By Matt Graber
Team USA has finally settled on its final 12-man roster for the 2014 FIBA World Cup, which begins one week from today in Spain. Coach K and his crew cut Damian Lillard, Kyle Korver, Gordon Hayward, and Chandler Parsons from the team last night, leaving the 12 man roster as follows: Kyrie Irving, Derrick Rose, Stephen Curry, James Harden, Klay Thompson, DeMar Derozan, Rudy Gay, Anthony Davis, Kenneth Faried, DeMarcus Cousins, Andre Drummond, Mason Plumlee.
Irving, Curry, Harden, Faried and Davis will likely be the starters and should form a strong unit. The trio of Irving, Curry and Harden will provide plenty of scoring, with each being a threat from beyond the arc, while Davis and Faried should be a long, athletic and energetic defensive pairing that will snag plenty of rebounds.
Rose has looked impressive in camp, and while his minutes might be limited due to his knee, he’ll be a strong backup and can make a serious impact with his athleticism. Thompson can play the 2 or 3 and adds more shooting, as well as good defense and some familiarity with Curry. DeRozan once seemed like a likely cut, but he has looked great when given playing time. Gay, a last-minute replacement for the departing Kevin Durant, can bully smaller forwards and has the size to play the 4 if necessary. Cousins, Drummond and Plumlee give the team valuable depth in the frontcourt and should each serve their own role. Cousins is a monstrous post presence, Drummond is a great rebounder and the best athlete of the trio, and Plumlee can handle the dirty work.
While the four players who missed the cut could have each been valuable additions, their exclusions make sense. Lillard, while a clutch shooter, fell behind Coach K fave Irving pretty early in camp and didn’t play in the team’s exhibition victory against Puerto Rico. With Irving, Rose and Curry locks to make the team, Lillard faced an uphill battle. Korver is a great shooter and has a better all-around game than people think, but the team has plenty of shooting with Irving, Curry, Harden, and Thompson, and he lacks the size to play the 4. It seemed like either Hayward or Parsons would make the team thanks to their all-around game and positional versatility, but they seemingly fell behind DeRozan in the rotation, and because Gay has a little more size, he is a better choice to play the 4.
The most interesting takeaway from the roster is the decision to keep Cousins, Drummond and Plumlee. While it initially looked like Cousins and Plumlee would be fighting for one roster spot, with Drummond on the outside looking in, the team seemingly opted for a larger roster to counter Spain’s massive front court of Pau and Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka. Davis, Faried, Cousins, Drummond and Plumlee will give Team USA a large, athletic and deep front court that can overwhelm smaller teams and can withstand Spain’s attack.
Realistically, this roster shouldn’t run into much trouble until a likely finals matchup with Spain. This team has the offensive talent, especially in the backcourt, to blitz opposing defenses with speed and shooting, and the team now has the size and depth to be a defensive force. Cousins, Drummond, and Plumlee are the X-factors. If one or more of them proves able to serve as a strong compliment to Davis, that matchup with Spain becomes a whole lot easier.
Matt Graber is a writer for Scouts Alley, Wizards 101 and Air Alamo. Follow him on Twitter @Matt14Graber.