USA Basketball has announced the player pool from which the U.S. men's national basketball team will draw rosters for competition in the 2014 FIBA World Cup in Spain and the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, with the 28-man list featuring a host of Olympic and World Championship gold medal-winning holdovers, a prodigal big man returning to the fold, several intriguing additions from an up-and-coming era of NBA stars ... and, of course, several noteworthy omissions.
Here's the roster, broken up into more manageable (if positionally amorphous and forever shifting) groups:
• LeBron James, Miami Heat
• Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder
• Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks
• Paul George, Indiana Pacers
• Andre Iguodala, Golden State Warriors
• James Harden, Houston Rockets
• Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs
• Gordon Hayward, Utah Jazz
• Kyle Korver, Atlanta Hawks
• Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers
• Deron Williams, Brooklyn Nets
• Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder
• Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
• Derrick Rose, Chicago Bulls
• Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards
• Kyrie Irving, Cleveland Cavaliers
• Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers
• Klay Thompson, Golden State Warriors
• Dwight Howard, Houston Rockets
• Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans
• Kevin Love, Minnesota Timberwolves
• Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers
• LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland Trail Blazers
• Tyson Chandler, New York Knicks
• DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento Kings
• Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons
• Kenneth Faried, Denver Nuggets
• David Lee, Golden State Warriors
A few thoughts and takeaways from that list:
1. Weapons of mass destruction: At some point, Team USA could roll out a LeBron-Durant-George-Davis-CP3 lineup, which I think would technically constitute an act of war against whichever opponent faces its wrath. You can do the same with an awful lot of other combinations of five names from the list above and come up with an equally devastating (on paper, at least) lineup; please feel free to do so in the comments, while basking in the glow of what USA Basketball Managing Director Jerry Colangelo called Thursday "the strongest roster we've ever had."
2. The U.S. is big, man: We crib Knicks head coach Mike Woodson's famed utterance to note that with five of the 13 first-time additions to the U.S. player pool (Aldridge, Cousins, Drummond, Faried and Lee) being power forwards or centers, with Griffin (who was slated for London 2012 before suffering a left meniscus tear) and Howard (who hasn't served national team duty since winning gold in Beijing in 2008) back in the mix, and with Davis having evolved from jersey-forgetting teenager into All-Star-caliber two-way terror, the rosters that represent the United States in Spain and Brazil could look a bit more conventional than the model that took gold in England. Team USA head coach Mike Krzyzewski really only had Chandler and Love as nominal "centers" to play up front in London, resulting in much more small-ball configurations featuring James, Durant or Anthony at the four or five spots for guard-heavy units helmed largely by Paul and Williams; if the new crop of bigs impresses Coach K and Colangelo, the U.S. could field a more formidable front line.
Then again, y'know, they might not want to.
"In London, at the end of the gold medal game, my four and five were Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James, and that's not bad," Krzyzewski said. "That's not bad."
3. Hey, where's [INSERT NAME HERE]? You'll notice that 2008 and 2012 gold-medal-winners Kobe Bryant isn't on that list. The Los Angeles Lakers star said he planned to retire from international play following the London Olympics, but hit a slightly different note during a Wednesday night chat with Krzyzewski.
"Kobe is the only one that didn't go forward [from the 2012 roster to the new one], and I saw him last night," the coach said. "He said, 'I'll be there, but you probably won't want to play me.' I said. 'I'd always want to play you, but I understand.'"
Bosh, for his part, said Thursday he had chosen to retire from the national team, citing the desire to spend more time with family and wanting younger players to get a crack at the experience. Wade's absence, though, sounds like it wasn't a choice, according to Colangelo's remarks during a Thursday morning teleconference: "Well, I think it's just that he was not part of our mix this past time in London, and his own physical situation, he's concentrating on his NBA career like he should. So I just think that we appreciate the service he gave us. He did a tremendous job for us when he did participate. But it's time for us to move on."
Seventeen other players selected as part of the last Team USA roster cycle — Chauncey Billups, Carlos Boozer, Tyreke Evans, Rudy Gay, Eric Gordon, Danny Granger, Jeff Green, Al Jefferson, Brook Lopez, Robin Lopez, O.J. Mayo, Lamar Odom, Kendrick Perkins, Tayshaun Prince, Rajon Rondo, Amar’e Stoudemire and Gerald Wallace — were also excluded from the 2014-2016 model, although (with the possible exception of Brook Lopez, one of the best offensive big men in the world when healthy) none of those names seem too likely to spark a backlash.
