Derrick Rose, Stephen Curry, James Harden and Anthony Davis are slated to start for Team USA in an exhibition on Saturday. Klay Thompson should be the fifth starter because of his ability to play both ends of the floor.
Team USA head coach Mike Krzyzewski hasn't revealed the starters for the exhibition against Brazil on Saturday, but Derrick Rose, Stephen Curry, James Harden and Anthony Davis are expected to get starting nods, according to Yahoo! Sports' Marc Spears.
This leaves one spot in the lineup still to be determined and Coach K has options at his disposal, although the losses of Paul George and Kevin Durant do make it a tougher decision. A choice will have to be made between going big and going small. There are certainly a wealth of options if Coach K wants to do the latter. Rudy Gay was added to the training camp roster in the wake of George's injury and Durant's withdrawal, while Klay Thompson, Chandler Parsons, Gordon Hayward, DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Korver were already in camp.
FIBA World Cup
FIBA World Cup
There are fewer if he wants to go big, especially with DeMarcus Cousins sitting out the Brazil game with a non-serious knee injury suffered in practice on Thursday. The only other big men in camp are Andre Drummond, Kenneth Faried and Mason Plumlee.
So who should he choose? Here's why Klay Thompson is our pick.
The group of Rose, Curry, Harden and Davis already brings a ton of offensive firepower to the table. Rose, Curry and Harden are high-level shot creators, while Davis is blossoming into a skilled frontcourt scorer. Curry is an elite long-distance shooter and the other three are respectable enough jump shooters in their own right.
But if you add in Thompson's ability to bomb from deep, Team USA's offense becomes even more lethal. Players like Chandler Parsons and Gordon Hayward are a bit more versatile offensively, but that versatility isn't needed as much when you have Rose, Curry and Harden already on the floor. Rudy Gay and DeMar DeRozan are options as well, but they can't space the floor nearly as well as Thompson and that's key to help keep driving lanes open for the other guards. Having Thompson out there working off the ball with multiple elite playmakers is a recipe for the destruction of opposing defenses.
Thompson also has the benefit of having familiarity with Curry. The Splash Brothers have a great feel for what each other likes to do offensively, so it makes sense to keep that going for Team USA.
As great as the four-man group of Rose, Curry, Harden and Davis is offensively, there are some issues defensively. Davis will act as the rim protector, but Rose, Curry and Harden aren't all that imposing. Curry and Harden are especially renowned for being poor defenders.
Having Thompson out there working off the ball with multiple elite playmakers is a recipe for the destruction of opposing defenses.
The devastating injury to George hurts here because he was Team USA's designated wing stopper and there's not really anybody else on the roster quite as good as him. But Thompson is the best of the remaining bunch, giving him an edge over another talented shooter in Korver. Thompson has the versatility to defend multiple positions and he often helped cover for Curry with the Warriors by defending opposing point guards.
Thompson is a bit smaller than players like Parsons, Gay and Hayward, but at 6'7, he's still big enough that Team USA shouldn't be at too great of a disadvantage down low against most teams. Spain with the Gasol brothers is a whole different beast, but adjustments can always be made for certain matchups.
Make it Klay
Thompson has his warts, but given the other options at Coach K's disposal, he makes the most sense as the fifth starter for Team USA. He's a nice fit offensively because he adds elite shooting to a group of excellent shot creators and he's arguably the best defensive wing left in camp.
But the decision doesn't have to be final. These exhibitions will give the coaching staff a chance to evaluate their options heading into the FIBA Basketball World Cup, and Brazil will be a nice test right off the bat.
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