The NBA regular season is just two months away and, while some players are preparing for the long, 82-game schedule ahead, other players have something much more exciting on their mind – the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup. Will the USA basketball team prevail or will they fall to an international team?
We’ll have to wait to find out, but what we do know is it’s about to be a fun couple of weeks as we see some of the best players around the world compete for their country with the hope of bringing home that coveted Naismith Trophy – while also fighting for an automatic berth into the 2024 Summer Olympics.
Spain and the United States have to be favorites at this point – Spain won it in 2006 and 2019, while the US won it in 2010 and 2014 – but you can never count out France, Australia, Canada, Germany, Greece, Slovenia, and more. With 32 teams in total, someone is bound to surprise us – let’s hope the US prevails!
Let’s Meet the USA Basketball Men’s World Cup Team
If you were to ask the average person to put together a USA basketball roster, they would have LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Damian Lillard, Jayson Tatum, and Devin Booker – the big-name superstars that are often seen in the Olympics. For the 2023 FIBA World Cup, the roster looks a little bit different.
The team consists of 12 players – all of whom are in the NBA – and is made up of younger superstars, but don’t let that fool you. This team can play and they’ve already gone 5-0 in the USA Basketball Showcase – beating Puerto Rico, Slovenia, Spain, Greece, and Germany. They look more than ready!
Before we dive into the roster and how they got there, let’s first highlight the coaching staff – which consists of some of the greatest coaches in the NBA. Steve Kerr (Warriors) is the head coach, while Erik Spoelstra (Heat), Tyronn Lue (Clippers), and Mark Few (Gonzaga) will act as assistant coaches.
Here are the 12 players who will represent USA basketball at the 2023 FIBA World Cup – let’s go!
1. Paolo Banchero – Orlando Magic
Paolo Banchero is a 6-foot-10, 250-pound power forward who was drafted by the Orlando Magic with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft. He’s entering his second season in the league after averaging 20.0 points, 6.9 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 0.8 steals, and 0.5 blocks per game (72 games) in his rookie year.
He played in all five games during the USA Basketball Showcase – scoring 7 points against Puerto Rico, 8 points against Slovenia, 3 points against Spain, 2 points against Greece, and 6 points against Germany. We can expect him to receive valuable minutes off the bench during the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup.
At just 20 years old, Banchero is the youngest player representing USA, but don’t let that fool you – he was named the NBA’s Rookie of the Year last season for a reason. He still has a lot to learn, but he can get hot in a hurry and has played well alongside his fellow Americans – the team is happy to have him.
2. Mikal Bridges – Brooklyn Nets
Mikal Bridges is a 6-foot-6, 209-pound small forward/shooting guard who is entering his sixth season in the NBA and first full season as the face of the Brooklyn Nets. He’s one of the most reliable players in the NBA, having played in 83 games last season – there are only 82 games in a season, but he was traded.
He’ll be one of the primary starters throughout the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup – having scored 14 points against Puerto Rico, 9 points against Slovenia, 12 points against Spain, 10 points against Greece, and 7 points against Germany during the USA Basketball Showcase. He’s a great addition to this team.
Best known for his defense, Bridges has really worked on his offense in recent years and has shown a sizeable improvement in that area – he averaged 20.1 points in 83 games last season, including 26.1 points in 27 games after being traded to the Nets. Expect him to be consistent on the floor for Team USA.
3. Jalen Brunson – New York Knicks
Jalen Brunson is a 6-foot-2, 190-pound point guard who was drafted by the Dallas Mavericks in the second round of the 2018 NBA Draft. He spent the first four years of his career with the team before signing with the New York Knicks last offseason – where he emerged as a premier player in the league.
Brunson averaged a career-high 24.0 points in 68 games with the New York Knicks last season, but that’s not all – he also averaged 6.2 assists per game as the team’s starting point guard. He shot 42% from the field last season, but is one of the best point guards in the league when playing down low and in the paint.
During the USA Basketball Showcase, Brunson had 11 points and 3 assists against Puerto Rico, 11 points and 8 assists against Slovenia, 23 points and 5 assists against Spain, 9 points and 7 assists against Greece, and 8 points and 3 assists against Germany. We’re going to need him if we want to win.
