3 Takeaways for Bulls after USA’s disappointing FIBA World Cup finish

Nikola Vucevic, Chicago Bulls, 2023 FIBA World Cup (Photo by Yong Teck Lim/Getty Images)
Nikola Vucevic, Chicago Bulls, 2023 FIBA World Cup (Photo by Yong Teck Lim/Getty Images) /

Although no member of the Chicago Bulls was selected to join Team USA ahead of the 2023 FIBA World Cup, I have to admit that I was still holding out hope that my home country could still manage to bring home some hardware. That ended up not being the case, as the overconfident American squad would stumble their way to the finish line after a loss to Lithuania in the group stage finale, a loss to Germany in the World Cup semi-finals, and yet another loss to Canada in the bronze medal match.

Fortunately, there may be a silver lining here for us Bulls fans. Since we’ve been spared the humiliation of our own players getting embarrassed on the national stage, I think we should instead use this as an opportunity to learn a few key lessons.

Here are the three main takeaways the Chicago Bulls should jot down following Team USA’s embarrassing fourth-place finish in the 2023 FIBA World Cup.

1st Bulls Takeaway after World Cup: Chicago needs more shooting threats

As if it weren’t already obvious enough, the transition to perimeter-centric schemes isn’t unique to the NBA. The very DNA of the sport of basketball has intrinsically changed; if you can’t survive out there beyond the arc, there’s no place for you in today’s NBA.

In that same vein, it should come as no surprise that the tournament’s most dominant players were all able to create offense at the perimeter and open opportunities with the ability to slash, pass, or shoot the rock. The top five NBA players in the tournament according to HoopsHype’s Global Rating were Luka Doncic, Dennis Schroder, (believe it or not) Carlik Jones, Tyrese Haliburton, and Josh Giddey. Each of these players excelled as playmakers and shooters with the ball in their hands.

Even predominantly off-ball players excelled in the World Cup by stretching the floor. In Team USA’s bronze medal matchup against Canada, it was Mikal Bridges and Dillon Brooks who were the stars of the show, two players who were considered third or fourth options on their NBA teams just a year ago. The pair combined for 58 points and turned this matchup into a shooting gallery. Unfortunately, unless Patrick Williams finally makes the leap we’ve all been waiting for, I can’t say the Bulls have a player like that currently on their roster.

2nd Bulls Takeaway after World Cup: Nikola Vucevic can be a star again

Although this was a disappointing outing for Team USA, I doubt Bulls center Nikola Vucevic is too hung up over his early exit from the tournament. Although he failed to qualify for the World Cup’s quarter-finals, Vucevic put Montenegro on his back to survive the group stage for the first time in their nation’s history.

Vucevic averaged 19.8 points, 8.8 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks per game en route to an impressive 11th-place finish that has earned Montenegro an instant placement in the Olympic Qualifying Tournament next summer. According to Global Rating scores, Vucevic was marked as the 22nd-best player and 7th-best center among all World Cup participants.

If he can maintain this level of success, Vucevic won’t just be punching a ticket to the 2024 Paris Olympics, he may even be able to return to his All-Star form in the NBA. He’s proven he still has the talent, now it’s on the Bulls to put him in a position to reach those heights once again.

3rd Bulls Takeaway after World Cup: International talent shouldn’t be overlooked

The rise of international superstar talent has been no secret for quite some time now. Players like Nikola Jokic, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Luka Doncic, and Joel Embiid have ascended to the very summit of the NBA and proven to be modern-day legends we’ll look back on with fondness years from now.

But it’s far too easy to dismiss this handful of players as extreme outliers. The reality of the situation is that the rest of the world is catching up, and they’re doing it fast. Given full rein to showcase their talent, this tournament proved just how great seemingly role players like Dennis Schroder, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Nikola Jovic, and Daniel Theis can be when their skills are optimized.

So when the Chicago Bulls announced their decision to sign a relatively unknown quantity like Onuralp Bitim, perhaps I shouldn’t have been so hasty to lash out criticisms. You never know when the next breakthrough international star is waiting just around the corner, so until I see Bitim (and those to come after him) actually step on the court, we should reserve our critical assessments for a more appropriate time.

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