After a few weeks of practices and three exhibition games, the United States has their final roster for the FIBA World Cup. Now the real work begins as the Americans prepare to face Finland in their tournament opener on August 30.
Much has been made of the squad’s notable absences, including Kevin Love, Blake Griffin and Kevin Durant. Nevertheless, coach Mike Krzyzewski has assembled a team that features both size and outside shooting ability.
In the past, USA rosters have been questioned about a lack of true centers or the ability to knock down open jump shots. None of that should be an issue for this squad, a team that carries four players who stand 6-foot-10 or taller. Outside shooting also figures to be in abundance with Golden State Warriors teammates Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson included on the final roster.
The biggest concern, as is always the case for American national squads, will be team chemistry. Experience on the international stage is lacking since only Anthony Davis and James Harden return from the team that claimed gold at the 2012 London Olympics. While the game doesn’t change a whole lot fundamentally in international play, Krzyzewski’s squad will need to establish clear roles in order to grab another title. Many of the tournament’s other entries have already built a strong foundation of chemistry due to years of playing together. It’s up to the Americans to do the same in short order.
Thankfully, molding cohesive units is a primary strength of Krzyzewski’s coaching style. He’s done it for three consecutive international competitions and it would be surprising if the trend didn’t continue in Spain.
Kyrie Irving, the team’s starting point guard, is already familiar with Krzyzewski’s methods after playing for him at Duke. Curry is arguably the world’s best jump-shooter while Kenneth Faried does the dirty work on the inside. In Davis, the United States has an intimidating presence in the middle with Harden providing both offensive skill and leadership from the perimeter.
Still, the United States has shown itself to be vulnerable to small, quick guards. A hallmark of Krzyzewski’s defensive strategies is on-ball pressure and if the USA runs into teams that can handle the frenetic nature of his approach, things could become more difficult.
Fortunately, most teams won’t be able to handle the pressure for a full 40 minutes due to the huge amount of athleticism the USA constantly throws at opponents.
Should the United States be considered the overall favorite? Most would probably say yes. The team is big, athletic and has the ability to stretch opponents from the perimeter. Hosts Spain loom as a potential roadblock and there’s no doubt they’ll be looking for a big tournament in front of the home fans. Lithuania always proves to be a challenge while some dark horses like Brazil and France offer an intriguing alternative to the established favorites.
The United States still appears ready for another run at gold. While the roster may lack the big names that have characterized previous American teams, there is more than enough quality to win another title. The only question is how it all comes together in the days ahead. Thankfully, they have the perfect man in charge to provide an answer.