NBA

Team USA Has Some Tough Choices to Make

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Getty Images

The exhibition game between Team USA and the Dominican Republic didn’t offer much in the way of compelling drama or intriguing competition, but it did provide the coaching staff with a great chance to evaluate some of the players who haven’t seen much action recently.

Andre Drummond, Gordon Hayward, DeMar DeRozan, Damian Lillard, Kyle Korver, Miles Plumlee and Chandler Parsons were firmly on the bubble entering the game, and not many questions were answered by the time the game concluded. Coach Mike Krzyzewski will need to make four more cuts before the team plays their first game on August 30 against Finland.

Hayward appears to be the most obvious choice to get the kibosh, and may not even make the trip to Spain with the rest of the team. Don’t worry, he has $63 million in guaranteed money that should soften the blow to his ego. He played 14 minutes, and only scored four points against the Dominican Republic, and really didn’t distinguish himself in any meaningful way.

That leaves the other six bubble players to choose from for the remaining cuts. They have  two more exhibition games to play to help the coaches make their final decision, one against Puerto Rico this Friday, August 22, and one in Spain against Slovenia on August 26.

Drummond and DeRozan had monster games against the Dominican Republic, and are certainly making their respective cases to remain on the squad. Korver and Parsons didn’t see any action Wednesday night, but should see minutes on Friday against Puerto Rico.

Lillard had a decent game, seven points in 24 minutes, and may be just behind Hayward in terms of being the most likely to be cut, but he has versatility and a strong defensive presence working in his favor. Krzyzewski doesn’t have to decide on Lillard before leaving for Spain, so I still think he probably makes the trip over the pond with the rest of the team.

The wildcard in all of this is Derrick Rose’s knee. He sat out Wednesday’s game due to soreness in his surgically-repaired knees. There is still a chance that Tom Thibodeau decides to cut Rose loose, to allow him time to rest up before the season.

Predictions

Assuming Rose continues with Team USA, I think the most likely scenario is that Hayward gets cut before the trip to Spain. Lillard most likely makes the trip with the team, but will get eventually get cut due to the sheer amount of guard depth Team USA has.

Before tonight, I would have said that Drummond was an obvious choice to be cut, but he may have made his case to be chosen over Plumlee.

Korver is clearly on the team simply for his long-distance accuracy, but with Steph Curry and Klay Thompson firmly embedded on the team, his presence probably becomes unnecessary as well.

Outlook

The good news in all of this is that despite the loss of Paul George to injury, and with Kevin Durant’s departure, Team USA still has an extremely bright outlook. They have a great mixture of incredible guard talent, versatile swing men, and solid bigs. They should be able to cruise through their bracket with ease. Really, only Spain stands between them and the World Cup Championship.

Court Zierk is a Denver Nuggets writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @CourtZierk, “Like” him on Facebook or add him on Google