Kyle Kuzma leaves Team USA with ankle injury, finalizing roster at 12

Ben WeinribYahoo Sports Contributor
Yahoo Sports

Team USA dropped its first game against international competition in 13 years early Saturday morning, and now they're adding injury to insult.

The ankle malady that kept Los Angeles Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma out of Saturday’s 98-94 loss to Australia — which ended a 78-game international winning streak and 66-game winning streak against Australia — will keep him out of the FIBA World Cup.

Kuzma played in Thursday’s exhibition win over Australia and scored 12 points on 4-of-5 shooting from beyond the arc. However his ankle felt sore after the game, and team officials kept him out of Saturday's embarrassing loss.

Team USA announced that Kuzma would be the final cut, setting its roster at 12 before its first game against the Czech Republic on Sept. 1.

Who is still on Team USA?

Believe it or not, Team USA was once supposed to be filled with All-Star and even All-NBA players. But in the last six weeks, 19 different players have withdrawn to focus on the upcoming season or recover from injuries.

That list includes: Anthony Davis, James Harden, Bradley Beal, Tobias Harris, Damian Lillard, Kevin Love, CJ McCollum, Eric Gordon, Paul Millsap, Andre Drummond, (deep breath) Montrezl Harrell, Julius Randle, Thaddeus Young, Bam Adebayo, Marvin Bagley III, (another deep breath) Kyle Lowry, P.J. Tucker, De'Aaron Fox, and now Kuzma.

However, team USA is still filled with far more NBA players — and far more star players — than any other nation competing in the FIBA World Cup. Here’s the breakdown by position:

Guards: Joe Harris, Donovan Mitchell, Marcus Smart, Kemba Walker and Derrick White.

Wings: Harrison Barnes, Jaylen Brown, Khris Middleton and Jayson Tatum.

Centers: Brook Lopez, Mason Plumlee and Myles Turner.

Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma is the latest player to leave Team USA with an injury. (Photo by Kelly Defina/Getty Images)
Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma is the latest player to leave Team USA with an injury. (Photo by Kelly Defina/Getty Images)

Which countries are the biggest threat to Team USA?

Australia is clearly not to be taken lightly, as evidenced by the win over the United States.

But the biggest threats to Team USA remain Spain and Serbia. With Marc Gasol, Ricky Rubio, Rudy Fernandez and Willy Hernangomez, Spain is the second-ranked team in the world after the Americans. The good news, though, is that they already dispatched of the Spaniards in an exhibition one week ago.

Serbia represents a relatively new threat with Denver Nuggets star Nikola Jokic leading the way. They’ll have plenty of size with fellow NBA-ers Boban Marjanovic, Bogdan Bogdanovic and Nemanja Bjelica rounding out the major contributors.

One long-shot team to look out for is Greece, which is led by the best player in the tournament: Giannis Antetokounmpo. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have much depth behind him. Former lottery pick Georgios Papagiannis and a few other late draft picks are on the roster, but they won’t be likely to medal.

Even without the usual star power, Team USA will still be favored to win the FIBA World Cup. And even if they don’t, they only need to be one of the top-two finishers among teams from Americas to qualify for the Olympics. And if they fail to do that, they will have a chance to make it as a wild card in the 2020 FIBA World Olympic Qualifying Tournament.

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