That was the question asked by ESPN NBA reporter Tim MacMahon on “Brian Windhorst & The Hoop Collective” on August 7, and the answer led to a detailed discussion about Young’s exclusion from Team USA.
“I would pick Steph [Curry]. I would pick Jalen Brunson. I would pick Tyrese Halliburton….Jrue [Holiday] I definitely would,” Tim Bontemps answered. “Trae Young, I don’t think, will be on the team.”
Young, 24, led the NBA in total assists for the second consecutive season after averaging 26.2 points, 10.2 assists, and 3.0 rebounds this past season.
He also led the league in total points in 2021-22.
Young was bypassed for the Team USA FIBA World Cup roster by a pair of first-timers, Jalen Brunson of the New York Knicks and Tyrese Haliburton of the Indiana Pacers. Brunson’s selection in particular has been a point of contention, though Bontemps explained: Team USA head coach Steve Kerr is very fond of him.
Young is also not built for the international game, Bontemps says, citing Walker in 2019.
“The bottom line is, in FIBA ball…small guards struggle,” Bontemps said. “And Trae is a small guard who is not a physically strong guard, either. Unlike, say, Jalen Brunson, who certainly isn’t a big guard. But, like Kyle Lowry who is at Team USA practice today, and Chris Paul…certainly those bigger, stockier, more physical guards who can hold up better in the FIBA game.”
The topic of Young and Team USA goes back to his exclusion from the last Olympic roster ahead of what was his first All-Star season in 2019.
He has plainly stated his desire to play for Team USA.
“I definitely want to,” Young said on “Gil’s Arena” with Gilbert Arenas on August 4. “I’ve talked about playing on USA a couple times. So I definitely want to. It’s up to them if they want me to. I mean I would love to play with guys and show off my passing even more and not have to go out and score a lot and just be there if they need me to.”
MacMahon, however, explained that Young being left off multiple Team USA rosters now is his own doing. He cited the soon-to-be 25-year-old’s showing as a member of the Select Team in 2019.
“I heard Trae Young did not make a great case for himself during his previous time in the Team USA program,” said MacMahon. I also heard at one point a question was presented to Trae Young, something along the lines of, ‘Are you ever gonna go over a bleeping screen?’”
Windhorst provided some further context on the entire situation in 2019 when Young was overlooked in favor of Donovan Mitchell, Kemba Walker, and even Derrick White.
“I still don’t 100% know if that went on there,” Windhorst said. “I will tell you that in 2019 before China, Trae was on the Select Team, the U.S. needed a point guard, and Gregg Popovich promoted Derek White who obviously was his point guard [with the San Antonio Spurs] at the time…and then Trae withdrew because he had pink eye.”
Whatever the reason, Young isn’t the only one to disagree with the decision.
Gilbert Arenas defends Hawks’ Trae Young after FIBA snub
Young’s absence from the Team USA FIBA World Cup Roster did not sit well with Arenas, who lamented the group put together by Kerr and the managing director of the USA Mens National Team, Grant Hill, who is also a part-owner of the Hawks.
Arenas suggested that players should at least be given a chance to show they can’t cut it.
“I…understand you gotta take your turn,” Young said. “But I believe I should be on there.”
There used to essentially be tryouts for the team with players getting sent home and some taking umbrage to it.
That has changed under Hill’s direction which the show’s crew surmised will leave many qualified players on the outside looking in when the time comes next summer to announce the Team USA roster of the 2024 Paris Summer Olympics.