The pool of players for Team USA World Cup team decreased by one on July 16, as San Antonio Spur Kawhi Leonard withdrew his name from consideration. The 2014 NBA Finals MVP told the San Antonio Express-News that he needs a break after the long regular season and playoff grind.
Leonard has played into late June each of the past two seasons because of San Antonio's back-to-back Finals trips.
"This was a very difficult decision," the 23-year old small forward said. "I want to go out and compete against the guys from these other countries but I need the time to heal and just rest my body from the long season."
Leonard will remain in the national player pool for the 2016 Olympic tournament.
With Leonard’s withdrawal, 18 players will now compete for 12 spots on the red, white and blue’s World Cup team that will open a three day training camp in Las Vegas on July 28.
The USA World Cup roster features nine guards, four small forwards and five Big men.
Derrick Rose, Stephen Curry, Kyrie Irving and Damian Lilliard will compete for the point guard spots. Curry and Lilliard probably could also play the off-guard position.
James Harden, Bradley Beal, DeMar DeRozen, Klay Thompson and Kyle Korver will compete for the shooting guard spots. DeRozen can also play small forward as can Korver while Harden has the ability to handle the ball when necessary.
Predictions: Rose is the wild card as he needs to demonstrate he is completely healthy and has the explosiveness that he had prior to being injured. If Rose does demonstrate what Team USA and Duke University head coach Mike Krzyzewski wants, he will likely make the team.
DeRozen is the only other player who is likely a safe bet to make the team due to his athleticism. Korver will likely not make the team while Beal, Thompson, Curry, Harden and Lilliard will battle for the other three or four spots. Harden is behind the eight ball due to his defense but can light up the scoreboard on offense.
Chandler Parsons, Gordon Hayward, Kevin Durant, Kenneth Faried, Paul George are the forwards on the rosters. Durant and George are sure bets. If Faried makes the team, he will add defense and rebounding while Parsons is a tough-nose defender and an excellent shooter.
Kevin Love, Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins, Andre Drummond and Blake Griffin are the Bigs. Love,Davis and Griffin are guaranteed to make the team while Cousins will likely make the squad. Drummond is a long shot to make the team as Durant and Faried can also play the four and five positions.
So in review, Love, Davis, Griffin, Durant, Cousins and George are sure bets to make the team. DeRozen is a safe bet to make the team while four of the seven other guards will also make the team. Therefore, Drummond, Hayward, Faried along with two of the guards not already selected will battle for the final spot.
Joining Krzyzewski staff is Jim Boeheim (Syracuse), Tom Thibodeau (Chicago Bulls) and Monty Williams ( New Orleans Pelicans).
Team USA is 43-1 under Krzyzewski in official FIBA or FIBA Americas competitions since 2006 and compiled a 19-0 mark in exhibition games.
Following the Las Vegas camp, which concludes with the 2014 USA Basketball Showcase, a USA Blue versus USA White exhibition game on Aug. 1 at the Thomas & Mack Center, the selected team finalists will have a 12-day break. The U.S. team will reassemble in Chicago, Illinois, and train Aug. 14-15, then play an exhibition contest versus Brazil at the United Center on Aug. 16. The American squad will continue its World Cup preparations Aug. 17-22 in New York, New York, and play a pair of exhibition games at Madison Square Garden, the first on Aug. 20 against Dominican Republic, and the second versus Puerto Rico on Aug. 22. The USA will complete its pre-World Cup tour Aug. 24-26 on the island of Gran Canaria, Spain. Training Aug. 24-25, the U.S. will close out its exhibition tour on Aug. 26 facing Slovenia at Gran Canaria Arena.
The 2014 FIBA (International Basketball Federation) World Cup, featuring a total of 24 national teams, is scheduled to be held Aug. 30-Sept. 14 in Spain. The USA World Cup Team will play its preliminary round games in Bilbao, Spain, after being drawn into Group C along with teams from the Dominican Republic, New Zealand, Turkey and Ukraine.