Aug 1, 2014; Las Vegas, NV, USA; USA Team Blue Derrick Rose (41) calls a play while dribbling the ball during the USA Basketball Showcase at Thomas & Mack Center. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports
Team USA is beginning to take shape for the world championships. Which NBA players will make the final cut?
He has been one of the feel-good stories of Team USA basketball so far, but Derrick Rose has earned every bit of the praise. He looks like the player who won MVP in 2011 and at his best is an explosive scorer who is no slouch on defense either.
One of the premier shooters in all of basketball, Stephen Curry is a point guard but he has the versatility to play shooting guard too. Add in his experience in international competition and it’s hard seeing him miss the cut.
He is not the greatest defender or as explosive offensively but Kyrie Irving is an NBA All-Star for a reason. Coach K can certainly find a place for him on the final roster provided he doesn’t suffer a setback before cut down day.
Dynamic offense is never a bad thing and Damian Lillard brings it in bunches. He’s also added a clutch factor to his shooting in recent months (see Houston Rockets playoffs). At the same time, USA can have only so many point guards and Irving has a connection with Coach K.
Defense is not the calling card of James Harden but that only drives him to become unstoppable on the offensive end. That he practically is, ranking as one of the top scorers in the league. His past history in the Olympics only helps him.
No player probably got more of a boost to his stock by the Paul George injury than Klay Thompson. The 24-year old guard has the size and defensive prowess to shift to small forward if asked. Coupled with 18 points per game shooting and that is hard to pass on.
Another guy helped out by the loss of George. Kyle Korver has remained one of the steadiest shooters in the NBA for years. He knows how to come off the bench and doesn’t complain about playing time, which only adds to his value.
Offensively speaking, there isn’t much to argue about with Chandler Parsons. He can score inside or drop back and shoot the three. However, he is a borderline liability defensively. Ask the Rockets.
The George loss plus a solid intersquad scrimmage pretty much saved DeMar DeRozan from what looked like an imminent cut. Considering he averaged 22.7 points per game in the NBA last season, he has the capacity to carry it all the way.
There is no question the primary competition to DeRozan will be Gordon Hayward. Given the payday he just received from Utah, expectations are high. His meal ticket will be his slightly better ability to pass and rebound.
The day somebody has to justify Kevin Durant on Team USA is the day hell freezes over.
It’s all about addition by subtraction for Kenneth Faried. The power forward has remained a steady presence on the roster while his competition has either withdrawn or been cut. His high energy also had benefits.
He helped bring home the gold in London and is one of the rising stars in the NBA. Anthony Davis is already becoming a dominant defender. Coach K is going to need him against the bigger teams like Brazil and Spain.
Another player who could help with that is DeMarcus Cousins. The mercurial Kings center is not short on athleticism or talent but he has a reputation for being a locker room problem. He’ll have to show he can keep himself composed and handle less minutes.
His connection to Coach K is very hard to ignore, and Mason Plumlee has no history of attitude problems. He doesn’t lack for speed and is agile for his size. How he and Cousins match up down the stretch will tell the story.
Rebounding is one of his great traits and Andre Drummond is also an effective shot blocker. Still, he’s caught in the crossfire between Cousins who is a better player and Plumlee who is trusted by the head coach. He needs a lot of help to make it.