The Dream Team might take a hit for the 2019 FIBA World Cup qualifier.
Typically a powerhouse on the international stage, Team USA might be forced to go with D-Leaguers and former NBA players plying their trade overseas as they NBA won’t likely release players when 2019 FIBA World Cup qualification games start in November.
That means names like LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, DeMarcus Cousins and Isaiah Thomas won’t be donning the red-white-and-blue.
Instead, a hodge-podge of D-League All-Stars and former NBA talent in Europe and China — should they be available — will likely comprise the team. Even so, an American team of soon-to-be’s and cast-offs would still be formidable.
We have scoured the D-League, Asia and Europe to cobble together a 12-man (FIBA regulated team size) unit from the U.S. that would likely qualify as part of the 7-team “Americas” contigent that will compete in the 32-team 2019 event in China.
12. PG Jimmer Fredette – Shanghai Sharks
At one time, Fredette was a star at Brigham Young and would be the Milwaukee Bucks first pick, 1oth overall, in the 2011 draft. Still just 28, Fredette has packed a lot of experience into his six seasons a pro. The point guard got in 235 NBA games with four different clubs, including Sacramento (anyone remember Jimmermania?), New Orleans, Chicago and the New York Knicks. He averaged 6.0 points per game, along with 1.4 assists and 38.1 percent shooting from beyond the arc. He last played in the NBA in 2015-16 with the Pelicans and Knicks and then signed a free agent deal with Shanghai of the Chinese Basketball Association. Over the 2016–17 CBA season with the Sharks, Fredette averaged 37.6 points, 8.2 rebounds, 4.2 assists, and 1.6 steals per game, in 38.9 minutes per game, in 41 games played. He was named the CBA’s International Regular Season MVP.
11. PG Quinn Cook – Canton Charge
Never drafted out of Duke, D-League all-star and regular season leading scorer Quinn Cook of the Canton Charge (Dallas Mavericks affiliate), finally got a taste of NBA action this season, playing in five games with the Mavs and then nine games with the New Orleans Pelicans. In 39 games with Canton, the point guard dropped 26.0 points per game, along with 6.7 assists, 1.1 steals, 4.1 rebounds and 37.2 percent shooting from three-point range. The former Blue Devil from Washington, D.C. was decent enough in his two NBA stints this season. He played in 14 games, scoring 5.6 points, 1.9 assists and shot 11-for-26 from beyond the arc (42.3 percent). He has international experience too, having been part of the USA Basketball Men’s Developmental Team at the U-16, U-17 and Junior levels.
10. SG Vander Blue – Los Angeles D-Fenders
Vander Blue is either on the cusp of a NBA breakthrough, or destined to be the best player in D-League or Europe. Just depends on how his career progresses. A standout at Marquette, Blue bypassed his senior year to declare for the 2013 draft, but went un-selected. Since then, it’s been a progression of tryouts with different NBA clubs and five total games — three with Boston in 2013-14 and two with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2014-15. He hasn’t appeared in a NBA contest since then, but has been a three-time D-League all-star and was this season’s MVP. Blue finished third in league scoring with 24.8 points per game and added 5.1 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 1.6 steals and 35.1 percent shooting from three-point range.
9. SF/SG Reggie Williams – Oklahoma City Blue
If an ersatz Team USA needs NBA experience in the back/front court for the FIBA qualifier, Reggie Williams has plenty of it. The Oklahoma City Blue veteran has 206 games to his credit in the big league, the last six with the New Orleans Pelicans this season. Williams has also played for Golden State (104 of his 206 games), Charlotte, San Antonio and for OKC. He has average 7.8 PPG during his time up, as well as 2.4 rebounds and 1.5 assists in limited playing time off the bench. Otherwise, Williams has been something of a global basketball mercenary, making stops in France (JDA Dijon), Spain (Caja Laboral), Philippines (San Miguel Beermen, we love that name) and finally Russia in 2016 (Avtodor Saratov). Williams, who was a two-time NCAA DI scoring leader (2007-08) with VMI, is a two time D-League All-Star.
8. PG/SG Andrew Goudelock – Maccabi Tel Aviv
Playing in the middle east is about as far from the NBA as you can get. Yet, the Israel Premier League, founded in 1954, has 12 teams and has hosted a number of ex-collegiate and pro players from the U.S. One of those is College of Charleston grad and former Los Angeles Laker/Houston Rocket Andrew Goudelock. The Maccabi Tel Aviv team he plays for is the league’s top squad (they have won 51 titles). Goudelock is one of seven Americans on the Maccabi and averaged 16.0 points and 3.1 assists this past season. Prior to playing in Israel, Goudelock also plied his trade in the D-League (where he was MVP with the Sioux Falls Skyforce), Russia (UNICS Kazan), Turkey (Fenerbahce Ulker) and China (Xinjiang Flying Tigers). Goudelock played in 41 games with the Los Angeles Lakers between 2011-12 and 2012-13 (4.4 PPG) and eight games with the Houston Rockets in 2015-16.
