The World Cup of basketball might not be drawing the same amount of views as the NBA Finals, but for basketball fans who need a short term fix, the World Cup is about as good as it gets in the off season. This year, Team USA is not even close to being the type of powerhouse that it has been in the past. The last time the World Cup was played in 2010, Team USA featured Kevin Durant, Kevin Love, Russell Westbrook, and Tyson Chandler holding the middle down. This year, there really are no superstars representing Team USA. LeBron James is out, Kevin Durant is out, Blake Griffin is out, and Chris Paul is out. James, Durant, and Griffin finished in the top three in MVP voting last year, yet none of them are playing this summer. Instead, what we have is an ensemble of some very good players, many of whom are playing out of position.
Now, there are a variety of reasons for superstars not playing this summer, so let me list just three: the physical, the emotional, and the financial. Paul George, of course, would be more than happy to represent Team USA this summer, but his horrible injury not only put him out for the summer, but for the entire year. So, bodily injuries have certainly played a factor in some players playing and others not playing.
And then there are emotional reasons. Kevin Durant was actually playing with Team USA this summer, but after Paul George went down, Durant’s emotional fatigue began to escalate. With the offense centering totally around Durant, KD felt the weight upon his shoulders for a tournament that was supposed to be during his offseason.
Last, but not least, there are financial reasons. Kevin Love had already agreed to an under the table trade with LeBron’s Cavaliers, so an injury could have possible derailed that trade from happening. Similarly, Kawhi Leonard would have been a perfect fit for Team USA, but with the possibility of a contract extension this summer, along with the combination of a very long season, Kawhi opted not to play.
So, with Team USA somewhat depleted, what combination of International stars could upset this team? There are some that believe that Team Spain can beat Team USA outright, but Team USA is still the deepest team in the league. There is no doubt that team Spain would compete, but even they would need a few more pieces to overtake Team USA on their own home court.
12 Omer Asik – Turkey
11 Leandro Barbosa – Brazil
10 Nicolas Batum - France
9 Luis Scola - Argentina
8 Gorgui Dieng - Senegal
7 J.J. Barea – Puerto Rico
6 Andray Blatche – Philippines
5 Serge Ibaka - Spain
4 Ricky Rubio – Spain
3 Goran Dragic – Slovenia
2 Marc Gasol - Spain
1 Pau Gasol - Spain
Pau has looked rejuvenated this summer. If you are a Los Angeles Lakers fan you have to be wondering where all of this passion has been. Gasol seems to be like a man possessed playing on his home court in Spain, and he has been doing everything to please the crowd with his post-up moves and three-point shots. He is even playing defense and is the third best-shot blocker this summer with an impressive average of 1.9 blocks per game. Right now, Gasol looks like the best player in the tournament and as good as he is in the NBA, it looks like FIBA basketball is tailor made for Gasol’s game.
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