If the Basketball World Cup were held tomorrow, U.S. fans would have ample reason to worry.
On Wednesday, the squad battling for World Cup roster spots lost decisively to a group of journeymen, several of whom play in the G-League.
Video of the game (the U.S. team is in white; “USA Select” is in blue) won’t inspire confidence in the national team, which looks sluggish and sloppy while the unheralded group facing them scores easily.
Make no mistake — the U.S. team is still heavily favored in the World Cup, which starts Aug. 31 in China. Gregg Popovich‘s team has been drawn into a group with Turkey, the Czech Republic and Japan. A blogger on the official FIBA site puts the U.S. solidly atop the power rankings. The U.S. team has won all 18 games in the past two World Cups in 2010 and 2014.
But the roster has been considerably weakened. This team doesn’t have the game’s biggest stars — James Harden, Paul George, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Damien Lillard, Kyrie Irving, Kawhi Leonard or LeBron James.
The only All-NBA player on the U.S. team’s current 15-man roster is Kemba Walker, who made the third team. Myles Turner and Donovan Mitchell are the only other players who received votes. The roster will be cut from 15 to 12 before the World Cup.
This team, though, might play better in front of a crowd. A similar matchup on Aug. 9 in the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas ended in a convincing 97-78 win for the U.S. team as Jayson Tatum scored 17 points in less than 16 minutes.
The U.S. will play Spain at 10 p.m. ET Friday in the Honda Center in Anaheim. The team then departs for training and more exhibition games in Australia before heading on to Shanghai a few days before their Sept. 1 opener vs. the Czech Republic.