On paper, Team USA is the most talented basketball team in the world. After two exhibition games, their superior talent hasn’t translated to victories.
Team USA lost their second exhibition game on Monday night, falling to Australia, 92-83, in Las Vegas, NV. This comes off the heels of their historic 90-87 loss to Nigeria this past Saturday night, where Team USA was a 29.5 point favorite going into the game. For context, the United States defeated Nigeria, 156-73, at the 2012 Olympics.
Team USA has been the most dominant international basketball team for the past 30 years. Since 1992, Team USA is 53-3 in the Olympics with all three losses coming in 2004. Furthermore, the United States had been 54-2 in major exhibitions since the 1992 Dream Team before dropping two straight games over the last three days.
Exhibitions are unofficial games but don’t tell that to the rest of the world. Playing against the USA is the equivalent of playing for a championship. Because almost every top International team has NBA players, the days of fearing Team USA may be of the past. Just ask Joe Ingles, who said that his Australian team expected to beat Team USA.
Losing two exhibition games is not the end of the world for Team USA, but it’s a cause for concern. The offensive chemistry will most likely improve considering the team has some of the most talented scorers in the world like Kevin Durant, Bradley Beal, Damian Lillard, and Jayson Tatum.
The problem with Team USA is rooted in its roster construction. On paper, 11 of the 12 players on the roster have made an all-star team. The team is constructed of combo guards and versatile wings that can guard multiple positions on defense.
This roster would thrive in the NBA, but the International game is much different. Teams are more traditionally structured, where multiple big men play at once, defenses pack the paint (no defensive three seconds), and teams consistently run offensive sets. It’s not the “3 and D” style that the NBA has morphed into over the past few seasons.
Plus, there is more physicality, and the US team lacks a dominant big man. Small ball will work against the inferior teams, but the United States could run into problems with bigger opponents due to their lack of size. It’s important to note that Australia outrebounded Team USA, 23-20.
The international game is officiated much differently. The refs are not as inclined to call touch fouls like they do in today’s NBA. To be honest, it’s refreshing, but so far, the Americans have failed to adjust to the officiating.
Team USA’s late-game execution has been horrendous. Australia ended the game on an 11-1 run to seal the victory. The Americans are looking to players like Lillard and Durant to bail them out on offense by playing iso-ball. That hasn’t worked in two exhibition games. Although Devin Booker, Khris Middleton, and Jrue Holiday will join the squad after the NBA Finals, this team desperately needs a traditional, playmaking point guard like Chris Paul to get into their sets and generate easy buckets.
Why did Team USA select Kevin Love? In two exhibition games, Love has 0 points, 1 rebound, and 1 assist. In other words, Love has been nonexistent. Instead of selecting an aging veteran who could be bought out of his contract, the United States would have been better off filling this spot with a young point guard like De’aaron Fox, LaMelo Ball, Ja Morant, or Trae Young. If they elected to go with a rim protector instead, then Jarrett Allen or even Evan Mobley come to mind.
Team USA may still go undefeated at the Tokyo Olympics and frankly, they shouldn’t lose a game with their talent. If they do lose, then roster construction will be the reason for their downfall.
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