Since NBA players have been permitted to play in international competition, the United States has never sent over a unit like the one they are sending to Asia later this month for the FIBA World Cup. Not a single player on this roster has made an All-NBA team — a first since American pros were allowed to compete. Only four players have ever been an all-star selection, and the elder statesman on the team is Bobby Portis at 28 years old.
None of these players have ever competed on the senior level for Team USA — another first since pros were allowed to play. At first glance, this team has all the makings of an American disaster. All of this inexperienced talent — and precious few of the best of it — along with a new head coach in Steve Kerr. A closer glance at the roster and staff though, reveals not only a team with plenty of talent to compete, but a great model to follow in future FIBA tournaments and possibly even the Olympics.
Who’s on the team?
Unlike those hodgepodges of talent that came up short in 2004 and 2006, all of the pieces on the 2023 roster fit. Present day basketball is all about length and shooting, and this U.S. Men’s team has both in spades.
The only players on the team who struggle with their shot are Paolo Banchero and Walker Kessler. They were both rookies last year, and in March Banchero showed improvement, shooting 37 percent from behind the arc on 54 attempts.
Jaren Jackson Jr. was voted on as the best player coming out of Team USA’s four day camp by his teammates, per a poll from The Athletic. That makes sense — he’s the reigning Defensive Player of the Year — especially when he also managed to shoot 35.5 percent from three last season. Anthony Edwards is an improved shooter, and then there are the flamethrowers in Tyrese Haliburton, Cam Johnson, and Brandon Ingram. There will be no packing the paint of this team.
On defense, Team USA is going to give opponents fits. Mikal Bridges and Jackson on the floor at the same time not only makes the lane a no-fly-zone, but they will both be able to switch onto perimeter players. Kessler is solid in the paint, while Johnson, Josh Hart, and Austin Reaves have proven to be able to hold their ground on defense. Jalen Brunson and Haliburton as the only true point guards on the team could leave the team vulnerable in switches, but there will be enough length on the floor at all times to compensate for that.
What’s the expectation?
Winning the gold medal is the main goal for this team. It has been decided long ago that the ultimate American sports embarrassment is when either of the senior national basketball teams lose in international play. It is why the entire men’s and women’s teams have gone through overhauls. Gold or shame, those are the only results for Team USA.
But these young men in 2023 are also getting a tremendous opportunity this summer to improve. The coaching staff that has been assembled is tremendous. It may be Kerr’s first time leading the senior national men’s team, but he is one of the most accomplished coaches in NBA history. Accompanying him will be Erik Spoelstra, Tyronn Lue, and Mark Few.
These young players have never seen a coaching Avengers squad like this. There are some players from Duke and Villanova on the team, but this is an opportunity to learn from the absolute best to ever put marker to white board. Three of these coaches have won NBA Championship rings, and Few’s Gonzaga teams are regularly among the best in Men’s College Basketball even though they play in the West Coast Conference.
Being that there are some high draft picks who are under 23 years old on this team, and many players who have spent much of their careers in chaotic environments, these two months will be a crash course in doctorate level basketball. Every young American NBA player should have been going after a spot on this team like a young civics major would an internship on the Hill. Great instruction is not a part of the CBA, and for most of these players this is the best that they will ever receive.
With that braintrust on the sidelines and a group of players that are an ideal fit on the floor together, this could be the future of the Men’s Senior USA National Basketball Team. It can be continuously fed the youngest and most promising NBA players that make sense to be on a roster together. Those players will be coached by the best minds the game has to offer. Not only will these teams be able to defeat a world hot on their heels, but getting these young players a taste of the best American basketball coaching has will do wonders in getting them ready to be the faces of the NBA.
The star power is light on FIBA men’s 2023 team, but the potential of what it can be for now and beyond needs a weight belt to be properly carried.
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