Team USA makes final cuts

After Friday night’s blowout win over Puerto Rico at Madison Square Garden, Mike Krzyzewski and his coaching staff reportedly sat in a room to make a final decision of their 12-man roster before heading to Spain for one last friendly (against Slovenia on Tuesday) and then the beginning of the FIBA World Cup one week from today.

There were a few reports noted on the ESPN telecast that Coach K might opt to take a few extra players to delay the decision a little bit longer. This is a roster without any definite superstars (or at least ones without serious question marks) and a lot of similar players with matching and complementary skills. Talent-wise, it might be the weakest U.S. roster pool since the 2004 Athens disaster.

There would be no waiting though. Krzyzewski cut his team down from 16 players to 12 late Friday night. Damian Lillard, Chandler Parsons, Kyle Korver and Gordon Hayward were officially cut from the roster. The U.S. will travel to Spain with their roster and the projected depth chart below:

Derrick Rose Stephen Curry James Harden Kenneth Faried Anthony Davis
Kyrie Irving Klay Thompson DeMar DeRozan Rudy Gay Mason Plumlee
DeMarcus Cousins Andre Drummond

It is an unexpectedly big roster. The decision to keep DeMarcus Cousins and Andre Drummond came as a surprise as really everyone seemed to believe they would take one of those two or possibly cut Mason Plumlee or take him over Cousins and Drummond.

Size was always going to be Team USA’s weakness. The exhibition games saw Team USA rely heavily on 3-point shooting and the defensive presence of Davis. It is also relying heavily on Harden’s scoring ability and Rose’s health.

The whole makeup of the team should not change too much. Coach K will still ask his team to pressure heavily on defense and now have a bigger backstop in the Davis/Faried pairing and Plumlee and Drumond available off the bench. There clearly had to be concern with having only Davis as a true center on the roster if foul trouble occurred.

There also had to be concern about going up against the Gasol brothers and Serge Ibaka should the U.S. face Spain in the knockout round.

Team USA’s guards should be good enough to hold their own on both ends of the court. But, at the same time, there is now a surprising lack of depth there. Most of the guards on the roster can play multiple positions which should help. And Rudy Gay can move to small forward if there is a more physical presence on the perimeter that requires some size.

Anthony Davis will be the defensive linchpin of a suddenly big Team USA. Credit Jason Szenes/European Pressphoto Agency

This is a team though that will rely heavily on pick and rolls and spreading the floor to create scoring opportunities. There will be a lot of 3-point shots going up — just look at the last two friendlies — and that could lead to some frustrating offense. Maybe a refocus on crashing the glass and protecting the rim to start fast breaks — the U.S.’s real offensive tool for success — will be the formula.

There should be some concern among fans that this team does not have “it” to win the gold medal. They are certainly capable. But this is obviously a flawed roster with some holes teams can exploit.

Ultimately, Team USA seems to be the only ones that can make those problems apparent. If they take quick shots or play lax defense, they will run into some trouble.

They still have time to work on some things before the tournament begins. And in an easy Group C, the U.S. should find themselves ready for the knockout round when it comes in a few weeks.

About Philip Rossman-Reich

Philip Rossman-Reich is the managing editor for Crossover Chronicles and Orlando Magic Daily. You can follow him on twitter @OMagicDaily