Jeff Van Gundy’s “Not so Dream Team” is on a mission, again

Official windows for World Cup qualifying games will open on November 23, and that means we will see the best of… Well, unfortunately we will see the best of the rest, because FIBA chaotic calendar left basketball fans all over the world without NBA stars and much of Euroleague finest, also. While this is a separate and problematic topic to discuss, we will concentrate on what we actually have now. More specifically, what we should expect from one particular national team, which captured 15 Olympic and 5 World Cup golds.

As we have already mentioned, there will not be a single NBA player on any team, and American squad is no exception. Some of the best on European soil were available in theory, but federation decided to use G-League products. Some of them are very familiar to one lonely star in red and blue, none other than Jeff Van Gundy.

Celebrated basketball coach and analyst started his victorious campaign in late August, when American NT was set to face continental rivals for the first time in a decade. At that time, new FIBA qualifying rules had been already installed, and even win in any continental cup would not have granted any team tickets to China in 2019. The effect was stunning. 2017 AmeriCup might be fairly considered one of the most starless competitions in history of American continent.

Faces of the most decorated national team in history of the sport have changed dramatically, even in comparison with Rio Olympics. From Carmelo Anthony to Kendall Marshall, from Kevin Durant to Reggie Williams, from DeMarcus Cousins to Marshall Plumlee. Van Gundy was even forced to use two “Europeans”, Alec Brown and Billy Baron. The rest of the squad was represented by young G-leaguers.

Not really good for a championship team? Well, while that was maybe the 50th best possible roster, that Americans could have put on the map, it was still better than most of their rivals. With the exception of Argentina, of course. No, they didn`t have Manu Ginobili, and Luis Scola has been an injured spectator for the whole tournament. But it was solid mix of players from Argentine league and guys based in Europe, led by Facundo Campazzo and Nicolas Laprovittola.

That was still not enough to beat Van Gundy team, and continental gold for the seventh time went to the US. The most important thing in this story, is that five of twelve “Golden boys” will be available for un upcoming window. Yeah, five, because Jonathan Holmes was called by “the office” and will replace injured Jarell Eddie. So, at least, there is already a continuity of success.

The others from championship roster are Larry Drew II, Reggie Hearn, Xavier Munford and MVP of the tournament, Jameel Warney. All of them are safe and sound, and have already showed up with respectable numbers in the G-League. Drew has almost 10 assists per game and only perfect form of Josh Magette prevents him from leading the league in this category. Munford hit 25 PPG benchmark and now is 7th best scorer. Jameel Warney is still the double-double machine and only one of six players to average double-digits in points and rebounds.

The rest of the crew might be even more familiar to an average fan. Elijah Millsap has been in and out of the NBA seems like forever. Markel Brown spent last season in Russia and played alongside Alexey Shved with Khimki. Another former NBAer Donald Sloan tried his luck in China, while most minutes in the NBA last season definitely belong to Semaj Christon.

Final three guys are no strangers even to a larger audience, especially to college geeks. Travis Wear (UCLA), Amile Jefferson (Duke) and Kennedy Meeks (North Carolina) were playing for big colleges. Wear in particular, already has European stint under his belt with solid Bilbao club.

Still sounds and reads unimpressive? As you already know, “nonamish” issues are not exclusively related to USA squad. The same rule applies to every future opponent of Americans. And frankly, Cubans, Puerto Ricans and Mexicans are not carrying too much threat. As well as Canadians and other notable bands down the road. There are six direct bids in American zone, so it will be almost impossible for Van Gundy lads not to qualify.

As for us, spectators, fans and enthusiasts, this qualifying circle would be one weird journey. While overall list of 32 World Cup finalists should be familiar, including, of course the Dream Team full of stars, the level of qualifying competition will be seriously hurt by absence of many greats. And that is really it. Will FIBA learn the obvious lesson? Only time will tell.