Team USA still poses the most dangerous threat for gold in the 2014 FIBA World Cup, but after losing so many important frontcourt players in the past few weeks, the Americans will need to capitalize on the advantage they have in the backcourt. As the Golden State Warriors know very well, Stephen Curry definitely gives whatever team he’s playing for an advantage in that area.
With Saturday’s news that Kevin Love won’t be joining Team USA this summer amid trade rumors and an uncertain future, the United States has lost yet another cornerstone in the frontcourt. Blake Griffin also pulled out recently, and LaMarcus Aldridge and Kawhi Leonard have also declined to participate. Combined with LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Carmelo Anthony all not playing, Team USA is left with a very young and inexperienced frontcourt.
At the small forward position, the Americans have their pick of Kevin Durant, Paul George, Chandler Parsons, Gordon Hayward and Kyle Korver. At the power forward spot, Team USA has options with Anthony Davis, Paul Millsap and Kenneth Faried. At center, Team USA basically has only Andre Drummond and DeMarcus Cousins.
To be clear, no one should be pitying Team USA. Though Spain has plenty of interior size, strength and skill between Marc Gasol, Pau Gasol and Serge Ibaka, the Americans more than make up for their so-called lack of interior depth with the world’s best backcourt. Curry, James Harden, Kyrie Irving, John Wall, Klay Thompson, Damian Lillard, Derrick Rose, Bradley Beal and DeMar DeRozan are all available for Team USA at the guard spots.
If we had Durant, Love, Davis, George, Curry, Harden + Klay, it wouldn’t matter who the other 5 guys were. But we need those 7 guys.
— Bill Simmons (@BillSimmons) July 26, 2014
Kevin Durant is clearly the best player on the court no matter who the Americans are playing and the United States will likely see a vastly improved Anthony Davis compared to the 19-year-old Davis who played in the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. But Curry might be the Americans’ second or third most important player for a team that will now rely on his production instead of simply viewing it as a luxury.
This past season for the Warriors, Curry averaged 24 points and 8.5 assists per game (both career highs) while shooting 47 percent from the floor and 42 percent from three-point range. This isn’t Curry’s first foray in international competition, since he played for the United States for the 2010 FIBA World Cup and helped the Americans bring home the gold in the competition for the first time since 1994.
However, Curry will need to play a much larger role than he did four years ago. In Turkey in 2010, Curry never played more than 17 minutes in a single game and averaged 4.6 points and 2.1 assists per game. His best game came against Tunisia, when he put up 13 points on 3-of-5 shooting from downtown. That kind of game will need to be the standard in Spain this summer.
It doesn’t really matter which guards join Curry on the official team roster, because Team USA will have a major backcourt advantage either way. But on a team lacking in veteran leadership outside of Kevin Durant, the United States will need Curry to take care of the ball, knock down some threes thanks to the closer international three-point line and step up as the team’s likely starting point guard.