Is this really a surprise to fans?
The U.S. National Basketball team ended the 2023 FIBA 5×5 Men’s World Cup with a tough loss to Canada,127-118 on Sunday, Sep. 10. They finished in fourth place after losing to Lithuania, 110-104 in the second round and Germany, 113-111 in the semi-finals. Germany won gold this year, followed by Serbia winning silver and Canada winning bronze. While their placement may be disappointing to some, this isn’t out of the ordinary for Team USA.
Since 1950, there have been 19 FIBA World Cups. In those tournaments, Team USA has been awarded 12 medals, the most out of any participating country. Yet, they have only won a gold medal five times since the World Cup began. So why are fans so surprised about the outcome this year?
To put it simply: we believe we’re the best. We expect our national team to bring big names like LeBron James and Stephen Curry, but realistically that won’t happen. Older and more experienced players prioritize their health for the NBA regular season and the Olympics.
Team USA’s back-to-back FIBA championships in 2010 and 2014 had stacked rosters with big names like Stephen Curry, James Harden, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant, etc. These players were all in their 20s at the time. Now that they’re in their 30s, it’s harder to stay healthy and keep playing in the off-season.
The 2023 FIBA roster for Team USA was made up of 12 players, 3 of which are 2023 All-Stars. CBS Sports explained Team USA’s performance was mediocre because “they tend to bring the B-Team.” The team is made up of young players who are healthy and willing to play outside of the NBA regular season. Unfortunately, it’s hard to compete with other countries who bring their best players to the FIBA World Cup when you send your backup squad.
FIBA Power Rankings placed Team USA as the No. 1 team, followed by Germany at No. 2 and Canada at No. 3. Because of their history in the tournament, Anthony Edwards’ performance and coach Steve Kerr, big things were expected of Team USA.
USA Today Sports placed the team at No. 3, behind No.2 Germany and No.1 Lithuania in their power ranking. CBS Sports predicted Team USA as the No.2 team, with Germany as No.1 and Lithuania as No.3. To say the least, the U.S. FIBA team did not live up to what was expected of them.
Team statistics provided by FIBA show that Team USA lead the tournament in points per game, with an average of 104.5. Between the top four teams, the U.S. also led in free throws (79.4%), rebounds (39.6 RPG), blocks (5.4 BLKPG), assists (23.9 APG), turnovers (13.5 TOPG) and efficiency (128.8 EFFPG).
So where did they go wrong?
To start, 13.5 turnovers per game killed their chances. Germany, Serbia and Canada averaged around 2.1-2 TOPG, allowing them to secure more offensive opportunities. Serbia and Germany also dominated inside the three-point line, at 66.4% and 62.1% respectively. Lastly, Team USA failed to get any double-doubles throughout the tournament. These three elements combined caused the U.S. to fall short.
The 2023 tournament shocked other fans around the world as many favored teams were knocked out in early rounds. In fact, none of the top four teams from the 2019 World Cup defended their titles. France, who received bronze in 2019, was eliminated in the first round. Argentina, the 2019 runner-up, failed to even qualify for the tournament. Australia and Spain managed to finish in the top 10.
Looking forward, the upcoming NBA season and 2024 Paris Olympics provide a lot of opportunities for the U.S. The official 2024 Olympic basketball team roster has not been posted, but there are speculations. ESPN reported Monday that Stephen Curry, LeBron James and Anthony Davis are potential interests for the upcoming Paris games. Past players from the 2021 Olympic team are also looking to return. If these players remain healthy throughout the 2023-24 NBA season, we could witness an amazing Olympic team.