USA Basketball trimmed its roster to 16 players this morning, with no major surprises among the group, unless you count Mason Plumlee reaching the final round of cuts. Here are the players who made the cut:
G – Harden, Curry, Rose, DeRozan, Irving, Lillard, Thompson (7)
F – Parsons, Hayward, Faried, Durant, Korver (5)
C – Davis, Plumlee, Cousins, Drummond (4)
The players who were sent home: John Wall, Bradley Beal and Paul Millsap. None of those should surprise you, and if you say Beal is a mild surprise, I’ll counter with: Very nice young player, promising, on the rise, but not yet at the level of the other already-elite shooters on the team like Thompson, Parsons, Korver, Harden.
The USA team generated plenty of controversy over the weekend when potential starter and NBA All-Star Paul George suffered a gruesome leg injury that will sideline him for the entire 2014-2015 season. It’s the first major injury suffered at the International level for the Americans since the Dream Team entered the picture in 1992. The above 16 players have said they will stay with the team, and nobody is leaving.
[Aside: Pretty smart move for Kevin Love to pass on playing. Not saying he would have gotten injured, but with a potential big contract approaching, it was too risky a gamble. In the future, it seems unlikely anyone with a contract on the horizon will “risk” it.]
The team will play an exhibition on the 16th, and then play games on the 20th and 22th. Sometime between the 22nd and the 26th (final exhibition), final cuts will take place.
Here’s my guess at the 12 that will make it:
PG – Curry, Irving, Lillard
SG – Harden, Thompson
F – Durant, Parsons, Korver, Faried
C – Davis, Drummond, Plumlee
My guess is that Derrick Rose won’t make the team (will his return to hoops really be on the international level? I have to assume seeing what happened to Paul George, Rose will privately try to remove himself from the team. Hell, if I were Rose, given what he’s gone through the last 2+ years, I would). I think DeMar DeRozan is probably the 2nd best slasher after Harden, but he’s only a 26 percent 3-point shooter for his career. Reluctantly, I cut Gordon Hayward, because I think he’s a “Coach K guy” – ie, hard worker at both ends, team player, won’t complain about minutes, etc. If you’ve been reading this site for long, you know I’m a big fan. And yes, I’m going with Plumlee over DeMarcus Cousins. Let’s start here: Cousins is the better all-around player, and it’s a no contest when looking at stats. But is the better international fit? What about his history of juvenile behavior, ejections, and feuding with everyone, including announcers? Will he be cool with being the 12th man who rarely sees minutes? And also, let’s not forget the little Duke-vs-Kentucky aspect of this that nobody will talk about, but almost certainly exists on some tiny level somewhere. How’s this — I’d be shocked if Irving and Plumlee both got cut and there were no Duke players on the team.
The 2014 World Cup, which will have 24 teams, takes place from August 30 to September 14th in Spain.