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Team USA Olympic Basketball Troubles

Writer on Hubpages and Harvard School of Public Health Alumni

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Team USA's defeats to Australia and Nigeria are symptomatic of broader issues in the NBA.

Despite a depressing loss to team Nigeria, team USA was defeated yesterday by team Australia.

This has left many analysts perplexed as to the current state of basketball and how this could happen. And the answer is simple: they value something other than scoring and three-point shooting.

International teams play a unique kind of basketball. They are not attempting to outshine Team USA with their star power. They are relying on play making and defense.

This current phenomena in Olympic basketball is reminiscent of how the bad boy Detroit Pistons were able to win championships in the 1980s and how the 2004 Pistons won the NBA championship. This same Pistons team made it to 6 straight eastern conference finals until they were swept in the first round by the 2008-09 Cleveland Cavaliers led by Lebron James.

When you think about Australian basketball, Ben Simmons and LaMelo Ball come to mind. When scoring is taken out of the equation, both of these players may be considered two of the best five players in the NBA.

Many great NBA teams in the past did not have a plethora of high-scoring all-stars on their rosters. They were super teams for different reasons, but they were fantastic teams nevertheless.

Robert Parish never won an NBA scoring title. Any coach, though, would rather have him on their team than most players who can average 25 points each game. These players were exceptional for reasons other than solely their ability to score.

And it ultimately goes back to the NBA draft. The NBA draft used to be more rewarding for talented role players. These are players who, while not outstanding scorers, may help their teams win in other ways.

Many of these overseas players would have been NBA draft picks 20 or 15 years ago. Defense, team basketball, and physicality are no longer prized as highly in basketball as they once were. In terms of playmaking, the game was more sophisticated 20 years ago.

The NBA game has changed, and many good college players are looking for international opportunities. Many players who are not lottery picks don't last past their rookie contract. Numerous international leagues are providing additional financial incentives to players who choose to skip the NBA draft. In many instances, unless you are a lottery pick, playing in a foreign basketball league can be better for many players.

In many cases, second round draft picks would be better off playing overseas rather than entering the NBA draft. In the 2015 draft, 25 of the 50 picks have already exited the NBA. And 18 of them were just in the league for two years or less.This trend is also evident in other draft classes. Fifteen players selected in the 2018 NBA draft have already left the league.

Many of the Austrian basketball players are either superb playmakers or extremely physical. And they also excel at defense. This is in stark contrast to the star-studded US team, which appears to have forgotten about defense.

Basketball nowadays is far too focused on all-stars and three-point shooting. Coaching and playmaking receive less attention. Players today cannot be coached. Even from a fan’s standpoint, coaches have no control in the NBA. They don’t feel a part of championship teams any more.

The NBA has evolved into a league that makes all-stars solely on their ability to score and draw fan appeal. Aside from that role players are only valued if they can guard the three-point line, shoot threes, and get to the free throw line.

Many of these international teams have excellent rebounders and players who are capable of doing more than just guarding the three-point line. They have players with excellent post-moves and footwork. They have players that can guard and shoot the forbidden midrange jump shot.


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2021 Michael Mannen

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