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The USA remain the favorites to win the 2019 FIBA World Cup despite not boasting the star powers of years past. Unlike most international basketball competitions, the USA are not prohibitive favorites this time with the odds implying they have a nearly 1/3rd chance not to bring home the gold for the first time since 2006.
Current FIBA Odds according to FanDuel
The Greg Popovich lead squad will miss stars like James Harden and Bradley Beal, both of whom were last minute withdrawals. In their stead, the best players representing the US will be Kemba Walker, Khris Middleton, Jayson Tatum & Donovan Mitchell – all borderline All Stars. 5-time All Star, Kyle Lowry will also be on the roster, although he is questionable to participate as he recovers from an injured thumb.
Competition Has Top-End Talent, Lack USA’s Depth
While other teams have stars comparable or better than the best players on the US, they lack the depth of the US team. The best player in the tournament, Giannis Antetokounmpo will be joined by his brother Thanasis Antetokounmpo on the Greek squad. Thanasis is an currently on the 76ers G League team. Outside of those two, however, the Greeks do not have an NBA hopeful on their team, placing a lot on weight on the reigning NBA MVP’s mighty shoulders.
The captain and best player of the 2nd favorites to win the tournament, Serbia, is Milos Teodosic. Teodosic was an exciting player to watch last year as a backup point guard for the LA Clippers. But he was still a backup. The USA, meanwhile have at least four point guards that start in the NBA.
What we really have when we look at the USA vs. the Field is a battle between talent and cohesion. Teams like Lithuania and Serbia train and strategize for years to be able to earn medals in these competitions. New York born, Kemba Walker would love to win the tournament, but probably didn’t even consider it until after he dealt with his NBA Free Agency this summer.
USA Still A Good Bet to Win It
I think the doom & gloom about players lacking patriotism and dropping out has actually been overstated. International basketball for the US has never been about having the absolute best players. We will always have the most talent, regardless. The USA lost competitions in 2004 and 2006 despite a litany of Hall of Famers in their lineup such as LeBron James & Tim Duncan. Tenacity more than talent will be the deciding factor for the US – and players such as Marcus Smart and Andre Drummond will bring the requisite energy to match their competition. Prior to 1988 the USA only sent amateurs to the Olympics and were still largely dominant. If a player like James Harden had committed these odds for the USA would be closer to -400, even though I don’t think he would guarantee a victory nearly as much as the change in odds would imply. At this current price, I think the USA to win the tournament are a solid bet.