There were serious question marks about USA Basketball's chances of three-peating at the FIBA World Cup, and they were answered on Tuesday in their 89-79 upset loss to Rudy Gobert and France in the quarterfinals.
It was Team USA's first international loss with NBA players since the 2004 Olympics, and creates plenty of pressure and intrigue heading into the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo next year.
Granted, some of the dozen or so players who opted out of the FIBA World Cup - James Harden, Bradley Beal, Anthony Davis, Damian Lillard and many significant others - may wind up representing their country in Tokyo. The Olympics are a much bigger deal than the FIBA World Cup (duh) and some of those players may feel motivated to bring gold back for the United States after seeing the others fall short in China.
Will any Bulls players be part of those reclamation teams? It's tough to see any current players making the 2020 Olympic team now that there's a real chance the stars come out to make up for the country's embarrassing 2019 World Cup performance, but what about at the 2023 FIBA World Cup (hosted by multiple nations) or 2024 Olympics in Paris? Here's a look at the best bets.
Lauri Markkanen: Lauri Markkanen is Finnish. He is not American. He can not play for Team USA. We've seen his name pop up a few times in our @NBCSBulls mentions, so this is for those few who do not understand how citizenship works.
Zach LaVine: It's unknown whether LaVine was even asked by USA Basketball to compete for this year's World Cup. If he was, his decision to not play was never publicized. Looking ahead to 2023, LaVine would be a 28-year-old with nine years of NBA experience when the next World Cup rolls around. That's certainly on the older side based on this year's team - just five of the 12 players were 28 or older - but would make sense given LaVine's experience and ability to score. Plenty can and will change between now and then, but the Americans really struggled to score in China. LaVine's ability to run in transition and make 3s would be a boon for a USA team that was heavy at point guard but had little on the wings.
Wendell Carter: Now here's an intriguing name. The disclaimer here is that Carter has played 44 NBA games. There's optimism, but the jury is still out on what kind of pro he will be, let alone someone good enough to play for Team USA. But center was arguably the Americans' weakest position at the FIBA World Cup, with Myles Turner, Brook Lopez and Mason Plumlee not making all that big an impact. Granted, there are guys like Jaren Jackson, Bam Adebayo and Andre Drummond who will have legitimate cases (as well as Turner, who did play well and is a perfect international center), but Carter feels like a fit. He's a versatile defender with a knack for rim-protecting, he projects as someone who will be able to shoot from the outside eventually, and he'll be 24 years old with five years of NBA experience when the World Cup rolls around.
Otto Porter: There's a chance Porter isn't a member of the Bulls when the FIBA World Cup rolls around in 2023, but his skill set is perfect. Porter is one of the league's best 3-point shooters and a versatile wing defender. He's not exactly a quick-twitch player and he won't contribute all that much in transition, but the Americans were desperate enough to keep Joe Harris on this year's roster (no offense to Joe Harris, who is an elite 3-point shooter...he just doesn't do much else). Porter would be 30 at the 2023 FIBA World Cup, which is definitely on the older side, but maybe an elder statesman is exactly what the Americans could use with a crop of young talent. They seemingly didn't have it this time around.
Coby White: We'll toss him on here for fun. White hasn't played an NBA game yet. But he's a speed demon and someone who can play off the ball, and that versatility plays in international basketball (Donovan Mitchell and Kemba Walker were USA's best players). White has a loooooooong way to go before he's considered a Team USA-level talent, but the potential is certainly there.Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Bulls easily on your device.