4. Anthony Edwards – Minnesota Timberwolves
Anthony Edwards is a 6-foot-4, 225-pound shooting guard who was drafted as the No. 1 overall pick by the Minnesota Timberwolves in the 2020 NBA Draft. He’s averaging 21.8 points, 5.1 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 1.4 steals, and 0.6 blocks per game (223 games played) over the first three years of his career.
Edwards has emerged as one of the greatest young scorers in the league – increasing his average from 21.3 points per game in 2021-22 to 24.6 points per game in 2022-23. He’s one of the most explosive players on the USA Basketball roster and appears to be ready to prove his worth on a global stage.
During the USA Basketball Showcase, Edwards had 15 points and 4 assists against Puerto Rico, 16 points and 4 rebounds against Slovenia, 11 points and 7 rebounds against Spain, 21 points and 4 rebounds against Greece, and a whopping 34 points and 6 rebounds against Germany. He was electric!
5. Tyrese Haliburton – Indiana Pacers
Tyrese Haliburton is a 6-foot-5, 185-pound point guard who was drafted by the Sacramento Kings with the No. 12 overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft. He was traded to the Indiana Pacers halfway through the 2021-22 season and has proven to be one of the most entertaining point guards to watch in the NBA.
Haliburton averaged 20.7 points, 3.7 rebounds, 10.4 assists, 1.6 steals, and 0.4 blocks per game in 56 games played last season – all while shooting 49% from the floor and 40% from long range. He’s a crafty player who can turn nothing into something, so expect him to see a lot of minutes off the bench for USA.
During the USA Basketball Showcase, Haliburton had 7 points and 12 assists against Puerto Rico, 10 points and 6 assists against Slovenia, 4 points and 12 assists against Spain, 6 points and 4 assists against Greece, and 16 points and 3 assists against Germany. He’ll be the team’s backup point guard.
6. Josh Hart – New York Knicks
Josh Hart is a 6-foot-5, 215-pound shooting guard who was drafted by the Utah Jazz with the No. 30 overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft. He was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers on draft day and has also played for the New Orleans Pelicans, Portland Trail Blazers, and most recently the New York Knicks.
He has traveled a lot during his six-year career, but don’t let that fool you – it’s not that no one wants him, it’s that everyone wants him. He’s not going to wow you with his offensive prowess, but brings a level of intensity on both sides of the floor that every team needs – and he’s a great addition to any locker room.
During the USA Basketball Showcase, Hart had 2 points and 5 rebounds against Slovenia, 1 point and 9 rebounds against Greece, and 3 rebounds against Germany. He was the final addition to the Team USA roster and hasn’t played much since, but he’ll be ready if his name is called in the 2023 FIBA World Cup.
7. Brandon Ingram – New Orleans Pelicans
Brandon Ingram is a 6-foot-8, 190-pound small forward who was drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft. He played for the team for three years before being traded to the New Orleans Pelicans ahead of the 2019-20 season – he has spent the past four years with the Pels.
Ingram has consistently averaged 23-24 points per game since joining the Pelicans, but has struggled to stay healthy and hasn’t played more than 62 games in a season during that span. He’s coming off a season that saw him average a career-high 24.7 points per game and a career-high 5.8 assists per game.
During the USA Basketball Showcase, Ingram had 11 points and 5 rebounds against Puerto Rico, 7 points and 5 rebounds against Slovenia, 11 points and 3 rebounds against Spain, 7 points and 3 rebounds against Greece, and 3 points and 1 rebound against Germany. He’ll be a starter for Team USA.
8. Jaren Jackson Jr. – Memphis Grizzlies
Jaren Jackson is a 6-foot-11, 242-pound power forward/center who was drafted as the No. 4 overall pick by the Memphis Grizzlies in the 2018 NBA Draft. He has spent his entire five-year career with the team and is averaging 16.4 points, 5.5 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 0.9 steals, and 2.1 blocks per game (267 games).
Jackson is a consistent scorer and has consistently improved as a rebounder, but he’s best known for his defense – he has led the league in blocks the past two seasons and averaged 3.0 blocks per game last season. His defensive prowess saw him win the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year award last year.
During the USA Basketball Showcase, Jackson Jr. had 12 points and 7 rebounds against Puerto Rico, 2 points and 4 rebounds against Slovenia, 14 points and 5 rebounds against Spain, 11 points and 3 rebounds against Greece, and 7 points, 8 rebounds, and 6 blocks (6 blocks!!!) against Germany.
