DAR Sports: The 5 Points Of Team USA

 By Jeff Axel

After the 2nd ranked Team USA played 5 games, including the 3 comfortable wins against Puerto Rico, Slovenia and Greece. There were 2 competitive games, including the come from behind performances against Spain and Germany. Team USA finished 5-0 in exhibition play as they prepare for their first official game against New Zealand on Saturday, August 26th. There’s still some things to work out as this team was recently put together last month and there’s still a few chemistry issues, but here’s 5 things that stood out in these exhibition games.

Anthony Edwards Is The Best Player On This Team 

-If there was any question going into this tournament about who the go to player was on this team, Anthony Edwards answered that averaging 19.2 PPG on 51% shooting including a 34 point explosion against Germany where he scored on all 3 levels. The 3 point shooting, finishing ability at the basket and post fadeaways were on full display and Edwards looks primed to not only lead USA to gold but carry this momentum into next season to reach an All-NBA level. Even coach Steve Kerr said he’s unequivocally the guy on this team.

Tyrese Haliburton, Best Playmaker

-While Jalen Brunson played pretty well in his own right, the offense and pace would flow a bit better when Tyrese Haliburton was in the game. He averaged 9 PPG and 7 APG off the bench and even played the passing lane well with steals throughout the 5 exhibition games. Whenever the offense got stagnant, he would change the tempo and heighten the intensity on the defensive end as well.

Austin Reaves Is A Great Spark Plug Off The Bench 

-A lot of people thought Reaves was a “foul Merchant” and his efficient play was a fluke but he’s more than held his own alongside the other young talent in the league. Not only has Reaves been a strong spot up shooter, but he was doing a good job of defending, playing with high energy, being decisive, scoring off cuts to the basket and hitting mid range shots. Reaves averaged 11 PPG (3rd on the team) on 61% from the field (2nd on the team) and 57% from 3 (1st on the team) in the 5 exhibition games.

Jaren Jackson Jr. And Great Interior Defense

-One of the weaknesses of this team is the front court and rebounding, but JJJ is showing why he won the Defensive Player Of The Year last season. He's a monster when it comes to deterring shots. While his 9 points and 5 rebounds were solid, it was his 2.6 BPG (including 6 against Germany on August 20th) that stood out the most. He altered a lot of shots in these games and had perimeter and post players alive second guessing themselves once they got near the basket. I would personally like to see him get closer to 10 rebounds once the official games start but he’s been elite rim protection as usual.

Brandon Ingram's Slight Disappointment 

-Coming into the tournament I had thought Anthony Edwards and Brandon Ingram were going to be the leading scorers on this team. I don’t know if it’s because he’s playing out of position at the power forward or if the guards aren’t actively looking for him, but not only has Brandon Ingram been in single digit points in almost every exhibition game but there were a few games he didn’t finish despite being a starter. He doesn’t seem that comfortable without the ball in his hands and him averaging 8 PPG on 42% wasn’t what I expected coming from a strong 3 level scorer like him. There’s time to turn things around for the medal games, but so far he’s been outplayed by Edwards, Reaves, Haliburton, Brunson, JJJ, and occasionally Bridges. I would hope he’s not as passive when the games count.

What is the ceiling of this team? I guess we shall find out here. 



Popular Posts