The United States will rely on its B-team to defend its title at the FIBA Basketball World Cup.
The squad, headlined by Donovan Mitchell and Kemba Walker, opens Group E play against the Czech Republic on Sunday in Shanghai.
Mitchell, Walker and the rest of players on the 12-man roster are solid in their own right, but the American team could have been much better. James Harden, Anthony Davis, Bradley Beal and Damian Lillard were among the stars who opted out for various reasons.
Even with a depleted group, the Americans are favored to win the tournament, and they should dispense of the Czechs with ease.
USA vs. Czech Republic Information
Date: Sunday, September 1
Start Time: 8:30 a.m. ET
Live Stream: ESPN+
Odds (via Caesars): United States: -28.5 (-110; wager $110 to win $100); Over/Under: 177.5
Walker and Co. are not worried about who is not on the U.S. roster, per USA Basketball:
"It doesn't matter. It's all about the guys who are here. That question has been asked so much through this process. There is nothing we can do to bring those guys. It doesn't matter. We are the ones who are here. We really wanted to be here. We're the ones who are going to take on this challenge and do what we can to represent our country the best way we can."
Even without some superstars, the United States has a pair of 2019 NBA All-Stars in Walker and Khris Middleton.
Walker, Middleton and Mitchell are three likely starters, while Jayson Tatum and Myles Turner lead the frontcourt unit.
In most international competitions, those five players would be quality back-ups, but that designation belongs to Derrick White, Mason Plumlee and Joe Harris, among others.
Even with a drop-off in talent from 2014 to 2019, the Americans are expected to roll in all three group games.
The 2014 World Cup-winning squad triumphed in every group contest by 20 or more points. That is the standard the Americans should set for clashes with the Czech Republic, Turkey and Japan.
The U.S. should open that advantage Sunday based off the gap in talent between themselves and their first opponent. Tomas Satoransky is the only NBA player on the Czech Republic's roster.
The Europeans are making their first World Cup appearance and finished 20th out of 24 nations at the 2017 EuroBasket tournament.
Since the level of the Czechs likely will not match up, the Americans should be able to figure out which players work best in certain rotations and find a rhythm before the more difficult games occur in the knockout stages.
With that in mind, the U.S. is focused on cleaning up the errors identified in its exhibition games, as Harris noted, per USA Basketball:
"This is do or die now. There is no more exhibitions, no more mulligans at it. We talked about how important every single possession is in the FIBA game. You have forty minutes of – you can turn the ball over, can't have careless mental mistakes. All that stuff is out the window. That's why we had the three or four exhibition games that we had leading up to it, was to get work those kinks out of the way, work the mental mistakes out of the way. Now, it's forty minutes of being locked in, trying to play perfect basketball."
Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.