Donovan Mitchell, Kemba Walker Highlight Team USA 2019 FIBA World Cup Roster

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistAugust 24, 2019

United States' Donovan Mitchell during the second half of an exhibition basketball game Against Spain Friday, Aug. 16, 2019, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

Team USA announced its roster for the 2019 FIBA World Cup on Saturday, and Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell and Boston Celtics guard Kemba Walker led the way.

Eric Woodyard of the Deseret News tweeted a rundown of the 12-man squad:

Team USA brought 13 players to Australia for a trio of exhibition games. Los Angeles Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma, who had an ankle injury, was the final cut, per Marc Stein of the New York Times.

The Americans looked good in their first two exhibition games with wins over Spain (in California) and Australia, but they blew a 10-point second half lead and were shocked by the Aussies 98-94 on Saturday. That defeat snapped a 78-game winning streak for American men's senior national teams comprised of NBA players.

With so many top players pulling their names from consideration for Team USA's FIBA World Cup squad, the 2019 team looks far weaker on paper than those in past years.

Mitchell and Walker are the undisputed leaders of the backcourt, but there are concerns beyond them. Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown of the Celtics, Derrick White of the San Antonio Spurs and Joe Harris of the Brooklyn Nets are likely to come off the bench.

Smart and White are dogged defenders, but they have offensive question marks. Harris is the team's top three-point shooter after making an NBA-best 47.4 percent of his attempts from long range last season, but he is one-dimensional.

Brown is an elite athlete and can score in bunches, but he has yet to establish himself as a quality starter in the NBA.

Team USA's wing situation took a big hit with Kuzma's injury, as Khris Middleton of the Milwaukee Bucks, Jayson Tatum of the Celtics and Harrison Barnes of the Sacramento Kings are now the only options.

In the Americans' 102-86 exhibition win over Australia on Thursday, Kuzma scored 12 points on 4-of-5 shooting from beyond the arc. Without his three-point expertise in the lineup, the onus will be on Middleton, Tatum and Barnes to support Harris and Walker as the team's top long-range marksmen.

Perhaps the weakest part of Team USA's squad is its bigs, which is a group comprised of Indiana Pacers center Myles Turner, Bucks center Brook Lopez and Denver Nuggets center Mason Plumlee.

Turner has played well and rebounded effectively during exhibition action, while Lopez and Plumlee haven't played much. Lopez is capable of spreading the floor (2.3 made three-pointers per game last season), while Plumlee is an interior banger who specializes in rebounding.

Team USA's roster has a combined five NBA All-Star Game appearances, and three of them have come courtesy of Walker, which speaks to the lack of top-end talent.

With Serbia being led by Nuggets center Nikola Jokic and reigning NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo anchoring Greece, the Americans are far from a lock to win their third consecutive FIBA World Cup.

Team USA's final exhibition tuneup will come Monday against Canada in Sydney before it makes the trip to Shanghai to face the Czech Republic in a World Cup opener Sept. 1.

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