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FIBA World Cup: Getting From 20 to 12

USA Basketball has announced their 20 invitees for the FIBA World Cup. Gregg Popovich and his coaching staff will have to eventually cut the roster to 12.

At first glance, the current roster of invitees doesn’t compare, in terms of star power, than the 2016 Olympic team.

The current invitees:

Player Team
Harrison Barnes Sacramento Kings
Bradley Beal Washington Wizards
Anthony Davis New Orleans Pelicans
Andre Drummond Detroit Pistons
Eric Gordon Houston Rockets
James Harden Houston Rockets
Tobias Harris Philadelphia 76ers
Damian Lillard Portland Trail Blazers
Kevin Love Cleveland Cavaliers
Kyle Lowry Toronto Raptors
CJ McCollum Portland Trail Blazers
Khris Middleton Milwaukee Bucks
Myles Turner Indiana Pacers
Kemba Walker Charlotte Hornets
Kyle Kuzma * Los Angeles Lakers
Brook Lopez * Milwaukee Bucks
Paul Millsap * Denver Nuggets
Donovan Mitchell * Utah Jazz
Jayson Tatum * Boston Celtics
P.J. Tucker * Houston Rockets

* Added to the 2019-20 USA National Team roster

On paper, the 12 coming from this pool won’t compare to the 2016 team. In 2016, USA trotted out Carmelo Anthony, Harrison Barnes, Jimmy Butler, DeMarcus Cousins, DeMar DeRozan, Kevin Durant, Paul George, Draymond Green, Kyrie Irving, DeAndre Jordan, Kyle Lowry, and Klay Thompson. Plus, they had some guy named Mike Krzyzewski coaching them.

That’s not a slight on Popovich but he’s taking over a roster that isn’t as explosive offensively than Coach K’s last squad. In 2016, USA kept seven guards, three forwards, and two centers.

So if we use that as a model, here’s the 12 players I would keep:

 

Player Position Team
Damian Lillard Guard Portland Trail Blazers
James Harden Guard Houston Rockets
Kemba Walker Guard Charlotte Hornets
Kyle Lowry Guard Toronto Raptors
Bradley Beal Guard Washington Wizards
CJ McCollum Guard Portland Trail Blazers
Myles Turner Forward Indiana Pacers
Khris Middleton Forward Milwaukee Brewers
Kevin Love Forward Cleveland Cavaliers
Anthony Davis Center New Orleans Pelicans
Andre Drummond Center Detroit Pistons

There are some assumptions here. One big assumption is Kevin Love will be completely healthy. Also will Kyle Lowry accept his invitation and go to camp so soon after the NBA Finals.

There is also some room for debate. As the last forward, I chose Turner over Tatum, Harris, and Barnes. In the International game, Turner’s length on defense would help a roster that keeps on two true centers. He averages close to 3 blocks and slightly over 7 rebounds a game. If Love doesn’t play, his replacement should be Tatum. He can rebound well enough and he’s a dual threat, shot and off the bounce, on offense.

McCollum was the last guard chosen. It came to him or Mitchell. Yes, I would choose Beal over McCollum. So if for some reason, Lowry drops, Mitchell would be his replacement. Walker and Lillard are the other two point guards but there’s no reason for three because Harden will bring the ball up the court… whether Popovich wants him to or not.

Considering the 20 invitees, Popovich might stray from the 7-3-2 model. He could drop a guard and add an extra forward. He could also opt for less length and another wing player. That would take Turner off the roster.

As the FIBA World Cup preparation begins, there isn’t overwhelming certainty like 2016. That team played two close games. They beat Serbia by three and Spain by six. Also, the Aussies lost to USA by a respectable 10 points.

The question about this team is, if they need a basket late in the fourth, who takes it? There’s no Durant, Thompson, or Irving. Can Harden hit an important perimeter shot like Durant? Will Walker be able to turn the corner on his defender and finish like Irving? On a drive and kick will Middleton hit a huge three ala Thompson?

Those are all questions to be answered. Popovich and this roster have big shoes to fill. Coach K and 2016 was a great roster full of all star and hall of fame locks.

That’s a lot of pressure.

 

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