Typically, USA Basketball fields a team full of NBA superstars for major international competitions. For this year’s FIBA World Cup, Team USA saw a serious lack of participation from its stars. Big names like LeBron James, Anthony Davis, James Harden, and others opted not to play in the name of preparing for the upcoming season.
Because of this, Team USA fielded a team with lesser-known NBA players and was not able to come away with the FIBA World Cup victory. Let’s take a closer look at the two teams in the tournament who challenged them in a major way – including the one that eliminated them: Australia and France.
The Australian FIBA World Cup team
Any team that wants a chance to compete with Team USA would need NBA talent. Luckily for the Aussies, they have five NBA players on their roster for the 2019 World Cup, including:
- San Antonio Spurs’ guard Patty Mills
- Utah Jazz forward Joe Ingles
- Phoenix Suns’ center Aron Baynes
- Cleveland Cavaliers’ guard Matthew Dellavedova
- Golden State Warriors’ center Andrew Bogut
Forward Mitch Creek also spent time with the Brooklyn Nets and Minnesota Timberwolves last season.
The French FIBA World Cup team
- Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert
- Boston Celtics’ center Vincent Poirier
- Orlando Magic guard Evan Fournier
- Charlotte Hornets’ forward Nicolas Batum
- New York Knicks’ guard Frank Ntilikina
With five NBA pros on their roster, they were as well-equipped as Australia to take on Team USA. So how did both teams fare?
The Australian and French teams’ results with Team USA
Team USA vs. Australia
The Americans didn’t play Australia in the actual tournament but did face off with them for two exhibition matches prior to the World Cup. At least two of the participants were familiar: USA head coach Gregg Popovich coaches Patty Mills with the Spurs during the NBA season.
The first exhibition match was a win for Team USA, as they defeated Australia 102-86. Team leaders Kemba Walker and Donovan Mitchell led USA’s scoring with 23 and 13 points respectively.
The second game was a different story. The Australians defeated the Americans, 98-94. This snapped a 78 game winning streak in international games for the United States. Popovich and his charges were unable to stop Mills, who scored 30 points. You’d have to go back to the bronze medal game at the 2006 World Championships for the last American loss in international competition.
The defeat was a sign of a tougher road ahead for Team USA.
Team USA vs. France
In the actual tournament, the French team would knock off Team USA in the quarterfinals, 89-79. According to reporter Brian Windhorst who was covering the FIBA World Cup, the U.S. didn’t have the best player on the floor in the loss. That honor belonged to Gobert:
“They were undersized at almost every position and forced to substitute to try to win possessions with energy instead of execution. When they got badly behind, they relied on hero ball, hoping percentages wouldn’t correct…Rudy Gobert was too big for them, France’s ball movement and pick-and-rolls often just a little too good, and Gregg Popovich was deploying strategies that looked more fitting for a No. 8 seed trying to plug holes under pressure than a No. 1 seed handling its business.”
Where does USA Basketball go from here? This isn’t the catastrophic defeat that the 2004 Athens Summer Games was for the Americans. That prompted most of the NBA’s best to return for the 2008 Summer Olympics.
But with the next summer games less than a year away and basketball growing in popularity internationally, it would be shocking if Popovich didn’t recruit some of the game’s best to join him in Tokyo to even the odds.