- USA Basketball announced the final 12-player roster for the upcoming World Cup following Friday night's 112-86 exhibition game win over Puerto Rico. While the majority of the roster seemed obvious, seven players battled for the final three spots. Depending on one's basketball point of view, the final decisions were interesting if not a bit curious.
Guards: Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors; DeMar DeRozan, Toronto Raptors; James Harden, Houston Rockets; Kyrie Irving, Cleveland Cavaliers; Derrick Rose, Chicago Bulls; Klay Thompson, Golden State Warriors
Forwards/centers: DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento Kings; Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans; Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons; Kenneth Faried, Denver Nuggets; Rudy Gay, Sacramento Kings; Mason Plumlee, Brooklyn Nets.
Four players were informed early Saturday morning they did not make the team: Point guard Damian Lillard (Trail Blazers), forward Gordon Hayward (Jazz), forward Chandler Parsons (Rockets) and forward Kyle Korver (Hawks).
“Since taking over the USA Basketball Men’s National Team program in 2005, this was without doubt the most difficult selection process we’ve gone through,” USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo said. "I also want to make it clear that this is not just about talent – each player is incredibly talented and each player offered us unique skills. In the end it was about assembling the best team, selecting guys who we felt would be able to best play the kind of style we envision this team playing.”
Head coach Mike Krzyzewski said, "I’m excited about the 12 players selected and feel we have excellent versatility and the makings of a really good defensive team."
Now, let's look closer at the roster.
- Friday's starting lineup likely remains the same when Team USA opens World Cup play against Finland on Aug. 30: Davis, Faried, Harden, Curry, Irving with Thompson, Cousins and Rose as the best bet for consistent minutes off the bench.
- By keeping Drummond and Plumlee, Team USA's roster includes four centers. That's surprising considering international play often shies away from post players. Also, there aren't that any scenarios in which two of these four can play heavy minutes together. Cousins recently missed practice and game time with a knee injury, but played 12 minutes on Friday.
- By cutting Lillard, Irving is left the only full-time point guard. Curry is expected to play off the ball while Rose's minutes will be limited as he returns to competitive basketball after battles with knee concerns over the past two seasons. Team USA cut Wizards' All-Star John Wall earlier this month.
- By keeping DeRozan over Parsons and Korver, the decision makers went with a point-producer capable of getting to the basket over two high-end outside shooters. Korver led the NBA in 3-point shooting percentage last season. Parsons, along with Gay, were the only stretch-4 types among the final 16 players.
- Curry and Thompson are tremendous 3-point shooters. Harden and Irving can take advantage of the shorter 3-point arc in international play. That quartet will be enough in group play, especially since the other tournament heavyweights are elsewhere and largely on the other side of the bracket. However, Gay is the best 3-point threat in the frountcourt and he struggled from beyond the arc last season. Korver, Parsons and Lillard would all help in this area.
- Led by the deep backcourt, Team USA is a favorite to reach the finals. Same goes for Spain. That would mean a match up with the Gasol brothers, Marc and Pau, plus Serge Ibaka. Looking at the final decisions, specifically in the frontcourt, facing all that size played a major factor.