What’s next for Team USA?
A TrueHoop team discussion, starring David Thorpe
BY HENRY ABBOTT, JAROD HECTOR, TRAVIS MORAN, and DAVID THORPE
Often, our Monday 8 a.m. content meetings result in a wellspring of David Thorpe insight.
This week’s session yielded an in-depth look at Team USA’s inauspicious end at the FIBA World Cup—and some intriguing ideas for its next iteration.
Apparently, American basketball, according to many fans, is now dogshit after losing an overtime game to a Canadian team featuring one of the world’s best players and a bunch of really good NBA players.
Even Herb on Hoops—my go-to, mostly-coaches Facebook group—was seeing posts like this:
Another large piece of evidence that the NBA model is garbage. Greatest athletes on the planet, pretty much the worst basketball. This is what happens when corporations get a hold of something they don’t actually care about, and the ones who should care say screw the game and just take the $$$.
Everyone says it’d be different if we sent our best players, but Serbia just went to the championship game of the World Cup without arguably the world’s best player. Like, figure this shit out!
So, I looked up the top 40-or-so NBA players according to Estimated Plus-Minus (EPM). Now, these guys aren’t necessarily our best players, and I cut anyone who played fewer than 41 games or didn’t get a lot of minutes.
Only three of the top 25 eligible players appeared on Team USA: Tyrese Haliburton, Jaren Jackson Jr., and Cameron Johnson. That’s two 23-year-old All-Stars and a good role player. You have to expand past the top 40 to include Brandon Ingram and Anthony Edwards, meaning there were actually 40 better guys, per EPM.
The real problem is no one in America on the basketball side cares about the FIBA World Cup. I’m not saying the basketball world here thinks the Olympics are most important, but they rate way higher than the World Cup.
American players don’t grow up dreaming about winning international tournaments. Not even for a moment, I promise you. Zero of these players are in training thinking: One day I’m gonna beat Germany to win the World Cup semifinals.
But as someone who’s coached a dozen members of other international teams, I can tell you: That’s the dream for them.
It’s definitely real, and there are so many examples of this—like Dirk Nowitzki, in his book, made it clear that winning with Team Germany was a more important goal than winning an NBA championship.
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