Gregg Popovich: Australia 'Huge, Huge Threat' to Team USA at 2019 FIBA World Cup

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistAugust 21, 2019

United States' Kemba Walker, left, talks to  coach Gregg Popovich during the first half of the team's exhibition basketball game against Spain on Friday, Aug. 16, 2019, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

Team USA head coach Gregg Popovich called Australia a "huge, huge threat" to the favored Americans ahead of the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup, which kicks off Aug. 31 in China.

The Associated Press noted Popovich discussed the Boomers' potential ahead of exhibition games between the teams Thursday and Saturday in Melbourne, Australia.

"They are one of the teams that can win the whole thing, without a doubt. I'm not saying that because I'm here. It's just a fact," he said.

"They've been close for several years, and they are hungry. They are talented. They have the toughness and physicality to go with it. I think they are one of the top contenders without a doubt."

Oddsmakers aren't nearly as bullish on the Aussies' chances.

Australia is listed as a distant sixth choice in the World Cup at 40-1, per Oddschecker. Team USA is the favorite at 2-5, followed by Serbia at 4-1. Greece (13-1), Spain (18-1) and France (30-1) round out the top five heading into the tournament.

The Boomers' starting lineup is filled with NBA players, including Patty Mills, who's coached by Popovich with the San Antonio Spurs. The guard is joined by Matthew Dellavedova, Joe Ingles, Aron Baynes and Andrew Bogut in the team's projected starting five.

Australia reached the semifinals of the 2016 Summer Olympics, losing to Serbia, and cruised to the 2017 FIBA Asia Cup championship.

The exhibition games against the United States, which heads into the event well below full strength after a mass exodus of superstars in recent months, will provide a litmus test. Two competitive games would bolster the Aussies as a potential title contender.

Australia is in Group H alongside Canada, Lithuania and Senegal. It will begin World Cup play Sept. 1 against the Canadians.

The U.S. opens its Group E schedule against the Czech Republic on Sept. 1. Japan and Turkey are also in the group.