Jerry Colangelo: Injury-free Team USA would have won FIBA World Cup

Jack Baer

It’s been days since Team USA’s shocking but not too shocking fall at the FIBA World Cup and observers are still sorting through the wreckage of the world’s dominant team finishing a lowly seventh in the tournament.

The prevailing sentiment is that a large amount of dropouts cost the team its usual overwhelming talent advantage. The team’s composition was also questionable, lacking the big man depth needed for more physical international play. And there could be the possibility the world is simply catching up as basketball becomes a global sport.

The man in charge of the whole operation seems to have a different theory.

Colangelo blames Team USA’s faceplant on injuries

USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo told Sports Illustrated’s Chris Mannix that a healthy Team USA would have won the World Cup:

“I believe that if we didn’t have those injuries, we would have won,” said Colangelo. “The injuries were just too much to absorb.”

Colangelo isn’t wrong that Team USA dealt with a notable amount of injuries. Kyle Kuzma missed the final roster with an ankle injury. Marcus Smart never seemed 100 percent due to a calf injury. Jayson Tatum missed the second half of the tournament with another ankle injury.

On the other hand, even if you’re high on the abilities of those three young players, missing Kyle Kuzma, Marcus Smart and Jayson Tatum shouldn’t cost you the tournament if you’re Team USA.

Team USA missed Jayson Tatum and Marcus Smart for much of the tournament. (Photo by Yifan Ding/Getty Images)

The Americans still had players like Kemba Walker, Donovan Mitchell, Khris Middleton, Myles Turner and Brook Lopez as well as one of the best coaches ever in Gregg Popovich. Even in non-Olympic tournaments without its frontline talent, Team USA has dominated because its B-teams still have more NBA talent than any team in the world.

Team USA looked vulnerable throughout the tournament. It looked vulnerable before it. None of its players really impressed, and that could mean the organization’s overall depth could be in question.

With the Olympics on top in 2020, that’s a problem that goes beyond just one tournament loss. And beyond just a matter of health. Colangelo has already expressed some dismay over the team’s dropouts, saying he would remember who withdrew.

Odds are that doesn’t mean turning away LeBron James, Stephen Curry, James Harden, Anthony Davis and Kawhi Leonard for the 2020 Olympics, but it could mean Colangelo is ready to make changes rather than ascribe his team’s failure to bad injury luck.

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