9. Cam Johnson – Brooklyn Nets
Cam Johnson is a 6-foot-8, 210-pound power forward who was drafted by the Minnesota Timberwolves with the No. 11 overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. He was traded to the Phoenix Suns on draft night, where he spent three years before being traded to the Brooklyn Nets midway through last season.
It took Johnson a while to come into his own and still has yet to live up to the hype of being a lottery draft pick, but he started playing very well once traded to the Nets. He was averaging 13.9 points per game in 17 games with the Suns last year, but increased that average to 16.6 points in 25 games with the Nets.
During the USA Basketball Showcase, Johnson had 15 points and 6 rebounds against Puerto Rico, 8 points and 4 rebounds against Slovenia, 9 points and 1 assist against Spain, 13 points and 3 steals against Greece, and 0 points against Germany – he only played four minutes in their win vs. Germany.
10. Walker Kessler – Utah Jazz
Walker Kessler is a 7-foot-1, 245-pound center who was drafted by the Memphis Grizzlies with the No. 22 overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft. He was traded to the Utah Jazz on draft night and played in 74 games as a rookie – starting in 40 of those games. He showed that he can play with the best of them.
Kessler ended up averaging 9.2 points, 8.4 rebounds, and 2.3 blocks per game last season – shooting an efficient 72% from the field. Team USA is going to need his size, especially since he’s the only 7-foot player on the team. While they like to play small ball, there will be times when they need to go big.
During the USA Basketball Showcase, Kessler had 5 points and 4 rebounds against Puerto Rico, 2 points and 1 rebound against Slovenia, and 7 points and 5 rebounds against Greece – he didn’t play against Spain or Germany. He might not see consistent minutes in the World Cup, but we might not need him to.
11. Bobby Portis – Milwaukee Bucks
Bobby Portis is a 6-foot-10, 250-pound power forward/center who was drafted by the Chicago Bulls with the No. 22 overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft. He spent the first five years of his career with the Bulls, Washington Wizards, and New York Knicks before settling with the Milwaukee Bucks the past three years.
Portis isn’t going to wow you with his offensive game, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t prone to a good offensive night every once in a while. What he does bring on a nightly basis is his intensity and his defense. He’s not the type of player you want to be matched up against because he’ll make your life hell.
During the USA Basketball Showcase, Portis had 11 points and 3 rebounds against Puerto Rico, 8 points and 5 rebounds against Slovenia, 2 points and 3 rebounds against Spain, 10 points and 7 rebounds against Greece, and 2 points and 5 rebounds against Germany. He’ll be a vocal leader for Team USA.
12. Austin Reeves – Los Angeles Lakers
Austin Reaves is a 6-foot-5, 206-pound shooting guard who went undrafted in the 2021 NBA Draft – he was originally drafted by the Detroit Pistons with the No. 42 overall pick, but declined the opportunity. He was signed by the Los Angeles Lakers as a free agent and made his NBA debut on October 22, 2021.
After averaging 7.3 points, 3.2 rebounds, and 1.8 assists in 61 games played as a rookie, he put up 13.0 points, 3.0 rebounds, and 3.4 assists in 64 games played last season. He’s an easy player to like and is known for playing hard every minute he steps foot on the court. He’ll be a joy to watch in the World Cup.
During the USA Basketball Showcase, Reaves had 9 points, 4 rebounds, and 4 assists against Puerto Rico, 10 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 assists, against Slovenia, 11 points and 2 assists against Spain, 11 points and 1 rebound against Greece, and 16 points and 2 steals against Germany. Expect to see a lot of him.
Who is Favored to Win the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup?
It’s easy to sit here and say USA basketball is the favorite heading into the 2023 FIBA World Cup, but that’s simply not the case. They’re certainly one of the favorites, but there are a number of countries that continue to develop quality talent – and a lot of that talent has dominated the NBA in recent years.
Just look at Giannis Antetokounmpo with Greece, Luka Doncic with Slovenia, Rudy Gobert with France, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander with Canada, Josh Giddey with Australia, Nikola Jokic with Serbia, and, of course, Spain – who might not have a big-name superstar on the team, but they always play well.
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Taking all that into consideration, I still feel that USA basketball will come out on top – though I might be a little biased. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what we think – all that matters is who shows up when it matters most. The first wave of games begins on August 25 and the final will be held on September 10.
LET’S GO TEAM USA!
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