Part I of this article defining how the Team USA roster is already beginning to take shape can be found here.
Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond have more than just their NBA team in common. The two Detroit Pistons are also among the final bigs vying to be selected to the team for next summer’s FIBA World Cup. How do they stack up against the rest of their competition?
At the minicamp, there were three other bigs as the main competition for Monroe and Drummond: Derrick Favors, Kenneth Faried and DeMarcus Cousins. DeAndre Jordan was also present, but he hasn’t displayed enough ability to anchor a defense or real basketball skill to be a true threat. Larry Sanders, who suffered an injury that kept him out of the intrasquad scrimmage, was perhaps the best big-defender at the camp and with another strong season could catapult himself into the conversation. Tyler Zeller is not making the National Team.
Faried is a good fit for the team as he won’t need offensive possessions of his own and will find his opportunities through offensive rebounds and hustle. His non-stop energy and rebounding would be more than welcomed, and while not an elite shot-blocker, Faried is an above average defender. Any USA big needs to be able to match up with one of the two Gasol’s though, and as a 6-foot-8 power forward, Faried is undersized for this task.
Favors is another player who primarily plays power forward; however, at 6-foot-10 he has a bit more length than Faried. Favors is also a better shot-blocker and averaged the most blocks per game of Drummond-Monroe-Faried-Cousins-Favors (hereby the camp-5). Favors could make the switch to center for the international game, as many players are asked to play different positions. Last season, Favors was similar to Drummond in that he didn’t receive starter-quality minutes. This season will be different as he’ll be called upon to not only be Utah’s starting four but to carry a large load for the team. With new opportunities, Favors will have a chance to take a big step forward with his game this season and catch the eye of Colangelo and Coach K.
Everyone knows the negatives surrounding Cousins: immaturity. If you ask him, though, he has no competition for the title of best big at the USA minicamp. His play in the intrasquad scrimmage did not help his case at all, but the $80 million extension he’s likely to receive soon will suggest differently. Cousins may have the most well-rounded game of the camp-5. Last season, he posted the best scoring, rebounding and steals average. He is also the second best passer of the group behind Monroe. His off-court problems extend to the court as well though, where he shot the lowest FG percentage of any of the camp-5 last season, .465. While he has the size to defend anyone, his defensive fundamentals are mediocre at best and he isn’t the rim protector team USA needs. People suggest that his defense will improve; however at some point he’ll have to show some results and not just potential for Coach K to really think he needs him on the roster.
The camp-5 won’t be the only bigs vying for roster spots, though. LaMarcus Aldridge and Blake Griffin were both ready to go to the Olympics last summer were it not for injuries. Aldridge played most of his minutes at power forward for the Blazers, though he has the length at 6-foot-11 to guard international centers. His most highly touted skill is scoring, though, the least needed commodity from bigs on team USA. The same is true for Blake Griffin. He is a great scorer but below-average defender and rim protector. Neither player is the anti-Gasol and would struggle to cover the brothers on the defensive end.
Roy Hibbert would not. If Jamaica ever grants him a release, he could be the perfect defense-first center the team needs. He would give some international centers fits due to his size and could match-up with and make life hard on either Gasol.
If Dwight Howard is healthy, he can do this too. For him, it’s all about desire. Should he decide he wants to come back and Coach K and his staff decide he is both healthy and committed to helping the team, he is the center the team needs.
Chris Bosh is in a similar boat and could easily fill the role of lone big. Again though, he is not an elite defender or shot blocker, something team USA desperately needs.
Part III focusing on Monroe and Drummond coming soon.