Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr had a strong talent pool of players for the USA’s World Cup campaign, but not one without flaws as their recent disappointment at the tournament bore true yet again.
The USA failed to win a medal for the second-straight World Cup, falling to Germany in the Semi-Final before Canada got the better of them in an overtime thriller in the Bronze Medal game. In both outings the USA’s defensive issues were on full display, with the team allowing 113 and 127 points in the surprising losses.
Will Steve Kerr urge the Golden State Warriors front office not to repeat the errors of Team USA, or is it more about his own coaching philosophies?
Speaking after the loss to Canada on Sunday, where Warrior villain Dillon Brooks poured in 39 points, four rebounds and five assists, Kerr put the blame squarely on the defensive side of the ball.
"“We just didn’t defend well enough against Germany or against Canada, and that’s the bottom line,” Kerr told ESPN’s Brian Windhorst. “Every year when you try to build a team, you try to build the best two-way team you can and be able to get stops and score, and everybody’s trying to do that.”"
So, how much was Kerr to blame for the USA’s defensive struggles in the final two games, or was it simply a product of the obvious issues with the roster that was constructed? It most certainly involves elements of both.
The USA’s big man department immediately looked thin heading into the tournament. Jaren Jackson Jr. was shoehorned as the starting center, that despite the fact he won Defensive Player of the Year last season as primarily a starting power-forward.
Walker Kessler was really the only genuine center on the roster, but his stature as a young player meant there were other players more deserving of meaningful minutes. Bobby Portis Jr. was also down the pecking order in the rotation, while Paolo Banchero didn’t appear overly enthusiastic in his new and uncustomary role as a small-ball five.
The USA were almost always playing smaller than what they otherwise could have. Even when Jackson was out for the Bronze Medal game against Canada, Kessler started but played only 16 minutes. By the end of the game Kerr had delved fully into a five-out system with Mikal Bridges as the defacto center.
Kerr will now return to the Warriors where…you guessed it, the franchise has one genuine big man and a pair of small-ball centers. The similarities are born from the way Kerr likes to play, but perhaps the World Cup issues may urge Kerr to push Golden State towards adding a legitimate seven-footer to the options at his disposal.
The USA should have won the Gold Medal regardless, and the Warriors showed in 2022 that they can win with the kind of center rotation they currently possess. Still, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to widen your margin for error to help prevent the sort of defensive issues that may arise in specific matchups.