Team USA has put its second of four exhibition games to bed, beating Australia 102-86 in Melbourne on Thursday. The red, white, and blue has come in with a mission to quickly progress in terms of play and chemistry, given the vast experience disadvantage in the wake of a roster full of young faces.
Judging by this recent tilt against the Boomers, here is a grade for each player, as they progress through the last few days before making a trip to China for the 2019 FIBA World Cup.
(PG) Kemba Walker: A-
Walker got off to a slow start, putting up only seven points in the first half, but to his credit, he turned it up in the second half, scoring 16 of his 23 points to pace the Americans. The Boston Celtics new acquisition wasn’t particularly effective from the field, hitting only 9-of-22 from the floor, but he was a strong collaborator on the boards, as three of this six boards came on the offensive glass.
The 6-foot-1 dynamo pushed the pace with his change of speed and swift handles, keeping the Australian backcourt of Patty Mills and Matthew Dellavedova on their toes. Zero turnovers from a point guard will always get an A on my gradebook.
(SG) Donovan Mitchell: B
Donovan Mitchell highlights: 🇺🇸 vs. 🇦🇺. DM finished with 13 pts (6/15), 3 assists, 2 steals, 1 block, & +25 (+/-). pic.twitter.com/OxC1HPJL65
— Jake Lee (@jacobrexlee) August 22, 2019
Mitchell once again struggled forcing the action, racking up four turnovers in 25 minutes of play. He scored 13 points on 15 shots, only one of them coming from deep. He did however have solid defensive contributions with two steals and a resounding block on supersub Chris Goulding, which Kyle Kuzma would unfortunately tip back into his own basket.
While he wasn’t at his sharpest shooting the ball, his second-best plus-24 line for this game tells the story a lot better than his stats do, as he does a lot more activity-wise than his numbers let on.
(SF) Jaylen Brown: C
Brown played with intensity, making the most of his 20 minutes on the floor to put up 11 points and six rebounds. Didn’t show a ton of versatility, but he had a good showing, proving he can be trusted with solid minutes.
(PF) Joe Harris: C+
The Brooklyn Nets sharpshooter scored only five points, but that didn’t keep him from having a strong impact in the game. Harris has shown that he can pass, rebound, and defend at this level and that should only bode well for him as the final cut approaches in the next few days.
(C) Myles Turner: A
Myles Turner using the pump fake to get his defender in the air then hits a pull-up J? Holy shit, Turner may have gotten his offensive game down. pic.twitter.com/Okr6QJd8zX
— Kory Waldron (@KWalHoops) August 22, 2019
Perhaps the most unsung hero due to his subpar usage in this game. Turner was everything coach Gregg Popovich could want him to be, posting a strong 15-point, 14-rebound double-double in a mere 19 minutes of action. The Indiana Pacers center even sprinkled a 3-pointer in a 6-of-8 shooting night for good measure, being that strong presence on the glass this team needed against a fast-crashing Australia team.
Kyle Kuzma: B+
— NBA (@NBA) August 22, 2019
Made the most of his minutes, canning 4-of-5 from beyond the arc as a spread four-man, showing off a beautiful stroke that the Americans will need once competition starts early next month. Strong showing from a player that’s hoping to get vital minutes in competition from coach Popovich.
Jayson Tatum: A-
— NBA (@NBA) August 22, 2019
Versatile upon playing the role of sixth man in this game. Tatum is undoubtedly a starting-quality player for Team USA, but it’s encouraging to know he can also thrive coming off the bench, as Popovich has never been shy of tinkering with his lineups. His 11 points, three rebounds, four assists, and a steal are the combo platter many looked to see from the talented third-year player.
Middleton did plenty of ball-handling on the open court and sprinkled a decent five points, three rebounds, and two assists through his brief 13 minutes on the floor. He’ll be able to show more if he starts the next game on Saturday.
Harrison Barnes: D
Barnes had three points, three rebounds and one assist in 13 minutes of play and while he drew plenty of fouls, his shot simply wasn’t there on Thursday night.
Pop didn’t need to give Plumlee too much of a run to know what he’s getting with him. The Denver Nuggets center is used to coming off the bench and actually logged more minutes than Brook Lopez, posting two points, four rebounds, and a steal in 10 minutes of play. Strong outing.
Team USA did well against a very physical Australian team and that showed mainly in a sound 54-36 rebounding advantage. They shot the ball well from the field (48%) just as they did against Spain last week and continued a sharpshooting streak from beyond the arc by canning 13-of-30 shots (43%).
Perhaps their most notable improvement is in the turnover area, as they only committed 13 giveaways — 10 less than they did against Spain on Friday. However chemistry issues are still a very important matter, as they only assisted on 18 of their 41 made baskets. This was due to Walker, Mitchell, and others excelling in their one-on-one encounters and aggressively attacking on the pick-and-roll, but Team USA will need to show a higher level of playmaking to get through European giants like Serbia and France, who love to pressure the ball.
All in all, it was a convincing showing from a team that is slowly coming together and hoping to prove they are strong contenders for that gold medal that awaits in China.
Derrick White only received 2 minutes and 30 seconds of garbage time at the end of the game after being used plenty in the previous game against Spain.
Marcus Smart was a DNP for the third straight game due to a calf injury, despite rejoining the team in practice earlier this week. While this is probably a precautionary measure, he has now missed the White vs. Blue scrimmage, Friday’s game against Spain, and the first of two games against Australia — putting him at risk of being that final cut as Popovich prepares to finalize his 12-man roster.