Over the next two weeks, Mike Krzyzewski will have to make some difficult decisions to trim Team USA’s roster down to 12 players from 16. He seemed to tip his hand a bit with how he doled out minutes in the USA Basketball World Cup tune-up match against Brazil.
To put it succinctly, some players never even saw the court, and it shouldn’t be too much of a leap of faith to assume they are on the bubble.
Gordon Hayward and DeMar DeRozan, two of the four players who did not play, will almost certainly be cut. They are redundant players whose productivity will easily be replaced by others on the team.
Andre Drummond and DeMarcus Cousins are the other two players who didn’t see the court. Drummond’s place on the team likely depends squarely on the health of Cousin’s knee. If Cousins continues to play, Drummond is most likely on the way out, leaving one more cut to make. If Cousins bows out, Drummond most likely takes his spot.
The last cut would most likely come down to one of the four remaining point guards on the roster, and Damian Lillard is the most likely candidate. He only saw two minutes of action against Brazil, and certainly appears to be expendable.
Others on the bubble would be Chandler Parsons, who saw limited action, Kyle Korver, who probably makes it on the back of his potency as a three-point threat and Miles Plumlee, who would be cut if both Cousins and Drummond stick around.
One notable player who does not appear to be on the bubble is Kenneth Faried, who, when selected, was viewed as an unlikely candidate to make the squad.
Given his surprise start on Saturday night, and his energy-filled and impressive performance (11 points, nine rebounds), he almost certainly solidified his position on this team. Faried is the only true power forward remaining on the roster, and his effort early on clearly kept the USA team in the game when they appeared to be struggling.
Faried and Anthony Davis have emerged as the leaders on this team, in terms of showing all-out effort and hustle, and their teammates appear to have responded to their implicit call for equal exertion.
Faried may not have been an early favorite to make this squad, but he certainly has answered the bell. I firmly believe he will prove to be one of the most valuable members of Team USA going forward, and I also believe the confidence instilled by this fact will carry over into the season and benefit the Denver Nuggets.