The last time the United States competed in a FIBA World Cup, it suffered its worst finish in the 18 international competitions it has entered with a full squad of NBA players. After going 5-0 in pool play, the U.S. lost to France in the 2019 World Cup quarterfinals in China, ending a 58-game winning streak in games with an NBA squad. Then the Americans lost to Serbia in the 5-8 classification round before beating Poland in the seventh-place game.
Four years later, the U.S. is hoping to avenge that performance. But it’s taking an even less experienced team to the Philippines for the 2023 World Cup.
1. No Senior-level experience
Some of the players on the 2023 World Cup roster have been members of select teams that practiced against the Senior Team before a competition. And some of them have represented the United States on the Junior (19 and under) level. But none of the 12 have ever played for the U.S. on the Senior level.
That makes this the United States’ first National Team comprised of NBA players that doesn’t have any Senior-level experience.
The Future Is Now.
Introducing the 2023 USA Men's National Team!
— USA Basketball (@usabasketball) July 6, 2023
The 2019 team had Harrison Barnes (2016 Olympics) and Mason Plumlee (2014 World Cup). And every other U.S. team comprised of NBA players also had at least two guys with Senior-Team experience. Even the first team of NBA players (1992 Dream Team) had five – Patrick Ewing (1984 Olympics), Michael Jordan (’84), Christian Laettner (1990 World Championship), Chris Mullin (’84) and David Robinson (1986 World Championship and 1988 Olympics) – who had played on the Senior level previously.
Every member of the 2023 team will be playing in his first Senior-level international tournament. It’s different than anything else they’ve ever experienced, especially when it comes to the single-elimination, knockout round.
U.S. National Teams with NBA players
|Team||Age||NBA exp.||NT exp.||All-NBA||Top 5||Pl. exp.|
|2023 World Cup||25.2||4.2||0||0||4||223|
|2019 World Cup||26.2||5.2||2||1||2||354|
|2014 World Cup||24.4||3.8||5||2||5||158|
|2010 World Champ.||25.2||4.8||3||1||7||310|
|2007 FIBA Americas||26.5||6.4||9||6||8||582|
|2006 World Champ.||25.0||4.3||7||4||8||187|
|2003 FIBA Americas||25.9||5.1||8||5||8||393|
|2002 World Champ.||26.8||5.3||3||3||4||313|
|1999 FIBA Americas||26.4||4.7||2||5||6||279|
|1994 World Champ.||27.3||5.7||2||6||6||450|
Age = Average age on first day of competition
NBA exp. = Average years in the NBA
NT exp. = Total number of prior appearances for Senior National Team
All-NBA = Players on All-NBA teams in previous season
Top 5 = Players who were selected in the top 5 of the Draft
Pl. exp. = Total playoff games played
RED = Didn’t win competition
2. No All-NBA
This is also the first of the 18 U.S. National Teams comprised of NBA players that didn’t have a single player that was selected to an All-NBA team the season prior. Five of them – Mikal Bridges, Jalen Brunson, Anthony Edwards, Tyrese Haliburton and Jaren Jackson Jr. – received All-NBA votes this year, but none of them came close to making the third team.
That 2019 team had Kemba Walker, who was third-team All-NBA in 2018-19. The 2021 Olympic team also had just one All-NBA selection (Damian Lillard, second team), though it also had Kevin Durant, who played in only 35 games in 2020-21.
These days, there are more international players taking up All-NBA spots. In 1996, all 12 members of the U.S. Olympic team were All-NBA selections. The Dream Team had nine, with Larry Bird (playing his last season), Magic Johnson (didn’t play in 1991-92) and Christian Laettner (wasn’t in the NBA) being the exceptions.
3. Not the youngest
This isn’t the youngest U.S. National Team, though. The average age of these 12 players when the World Cup opens will be 25.2 years old. The 2004 Olympic team (24.1), 2014 World Cup team (24.4) and the 2006 World Championship team (25.0) were all younger on average. Two of those three teams didn’t win their event.
The 2004 Olympic team (3.6 years) and the 2014 World Cup team (3.8 years) are also the only teams with less NBA experience than this one, which has an average of just 4.2 years of NBA experience. Five guys on this 2023 roster have three years of NBA experience or fewer.
4. Not a lot of top-line talent
One of those five inexperienced guys is Paolo Banchero, who was the No. 1 pick in the Draft last year and is the reigning Kia Rookie of the Year. This team does have some talent, with three other guys – Edwards (1), Brandon Ingram (2) and Jackson (4) – who were taken in the top five of the draft.
But it’s also riddled with role players. Brunson has turned into a leading man since being drafted 33rd in 2018, but other low picks – Josh Hart (30), Walker Kessler (22) and Bobby Portis (22) – aren’t near that level. Austin Reaves, meanwhile, is just the third undrafted player to play on one of these 18 U.S. Teams with NBA guys, joining Ben Wallace (2002 World Championship) and Brad Miller (2006 World Championship).
The 12 guys on this team averaged 31.4 minutes per game last season, the second lowest mark for the last eight NBA-fueled national teams (going back to 2008), higher than only that of the 2019 team (29.3 minutes).
2023 USA World Cup roster & 2022-23 stats
|Jaren Jackson Jr.||28.4||18.6||6.8||1.0||4.0||100||56.7%||61.3%|
MPG, PPG, RPG, APG = Minutes, points, rebounds and assists per game
SBPG = Steals + blocks per game
eFG% = (FGM + (0.5 * 3PM)) / FGA
TS% = PTS / (2 * (FGA + (0.44 * FTA)))
5. Pressure is on
When you play for the United States, you’re expected to win every tournament. The U.S. has won 14 of the 18 events it’s entered with a full roster of NBA players, compiling a 140-10 record (.933) over those 18 tournaments.
Three of the four events in which the U.S. has come up short are three of the last five World Cups. And those teams that lost were, like this one, relatively inexperienced, either in regard to time in the NBA or appearances with the National Team.
But there was also 2014, when the U.S. went to Spain with a team that was both younger and less experienced (in regard to NBA years and playoff games) than this one. And it went 8-0, with an average margin of victory of 33 points, to win the World Cup.
That team – with Stephen Curry, James Harden and Kyrie Irving in the backcourt – was more talented than this one. But maybe one of these guys is ready to become a star on the international stage.