Projecting Team USA’s Final 12-Man Roster
With two exhibition games remaining for Team USA, Mike Krzyzewski and the rest of the coaching staff have a difficult task ahead and must cut four players from the roster to meet the 12-man maximum limit. At this point in time, there appears to be six players who are locked in to the final roster and several players on the bubble.
Anthony Davis, James Harden, Stephen Curry, Kenneth Faried, Mason Plumlee and Kyrie Irving
Players who are reportedly locked in are Anthony Davis, James Harden, Stephen Curry, Kenneth Faried, Mason Plumlee and Kyrie Irving. Those six players are pretty much a given considering their body of work during Team USA’s training camp thus far and the production that they have provided to the team. The rise of Davis is really an incredible story considering that he was one of the players stuck on the bench during the 2012 Olympic team that featured stars like LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant and Carmelo Anthony. Fast forward two years later and Davis is the second-leading scorer for Team USA behind Harden in the previous two games against Brazil and the Dominican Republic.
Harden provides the team with aggressive ball handling, and he will attack and shoot the ball often. The self-proclaimed best all-around player in the NBA is an important piece for Team USA and he gives the team its best chance to win. Faried and Plumlee are likely considered locked in due to the team’s lack of depth in the frontcourt, especially when considering DeMarcus Cousins’ injury concerns and the departure of forwards Blake Griffin, Kevin Love and Kevin Durant. Plumlee’s inclusion on the roster would really be remarkable considering he began the summer as just a member of the Select Team and would have leapfrogged Andre Drummond on the depth chart.
Likely to make the cut
Klay Thompson, Kyle Korver, DeMarcus Cousins
While the coaching staff’s decisions on Davis, Harden, Curry, Faried, Plumlee and Irving all appear fairly simple, the decisions on the remaining six spots will prove to be more difficult. After those six players, it appears that Klay Thompson has played his way onto the team and the same can be said for Kyle Korver as Coach Krzyzewski speaks very highly of Korver.
“Kyle’s a specialist, you know, one of the top three-point shooters and a veteran,” said Krzyzewski, via Yahoo! Sports. “He doesn’t even have to play and we know who he is.”
Despite the injury concerns around Cousins, he looked good in Wednesday night’s game, grabbing eight rebounds in almost 16 minutes of action. Cousins’ spot on the roster is his should he continue to show the knee injury he suffered in practice is nothing major.
On the bubble
Derrick Rose, Damian Lillard, Rudy Gay, DeMar DeRozan, Andre Drummond, Chandler Parsons and Gordon Hayward
With nine spots locked in already, that leaves seven players competing for the remaining three spots. Perhaps the biggest question mark of all is Derrick Rose. Heading into the summer, questions were raised regarding just how well Rose would be able to play upon returning. So far indications are that, if he can remain healthy, he is well on his way to his former self and a definite lock for the final roster. However, in the last few days Rose has been held out of practice and even held out of Wednesday night’s game due to knee soreness. It could be that there has been too much made out of Rose being held out of action this week and that this situation is being overblown.
There is no question that a 100 percent Rose would make this roster, and be the leading scorer at that. Team officials knew going into the summer that the inclusion of Rose would bring mandatory rest periods, having played just 49 games for the Chicago Bulls in the last three years and coming off of two major knee surgeries. While this Team USA does not compare to the 2012 Olympic team, there are extremely talented players on this team who can carry the load while Rose is resting and shouldn’t be rushed back for that very reason. While Team USA will understandably rest Rose during times, they also have a huge decision to make on whether include him in the final cut and that decision will affect what happens to Damian Lillard.
Gordon Hayward, Chandler Parsons, Andre Drummond and DeMar DeRozan won’t be selected
It seems that the only player who is a lock to be cut is Gordon Hayward. The Utah Jazz forward played in 14 minutes on Wednesday and didn’t do much to separate himself from the other forwards on the roster. Chandler Parsons has also fallen out of the rotation and joins Hayward on the outside looking in on the depth chart. As previously mentioned, Drummond appears to have taken a backseat to Plumlee on the depth chart and hasn’t proved why he should be the fifth big man on the roster in Spain. There have been reports that Drummond will be cut. Rudy Gay’s fate with the team after joining late as a replacement for Durant could be in question as well.
With Hayward, Parsons and Drummond eliminated up to this point, the fourth and final cut is down to Gay, DeMar DeRozan and Lillard. Coach Krzyzewski may want to opt to keep Lillard as an option in case something happens to Rose in Spain and that could leave Gay as the odd man out. DeRozan is also a question mark given the guard depth on the team, but he did everything he could to prove he belongs after posting 13 points on 6-of-9 shooting on Wednesday night while adding six assists and five rebounds. Ultimately it could be DeRozan gone with Gay and Lillard the last ones on the team.
Mason Plumlee Expects “Hungry” Kevin Garnett to Return
The Brooklyn Nets’ second-round exit from the playoffs last season brought uncertainty on whether Kevin Garnett would retire or come back for his 20th season in the NBA.
However, following a conversation with teammate Mason Plumlee, it sounds like Garnett not only set to return next season, but determined to take the Nets deeper into the postseason.
“He said he feels great,” Plumlee told Andy Vasquez of The Record. “He’s hungry, too, for this season. He didn’t like how last season ended. You have a team with guys who are used to winning and be successful and they didn’t like how last season ended. So everybody has a hunger [and] a drive going into next year.”
New Nets head coach Lionel Hollins said that he has yet to speak with Garnett yet, but that the decision to return is solely on him.
“I haven’t talked about [returning next season] with him, but all reports that I have [from management] is that he’s coming back,” Hollins told Jared Zwerling of Bleacher Report. “It’s his right to make that decision or change his mind if he has decided to come back or not come back. I’m not worried about that; that’s out of my control. That’s a decision that KG and his family have to make, and I’ll leave it with him.”
Last season, Garnett battled injuries that limited him to just 54 games in the regular season and a career-low 20.5 minutes per game. However, Hollins said that he has no plans on limiting Garnett’s minutes if he returns.
“Everyone’s going to play whatever minutes they deserve to play,” Hollins told amNewYork.