7. C Keith Benson – Sioux Falls Skyforce
It’s been a while since 28-year-old center Keith Benson has set foot on NBA hardwood, but that doesn’t mean he’s been idle in the hoops world. A second round pick by the Atlanta Hawks out of Oakland University in 2011, Benson had a three-game cup of coffee with the Golden State Warriors in 2011-12. He’s since cut a swath around the world, playing Italy (Dinamo Sassari), the D-League (lately of the Skyforce, who won the league title in 2016), Russia (Tsmoki-Minsk), China (Shaanxi Xinda) and Lithuania (Neptunas Klaipeda). Benson is a two-time D-League all-star and was the top mid-major DI college player of the year with Oakland University in 2010. He was 11th in D-League scoring this past season with Sioux Falls, scoring 20.5 PPG and adding 10.5 rebounds and 2.2 blocks.
6. C Dakari Johnson – Oklahoma City Blue
At 7’0″, former Kentucky Wildcat Dakari Johnson is hard to miss. However, he did play in the enormous shadows of Karl-Anthony Towns and Willie Cauley-Stein at UK and has yet to come out from under. Johnson, who apprenticed under Towns and Cauley-Stein, decided to forego his final two years of college eligibility in 2015 and declare for the NBA draft. He was taken 48th overall by the Oklahoma City Thunder and has yet to play with the big club. Johnson has been a good soldier with the D-League Blue, making the all D-League First Team this year and the All-Rookie Team in 2016. He poured in 18.5 points per game (49 games) with the Blue in 2016-17, along with 7.9 rebounds, 2.2 assists an 1.3 blocks.
5. F Alex Poythress – Fort Wayne Mad Ants
As of today, former Kentucky Wildcats forward Alex Poythress is under contract to the Philadelphia 76ers after a late season emergency call-up. He went undrafted after his senior season in 2016 and had two failed tryouts with the Orlando Magic and Indiana Pacers before signing with Fort Wayne (Indiana’s D-League affiliate). In his first D-League season, Poythress was an all-star, made the All-Rookie Team and the D-League Second Team. He scored 18.5 points per game, grabbed 7.1 rebounds and shot over 40 percent from beyond the arc. During his call-up to the Sixers, Poythress averaged 26.2 minutes in six contests, scoring 10.7 points and adding 4.8 rebounds.
4. F Chris Singleton – Panathinaikos Athens
Singleton is one of those former first round picks who just failed to stick it out in the NBA, but forge a new path overseas. A star at Florida State (he was ACC Defensive Player of the Year in 2011), Singleton declared for the draft after his junior season and was taken 18th overall by the Washington Wizards in 2011. The 6’8″ small forward was predominantly a starter in his rookie season, playing 21.7 minutes per game in 66 contests, averaging 4.6 points and 3.5 rebounds. Over the next two seasons, Singletons playing time with the Wizards diminished and after 82 more games he was out of the league. He played in Russia and China before settling in with Greek side Panathinaikos last year. Singleton started 29 of 33 games for the Euroleague powerhouse, averaging 12 points and 5.9 rebounds.
3. C/F Andray Blatche – Xinjiang Flying Tigers
If Team USA needed some former star power and veteran savvy, they could look no further than former Wizards and Nets center/power forward Andray Blatche. A second round (49th overall) pick of the Wizards in 2005, Blatche would play 564 games in the NBA (191 starts) and average 10.1 points per game and 5.4 rebounds. In 2014, after two seasons as a back-up center with the Brooklyn Nets, Blatche opted out of his contract to sign with champion Chinese side Xinjiang, where he has been a star. In 37 games with the Flying Tigers this past season, Blatche scored 22.5 points per game, good for second on the team to Darius Adams. The native of Syracuse also led the Tigers in rebounds with 10.4 and was second in blocks with 1.5 per game. The only obstacle to Blatche participating is convincing him to play for the U.S., instead of the Philippines (which is a head-scratcher).
2. F Josh Smith – Sichuan Blue Whales
For pure razzle-dazzle, the US Team could recruit J-Smoove, a veteran of 891 NBA games and the 2005 NBA Slam Dunk Contest champion. Josh Smith, currently with the Sichuan Blue Whales of the Chinese Basketball Association, played with four different teams in the NBA, the majority of his 891 contests spent with the Atlanta Hawks (676). He was a starter for 772 games and averaged 14.6 points, 7.5 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.2 steals and 1.9 blocks. He made the All-Defensive Second Team in 2010 and was named to the All-Rookie Second Team in 2005. Smith played in the NBA until late last season with Houston, before signing a three-month contract with Sichuan. The former NBA first round pick played in 26 games, leaving the Blue Whales in January. In 26 games he averaged 18.8 points, 10.6 rebounds and 2.0 blocks, all while making just one start.
1. C/PF Amar’e Stoudemire – Hapoel Jerusalem
Team USA, should they not have NBAers at their disposal for the FIBA 2019 qualifier in November, will need a captain and face of the team. No better player then, in that role, than six-time NBA all-star Amar’e Stoudemire. He would be the old man of the team at 34 and if Hapoel was to give him time off (he’s on a two-year contract) he’s a shoo-in to lead them as well. Stoudemire retired from the NBA after 52 games with Miami in 2015-16. In 846 NBA games the center/power forward averaged 18.9 points, 7.8 rebounds and 1.2 blocks. He has international experience with the U.S. too, having won a bronze with the Dream Team at the Olympic Games in Athens in 2004 and a gold with Team USA at the FIBA Americas Championship in 2007. Stoudemire played 21 games for Hapoel this past season, scoring 10.4 points per game along with 5.9 rebounds.