Team USA Could Have Used an Offensive Weapon Like Zach LaVine ... But He Wasn't Invited

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Team USA Could Have Used an Offensive Weapon Like Zach LaVine … But He Wasn’t Invited

Chicago Bulls

After one of the worst showings in over a decade, the lackluster Team USA squad walked out of the 2019 FIBA World Cup with a 7th place finish. And unfortunatly (but obviously) you can thank less-than-perfect roster construction for that.

As you well know by now, a handful of top-NBA talent opted to stay in the states this summer, most claiming they wanted to turn focus toward the upcoming season. And with a number of players otherwise dropping out along the way, roster spots opened up and more invites were sent out …

… none of which ever reached Zach LaVine.

Indeed it almost felt like a waiting game to see if the team would finally look toward the Bulls guard. After all, he did average 23.7 ppg with 4.5 assists and 4.7 rebounds last season. However, as Darnell Mayberry confirmes in his latest piece with The Athletic, LaVine didn’t receive an invite from USA Basketball. And meanwhile, guards like Derrick White and Joe Harris did. I’m here to say Team USA could have used an offensive weapon like Zach LaVine.

If you look at the five guards on the roster, LaVine posted the second-best 2018-19 NBA stat line.

Take a look:

  • Kemba Walker: 25.6 ppg, 4.4 reb, 5.9 ast
  • Donovan Mitchell: 23.8 ppg, 4.1 reb, 4.2 ast
  • Joe Harris: 13.7 ppg, 3.8 reb, 2.4 ast
  • Derrick White: 9.9 ppg, 3.7 reb, 3.9 ast
  • Marcus Smart: 8.9 ppg, 2.9 reb, 4.0 ast

LaVine had roughly an identical stat line to Mitchell, with a tad better assist and rebounding number, yet no invite. LaVine also shot better from three-point range (37.4 percent) than all other Team USA guards except Harris (who was above and beyond the best with 47.4 percent).

I know LaVine hasn’t been the benefactor of a winning franchise, but this isn’t the All-Star game. If the NBA’s top-players committed to the team, we wouldn’t be having this conversation, but with the number of names dropping out, it’s almost ludicrous to think LaVine wasn’t even asked. And in hindsight, I wouldn’t be surprised if Team USA regrets the decision.

As the tournament went on, the team lacked sheer offensive explosiveness, especially with the injury to Jayson Tatum and mysterious departure of De’Aaron Fox before the team arrived in China. Team USA struggled in the 4th quarter in both their losses, where the lack of a true clutch player was evident. And, no, I’m not counting the OT win against Turkey as “clutch.” The American’s didn’t win that game, the Turkish lost it.

In the game against France, they were outscored 13-26 in the final quarter. As for the loss to Serbia, Team USA was only down 71-68 and the end of the third quarter, but failed to make up the deficit and lost 94-89. Ah, interestingly enough, I know someone who did pretty darn well when the game was on the line.

Again, I’ll reiterate, if Team USA was filled with its normal top-of-the-line talent, LaVine not receiving an invite really wouldn’t even be worth discussion. But considering the situation, this kind of only emphasizes the lack of respect for LaVine around the league.

(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)


Author: Elias Schuster

Elias Schuster is the Lead Bulls Writer at Bleacher Nation. You can follow him on Twitter @Schuster_Elias.