For years USA has produced the best basketballers on the planet, with American-born players combining to win every MVP award from 2008 (Kobe) through to 2018 (Harden). However, the balance of power has swung in the last few years, with Giannis Antetkounmpo and Nikola Jokic flying the flag for international-born ballers. With a lot of those stars including Giannis and Jokic set to take part in Eurobasket in early September, I started to think about what it would look like if the stars from around the globe took on the best basketballers that the USA has to offer. Here’s how a hypothetical matchup could unfold!
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Building the roster
You could argue that Team World would have the best players in any possible game against their US counterparts. As stated, international players have claimed the last 4 MVP trophies, with Nikola Jokic and Giannis Antetokounmpo squarely in the conversation as the best player on the planet. In the last two seasons, Philadelphia big man Joel Embiid has been runner-up for the award, which gives the international squad another imposing big man and a matchup nightmare for the USA.
If you didn’t think those three would cause enough problems in the frontcourt, the World roster would also include defensive superstar Rudy Gobert and All-NBA threats Domantas Sabonis and Pascal Siakam. That’s a big man rotation that will rival any collection of players! In the backcourt, Dallas’ own budding superstar would be out to make a difference and if he’s given the license to dominate possession, he could prove to be the best player on the court. Hailing from Slovenia, Luka Doncic gives the World roster a dynamic playmaker and offensive dynamo who can both facilitate and score.
Luka isn’t the only talented guard available to be picked though, with Canadian phenoms Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Jamal Murray deserving of a roster spot as well. You could play either of them next to Doncic or have them on the court at the same time if they want to utilise another dominant defensive player in Ben Simmons at small forward. While we haven’t seen the best from Simmons lately, there’s no denying that he can help Team World in this contest with his length and playmaking causing a mismatch for the smaller American frontcourt players.
There is a lack of superstar wings on the international team, but recent champion Andrew Wiggins at least provides them with a starting SF and a player who can run with some of the USA’s elite. There’s every chance that the three frontcourt spots could be taken up by Giannis, Embiid and Jokic which would give Team World a ridiculous amount of length and size, however, when building these rosters you want to have balance across the board. Adding wing depth by including Knicks rising star RJ Barrett helps make the international team a pretty formidable unit if you ask me.
PG: Luka Doncic
SG: Jamal Murray
SF: Andrew Wiggins
PF: Giannis Antetokounmpo
C: Nikola Jokic
Just missed the cut
Image from 6abc.com
Building the roster
Despite his age, LeBron James would be the first player picked for the US, with the 4x MVP winner all but assured a starting spot alongside scoring phenom Kevin Durant. Those two would provide the Americans with some unbelievable offensive potential at the forward spots and if they wanted to throw one of them onto the bench another superstar in Kawhi Leonard could step up to the assignment. One of the best two-way players the game has to offer, a rotation with Kawhi Leonard, LeBron James and Kevin Durant is a scary prospect, and that’s before I even mention Jayson Tatum’s name!
It’s clear that the USA has dominance in the wings positions, with a small-ball approach likely to reap the best results. There are some big men who make the team that deserve recognition though with Anthony Davis, Karl-Anthony Towns and Bam Adebayo hardly there to make up the numbers. There are lineups Team USA could use with two of those bigs included, but it’s likely that given the scarcity of talent at center, only one of them would be on the court at all times. If a small-ball lineup is the route that the Americans do go down, then it only makes sense to add the best offensive player in the nation to the starting lineup.
Fresh off another championship, Steph Curry’s game-altering shooting prowess would be a lot for opposing countries to worry about. He clearly deserves one of the starting frontcourt spots, with another former MVP winner in James Harden the pick to start alongside him. That duo would provide the US with elite scoring options which are both capable of initiating and running an offence if need be. Luckily for America, there is plenty of talent in that department with Kyrie Irving, Devin Booker and Ja Morant all worth consideration to fill out the roster. Say what you will about the negative impact Kyrie could have on team chemistry, but he’s too talented to be excluded from this make believe game.
PG: Steph Curry
SG: James Harden
SF: LeBron James
PF: Kevin Durant
C: Anthony Davis
Just missed the cut
This contest between Team World and Team USA boils down to one matchup; size vs. depth. There’s no arguing that the American squad boasts more talent, with the stars who missed the cut probably better than the final few international players who made the roster. However, there are no guarantees Anthony Davis and his fellow bigs would be able to run with the giants that the international roster boasts. Team World would have just as much trouble trying to guard so many scoring superstars and when the starters come for a spell, that’s when this result could get out of hand.
The players born outside of America could use a lineup of SGA, Barrett, Simmons, Siakam and Embiid which is a pretty nice group, although, it would struggle mightily against a Morant, Booker, Tatum, Leonard, Towns unit. As I’ve said before, Team World may have the best few players in this hypothetical clash, but the strength in numbers approach from the USA means they’d take out any proposed game with relative ease.
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