MBO Roundtable – FIBA World Cup Edition Part 2
The ‘MBO’ staff is back to follow up part 1 of our FIBA World Cup roundtable discussion to chat more about this tournament. We examine Maurice Harkless not playing for Puerto Rico, and could Team USA actually lose? Contributing again are Adam Papageorgiou, Brian Serra, Andrew Melnick, and Spenser Strode.
Maurice Harkless changed his mind and is not playing for Puerto Rico. Was that a mistake, and will Maurice regret it?
Adam Papageorgiou: I’ll tell you now that Maurice is still getting hate tweets from a lot of angry Puerto Ricans. If you saw the Team USA exhibition match against P.R. in New York City you would have realized that adding Harkless at small forward (or even as a stretch PF) would put P.R. in the discussion for a podium spot. He’s 21 years old and hopefully has not burned his bridges with the Puerto Rican Basketball Federation for future tourneys.
I know his agent said that Maurice wanted to focus solely on himself and prepare for a very important Magic season, but there’s only so much you can do on your own. You can’t beat international competition where you can learn new things from new coaches and teammates. You’re going up against the best in the world and you can make a name for yourself with solid 2-way play. This would have been the most important event Harkless has participated on a competitive level so far in his career. He’ll regret passing on this opportunity quickly if he gets off to a sluggish start to the Magic season.
Brian Serra: If Harkless had stronger personal ties to Puerto Rico, I may feel differently/stronger about this – but I don’t. He would have spent a month training with inferior competition to play five games and go home. That’s a significant amount of the offseason for a 21-year old with no real connection to the team. Stay home, shoot 1,000 corner 3-pointers a day and get stronger.
Andrew Melnick: Honestly, Harkless really doesn’t need to play for Puerto Rico. Although it’d be nice to see him in the event, he may be better served remaining in the states and refining his NBA game, which is what Harkless has vowed to do. With the way Harkless shot from the outside during the second half of the season and his talent and length of defense, he may not be far from becoming a very solid player.
Spenser Strode: There’s a difference between training with and being around hungry, young, emerging superstars…and going to international camp with an over-the-hill Carlos Arroyo and questionable locker-room guy in J.J. Barea. Harkless will get more benefit from working with his own Magic teammates (and lifting, shooting, and watching tape of ‘hard-cutting Matt Barnes’) and working towards a more aggressive, confident approach for the upcoming season.
Below is the rest of the Part 2 World Cup discussion.
Who leads Team USA in scoring average for the tournament?
Brian Serra: Anthony Davis is going to get a ton of easy baskets at the rim, just by being so much more athletic than EVERYONE ELSE. He has been scoring in large numbers in the exhibition games and I expect that to continue. Stephen Curry or James Harden are 1a and 1b.
Andrew Melnick: I’ll go with James Harden simply because he’s probably going to put up more shots than anyone else. I wouldn’t be surprised if Stephen Curry or Anthony Davis, who looks like he is on track to be the tournament’s best player, lead the team either.
Spenser Strode: James Harden. A ‘Splash Brother’ may get hot for a game, a big guy might find himself getting lucky on the offensive glass, but Harden will consistently fill it up from distance and take the scoring crown. How many points is the beard worth in FIBA play?
Do you have the testicular fortitude to even say Team USA won’t be hoisting the trophy? What problems do you foresee?
Adam Papageorgiou: I don’t think Team USA is winning this tourney. Since Mike Krzyzewski and Jerry Colangelo took over Team USA basketball in 2005, they have lost once to Greece. This is the weakest Team USA squad since the 2004 Olympics. The U.S. are in by far the easiest group with the simplest path to the Final. That could be a problem if a team finally challenges them.
Team USA shouldn’t even be pushed until the Semifinals where they’ll probably face either Lithuania or Slovenia. In the Final they should face Spain. The hosts – with what will be an outstanding crowd atmosphere throughout the two weeks – will win this tourney because they’re fielding maybe their best 12-man roster in its country’s history. With their strength in the paint, immense experience, and their potent perimeter shooting, I don’t think Team USA has the defense to beat Spain.
Brian Serra: No. The only problem I foresee is one that always happens. The shorter games, different rules and far more motivated teams can make it easy to have a few small breaks go against you and in one game, anything can happen. I’ll watch every game that I can, just as I have for the last 22 years since the Dream Team ran through Barcelona – and I expect a win in every game.
Andrew Melnick: No, I don’t. Even without the likes of LeBron James and Kevin Durant, the two best players on the planet, Team USA is just too talented. For one, they should cruise through a fairly easy group. I like their mix of size and shooting. If they didn’t win the tournament, it wouldn’t be shocking considering this team isn’t nearly as talented as the one they had in the Olympics but I would still be surprised if they didn’t win.
Spenser Strode: No. None. Team USA could sleepwalk past every team in the tournament except for Spain, and once they get to the Spain game, they will be full engaged. America is the best. There will be no Greece upset here.