really excited about coaching them.”

With that being said, there are disparities that the Americans will have to overcome, such as not being familiar with the international FIBA rules. 

“You got to learn FIBA. it’s a different game, different rules, different interpretations by the officials,” Kerr said. 

Furthermore, despite having the most talent and “highest ceiling” internationally, Team USA may have a disadvantage when it comes to team chemistry. That is to say, compared to other international teams, they lack experience playing together.

This has been one of the main reasons why Team USA has come up short in the past tournaments. Kerr addressed that very issue when reflecting on the preparation time before the World Cup.

“It’s so hard cause you only have a couple of weeks and then you jump right into the tournament … because most of these teams have been together (long term),” he said.

The USA coaching staff, which consists of  Kerr along with assistants Erik Spoelstra, Tyronn Lue, and Gonzaga’s Mark Few, kept the team’s starting group the same throughout the first five exhibition games.

This lineup included players who are making their Team USA debut: Jalen Brunson, Anthony Edwards, Jaren Jackson Jr., Mikal Bridges, and Brandon Ingram.

“I like the stability of that [starting] group,” Kerr said, as the team finished with a 5-0 record, defeating Puerto Rico, Slovenia, Spain, Greece, and Germany in exhibition matches.

That said, Kerr also hinted that the starting lineup may be shaken up a bit for the start of the World Cup, referencing that Edwards may come off the bench. This comes after Kerr admitted that Edwards is “unquestionably the guy” for Team USA, when he scored 34 points in their most recent comeback win against Germany.

Given that, this talk of coming off the bench did not sit well with the 22-year-old Timberwolves star. In response to Kerr saying “even Dwyane Wade came off the bench for Team USA when (Kobe Bryant) played,” Edwards replied, “All right, but we don’t have a Kobe.” This narration between coach and player was highlighted in a piece from Joe Vardon of The Athletic.

With attention to the scheduling, all three of the pool play games for Team USA will be broadcast on ESPN2, as the team will open up vs. New Zealand in Manila on Saturday, August 26 at 8:40 am ET. Then the USA will face off vs. Greece on August 28 at 8:40 am ET.

Lastly, the third game will be played vs. Jordan on August 30 at 4:40 am ET. 

Important to note, that Grizzlies center Steven Adams is not on the New Zealand roster, and Giannis Antetokounmpo will sit out after having an offseason “routine” knee surgery. Thus, in these first matchups, the only NBA player the USA will go up against is Thanasis Antetokounmpo for Greece. 

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