Final cuts have been made, and the exhibition schedule is in the rearview mirror—it’s time for Team USA to officially take the court at the 2014 FIBA World Cup.
A full schedule for the red, white and blue with broadcast information can be found below, courtesy of NBA.com:
|Saturday, Aug. 30||United States vs. Finland||3:30 p.m.||ESPN|
|Sunday, Aug. 31||United States vs. Turkey||3:30 p.m.||ESPN|
|Tuesday, Sept. 2||United States vs. New Zealand||11:30 a.m.||ESPN|
|Wednesday, Sept. 3||United States vs. Dominican Republic||3:30 p.m.||ESPN|
|Thursday, Sept. 4||United Staes vs. Ukraine||11:30 a.m.||ESPN|
|Sept. 6-7||Round of 16||TBD||TBD|
|Sept. 14||Gold Medal Game||TBD||TBD|
Anytime the United States sends NBA superstars to an international event, the expectation is title or bust.
Sure, there is no LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant and Co. this time around, but we are still talking about some of the best players in the world. A team consisting of Stephen Curry, Kyrie Irving, Derrick Rose, James Harden and Anthony Davis, to name a few, would likely steamroll its way to an NBA title based on talent alone.
What’s more, the United States has Mike Krzyzewski at the helm, who is one of the most respected and successful coaches in all of basketball. He has led Duke to national titles and has worked with professional players to bring Olympic gold back to the States.
ESPN Stats & Info pointed out just how impressive Coach K has been directing Team USA:
Team USA faces Slovenia in their final tune-up for the FIBA World Cup now on ESPN2. Mike Krzyzewski is 65-1 as Team USA head coach since '05— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) August 26, 2014
The most encouraging sign of the exhibition contests for American fans was the fact that a little bit of everything was on full display for the team.
In the first two games, against the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, Team USA launched an average of 25 shots from behind the three-point line, representing nearly one-third of total shot attempts.
However, the Americans switched gears against Slovenia and only shot 14 times from deep. Instead, they took advantage of the low post and penetration opportunities, capitalizing on the fact that they simply had the stronger front line.
With Rose, Curry, Irving and Harden on the outside, production from the guards will not be a problem. They should all be able to apply ball pressure on the defensive side, which will lead to turnovers and easy transition opportunities, and space the floor with three-point shooting.
By NBA superstar standards, the front line may not be that noteworthy outside of Davis, but the USA still has DeMarcus Cousins, Mason Plumlee, Andre Drummond and Kenneth Faried. That group consists of more talent than any potential opponent outside of Spain, who will counter with Serge Ibaka, Pau Gasol and Marc Gasol.
Don't underestimate Davis' ascension into stardom, either.
He is perfectly suited on this roster as the versatile and athletic big man who can protect the rim on defense and still get out in transition with all those guards. He proved as much against Slovenia when he finished with 18 points, 11 rebounds, four steals, four blocks and zero turnovers in only 19 minutes.
Krzyzewski discussed Davis' role in light of Durant pulling out of the competition, via Chris Strauss of USA Today:
Anthony would have had a huge role no matter what. Anthony's one of the best players in the NBA. Scoringwise, he'll get more opportunities. If you have Durant, you're going to put things in for him. When he's not there those things aren't in so for everybody it becomes a little more available. Anthony played a great game against Brazil, not a good game. He had an influence on every exchange offensively or defensively while he was in there.
With Davis and a litany of talented guards, it is difficult to envision the Americans losing to anyone except for Spain. However, the first thing that jumps out when projecting ahead is the fact that Team USA plays five games in six days to kick off the World Cup.
Who wins this matchup if it happens?
That means it will be up to Coach K to keep legs fresh, especially with Rose, who will remain an injury risk until he can once again put together an entire healthy season. Fortunately, the Americans have plenty of depth down low as well. They are going to need to be ready to face the Gasols and Ibaka down the road.
A World Cup title may just depend on it.
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