The 2023 FIBA World Cup is now just a few weeks away, and Team USA will be looking to get back on the podium after a disappointing seventh-place finish in the tournament in 2019. Ahead of the event, the Americans will play a series of warm-up games in Spain and the United Arab Emirates.
The first of these pre-World Cup friendlies will be against Luka Doncic and Slovenia on Saturday, and will provide the Americans with their first real test of the summer. This will be an important opportunity for the new teammates to get some minutes under together and build chemistry.
Team USA cruised to a 117-74 victory over Puerto Rico in their first warm-up game for the World Cup, but that was thanks in large part to a massive talent advantage. That won’t be the case this time around, and Slovenia will actually have the best player on the floor in Doncic. While the result of this game doesn’t matter, it will be a big indication of where this team is at heading into the tournament.
There are a lot of young players on this team who will be getting their first taste of serious international basketball, which is a different game from the NBA. It will be interesting to see how they handle that environment against a Slovenian side that has far more experience playing together.
Furthermore, it will be worth watching how the minutes distribution starts to shake out as the contests get more competitive. Save for Josh Hart and Walker Kessler, everyone on the roster played between 10-23 minutes against Puerto Rico. That won’t remain the same as we get closer to the real tournament, and we’ll soon find out who head coach Steve Kerr actually trusts.
This is only an exhibition, so it feels funny making a serious prediction. In any case, we’ll take the Americans to get a narrow win. Doncic can control the action, but at the end of the day the Americans have a deeper, more talented roster than the Slovenians.