The NBA is more international than ever, with many of the league’s top stars originating from outside the United States. But does that mean that international talent usurps home-grown American talent in the NBA?
It is time to analyze how a 5-on-5 matchup between the 5 best international players and 5 best American players would turn out. The other remaining star players will come off the bench. Here is how the all-time competitive match plays out.
Stephen Curry vs. Ben Simmons
Ben Simmons is a perfect player to defend Stephen Curry thanks to his massive height and length advantage, but it still won’t be enough to slow down the game’s greatest shooter. Curry will take his 43.3% percentage and use it to Team USA’s advantage. Playing alongside willing passers in LeBron James and James Harden will open up Curry’s game incredibly well, and Simmons won’t have much of a shot.
Curry will find his open space and get good looks from three, and he will manage to drain 5 three-pointers in this game. Simmons grabs a near triple-double, but he will have a hard time playing team defense thanks to Team USA’s incredible offensive firepower.
James Harden vs. Luka Doncic
This is the battle of two superstar players who offer unlimited offense and very limited defense. Harden will cook Doncic on offense, and Doncic will do the same. Both players will get their numbers although Harden will be one of the primary playmakers on Team USA. Rather than looking to score every time, he will be the playmaker for Durant and Davis for most of the game.
Doncic grabs 14 rebounds in the game along with scoring 20 points, but his points come later on in the game when Team World needed a boost after trailing the first half. This matchup is otherwise even.
LeBron James vs. Giannis Antetokounmpo
This matchup features the best two regular-season players in the NBA. LeBron James is the smartest player in the world and arguably the best playmaker. Giannis has physicality and youth on his side, along with an excellent all-around game including defensive dominance. In the end, LeBron James is the better all-around player.
James is a better outside shooter than Giannis (35.8% vs. 28.6%), and he understands how to approach any defense in his way. Giannis can sometimes struggle with a defensive “wall” in the paint, and Team USA have enough defenders to bother Giannis. LeBron James is the best in the world and he will prove it in this game with his unselfishness.
Kevin Durant vs. Nikola Jokic
This is a matchup of two completely different players. Durant is mainly a small forward but has the height to play power forward, while Jokic is a full-sized center at 6’11”. Whenever Jokic defends Durant, it will be to the benefit of Team USA. Durant will lead all scorers in this game with 30 points, and he will be shot-hungry from the start of the game.
Jokic forms a dominant partnership with Joel Embiid down low. Jokic and Embiid outscore Team USA in the paint 55-45, and the passing ability of the Nuggets’ superstar will show itself out in this one. Jokic has trouble defending Durant on many occasions but he makes sure to punish the slender forward in the paint as well.
Anthony Davis vs. Joel Embiid
This is yet another superstar matchup that is incredibly even. Anthony Davis is widely considered the best big man in the game, but he often plays power forward. Therefore, Embiid might have an advantage in scoring in the post thanks to his massive body and strength. But Davis won’t back down, as he is also a great defensive player.
Davis and Embiid will be pivotal scoring options as bigs, but Embiid will dominate the paint more than Davis will. Embiid is playing alongside the best passing center ever in Jokic, so he will have more easy looks around the basket.
Team USA: Kyrie Irving, Damian Lillard, Jimmy Butler, Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Bam Adebayo, Karl-Anthony Towns
Team World: Goran Dragic, Buddy Hield, Jordan Clarkson, Evan Fournier, Pascal Siakam, Kristaps Porzingis, Rudy Gobert
The bench of both teams is capable of starting every quarter thanks to the quality of skills on both ends of the floor. Team USA’s bench, however, is incredibly strong. Kyrie and Lillard are two unstoppable point guards on offense, while the trio of Butler, Leonard, and George can lock down any player on Team World’s bench. For the quality of big man, this is actually close. Porzingis and Gobert are capable shot-blockers and rim protectors who can stifle Bam and Towns as much as possible.
In the end, Team USA’s bench is too strong and that will give their team a massive advantage when the game gets scrappy at times. Dragic provides leadership with the ball, and shooters such as Clarkson and Hield can get buckets when needed. But Team USA has the better bench and it will show at the end of the game.
The first half really isn’t close. Team USA pullout with a massive lead, thanks to LeBron’s floor leadership. James makes sure Team USA pushes the pace, moves the ball to the open man, and get good looks. With Team World blitzed in the first quarter, the score is 42-30 at the end of 12 minutes. The second quarter sees Team World come back slightly, with Jokic and Embiid dominating the inside, but the half ends 82-67.
The third quarter is where Team World have their best quarter. They score 43 points on Team USA, who find their firepower through Curry’s hot three-point shooting. Curry drains 4 threes in the third quarter, which keeps Team USA in the game along with the incredible play of the bench. Damian Lillard, Kyrie Irving, and Kawhi Leonard contribute a combined 25 points in the quarter alone but Team World plays great team basketball by bringing the game to as little as 4 points. The third quarter ends 115-110 heading into the pivotal fourth quarter.
The last 12 minutes are where Team USA put their foot down.
Kevin Durant outshines everybody on the court, proving he can be the most unstoppable player in the league by dropping 12 big points. Jimmy Butler, Kawhi Leonard, and Paul George all get timely stops on The Greek Freak during the final 2 minutes of the game, and LeBron James ices the cake with an And-One bucket to stretch Team USA’s lead to 8 with only 30 seconds left. Team World fight hard but cannot handle Team USA’s firepower and lose the game 145-140.
USA Dream Team vs. World Dream Team 145-140
MVP: LeBron James (31 points, 10 rebounds, 13 assists)