4 Team USA men’s basketball takeaways after debut ahead of 2024 Paris Olympics

The United States has dominated men’s basketball at the Olympics since it began using pros starting with The Dream Team in the 1992 Barcelona games. For the first time, it feels like the program’s supremacy is being challenged. After an embarrassing fourth place finish at last year’s FIBA World Cup, Team USA called in its best and brightest stars for the 2024 Paris Olympics. With the rest of the world catching up, USA Basketball is out to prove it still sets the standard.

LeBron James is back on the roster after sitting out the Tokyo Games in the last summer Olympics. Stephen Curry is playing in the Olympics for the first time in his career. Kevin Durant, Anthony Davis, and Jrue Holiday are back in the mix, while Joel Embiid joined the team for the first time after becoming a U.S. citizen two years ago. This team is going to be must-see TV, and they finally took the court together during Wednesday night’s opening exhibition against Canada.

The U.S. beat Canada, 86-72, in the first tune-up for the Paris games. Against a team loaded with NBA talent and expected to be the United States’ biggest competition for gold, the Americans showed how good they can be at their best, while also hinting at where they need to improve. Here’s what we learned from first exhibition game from the 2024 men’s USA Basketball team.

Joel Embiid needs to adjust to FIBA play

Embiid’s inclusion on Team USA was arguably the biggest piece of news in building the roster. The U.S. needed another big man to handle the physicality of FIBA play, and Embiid picked the American side over his native Cameroon and France. The thought was that securing Embiid’s commitment made Team USA an overwhelming favorite for gold … but it’s clear he still needs to work out the kinks, both in terms of FIBA rules and his own role on the team.

Embiid fouled out midway through the third quarter with just five points and six rebounds. The 30-year-old center is used to being the focal point of his team, but that’s not happening on this roster. Instead, Team USA needs Embiid to defend the rim, rebound, set hard screens, and finish when he gets a mismatch. What it doesn’t need is Embiid trying to grift for fouls the same way he does in the NBA, because that doesn’t work in FIBA play. It’s going to be an adjustment.

Embiid was struggling to score against Canadian center Dwight Powell all night. At one point, he appeared to hit him with an elbow out of frustration.

No one gets to the foul line more than Embiid in the NBA. He’s not going to get those same calls in the Olympics, and he’s not going to get the volume of touches he wants, either.

Fortunately for Embiid, this was only the first exhibition game. He has plenty of time to improve from here.

It’s amazing watching LeBron James and Stephen Curry as teammates

LeBron James and Stephen Curry are the defining NBA stars of their generation. We’ve never seen them as teammates in a competitive setting (the All-Star Game doesn’t count) until now. The results are already incredible.

Curry finished with 12 points in the win, while James ended with seven points, five rebounds, three assists, and three steals. The connection between two all-time legends will be the most thrilling subplot to watch on Team USA in Paris.

The 2-big lineups with Anthony Davis and Bam Adebayo are fascinating

You rarely see two non-shooting bigs sharing the floor together in the NBA, but it’s a more palatable strategy in FIBA play due to the small court and allowance for more physicality. USA head coach Steve Kerr experimented with playing Anthony Davis and Bam Adebayo together in the first exhibition, and the results were devastating for Canada’s offense.

Davis and Adebayo both offer so much ground coverage on the perimeter, while also being able to protect the rim and provide a physical barrier in the paint. While the U.S. halfcourt offense might get clunky with both sharing the floor together, the opportunity for transition run outs after defensive stops is going to be immense.

Talented big men gave the Americans major issues in the last two FIBA World Cup competitions. The U.S. finally has an antidote to that this time around, and it’s not just Embiid. Bam and AD will play a big role on this team.

Team USA’s depth is unreal

Is this the strongest 12-man roster USA Basketball has ever brought to the Olympics? It might be. Team USA is bringing legitimate MVP candidates off the bench in Paris, and they should be able to overwhelm opponents with fresh legs in a smaller role.

Anthony Edwards was the Americans’ leading scorer in the win over Canada with 13 points off the bench. He’d be the best or second best player on every other team in the field. On Team USA, he’s just another weapon.

Jayson Tatum was just the best player on an NBA championship team with the Celtics. It seems like he’s going to come off the bench in the Olympics, and that’s an amazing luxury to have.

Team USA opens the 2024 Paris Olympics on July 28 against Nikola Jokic and Serbia. This team is going to be so much fun to watch.

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