Team USA’s Losing Season Teaches Us A Lesson
Juan Ocampo/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: Tyrese Haliburton #4 of Team USA.
Team USA lost to Germany 113-111 in the semifinal round of the FIBA World Cup Friday, ensuring they will finish with no better than the bronze medal.
In the coming days, there will be an avalanche of takes.
I have sympathy for these guys, honestly. Team USA was not bestowed with the best U.S. citizen players. They just lost on the world stage where failing to win by 20+, let alone lose, is considered a failure. This will go down as an all-time terrible Team USA squad due to the standard that was set by the Dream Team.
That sucks for those guys.
If they had won, everyone would have yawned. They've lost, so they are now a blight on Team USA's international basketball record.
A few more takeaways from a bummer of an exit for Team USA:
STEVE KERR IS THE BIGGEST LOSER
Again, I hate that Steve Kerr, guy with back issues who volunteered for international travel to represent his country, is taking these arrows, but it can't be avoided.
From not insisting on a true center beyond 2nd year man Walker Kessler be on the roster, to playing Jaren Jackson at 5, to starting Brandon Ingram early, to resisting playing Tyrese Haliburton more, to not incorporating enough team offense, this was a pretty badly coached team.
There's no way to know if that's on Kerr or the players for not buying in, but either way the responsibility lies with Kerr for either not coaching them up enough or not getting through to them.
Team USA director Grant Hill similarly warrants criticism here. The roster was not well balanced and his approach of "set roster, no tryouts" backfired. Your job is to get the guys to get the job done, and Hill did not.
But Kerr is a four-time NBA champion coach. He's one of the three best current NBA coaches. He helped revolutionize the NBA. This is a considerable blemish on a stellar career that will only reaffirm the notion that his success is entirely derived from the presence of one Stephen Wardell Curry.
OTHER STOCK DOWNS: JAREN JACKSON JR., BRANDON INGRAM, JALEN BRUNSON
Jaren Jackson Jr. is the reigning DPOY and he had a rough, rough World Cup. His fouling rate is simply unacceptable for a player of his caliber, and his inability to impact the glass led to USA being dominated on the boards. A really good way for less talented teams to make up the difference is to create extra possessions. That was a monster weakness for Jackson.
Brandon Ingram fell out of the starting rotation. He was absent from the team's exit in the semifinal due to a respiratory illness so he absolutely gets a pass there. But Ingram's inability to make his teammates better or find comfort in FIBA ball puts into question whether it's the right environment for his game.
Jalen Brunson I genuinely thought played pretty well, but ultimately wasn't enough of a difference maker as a starter. One thing I will say in his defense is that Brunson was playing a similar role to Chris Paul with the 2008 team where the point guard mainly existed to defend and set up teammates, but he was setting up Mikal Bridges and Josh Hart instead of Carmelo Anthony and Dwyane Wade (let alone Kobe or LeBron).
STOCK UPS: ANTHONY EDWARDS, TYRESE HALIBURTON
Ant looked like The Man. In the semifinal loss, he still went out with 23 points on 17-of-17 shooting, eight boards and three assists. Ant looks primed for a jump to superstardom, even if his summer claim to fame is the best player on a disappointing squad.
Tyrese Haliburton didn't start, but every time he came in, the team got better. He's a player who understands how to fit his role better than most on this iteration of Team USA because it's such a natural fit for his instincts.
Austin Reaves was maybe the third best player on the team behind Ant and Hali. He did what he does, filling in gaps offensively, playmaking, scoring, being shifty, crafty and drawing fouls.
But as the tournament wore on, teams started to notice his size disadvantage and particularly in Team USA's two losses, he was bodied in the post and on the perimeter defensively.
Reaves won't be targeted in the regular season of NBA action; teams don't put that much into gameplanning. But it's something to remember for the next time the playoffs come around.
REDEEM TEAM 2?!
You know one reason a lot of stars don't play? One, it's the World Cup and not the Olympics. Two, you deal with the expectations of meeting the standard. If you don't blow every team out, it's a little disappointing.
The location of the competition matters, too. Next summer is Paris. Spoiler alert, players will be way more interested in that.
But the other thing is that this loss sets up perfectly. Next year's team gets to look at this as an opportunity to save the day. Who doesn't want to be a hero? Don't be surprised if the Olympic Squad has a strong bounceback, at least in talent on the roster.
OTHER FIBA TAKEAWAYS
Franz Wagner is that dude. Even missing several games in the tournament, Wagner continues to shine as a player who can do everything your team needs.
Serbia making the Finals without Nikola Jokic, Vasilije Micic, Boban Marjanovic, Nemanja Nedovic and Milos Teodosic is wild.
Luka Doncic is amazing and still not able to control his emotions. Doncic was ejected for complaining to officials in Slovenia's exit. Doncic is going to have to figure out how to handle it if he's not getting calls that put him on the line ten times per game.
The market was always pretty keen on Team USA's vulnerability. They were the favorite but not a heavy favorite at all. If anything, the continued market inefficiency continues to be with Germany, longshots before the tournament and when it comes to the Finals…
Serbia has outperformed all expectations and deserves credit. That said, this line currently sits at Germany -1.5.
That's Germany, who is the only undefeated team in the tournament, with three NBA players on its roster, who just knocked out Team USA and led by double digits, laying 1.5.
I bet Germany +4200 before the tournament and was looking forward to hedging. Instead, I'm probably just doubling down on Franz, Schröder, Theis and Obst who the market seemingly refuses to respect appropriately.
Finals Pick: Germany -1.5