The biggest international basketball tournament this side of the Olympics is set to tip-off in two weeks. The U.S. team has suffered quite a few setbacks through their preparation leading up to the competition. Paul George’s gruesome leg injury surely took a toll on the entire roster. Kevin Durant and Kevin Love each pulled out of the competition for varying reasons, and media members across the country are wondering why these guys are even willing to put their bodies on the line for what many see as a meaningless tournament. However, USA basketball will not only field a team, and they will win the FIBA World Cup, here are five reasons why.
International basketball is growing at a rapid pace. When the 1994 Dream Team took the floor it was a foregone conclusion they would not only win ever game, but would absolutely demolish every team in their way. In the 20 years since, a number of countries have become much more competitive and certainly will provide stiff tests to USA Basketball. However, the United States is still the home of the best league and the best players. Spain, Argentina, Greece, and Lithuania are much better than in the past, but they are still worlds away from the talent pool the U.S. has to work with.
Everywhere you turn when reading about USA Basketball you will find people asking why NBA players are stepping forward to compete in a non-NBA tournament. However, every quote from every player on the roster is filled with pride and joy in having the opportunity to represent their country on the largest international stage. These players want to be a part of this team, and they know that winning the competition in the only acceptable outcome. Take some of the best NBA players, stick them all on the same team, and then give them something they believe is worth playing for, and you’ve got a team ready to dominate.
3. Derrick Rose
It’s been a long time since anyone has seen Derrick Rose play at the level he was at when he won his NBA MVP award. However, after sitting out almost an entire season for the second year in a row, he’s back on the court with USA Basketball and he looks his usual incredible self. LeBron James has been the undisputed best player in the NBA for years now, but that second slot has been a revolving door. Rose was firmly in that place until his first knee injury in 2012. He appears to be fully healthy and the explosion looks to be back. Add in the reports that all he’s done for two years is get stronger and work on his long range shooting, and we’re looking at an unstoppable force (assuming he stays healthy of course).
Sure, the team is missing LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Kevin Love, Blake Griffin, Carmelo Anthony, Paul George, Chris Paul, and on and on and on, but they still have a roster jammed with All-Stars. The United States’ bench will be better than the starting lineup of any other team in the tournament, and maybe any other two teams combined. They have elite scorers, rebounders, three point specialists, assist-machines, you name it, this team has it. Just look at the guard position on its own. Derrick Rose, Stephen Curry, James Harden, Kyrie Irving, DeMar Derozen, Damien Lillard, and Klay Thompson. And you only get to play two of those at a time?
Since Mike Krzyzewski took over as the head coach of USA Basketball in 2005 the team has boasted a ridiculous 52-1 record. They’ve won every competition they’ve entered, and they’ve won a majority of the games by double digits. But it’s not just Coach K that gives the U.S. the coaching edge in the FIBA World Cup, it’s the other two Hall of Famers sitting next to him. Jim Boeheim and Tom Thibodeau are both elite coaches in their own right, to have them as assistant almost isn’t fair. Having Thibodeau on the bench ensures there will be a high pressure defensive effort at all times while Boeheim and Krzyzewski will make the offensive side of the ball look like a breeze. Some of the best players may have backed out, but the coaching staff is second to none.