By the time the Basketball World Championships begin, Team USA will be down to a roster of 12 players. For now, six seem to be a certainty: Derrick Rose, Stephen Curry, James Harden, Anthony Davis, Kyrie Irving and Kenneth Faried. That leaves ten more players battling it out for the final six spots.
So who is left? It seems like DeMarcus Cousins, Andre Drummond and Mason Plumlee are in competition for the backup center slot. Cousins is the best offensive player of the trio but hasn’t been completely healthy. Drummond is the best defender and rebounder in the group. Plumlee? He’s here just because he played for Duke, which also gives him the best chance of making it through if what we’ve seen so far in games and training camp is to help us come to any kind of conclusion.
The rest of the guard and perimeter positions will be determined among these seven players: DeMar DeRozan or Damian Lillard will make it in, while this leaves five more swingmen in Chanlder Parsons, Rudy Gay, Klay Thompson, Gordon Hayward and Kyle Korver to battle things out between them. As of now, Korver and Hayward are probably in the worst situation of anyone else, unless Jerry Colangelo and Mike Krzyzewski decide they want a player who does nothing but shoot 3’s on the roster.
There’s also the issue of the timing. Team USA has two games left to play before taking off to Spain, where they’ll have about a week of preparation time before the tournament begins. The final squads need to be handed in a day before the tournament starts. With 16 players currently on the roster, there are quite a few options left to pursue, and it’s not quite clear if there’s one that’s absolutely better.
With a game against the Dominican Republic coming up on Wednesday (August 20), the line of thought is making the four cuts a day later, and go into the final game, facing Puerto Rico on August 22 (Friday), with the 12 men Krzyzewski will have with him for the tournament. That, and making the cuts after the Puerto Rico game seem to be the two preferred option.
But there is another. There’s a suggested option of taking 13 players to Spain, making “just” three cuts between or after the games against the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, and make that final necessary cut a day or two before the tournament begins. That might be a bit cruel, but it seems that the absence of a long list of players who should have been on this team: Blake Griffin, Kevin Durant, Kevin Love, Paul George, LaMarcus Aldridge and Russell Westbrook has made things a lot more complicated for the decision makers, finding it hard to choose from those that are left.