Utah Jazz star Donovan Mitchell has already expressed interest in playing for Team USA in the 2020 Olympics, where he’d be joined by the recently committed Damian Lillard and Steph Curry.
Make no mistake about it, the end result for Team USA in the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup was a disappointing one. A team that was considered vulnerable from the onset due to a mass departure of some of the country’s top talent, which resulted in an oddly constructed roster, ended up losing in the quarter-finals to France then subsequently to Serbia en route to a seventh place finish.
That finish at the seven-spot is the lowest ever for the US team in a FIBA World Cup or World Championship. Regardless of who was or wasn’t on the roster, that’s a tough pill to swallow.
Nevertheless, one of the undeniable bright points for the team was Utah Jazz star Donovan Mitchell, who showed out in a number of ways. He was both the team’s second-leading scorer and second-leading assist man, trailing only Kemba Walker in both categories. Despite the less than ideal finish for Team USA, Donovan still raved about his experience playing for the American squad:
"“For me, this is an amazing experience. Everybody likes to look at the end goal, but when you sit back and reflect, I played on Team USA. That’s incredible for me. I think that in itself is amazing. So yes, it was definitely worth it.”"
No doubt Mitchell gained invaluable experience playing under Coach Pop and learning from some of his fellow peers, many of which are aspiring stars such as himself.
After playing in FIBA competition, Mitchell also made it clear that he hopes to play in the 2020 Olympics as well. He definitively stated: “I want to be there.”
However, Mitchell may very well face stiffer competition if he hopes to qualify for the Team USA Olympic roster next summer. Although several players passed or back out from the opportunity to play in the less prestigious FIBA World Cup tournament, the Olympics are an event that players will assuredly be more willing to suit up for. In fact, two marquee players have already expressed such interest.
Those two guys I speak of are Stephen Curry and Damian Lillard, two of the best point guards in the NBA. Speaking to ESPN’s Rachel Nichols, Curry stated, “That is the plan, for sure” referring to the Olympics, whereas Lillard told News.com.au’s James McKern, “I plan on being a part of that. I plan on playing.”
Both Curry and Lillard represent upgrades over any player that was in action for Team USA this past summer. And while both are point guards, thus shouldn’t affect Mitchell in terms of direct positional competition, it’s entirely possible that other guards will follow suit in wanting to play for the American team in the Olympics which could make things crowded for Mitchell.
If the likes of Bradley Beal, CJ McCollum and James Harden, among others, also want to join the ranks, USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo, who recently stated that the FIBA result “will bother [him] until the 2020 Olympics”, could be in for a tough decision. After all, that’s a lot of guards to try to fit on a roster that will also need more effective size than this year’s version had.
However, as was recently pointed out by my J-Notes colleague Ryan Aston, Colangelo also noted that he will remember the guys who chose to represent the country in FIBA and that he already views some of them as a lock for the Olympic team. It would stand to reason that Mitchell, who was considered by many to be Team USA’s top player this summer, would be one of those guys.
Therefore, expect Mitchell to be suiting up for his country yet again next summer, but this time on the brighter stage of the Olympics in Tokyo. And this time around, Mitchell should very well find himself with a far more dynamic and talented roster. Utah Jazz fans have long salivated over the mere thought of Donovan sharing a backcourt with Damian Lillard, and they could very well get that in the 2020 Olympics.
Seeing him share the floor with Steph Curry would be a fun sight to behold as well. Draymond Green is another player who has already expressed his commitment to suit up with Team USA next year, so expect other big-name players to soon follow suit, which should be an encouraging sign after the disappointing events of FIBA.
It’s great to hear Mitchell rave about the experience, and even better to know that he has an excellent shot to be a part of the team next summer that will boast a far more prolific group of guys. Mitchell tasted bitter defeat with Team USA in his first outing, but I expect he’ll get to play a significant role in redeeming that seventh-place finish once Olympic competition gets underway.