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Team USA basketball scrimmage takeaways: Jayson Tatum, De’Aaron Fox put on a show in FIBA World Cup preview

We got our first look at the 2019 U.S. men’s senior national team on Friday night in Las Vegas, as the group held a televised intrasquad scrimmage upon the completion of their first of two weeks of training camp. Team Blue, comprised of senior team members, easily defeated Team White, which featured Select Team players, 97-78.

Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum led Team Blue with 17 points, while Celtics teammate Kemba Walker added 14 and Sacramento Kings guard De’Aaron Fox scored 12 points off the bench. San Antonio Spurs guard Derrick White led Team White with 12 points and eight assists, while Orlando Magic forward Jonathan Isaac racked up 11 points, five rebounds and four steals.

Team USA is set to participate in the FIBA World Cup in China from Aug. 31 to Sept. 15, and the team is also set to play exhibition contests in California and Australia prior to the World Cup. 

Even though it was just an exhibition, we still learned a few things about the team on Friday night. Here are a few takeaways from the Team USA White vs. Team USA Blue intrasquad scrimmage.

Team USA scrimmage result

Team Blue 97, Team White 78 (Box Score)

Tatum shows the range

The Boston Celtics brass must have been watching with smiles on their faces on Friday night as Tatum put on a long-distance shooting display. He hit his first three shots from downtown en route to 3-of-5 shooting for the night. It wasn’t just that Tatum was making his shots — it was the way he was making them. He showed a quick catch-and-shoot release with no hesitation, which is a great sign for a player who’s shown a propensity for occasional over-dribbling in his first two NBA seasons. Tatum’s 3-point percentage dropped from a blistering 43 percent as a rookie to 37 percent last season, but he was certainly shooting it with confidence in the Team USA scrimmage.

Fantastic Mr. Fox

De’Aaron Fox has been the breakout player of Team USA camp, and he showed once again on Friday night why he’s gaining significant momentum to make the final FIBA World Cup roster. Fox’s energy was palpable on both ends, showing bursts of quickness to pick up steals and throwing down fast-break dunks. Depending on how long Kyle Lowry remains sidelined with a thumb injury, Fox could end up playing a prominent role for the American squad.

A ‘big’ problem?

This isn’t the most star-studded version of USA Basketball, but the center position appears to be the weakest of all. Neither Myles Turner, Brook Lopez, Bam Adebayo nor Mason Plumlee had a huge impact on the game, and it’s hard to imagine them being consistently effective in the World Cup. Turner is the most logical choice at center — a mobile, elite shot-blocker who can stretch the floor on the offensive end — but he’s been inconsistent thus far in his career. The idea is likely to go small, with players like Kyle Kuzma and PJ Tucker sliding to center, but when Team USA plays against dominant big men (Serbia’s Nikola Jokic comes to mind), they’re going to have serious problems if they expect an undersized five to guard them for significant stretches.

Knock-down 3-point shooting

On paper this Team USA squad doesn’t look like a 3-point juggernaut, but they got the job done on Friday night by hitting 11 of 27 3-pointers. Khris Middleton and Joe Harris are really the only true “knock-down” shooters, but there are plenty of other players like Tatum, Walker and Kuzma who can hit them when in rhythm. They’ll need to make threes to win in international competition, so it will be interesting to see how consistent this team can be from deep.