WC 2023: Trae Young's dream
ATLANTA (USA) - It's been just 15 months since the United States won the Olympic Gold Medal Game in Tokyo with a thrilling five-point triumph over France.
The celebratory scenes, led by maybe the greatest USA player of all time, three-time Olympic gold medalist Kevin Durant, who was also the MVP of the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2010, underlined the country's status as the best team in international basketball.
With next year's World Cup quickly approaching, early signs point to NBA superstar Trae Young becoming a focal point of the USA team.
A new era of Dream Team? ✨🇺🇸— FIBA (@FIBA) October 26, 2022
Trae Young and Bradley Beal say they are open to playing for Team USA in FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023!#FIBAWC x #WinForUSA pic.twitter.com/LSfcQjEd4I
Young, who helped the USA win the 2016 FIBA Americas U18 Championship, was a member of the 2019 USA select team that trained with and against the 2019 national team during its preparations for the 2019 FIBA World Cup.
Young played as a youth for the United States
The NBA All-Star was a finalist for the USA Olympic team in Tokyo and wanted to play but ultimately was not included on the roster.
"Yes, I'm definitely open to it," Young said to The Athletic, when asked about the World Cup. "I mean, even since I was in high school, it's been my dream as a basketball player. I've tried out multiple times since I've been in high school. There's been a couple of times when I could have been on that team, and it kind of hurt my heart."
USA men's team managing director Grant Hill, who is a minority owner of the Atlanta Hawks and has a good relationship with Young, has spoken to the Hawks ace about being on the USA roster.
"IT'S BEEN MY DREAM AS A BASKETBALL PLAYER (TO PLAY FOR USA)."
"It's exciting, knowing someone who has more of a say," Young said.
Another player firmly on the radar is Bradley Beal, one of the NBA's top players the past several years who has yet to feature at the Olympics or World Cup. Beal, 29, a long-time Washington Wizard, won the 2009 FIBA Americas U16 Championship and the 2010 FIBA U17 World Cup with the USA.
"I definitely see myself playing for USA," Beal told The Athletic. "That's always been a goal of mine, obviously to play in the Olympics, but there's a step to get there (World Cup). So if it's available to me, for sure."
Beal was with the USA preparing to go to Tokyo but could not travel after being placed in the coronavirus health and safety protocols.
Beal was preparing to play in Tokyo but had to enter coronavirus health and safety protocols
"I've never gotten the opportunity to do a World Cup. As long as I'm healthy, injury-free, and there's a place for me on the team, yeah, I'll probably be there in the Philippines," he said.
Budding NBA star Tyrese Maxey, who won the 2018 FIBA Americas U18 Championship and now competes for Philadelphia, says he'd be interesting in being on the team next year.
"I would love to play for the country," Maxey said. "That would be cool. It's always a blessing to represent your country, play with different guys, and go out there and compete."
Another rising star in the NBA that is sure to garner consideration is Darius Garland of the Cleveland Cavaliers. Garland was a member of the 2021 USA Men's Select Team that trained with the U.S. Olympic team. He was also selected to round-out the national team roster for its pre-Olympic friendly games in Las Vegas. He played in all four of the exhibition games.
Garland is a part of an exciting new wave of players in the USA setup
"Representing my country means a lot to me," said Garland. "I've been in USA Basketball since I was 16 and I've never won a gold medal. That's something I really want to do, something I'm going to accomplish."
Yet another up-and-coming talent that probably will receive consideration is another Cleveland Cavalier, center Jarrett Allen.
If Tokyo Olympic gold medal winners like Jayson Tatum, Jrue Holiday, Zach Lavine and veterans like Durant want to play, it's hard to see them not being in the team.
Durant exploded onto the international basketball scene in 2010 when he was World Cup MVP
The World Cup will be the first major event for the country since the departure of Jerry Colangelo as the team's managing director, and of Gregg Popovich as coach. Steve Kerr, an assistant to Popovich with the USA, will serve as head coach.
The FIBA World Ranking, presented by Nike, will serve as notice to the USA that hard games are on the horizon at the World Cup.
The Americans are No. 1 with 760.7 points but Spain are a close second with 758.9 points. Spain won the World Cup in 2019 and recently pulled off a shock win at FIBA EuroBasket 2022 in Berlin.
France, Australia and Argentina are also among the elite and pose real danger for the Americans. France beat the USA in the Quarter-Finals of the last World Cup, and also on opening day at the Olympics.
They are No. 5 in the FIBA Ranking with 712.9 points, behind No 3 Australia (741.1), who were fourth at the World Cup and bronze medal winners in Tokyo. Argentina (736.1) are No. 4, with a runners-up at the 2019 World Cup and a FIBA AmeriCup title this summer in Brazil. Argentina are moving in a positive direction under coach Nestor "Che" Garcia.
No. 6 Serbia (711.5), No. 7 Slovenia (703.5) and an emerging No. 11 Germany (640.6), are also teams the USA will be keeping an eye on because each is capable of winning against any opponent on any given day.