AGONA Profile: United States, New Faces Hoping to Continue Winning Tradition
As Greece continue its bid for the gold medal at the 2019 FIBA World Cup, the AGONA profile takes a look at their Group K rivals. Up first, the defending champion United States…
The United States are looking to defend their crown at this summer’s FIBA World Cup after capturing claiming back-to-back titles in 2010 and 2014.
Back with a much younger roster, the United States will hope that the youthfulness of this edition of Team USA has what it takes to follow in the footsteps of the sides that have emerged victorious in previous tournaments as well as the 2016 Olympics in Brazil.
While a majority of the squad is unproven at the international level, the fact that all of the squad plays in the best league in the world, the NBA, ensures that there is no shortage of talent in the United States arsenal.
Nickname: Team USA
Current FIBA Ranking: 1st
Head Coach: Gregg Popovich
FIBA World Cup History: 18th appearance
Best Finish at a FIBA World Cup: 5x Champions (1954, 1986, 1994, 2010, 2014)
TOURNAMENT SO FAR
The United States topped Group E with a 3-0 record that featured blowout wins over the Czech Republic and Japan on either side of a nervy overtime defeat of Turkey in Shanghai.
While the United States are still expected to take home the gold medal this summer, a shaky performance against the Turks has offered hope for some the tournament’s other heavyweights.
Taking over from Jeff van Gundy, who steered the United States to a 10-2 finish in qualifying, Gregg Popovich is in the United States hot seat for the first time in his career having taken over from the successful Mike Krzyzewski.
A longtime coach of the San Antonio Spurs, Popovich is one of the most-revered coaches in the NBA and his strong bond with his players made him an easy choice to replace Krzyzewski.
Popovich’s relationship with top NBA players, even those not on San Antonio, was expected to help lure the highest quality talent to the team; however, a turbulent pre-tournament window for the Americans has seen several big names withdraw from the squad.
Nevertheless, Popovich is perhaps the best man for the job having exhibited on several occasions that his style of basketball can deliver results – even if on paper the squad he is working isn’t rated too highly.
While several players withdrew from the American squad ahead of the tournament, there are still several NBA stars in the squad. Perhaps none of those names are more important than Kemba Walker, who currently leads the squad with an average of 14 points per game. The Boston Celtics point guard is an instrumental part of the USA offense and has already featured in highlight reels this tournament with his silky step-back three-pointers.
Walker’s Boston teammate, Jayson Tatum, appears to have been ruled out for the second round after picking up an injury in the overtime defeat of Turkey. With Tatum shelved until at least the knockout round, the Americans will rely more on their guards and that could cast the spotlight even more on Donovan Mitchell. The Utah Jazz man has been a star in the NBA since he was drafted and his dynamic play on the court makes him a real threat for opposing defenses.
PREVIOUS MEETINGS WITH GREECE
While Greece have faced the United States in a few friendly tournaments, there has been six meetings between the two nations at official FIBA tournaments and Olympic Games. The United States holds a 5-1 lead in all-time meetings between the two nations, with Greece’s lone win ranking among the most memorable wins in Greek basketball history.
For a full look at the nations’ previous visit our featured article on AGONAsport.com.