The FIBA 2019 World Cup of Basketball is set to begin on August 31, 2019. As Team USA looks to make the final cut for their roster to bring it down to the 12 players limit the team, things are winding down for the team.
With the most recent reports that on August 16th, 2019, P.J. Tucker has withdrawn from the team due to injury, and that on August 17th, 2019, De’Aaron Fox withdrew from the team, they are now down to 13 players on the roster.
While the Tucker withdrawal means that’s one less veteran player for coach Gregg Popovich and the team to rely on, that does mean more playing time and touches for the young players on the team.
Even with Fox’s decision to leave the team, they still have a plethora of young stars like Jayson Tatum, and Donovan Mitchell, who have both shown flashes of their all-star/superstar potential early in their careers.
However, there are many other young players on the team who have shown their potential in moments but not over significant stretches. For those players, great performances during the 2019 World Cup can help propel them to having breakout 2019-20 NBA seasons.
The FIBA World Cup has shown in years past to be a good platform for players on Team USA to learn, grow and take their games to the next level.
The 2014 World Cup saw Steph Curry, and Klay Thompson combined for over 100 three points attempts in nine games, showing us a small glimpse of what was to come. Meanwhile, James Harden led the team in points while he and Kyrie Irving dazzled during the tournament with crafty scoring.
Even going back to the 2010 FIBA team where Kevin Love showed off good rebounding abilities in limited minutes. The following season in 2010-11, Love led the league in rebounds per game with 15.5.
Also on that team was a young Eric Gordon who was fourth on the 2010 team in scoring, who would go on to average 22.3 points per game during the 2010-11 season with the Clippers.
While the final stats may not jump off the screen at the end of the tournament, their time on the team will go a long in helping these players take the next level.
4. Derrick White
With only one more cut to be made before Team USA has there 12-man roster, Derrick White has a legitimate chance to be named to the team.
White was drafted by the Spurs back in 2017, and aside from some G-league stints, the only head coach he’s ever had after college has been Gregg Popovich. This gives him a distinct advantage unlike others on the team as this means Pop truly knows how White plays and knows he can rely on him to carry out any specific gameplans.
Also aiding White is the fact that he had a strong 18-19 season. Entering the season he was expected to be the backup point guard after Tony Parker left the team.
However, a torn ACL to Dejounte Murray forced White to become the starter. After sitting out the beginning of last season with his own injury, White returned and played well for the team.
He averaged just below 10 points and five assists per game on the season and scored 36 points in game three of the first-round series between the Spurs and Nuggets that gave the Spurs a 2-1 series lead.
While the Spurs ended up losing that series, it was clear that White impressed those in the Spurs organization and earned the respect of Pop.
Making the 2019 FIBA roster it could help set him up for next season, where even if he loses the starting job to a returning Murray, he will be one of the best back up point guards in the league, and having a great back up point guard can really help a team out in big situations (VanVleet for the Raptors in the ECF and Finals).
3. Myles Turner
While he’s already played four seasons in the NBA, Myles Turner is still just 23-years-old and has yet to reach his full potential.
Coming off arguably the best year of his career, Turner is set to play a pivotal role for the Pacers this upcoming season. With Victor Oladipo coming off of a season-ending injury, the Pacers need to establish bonafide scorers behind him.
The Pacers brought in Malcolm Brogdon and Jeremy Lamb to help the guard situation, but they may have their third and potential second scoring option with Turner.
While Turner’s scoring hasn’t been elite during his career he has proven to be a big that fits in the modern era. He averaged slightly over 13 points per game last year on 38.8% three-point shooting. He had several 20+ point games in 2018-19 and improved his shooting from three.
To aid Turner in expanding his offense he will be coached by Gregg Popovich. Popovich being the Team USA coach will prove to be a great learning experience for many of the young players on this team, and Turner could be one of the biggest beneficiaries.
Pop has coached LaMarcus Aldridge the last few seasons, one of the most versatile offensive bigs in the league. Let’s not forget as well that he also had Tim Duncan for two decades.
Turner being able to pick at the brain of one of the best coaches in NBA history could prove to be one of the key factors that help him expand his game.
2. Jaylen Brown
While Jayson Tatum is the popular choice by many to be the future star for the Boston Celtics, teammate Jaylen Brown has a chance to be an all-star caliber player in his own right.
Like many players for the Celtics last season, Brown had an up and down season due to the chemistry issues that the team had. It showed has his points per game for the regular season and playoffs both dropped from 17-18, even his shooting numbers stayed stagnant.
Of all the players to suffer from last season, Brown arguably took the biggest hit. The 2018 playoffs saw Brown average 18 points per game while helping the Celtics reach game 7 of the finals, during that playoff run Brown scored 20+ points in eight games.
The 2019 playoffs saw Brown only have one 20 point game during the Celtics run, which ended by losing to the Bucks in the second round.
A disappointing season behind him, Brown can use the FIBA 2019 World Cup as his chance to prepare him for a critical 2019-20 season.
Brown is entering the last year of his rookie deal and on an open market would have plenty of suitors. However, as a restricted free agent the Celtics have a distinct advantage in being able to retain him.
However, an all-star caliber season out of Brown would force the Celtics to pay him a max or near-max deal if they want to retain him.
What also works in Brown’s favor is the fact that teammates Jayson Tatum, Kyrie Irving, and Marcus Smart are all on the team. This gives the four of them extra time to build chemistry for the upcoming season.
1. Kyle Kuzma
While Kuzma will benefit like every other player from learning from Gregg Popovich, he will benefit even more from being one of the top options on Team USA.
Kuzma faces arguably the most pressure of any other player on this team once the NBA season comes back. He will have to be the third piece on a championship hopeful team being led by LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
The pressure may have also increased because recent reports revealed that DeMarcus Cousins has suffered a torn ACL and will likely miss the entire 2019-20 season.
The Cousins injury now solidifies that Kuzma will be the definitive third option on the Lakers next season, which isn’t too far off.
While Kuzma has said he’s ready for the increased pressure and scrutiny, there is a major difference between preparing for it and dealing with it. This is where the 2019 FIBA tournament will help him.
Kuzma will get the chance to be a top scoring option on a team filled with other talented players. He will get his chance to be the alpha at times while in other moments he commits to doing the “little things” to help the team win.
More importantly, if Team USA makes it to the medal round this will be the first chance to see Kuzma in high stakes games, as the Lakers haven’t made the playoffs in his two years with the team.
The combination of Kuzma’s natural scoring and Pop’s mind and coaching will help unlock a whole new level for Kuzma as a player and if that’s the case, not only will Team USA have a better chance at getting the gold medal, but the Lakers will have even better odds at being crowned the 2020 NBA Champions.