DeMarcus Cousins, Stephen Curry, Anthony Davis, DeMar DeRozan, Andre Drummond, Kenneth Faried, Rudy Gay, James Harden, Kyrie Irving, Mason Plumlee, Derrick Rose, Klay Thompson. Those are the 12 guys that Team USA will bring to the FIBA world championships at the end of the month. The biggest surprise is how big the team went. They’ve taken three true centers, including Plumlee, who many thought was a major long shot to make the roster. There are also two power forwards, Faried and Davis, who aren’t stretch fours and aren’t necessarily known for their scoring.
So why the change? International competition is smaller and less prone to scoring at the rim than NBA competition. Many guys who play on the perimeter in the NBA are more than capable of guarding the post at the international level. The paint in bigger in FIBA play and goaltending is pretty much allowed, making it easier for anyone to protect the rim. So, again, why go so big?
The answer isn’t about who is on the Team USA roster, it’s about who isn’t.
Paul George suffered a gruesome injury. Kevin Durant withdrew from international competition due to fatigue (and possibly not wanting to mess up a $285 million endorsement deal). LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony appear to be done with international play. That’s four guys, all over 6′ 8″, who primarily play the four at the international level. The only player on Team USA now who fits that mold is Rudy Gay, and obviously he’s not at the level of those four.
The pool of players to choose from this time around was simply much smaller on the perimeter. They needed to go big in order to handle teams like Spain in the post. Plumlee is unlikely to play much unless there is an injury to Cousins or Drummond, but having him gives you insurance you need with this roster.
Though not as strong on paper as the 2012 olympic team, Team USA is still the clear favorite here. Rose, Curry, Irving, and Harden should be pretty much impossible to stop and Drummong and Davis will bring length and athleticism in the post that even Dwight Howard fell short of.
We’ll be paying close attention to Team USA throughout the FIBA championships, so stay tuned.