Examining USA Basketball's future after team announces new roster for 2014-16
USA Basketball announced its initial 28-man roster on Thursday, featuring a mix of program veterans and relative newcomers. LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Chris Paul, and Carmelo Anthony are among the more notable returning players from Team USA rosters past, while Paul George, Blake Griffin, LaMarcus Aldridge, and DeMarcus Cousins all have a chance to represent USA Basketball in international competition for the first time.
The new roster will offer a player pool for both the 2014 FIBA World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games -- the two major international competitions of the upcoming cycle. The full roster is as follows:
LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland Trail Blazers*
Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks
Tyson Chandler, New York Knicks
DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento Kings*
Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder
Paul George, Indiana Pacers*
Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers*
Dwight Howard, Houston Rockets
Andre Iguodala, Golden State Warriors
LeBron James, Miami Heat
David Lee, Golden State Warriors*
Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers*
Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers
Klay Thompson, Golden State Warriors*
Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder
*Designates players who have not yet played for the senior men's national team in formal competition.
USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo noted on Thursday that the roster was the "strongest we've ever had." If nothing else, the roster is undeniably deeper in ways that previous ones were not; the teams that competed in the 2010 FIBA World Championships and the 2012 Olympics were both a bit light on conventional bigs, while this new player pool is brimming with young talent at the power forward and center positions.
Dwight Howard has made his return to USA Basketball, his first involvement with the program since 2008. Love, Davis, and Chandler are all veterans of USA Basketball and will be in consideration for 2014 and 2016. Aldridge, Griffin, Cousins, Drummond, Lee, and Faried have all been involved in USA Basketball at some level in the past, but will compete for a spot on the national team roster over the course of this cycle. With James, Durant, and Carmelo Anthony also options for head coach Mike Krzyzewski at those same positions, USA Basketball should have an impressive level of depth and flexibility in its frontcourt.
One noticeable absent is Kobe Bryant, the only 2012 Olympian to be excluded from the roster going forward.
"I saw Kobe [on Wednesday] night," Krzyzewski remarked, "and he said 'I'll be there [in 2016], but you probably won't wanna play me.' I said 'I'd always want to play you, but I understand.'" By the time the Olympics roll around, Bryant will be nearing 38 years old.
Krzyzewski and Colangelo both noted, however, that Team USA will not be at full, superstar-laden strength for the FIBA World Cup. James, Paul, and Anthony will not compete in 2014 by the program's own choice, as Krzyzewski noted that non-Olympic competition is a prime opportunity for younger players. All three are nonetheless included on the program roster due to interest on both sides in their involvement for the 2016 Olympic Games.
Krzyewski also acknowledged the possibility that players like Williams and Chandler -- who have dealt with nagging injuries this season -- may be off the board for 2014.
Regardless, the team should still be in good hands in the interim. Durant and Love have both publicly committed to playing in the FIBA World Cup this summer, while Colangelo said that Aldridge is also looking to make the 2014 team. Should Westbrook or Rose be healthy enough to participate, they, too might flesh out a roster that would enter the World Cup as heavy favorites. A hypothetical 12-man roster might include:
Guard: Curry, Williams, Westbrook, Lillard
Wing: Durant, George, Harden, Iguodala
Big: Love, Howard, Aldridge, Davis
Of the 2014 team, Colangelo said: "I think you'll see at least six Olympians, but that remains to be determined."
The 12-man team for the 2016 Olympics could take any number of forms, dependent on injuries, contract situations, and adjustment to the Team USA pool. This a working roster, but it's not exactly iron-clad; USA Basketball has added and dropped players in the past to address certain needs and bring particular talents into the fold, and such movement will likely happen again before the final 2016 roster is determined.
"We have a fluid roster," Krzyzewski said. "There are players who didn't make this roster who are just on the cusp." Among that next group are Greg Monroe and Jrue Holiday -- two quality players edged out by the vast competition at their respective positions. Krzyzewski did note that there's potential for Holiday (or another point guard) to slip into the pool if injuries start to become a problem.
Other notable players who competed in USA Basketball's 2013 mini-camp who have not been included are: John Wall (Washington), Mike Conley (Memphis) Ty Lawson (Denver), Ryan Anderson (New Orleans), Chandler Parsons (Houston), Kemba Walker (Charlotte), Taj Gibson (Chicago), DeMar DeRozan (Toronto), and DeAndre Jordan (L.A. Clippers). The following players have also been dropped from the roster since its last iteration (2010-12): Chauncey Billups (Detroit), Carlos Boozer (Chicago), Chris Bosh (Miami), Tyreke Evans (New Orleans), Rudy Gay (Sacramento), Eric Gordon (New Orleans), Danny Granger (Indiana), Jeff Green (Boston), Al Jefferson (Charlotte), Brook Lopez (Brooklyn), Robin Lopez (Portland), O.J. Mayo (Milwaukee), Lamar Odom (N/A), Kendrick Perkins (Oklahoma City), Tayshaun Prince (Memphis), Rajon Rondo (Boston), Amar'e Stoudemire (New York), Dwyane Wade (Miami), and Gerald Wallace (Boston).