Why You Shouldn't Back Team USA To Win FIBA World Cup

Although Team USA should be the favorite to win the FIBA World Cup, the bookmakers are offering a steep price to cash in on their success. The brand name and public money has diminished any value that existed on backing Team USA. With odds hovering around -300, the bookmakers have insulated themselves from liability on the favorites and forced punters to look at other options in order to make a + EV wager. A dirty little secret that most Americans don’t want to acknowledge is that the level of play in European professional leagues has surpassed the the NCAA, and is preparing European players for the NBA in ways we couldn’t have imagined when Herve Durbisson first suited up for the New Jersey Nets in 1984. European professional leagues also use a set of rules much more similar to the rules that will be in place for the FIBA World Cup.

Lets look at the withdrawals from Team USA.

  • Bradley Beal
  • Anthony Davis
  • Eric Gordon
  • James Harden
  • Tobias Harris
  • Damian Lillard
  • Kevin Love
  • CJ McCollum
  • Paul Millsap
  • Montrezl Harrel
  • JJ Redick
  • Zion Williamson

Wow. That is a formidable roster. With the grueling schedule an NBA player endures its not that surprising, and after a couple withdrawals the dominos started to fall. As of now, here is the current Team USA roster:

  • Jaylen Brown
  • Mason Plumlee
  • Julius Randle
  • Marcus Smart
  • Thaddeus Young
  • Harrison Barnes
  • Andre Drummond
  • Kyle Kuzma
  • Brook Lopez
  • Kyle Lowry
  • Khris Middleton
  • Donovan Mitchell
  • Jayson Tatum
  • PJ Tucker
  • Myles Turner
  • Kemba Walker
  • Bam Adebayo

This is still a pretty good squad. What I like about this team is its ability to play defense. Going down this list you see very few defensive liabilities. But how will they adapt to the major differences in international play?

– Shorter Duration: Playing 40 mins instead of 48 gives more chance of an upset because the less talented team has to play above their usual level for less time. Team USA players might be discontent with their playing time because there are fewer minutes to allocate.

– Fouls: Teams go into the bonus at 5 fouls instead of 6. Technicals and offensive fouls apply to this total. Team USA might inadvertently find itself in the bonus on defense quite often.

– Shorter 3 pt line: The less talented shooters benefit from the fact the 3 pt line is shorter. It allows more players to be 3 pt threats, some of whom would see their output drop significantly with the NBA 3 pt distance.

– No Basket Interference or 3 second violations: Rudy Gobert of France has the most to gain by these rules. He can grab more rebounds, score more putbacks, and protect the rim with impunity.

With this squad I do think the USA is vulnerable. They could have problems finding a rhythm together on offense, unlike the other teams who have more consistent rosters and spend much more practice time together. On paper this team can defend well, but they will be much more prone to effort issues if things aren’t going well. As demonstrated by the withdrawals, the USA isn’t that interested in success at the international level like the other countries. Malaise could set in if this team hits a rough patch. Finding an offensive pecking order could be an issue as well on a team filled with guys used to being at least the second or third option. How shot attempts are distributed will be a challenge for head coach Jeff van Gundy. Now this is a good squad, and rightfully the favorite to win this tournament. But does Team USA winning happen at the >75% rate that the -300 price requires? I don’t think so. There are too many variables to sway outcomes and the rest of the world puts out vastly superior squads than they used to. The days of team USA just sending any random group of players and winning are over(USA used to send college only teams until 1992, the loss in 1988 led to the petitioning of allowing professional athletes to be Olympic eligible).

Lets look at some other options to make a smart play when the FIBA World Cup starts on August 31.

Serbia is the second favorite at +500. This competition is very meaningful for the Serbs, unlike the USA where the FIBA World Cup gets little to no attention from the media. Serbia will suit up 6 NBA players in Milos Teodosic, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Marko Guduric, Nemanja Bejilica, Boban Marjanovic, and Nikola Jokic. Jokic is an All Star who’s passing and shooting touch has been a joy to watch as he has emerged these last couple years. Teodosic also is a wizard with the ball, making beautiful passes and displaying superior court vision. Serbia has the talent to beat Team USA, and Jokic could be the best player on the floor in a matchup with Team USA (depending how you rate Kemba Walker, Donovan Mitchell and Jayson Tatum). An interesting fact is that no Serbian player is less than 6’5″. Serbia is in Group D and should advance ahead of Angola, Italy, and the Philippines.