4. What about John Wall? This one, however, might. The Washington Wizards point guard is playing perhaps the best ball of his career, averaging just over 20 points and 8.5 assists per game this season, and has participated in the national program for the past two summers, first as a member of the Select Team that practices against the senior men's national squad and then as part of the Team USA mini-camp back in June. He'll also be just 26 at the Rio Olympics, likely just entering his athletic prime and perhaps reaching the peak of his abilities.
Then again, it's not like Colangelo and company tapped a bunch of stiffs in the backcourt ahead of the former No. 1 overall pick. Paul, Westbrook and Harden are no-brainers as London holdovers capable of both creating and making shots at an elite level. Curry was part of the 2010 World Championship squad in Turkey and has only gotten better since. Irving, despite his defensive shortcomings and lack of win-loss success at the NBA level, has been a lock since he looked like the best player on the floor during 2012 workouts.
Wall's a better all-around player right now than Beal and Thompson, but those two can shoot the lights out, and while Wall's J is improving, he's not nearly as dangerous off the ball, and given the importance of floor-spacing and pouring in points from behind FIBA's shortened 3-point arc, that's an important consideration. I'd probably rather have him on my roster than Williams, and almost definitely would in two years' time, but Deron's got two gold-medal runs worth of equity built up in the national team system, and that stuff matters in a major way to the Team USA brass.
That leaves one other guard:
5. Derrick Rose, huh? Rose put together a star turn during the 2010 World Championships that propelled him to the NBA's 2010-11 Most Valuable Player award and a place among the league's elite performers. Things, as you know, haven't gone so hot for him since then, but he's on the list, even if the U.S. brass doesn't know what it can expect of him just yet.
"Certainly, Derrick Rose we're not sure about, and that is a big variable," Colangelo said in discussing the prospects for this summer's World Cup roster.
For his part, though, Rose seems intent on being in the mix for Spain:
DRose, per USA Basketball: "I'm looking forward to getting back on the court this summer and having the chance to represent our country."
— K.C. Johnson (@KCJHoop) January 23, 2014
More DRose per USA Basketball, which certainly implies he will try to make World Cup team: "It's an honor to play for Team USA and Coach K."
— K.C. Johnson (@KCJHoop) January 23, 2014
Whether Rose's rehabilitation from knee surgery enable him to not only accept that honor, but play well enough in doing so to outstrip all that backcourt competition and secure a roster spot, will remain a very big question.
6. Fluid dynamics: There is some good news for Wall and other players not selected, though — not being included on the 28-man list doesn't necessarily mean you're out of the running for the national team all together.
"I think you're going to see at the least six Olympians [on the roster in Spain], but that remains to be determined. One of the variables are injuries," Colangelo said, noting the surgeries that Westbrook and Rose have undergone. (Williams also hedged a bit on this summer, citing his balky ankles.) "That will change considerably if we had any additional injuries before we go to camp next summer. Therefore, we have a fluid roster. There are some players who didn't make this roster who are right there on the cusp. So we continue to watch players perform and prepare ourselves just in case."
Wall would figure to be in that "on the cusp" mix; Pistons big man Greg Monroe and Pelicans point guard Jrue Holiday also received recognition during the conference call. Rob Mahoney of SI.com's The Point Forward ran through some of the other attendees at Team USA's 2013 mini-camp who might want to hang by the phone as the summer approaches, too.
7. A shot at Spain: The 28-man pool will be winnowed down to 12 for the World Cup, and based on the guys we know are unlikely to play this summer, those who have already given a verbal commitment to do so, those who have made rumblings about wanting in and some general guesswork, here's one idea of what Team USA might look like:
Guards: Curry, Lillard, Irving, Westbrook/Rose (depending on health)
Wings: Durant, George, Harden
Bigs: Love, Howard, Griffin, Aldridge, Davis
That would be a much larger lineup than we've typically seen the U.S. employ, but with all that shooting everywhere else, all those new frontcourt players in the pipeline and the importance of determining which ones will make the cut for Rio, going big this summer could be a key part of winning big in Brazil. An awful lot can change over the next seven months, though; it'll be fascinating to see what brand of roster the U.S. decision-makers settle on in a bid for back-to-back world championship titles.
- - - - - - -