When it comes to the top talent in basketball, you don’t have to look much further than the United States’s National Basketball Association (NBA). The NBA is widely regarded as home to the world’s best basketball players. Because of this, it should come as no surprise that U.S. basketball is also extremely successful on the international scene.

Going back to 2008, U.S. men’s basketball has dominated the Fiba Basketball World Cup and the Summer Olympics. In the Olympics, they have claimed gold in 2008, 2012, and 2016, and they’ve won the last two Fiba World Cups in 2010 and 2014. With the 2019 Fiba World Cup now underway, there is pressure on the U.S. to finish with gold once again.

With the current situation that the NBA is in, NBA players are now actually extremely hesitant to play in international competition. Previous U.S. men’s basketball teams have been stacked with all stars and some of the league’s top talents like LeBron James and Kevin Durant. But LeBron will be 35 at the beginning of next season’s playoffs and KD ruptured his Achilles in the playoffs.

Other star players may not be injured or old, but they are still concerned about their health. There has been an insane number of significant injuries in the NBA is recent years. Looking back to last season, the Warriors alone saw Kevin Durant with his Achilles rupture, Klay Thompson tore his ACL, and DeMarcus Cousins tore his quad tendon. If the league’s previously undisputable best team, the Golden State Warriors, aren’t immune to injury, than neither are star players on other teams that individually have more responsibility on a nightly basis.

Good players have gradually dropped out of this year’s FIBA World Cup team to the point of their best player now being Kemba Walker. For comparison, in 2016, Kemba Walker would have been the third-best point guard on the team coming off the bench if he had participated. Walker is a great basketball player, but he has yet to see much success beyond personal statistics in the NBA.

Strong Competition

Despite this, the United States is still the favorite for this year’s event. Even if they don’t have star power, there are several young and upcoming players on the roster. The 2019 FIBA World Cup in China is the perfect environment for someone like Donovan Mitchell or Jayson Tatum to explode and showcase their full potential.

Team USA does need to watch out for two other dangerous teams, Greece and Serbia:

  • Serbia has been exceptional in recent international competition, finishing in second place to the U.S. in both the 2014 FIBA World Cup and 2016 Olympics. This is the team led by Denver Nuggets star Nikola Jokic, who is individually better than any player on Team USA. Jokic led Denver to a 59-23 record on averages of 20.1 points, 10.8 rebounds, 7.3 assists, and 1.4 steals per game last season.

 

  • Greece also has another fantastic player on their roster. As a matter of fact, he’s the NBA’s reigning MVP, Giannis Antetokoumnpo. At just 24 years of age, Antetokounmpo led the Milwaukee Bucks to a 62-20 record last year on stunning averages of 27.7 points, 12.5 rebounds, 5.9 assists, 1.3 steals, and 1.5 blocks on 58% shooting per game. Giannis is one of the NBA’s best players and is without a doubt the biggest threat at the 2019 FIBA World Cup.

Betting Odds

Here are the odds for each team competing in the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup:

  • United States: -220
  • Serbia: +370
  • Greece: +1000
  • Spain: +1400
  • France: +2900
  • Australia: +3200
  • Lithuania: +4500
  • Canada: +6000
  • Argentina: +6500
  • China: +10000
  • Italy: +10000
  • Brazil: +11000
  • Germany: +11000
  • Poland: +11000
  • Russia: +11000
  • Turkey: +12000
  • Puerto Rico: +19000
  • Nigeria: +21000
  • Angola: +25000
  • Czech Republic: +25000
  • Dominican Republic: +25000
  • Iran: +25000
  • Ivory Coast: +25000
  • Japan: +25000
  • Jordan: +25000
  • Montenegro: +25000
  • New Zealand: +25000
  • Philippines: +25000
  • Senegal: +25000
  • South Korea: +25000
  • Tunisia: +25000
  • Venezuela: +25000

Pick: Greece +1000

The United States may still be betting favorites this year, but their roster is extremely limited compared to previous international teams. The biggest problem for Team USA will ultimately be inexperience, as a majority of the roster is young and has yet to play internationally. They may still be led by a fantastic coach, but this is the perfect opportunity for another country with a superstar player to steal one from the U.S.

When it comes to picking an international-born superstar to rely on, there’s simply nobody better than Giannis Antetokmounpo. Fresh off his MVP award and a tough loss in the Eastern Conference Finals, Giannis is more motivated than ever and now has all the skill and talent to back him up. Assuming no major injuries, there is an excellent chance of a new international basketball champion this year.

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