Spain comes in at juicy +1600. They feature NBA players Rudy Fernandez, Marc Gasol, the Hernangomez brothers, and Ricky Rubio. Spain finished 5th in the FIBA World Cup in 2014, sweeping the group play and losing to France in the quarterfinals. Spain is strong at PG and C but might have problems on the wing. Marc Gasol is solid defensively, especially at the international level where he isn’t as vulnerable to pick and roll. Rubio is fantastic player on the international stage as his pass first mentality lends itself more to the international style of play. For a team this solid, which has enjoyed international success before, I think that +1600 is a very interesting number. If they do meet up with Team USA, my biggest concern would be vulnerability on the wings. Spain would need Gasol to have a huge game to win. Spain is in a fairly easy Group C which also contains Puerto Rico, Iran and Tunisia.

Greece can be had for the tempting +2500, but could have depth issues. No squad screams “One Man Team’ as much as this Greek team. If you are to be a one man team, I can’t think of a better player to be that one man than Giannis Antetokounmpo. I expect Giannis to be virtually unstoppable on the international stage and he should feast at the rim. It is hard to see a matchup for him in this pool that he won’t be able to exploit. He should be the center of attention this tournament and I expect him to take advantage. Look for a big tournament from a motivated Giannis who really wants to excel here. He can impact any area of the game and his versatility will be great weapon for the Greeks. “Whether I play the 1(point guard) or the 5(center), I don’t care,” Antetokounmpo said. “I’m a basketball player. I want to help the team any way I can.” In a matchup with Team USA, Giannis will definitely be the best player on the floor, which will be crucial late in the game if the game is close. One drawback is Greece has a fairly tough group compared to our 2 teams already discussed. Group F contains Greece, New Zealand, Brazil, and Montenegro. Brazil has talent and does well in international play, while New Zealand has the services of Steven Adams and many members of their quickly improving pro league. So I think Greece has a much tougher group than Serbia or Spain, giving us some value here running the number up to +2500.

France is +3400 and they bring a lot of NBA talent to the tournament. Led by Defensive player of the year Rudy Gobert, they also have Evan Fournier, Nic Batum, and Frank Nkitilina. France won EuroBasket in 2013 and in 2014 FIBA World Cup they placed third. They have been streaky in international play. I really like the way this team is constructed with one huge talent at the point, wing, and center. In a matchup with Team USA I would worry about depth with Team USA being able to extend their leads when France’s stars rest on the bench. They will definitely need a strong showing from their second unit, but this team is balanced and could rely on Rudy defensively to throw off the USA offense and create transition opportunities. This balance makes them very formidable and I expect them to advance out of Group G ahead of the Dominican Republic, Jordan, and Germany.

Australia is a fun team, they have a team name and logo. They are the Australia Boomers. They have Aron Baynes, Andrew Bogut, Matthew Dellavadova, Joe Ingles, and Patty Mills. Thats a pretty good squad to get at +4000. Mills does well in the international style and Joe Ingles has a great skillset for the international game. Australia has shooting, size, and toughness and will be a tough out for any team in this tourney. In fact, because of their physical presence I would guess that they are the team that Team USA wants to play least. Playing against Australia will be a grueling game and could wear out a team. I might be looking to fade a team that beats Australia later in the tournament due to how tough a game it will be. In a matchup with Team USA, Australia will need a great shooting night from Ingles and for Baynes, Bogut, and Delly to wear out Team USA with their physical play. Australia is in the challenging Group H with Canada, Lithuania and Senegal.

Canada has a very intriguing squad. Led by NBA champion coach Nick Nurse, Canada fields a squad featuring RJ Barrett, Shai Gilgeous Alexander, and Jamal Murray. Providing NBA caliber depth is Cory Joseph, Dillon Brooks, Nik Stauskas, Trey Lyles and Kelly Olynk. At +5000 this is a great price for the talent on this squad. I’m really intrigued to see how RJ Barrett looks out there, and if he lives up to his potential this could be a dangerous team. Canada has great balance and great coaching. To beat Team USA they would need big nights from Jamal Murray and RJ Barrett but that is definitely a possibility. I really want to see Nurse on the international stage as a good showing here would really cement his reputation as a top coach. I think the reason you get +5000 is they are grouped up with the formidable Australia in Group H but with two teams advancing per group I expect them to advance. They are my dark horse candidate to win the FIBA World Cup and at +5000 I think they provide the most +EV bet you can make.

Betting Tips:

  • Any prop giving “Not USA to win the FIBA World Cup” at +250 or better
  • Canada at +5000