The Toronto Raptors All-Star wing DeMar DeRozan survived the first round of cuts for Team USA when USA Basketball Chairman Jerry Colangelo, Coach Krzyzewski and their staff took the roster down to 16 players at the beginning of August. However, the final roster is limited to 12 men and those cuts are expected to be made before the Team leaves after Friday night’s game in New York to play their final friendly exhibition contest against Slovenia in Spain just ahead of the World Cup on August 30. So the question becomes, who gets cut?
On August 4, the Team USA roster looked like:
Guards: Damian Lillard, Derrick Rose, Stephen Curry and Kyrie Irving.
Wings: Klay Thompson, DeMar DeRozan, James Harden, Gordon Hayward and Kyle Korver,
Bigs: Kevin Durant, Anthony Davis, Chandler Parsons, Kenneth Faried, DeMarcus Cousins, Mason Plumlee and Andre Drummond.
Since then Kevin Durant bowed out and was replaced by Rudy Gay.
There is a developing consensus that the starters against Brazil: Derrick Rose, Stephen Curry, James Harden, Kenneth Faried and Anthony Davis have made the team and the sixth man Klay Thompson will get the nod because of his chemistry with Curry, however, the other six spots on the roster remain up for grabs.
Everyone has been promised to play in at least one exhibition game and if Saturday’s DNP-CD players DeRozan, Drummond, Hayward and Cousins play against the Dominican Republic on Wednesday and Lillard and Korver get another chance after very short minutes against Brazil, Team USA could be ready to pare down the roster to 12 or 13 in time for Thursday’s practice.
It is assumed Lillard will be the odd man out among the point guards, however, that shouldn’t be considered as carved in stone before Wednesday’s game and if Rose’s knees are still sore, Lillard could tag along as a 13th man right up until Team USA has to submit their final roster on August 29.
There is an obvious competition between Cousins, Drummond and Plumlee to fill a big man role in the middle of the court to provide some size if needed against the biggest threat to Team USA’s pursuit of Gold. Spain will throw out Pau and Marc Gasol in the starting lineup with Serge Ibaka coming off the bench and that represents a lot of very good and very experienced FIBA-comfortable bulk under the basket. There is no possible way Krzyzewski would want to be relying on the very young and inexperienced Drummond or Plumlee to check either Gasol brother. Team USA has to be seriously hoping Cousins can bounce-back from his minor knee injury quickly – Wednesday would be nice.
Plumlee played reasonably well in 15 minutes against Brazil and Drummond would have to at least match that to stay in contention, but it’s hard to see how Team USA would bring over either player to Spain except as a 12th man.
The only reason for bringing Korver along is if the Team brass believes they have a shortage of legitimate three-point threats, but they really don’t. This team has plenty of shooters and good ones at that. The Splash Brothers got this covered.
DeRozan, Hayward and Parsons were lumped together earlier by Colangelo and at least one of them should be concerned about not joining this group in Spain. Gay should be placed in here as well.
As the standout player from the Blue and White scrimmage, DeRozan should have the edge if he can maintain that level of play in an exhibition game. DeRozan isn’t known as a three-point shooter, but in the packed-paint of FIBA basketball, Team USA could use his ability to get open and make shots in the midrange. On a team with limited international experience, bringing back former Team USA member Gay just makes sense and if one was forced to choose between Hayward and Parsons, the more versatile Parsons is also the better shooter.
It is possible all four players from this group make the roster as this scenario would provide the most flexibility for Coach Krzyzewski against international rosters that can create matchup issues for anyone. It could come down to which player Colangelo wants to bring over as a 12th man for exposure to the international game.
If Lillard and Korver are out, the real decision should come down to which one of Drummond, Plumlee or Hayward makes the team to bring the final tally to 12 players.
Two games in New York over three days should be more than enough for Colangelo and company to decide who gets cut from Team USA, however, except for the players waiting the hear, the pressure really isn’t on and it’s likely the decisions have already been made. This team has more than enough talent to legitimately believe that Gold in Spain is theirs to lose no matter which 12 players make the trip.
Stephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.
Eurobasket Predicts Spain To Defeat Team USA At World Cup
Spain features 6 NBA players: Ricky Rubio, Jose Calderon, Victor Claver, Serge Ibaka, Pau Gasol and Marc Gasol. They also carry 4 teammates from Real Madrid: Sergio Rodriguez, Sergio Llull, Rudy Fernandez and Felipe Reyes. Plus teammates Juan Carlos Navarro and Alejandro Abrines from FCB Regal. Both home court and team chemistry will be with the Spanish side.