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Team USA World Cup Outlook

Anthony Edwards slams a baksetball
Photo/ Giuseppe Cacace (AFP)

USA Basketball is looking to redeem itself in the 2023 FIBA World Cup after stunning defeats to France and Serbia in 2019, which ended in a seventh-place finish and a flight back to the United States without a medal. The roster construction from the 2019 roster is similar to this year’s roster in that they’re each made up of the NBA’s younger players and lack the A-list talent of some of the past World Cup and Olympic rosters. However, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and this USA roster is a mixture of up-and-coming talent and glue guys who know how to play within a team system.


Roster Breakdown


Jalen Brunson, New York Knicks: The sixth-year guard is the leader of this USA squad and will be the starting point guard. Brunson is one of two players on this roster with previous experience with USA Basketball. He won two gold medals in the 2014 FIBA Americas Under 18 Championship and the 2015 World Under 19 Cup, respectively. Along with his leadership, Brunson brings a calming influence and a balance of scoring and playmaking to this USA roster.

Tyrese Haliburton, Indiana Pacers:  The first-time All-Star will be the backup point guard to Brunson. Haliburton is a pass-first point guard who thrives in an up-tempo offense. Although he has an unorthodox form on his shot, he shot forty percent from the perimeter on a high volume of attempts (7.2 per game), which shows his ability to play off the ball next to another guard. Overall, this experience could possibly help him improve his leadership skills and use that to bring the Indiana Pacers back to the playoffs next season.

Anthony Edwards, Minnesota Timberwolves: The 22-year-old has shown a lot of promise, helping the Timberwolves reach the playoffs in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 2003-2004. The former first-overall pick averaged 24.6 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 4.4 assists on 45/36/75 shooting splits. In terms of his role on this team, he has the makeup and mentality to become the team’s go-to scorer throughout the game and in clutch situations. His performance throughout the World Cup could propel his game to an All-NBA level next season.

Austin Reaves, Los Angeles Lakers: Some may question Reaves’ status on this team. However, the former Oklahoma Sooner is a crafty, versatile guard who can initiate the offense, play off the ball, and bring out the do-it-yourself kit in spurts. Reaves doesn’t seem to be phased by the bright lights of Los Angeles and could prove to be a valuable role player for this World Cup roster.



Mikal Bridges, Brooklyn Nets: The sixth-year forward averaged a career-high 20.1 points with the Brooklyn Nets and Phoenix Suns last season. The former Villanova Wildcat has proven himself to be more than a role player and has become the go-to scorer for the Nets through 27 games. However, he will have to revert back to his role from the Suns and Villanova as a three-and-D wing.

Josh Hart, New York Knicks: The seventh-year forward is the most portable player on this roster in terms of role, which is to be a glue guy. Hart is also an above-average outside shooter (37 percent) and an impressive rebounder (7.8 rebounds per game) for his size (6-foot-4, 215 pounds). His stats don’t jump out the page, but he brings the intangibles that coaches want in a team-oriented environment.

Brandon Ingram, New Orleans Pelicans: Besides Edwards, Ingram is another go-to scorer for this roster. The former second-overall pick averaged 24.7 points per game but played in just 45 games last season because of ankle and toe injuries. However, this experience could propel him back to the All-Star game and possibly the playoffs with the Pelicans if he and Zion Williamson can stay healthy.

Cameron Johnson, Brooklyn Nets: Although the former North Carolina Tar Heel is more of a wing, he’s going to see minutes as a stretch four during this World Cup run. Johnson averaged career highs with both the Phoenix Suns and the Brooklyn Nets last season. The 27-year-old averaged 15.5 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 1.9 assists on 47/40/84 shooting splits. Like his Nets teammate Bridges, he’ll have to revert back to his former role of catching and shooting.



Paolo Banchero, Orlando Magic: The reigning Rookie of the Year is the youngest player on the roster at just 20 years old. At 6-foot-10 and 250 pounds, he adds positional versatility with his ability to score, dribble, pass, and rebound. However, Banchero still has a lot of room for growth as a defender. This World Cup experience should build the foundation for his improvement as a team defender.

Jaren Jackson Jr., Memphis Grizzlies: The reigning Defensive Player of the Year brings an intimidating presence who led the NBA in blocks per game the last two seasons (2.3 and 3.0 blocks per game, respectively).  Aside from his intimidating shot-blocking presence, he also adds offensive versatility to this roster with his ability to stretch out defenses to the perimeter (35 percent three-point shooter last season) and be a lob threat in pick-and-roll actions. However, he’s not as good of a rebounder (6.8 rebounds per game) as his athleticism and physical tools suggest.

