Odds of earning one of the final 12 USA Basketball roster spots continue to work in Utah Jazz forward Gordon Hayward‘s favor. Less than a week after Paul George‘s gruesome injury, NBA superstar Kevin Durant withdrew from Team USA trials on Thursday night claiming “physical and mental fatigue.”
With Team USA down two of its top small forwards in less than a week, it would seem that Hayward is practically a shoo-in as depth continues to dwindle at the position. However, on Friday, Rudy Gay of the Sacramento Kings was added to the roster, still not ensuring anything for Hayward.
Four players will still need to be cut from Team USA after its exhibition series concludes in the next couple weeks, and at least one of those cuts will likely come from the wing position of shooting guard/small forward. The players Hayward will be competing with at that position include Gay, DeMar DeRozan, Klay Thompson, Chandler Parsons, James Harden and former Jazz man Kyle Korver.
Thompson of the Golden State Warriors and the Houston Rockets‘ Harden are locks to make the team, while DeRozan, Korver and Gay are all vulnerable just as Hayward. Of that group, DeRozan would seem the most safe as he had a breakout year in 2013-14, making the Eastern Conference All-Star team, while Gay would seem most vulnerable having just been added.
However, previous experience does work in Gay’s favor as he was on the 2010 world championship team and one of the final cuts of the 2012 Olympic team, and because of his lack of international experience Hayward could get the axe. Still, it’s quite amazing to think that a little more than a week ago Hayward had little chance of making the 12-man roster, and now he’s on the precipice of being on Team USA.