Team USA is set to convene in Las Vegas for training camp this week, and it will be up to coach Mike Krzyzewski and director Jerry Colangelo to weed out a roster from a very talented group of 19 players.
And, in what is a longstanding tradition when it comes to USA Basketball, there are an overwhelming number of guards on hand, compared to a relatively light frontcourt—a frontcourt that took a couple of tough blows thanks to the withdrawal of Clippers star Blake Griffin and Portland’s LaMarcus Aldridge, two players who were likely to make the final roster.
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As it stands, the roster is shaping up like this:
Team USA has been able to get away with going small in its last few tournaments, and it will do so frequently again this time around.
The problem, though, is that the host country — Spain — is particularly big up front, with the Gasol brothers and Thunder forward Serge Ibaka on hand. If not for Spain, the U.S. could probably go with Anthony Davis and Kevin Love at center and suffer no consequences.
But Spain’s size is likely to force the team to keep one of two young bigs: Andre Drummond or DeMarcus Cousins. Neither has the kind of versatility that is suited to the international game, but the prospect of having the Gasols hammer the U.S. in the paint requires one of the two be given a spot.
Because of an increased emphasis on perimeter big men, Krzyzewski likes to play multifaceted small forwards at the 4. Love will play here a lot, but you can expect to see Kevin Durant get the bulk of the minutes as a power forward.
Losing Aldridge and Griffin hurts the most at this spot, and depth at the position could come down to whether Krzyzewski trusts Chandler Parsons to play power forward or whether he wants a defense-and-rebounding specialist like Kenneth Faried on hand.
Expect a lot of Paul George here — he can handle the ball, shoot, pass and defend, making him an ideal fit for Team USA. If Durant plays a lot of minutes at power forward, the Americans could be thin behind George, with Krzyzewski choosing among Parsons, Gordon Hayward and Kyle Korver.
There will be some tough choices here, with four candidates vying for two or three jobs. James Harden is likely to stay on board, given the fact that he has been involved with Team USA previously, helping the 2012 team to an Olympic gold medal. USA Basketball prefers to reward past participants when it can.
That will mean competition among Bradley Beal, Klay Thompson and DeMar DeRozan.
DeRozan is a long shot because he struggles with his perimeter shooting, but it figures to be a particularly tough choice if a spot on the team comes down to Beal or Thompson. Both are excellent shooters, but Thompson is 6-7 and a better defender, while Beal (6-3) is a better ballhandler and distributor.
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