Who Will Team USA Cut for the FIBA World Cup?
There are 13 on the roster and 12 can go to China. Here’s who should be worried.
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What started at 33 players, has trickled down to 13. The selection process is heading toward its final stage as Team USA travels to Australia to prep for the 2019 FIBA World Championships. The international hoops tournament officially kicks off on Aug. 31, which means Jerry Colangelo's clock for selecting their final 12 players to represent them in China is ticking down.
Carrying some momentum from a tune-up victory over Spain last Friday, Coach Pop and his staff are looking for players to stand out from the pack. Critics and insiders all have an idea that the shoe-ins to represent the squad will most likely be NBA all-stars such as Donovan Mitchell, Kemba Walker and Jayson Tatum. But the real question we should ask is out of the slim pickings of talented ballers auditioning for a spot on the team, who does Colangelo give the nod and who does he cut?
Here’s who we think will be the three players fighting for the final spot on this year’s FIBA World Championship squad.
Kyle Kuzma, F, Los Angeles Lakers
The 6-foot-9 forward can become a matchup problem in transition offense. His speed and athleticism are one of the reasons why he was invited to try out for the squad. But it’s his defensive tenacity that is going to be the reason why he is left off the team.
Popovich's coaching style strongly focuses on defense as his Spurs squad have consistently been one of the best defensive-oriented theme squads of this decade. No matter who suits up for him in San Antonio, from big-name vets like Rudy Gay to promising stars such as Derrick White, players know that if you play for Pop, you have to lock up.
As he leads this young core of talented ballers, defense and intensity will be key for Team USA to hold their own against big-time international stars such as Nikola Jokic and Giannis Antetokounmpo. Kuz would be a walking liability for matchups against those versatile frontcourt generals.
Joe Harris, SG, Brooklyn Nets
The reigning NBA 3-point contest champ has done a stellar job continuing his hot shooting he left off during the NBA regular season and playoffs. The league leader in 3-point percentage was able to light up Spain from the long ball. The real question Pop and staff need to ask him and his staff is: Do they need him?
Walker is a solid shooter—something he’s worked hard on in recent years— and can get hot at any given point. Tatum, Barnes, Mitchell and Middleton are a walking bucket and are consistently showing they can score at will no matter where they are on the floor.
When you combine these factors, it’s safe to say Harris is more of a want rather than a need for Team USA.
Harrison Barnes, F, Sacramento Kings
Although his numbers have been declining since his second year in Dallas, Barnes has proven he excels well being a system player.
Just look at his resume. He helped Golden State win their first NBA title in 40 years. In addition, he played a major role in helping Team USA win gold at the Rio Olympics in 2016. Barnes is the prototypical player Coach Pop looks for in talent. He knows how to contribute on the offensive side and is also willing to guard the opponent’s best player on the defensive side. Lastly, he is an impressive rebounding guard, something that will buttress Myles Turner and Mason Plumlee under the basket.
Barnes brings a gold-medal mentality to a young core finding their game on the international level. Adding him to the roster helps make Coach Pop’s life a lot easier as he has a young, seasoned vet to provide the leadership and wisdom to motivate a group of players who are adapting to the international playing level.
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