Since its announcement, I’ve been trying to make myself feel better about the USA basketball roster.
That’s an objectively good team with some awesome players, but it doesn’t feel close to the best roster possible. I’m likely way too close to hitting a panic button that shouldn’t exist when it comes to USA Basketball, but that roster makes me nervous.
For one, there’s a somewhat disturbing lack of depth at point guard. Kyle Lowry was probably the best guard in the Eastern Conference last season, but he wasn’t the same player for much of the playoffs. Kyrie Irving, on the other hand, had a fantastic playoffs and won the NBA’s ultimate prize, but isn’t the kind of distributing lead guard you’d want leading a team of incredible scorers.
Center, as it has been for several cycles now, is another question mark. DeAndre Jordan can probably do a more than capable job of anchoring the defense, but there are plenty of scenarios where FIBA’s five fouls could cause trouble. DeMarcus Cousins is notoriously mercurial and isn’t the kind of rim protector Jordan is.
Granted, this team is definitely missing the game’s biggest names and coach Mike Krzyzewski had to reach way farther into the talent pool than usual. There’s no LeBron James, no Russell Westbrook, no Steph Curry and no Anthony Davis.
Still I’m not sure he and Jerry Colangelo grabbed the best roster. After that complete no-show performance in the Finals, its going to take me a long time to trust Harrison Barnes again. DeMar DeRozan is definitely talented, but he needs the ball in his hands to be effective and isn’t the kind of shooter or defender who can complete a team. I believe in Boogie Cousins, but he’s not the player I’d want to turn to in a difficult situation should trouble arise.
If the U.S. is to win gold- and let’s be clear: I absolutely believe they will- they’ll need huge contributions from their guys on the wing. Here, Colangelo and Kryzyzewski nailed it. There is great athleticism and defensive potential, as well as the kind shooting needed to win. The roster is loaded with incredibly versatile players who can switch between positions 2-4, switch anything on defense and generally cause havoc on the court. A potential lineup with Draymond Green, Jimmy Butler, Paul George, Kevin Durant and Jordan is legitimately terrifying.
Handling the rotations and egos, something Kryzyzewski has done flawlessly, will be key. Coach K will probably choose to start his former Duke pupil Irving, but putting the veteran Lowry in the starting lineup and letting Irving cook second units sounds like a better option. I’d also love to see K incorporate as much position-less basketball as possible, letting guys slide among different spots on the court and play with freedom.
A potential nine-man rotation:
PF/C- Green, SF/PF- George, SG/SF- Thompson, PG-Irving
It’s not the ideal roster and its certainly no Dream Team, but the dozen players USA Basketball has selected to go to Rio will still be overwhelming favorites to win gold.