Walker Kessler, Utah Jazz: The former Auburn Tiger has just one season of NBA experience under his belt but brings an immediate impact in terms of his shot-blocking prowess. Kessler ranked 4th in the association in both total blocks (173) and blocks per game (2.3) while also ranking second in block percentage (8.6). If the second-year center maintains his trajectory, he could earn All-Defensive honors and possibly the Defensive Player of the Year.

Bobby Portis, Milwaukee Bucks: The 28-year-old brings a winning pedigree to the USA roster as he is the only player on the roster with an NBA Championship. The former Arkansas Razorback is a stretch big who plays with grit both offensively and defensively. 


Where will they finish?

Team USA starts group play on August 26th against New Zealand in the Mall of Asia Arena in Manila, Philippines. Followed by that are their matchups against Greece on August 28th and Jordan on August 30th.

On paper, this United States roster should have no problem handling their business against the rest of their group C opponents Greece, New Zealand, and Jordan. However, Greece could present a potential challenge for the United States with the mixture of current and former NBA players such as Thanasis Antetokounmpo, Georgios Papagiannis, and Kostas Papanikolaou.

If the United States advances to the second phase in Group J, they will have to face the top two teams from Group D, which consists of Egypt, Mexico, Montenegro, and Lithuania. Of those four teams in Group D, Lithuania presents the biggest challenge in terms of NBA talent, size, and matchups. Some of their key players consist of Jonas Valanciunas, Rokas Jokubaitis, Ignas Brazdeikis, Donatas Motiejunas, Mindaugas Kuzminskas, and Deividas Sirvydis.

The United States’ performance in Group J could be a determining factor in how far they’ll advance and how they’ll respond to the tougher competition of countries such as Australia, Canada, France, Germany, and Spain.

Nonetheless, the United States should be the favorite to bring home the gold medal despite criticism of their roster construction.

Exhibition Games

Despite the lack of A-list NBA talent on the roster, the United States went undefeated in the USA Basketball Showcase, winning five in a row. Those victories came against Puerto Rico, Slovenia, Spain, Greece, and Germany by an average margin of 22 points. However, Germany had the United States’ backs against the ropes with a 16-point lead before the Americans stormed back with a 22-5 run. The United States won 99-91 to complete the five-game winning streak in their exhibition games before flying out to Manila for pool play.


Potential Breakout Players

Anthony Edwards has undoubtedly become the favorite on this USA roster to break out next season. The former Georgia Bulldog already has an All-Star game and two playoff appearances under his belt through three seasons in the NBA. However, Edwards has shown the ability to take his game to an All-NBA level and take the reins of the Minnesota Timberwolves from Karl-Anthony Towns going into next season. He’s already asserted himself as the team’s go-to scorer and has never lacked in confidence. Steve Kerr, the head coach of the USA World Cup roster, let Edwards’ status on the teams’ pecking order be known publicly.

“He’s unquestionably the guy,” Kerr said. 

Kerr also expressed his feelings about Edwards’ development within their locker room and throughout the basketball community.

“You can see he knows it. But now the team knows it, and I think the fans see it. He genuinely believes he’s the best player in the gym every single night. And he’s such a dynamic young player. I think he’s taking a leap,” Kerr added.

 Through five exhibition games, the 22-year-old averaged 18.8 points in the USA Basketball Showcase. If he takes this momentum with him and keeps improving at this pace, he could possibly become a future MVP.

In terms of sleepers, Jaren Jackson Jr. has a strong case to take his game to another level as well. The 23-year-old already has an All-Star appearance and a Defensive Player of the Year under his belt but is just scratching the surface of his potential.

Aside from Edwards, Kerr also had high praise for the former Michigan State Spartan.

“He’s bigger, stronger, got more experience, so he’s more confident with things that are going on on the floor….actions that we’re running, he recognizes all that stuff, and he’s a really great young player.”

As far as Jackson’s NBA team is concerned, The Memphis Grizzlies are going to start the 2023-2024 season without their star point guard Ja Morant for the first 25 games. For the time being, the Grizzlies are going to count on Jackson not only to anchor their defense but become a more consistent threat offensively. If he does that, he could make a case for All-NBA honors next season.



Meyer McCaulsky is a contributor on Back Sports Page. Along with receiving his Master’s degree in Magazine, News, and Digital Journalism, he has over a year in sports journalism and has interviewed a variety of people in the sports industry, such as Chris Williamson, Cameron Thomas, Jimmy Boeheim, and Jeremy Pope. McCaulsky has been a guest contributor on a YouTube podcast called Cut The Nets within BSP’s network. For more on Meyer, his X is @meyermccaulsky and Instagram (@m.mccaulsky).

For more articles by Meyer, click here.

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