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Nothin' but Net: Predicting the USA World Cup roster

<p>The biggest news stemming from USA Basketball's summer practice is more about who left, or never came, than it is who is in the red, white and blue practice jerseys.</p>

Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - The biggest news stemming from USA Basketball's summer practice is more about who left, or never came, than it is who is in the red, white and blue practice jerseys.

Aside from the progression of Derrick Rose (http://tinyurl.com/q5vzl5w), the major storylines following the Las Vegas practices were the departures of Blake Griffin and Kevin Love.

Reports are that Griffin has a small fracture in his back, so that's understandable. He's got a broken back. Kept Bruce Wayne down for months when Bane did it to him.

Love cited his ongoing and fluctuating situation as his reason for skipping the World Cup. Read between the lines and it's obvious Love bailed to avoid injury before he gets traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Those withdrawals caused a gaping chasm in the frontcourt for the Americans and Coach Mike Krzyzewski. While neither is a natural center, in the international game, Coach K could've gotten away playing the two together to battle Spain's Hermanos de Gasol.

Filling the void will be some combination of Andre Drummond, DeMarcus Cousins, Kenneth Faried, or tall small forwards who can play the big-man spots.

Those aren't the only questions facing Krzyzewski and managing director Jerry Colangelo.

There are five point guards on the roster. That's the era we live in, but when the team maximum is 12 for the World Cup, all five point guards aren't making the roster.

Rose poses a humongous question. If he's healthy, he's a top-five player on the team. If he's not, he's going home. If the Chicago Bulls and head coach Tom Thibodeau, who is one of Krzyzewski's assistants for the World Cup, balk, he's going home.

And keep this in mind about Krzyzewski and Colangelo: they've never been afraid to put a specialist on the roster. Remember Michael Redd and Andre Iguodala both have Olympic gold medals.

So here's a reasonable stab at the USA Basketball roster for the World Cup. This is a combination of both my educated guess, as well as who I'd take if I were in charge, which would be an honor.

SHOO-INS

KEVIN DURANT, STEPH CURRY, PAUL GEORGE, JAMES HARDEN, ANTHONY DAVIS

This group not only represents the likely starting lineup for Coach K, but is also probably the five best players on the roster.

Durant, Harden and Davis all have international experience. That certainly helps.

Durant will be the unquestioned leader of the pack. If these games get tight, and they absolutely could, Durant will be the man Krzyzewski counts on for baskets and on-court stewardship.

Harden is multi-talented and whether we want to admit it or not, he's the best shooting guard in the world.

Davis will be the guy who really emerges from this tournament this summer. The New Orleans Pelicans big man is the best low-post player on the roster and he's ready to make a major leap in status. Davis could become the best center in the NBA this season and, call it a hunch, but this competition will provide the confidence in reaching that plateau. Minutes should be aplenty for Davis.

Curry is a lethal shooter and one of those five point guards. His long-range ability, coupled with his ball-handling skills make him untouchable for Coach K. Being able to play multiple positions is a big plus.

George's biggest asset for this team is his role as an elite perimeter defender. This team doesn't have many wing stoppers and George, who also doubles as a reliable scorer, especially in the clutch, will be tasked with covering the opposition's best player. Plus, like Durant, he can play some power forward so long as the guy lining up against him isn't a leviathan.

THE WILD CARD

DERRICK ROSE

What does USA Basketball do about Rose?

His health is paramount and his responsibility is to the Bulls, not USA Basketball. Rose could be using the summer workouts as a tune-up for the regular season.

The decision lies with Rose, who, by all accounts, looks amazing in Las Vegas, and the Bulls, who have seemed to leave it up to the former MVP.

I say Rose is on the team.

THE POINT GUARDS

KYRIE IRVING, DAMIAN LILLARD

That will make four lead guys on the roster, but that's alright. Curry can easily play shooting guard and even putting two points on the floor at the same time is not the end of the world.

Irving is explosive. He can also shoot from long range, which is an added benefit. Perhaps the largest plus in Irving's corner is his relationship with Krzyzewski. Irving played one season at Duke, but Coach K apparently loves him.

Irving does almost everything better than the other point guys on this roster, although he regressed some this season. Those baby steps backward shouldn't be enough to keep him out of Spain.

When building these rosters, it's easy to try and make pieces fit like a traditional basketball team - two points, two shooting guards, two small forwards, two power forwards and two centers. At some point, talent has to reign supreme (think Iron Chef). Irving is easily one of the seven most- talented players at this camp. At the end of the day, shouldn't that be enough to make the team?

Lillard is also a choice based on pure talent. Defense is his weakness, but he'll have Davis or maybe Drummond behind him. What could become a really large positive for Lillard's making Team USA is his big-game shot-making.

THE BIGS

DEMARCUS COUSINS, KENNETH FARIED

These two, along with Drummond provide an interesting debate.

Davis is the primary big, no question. If he were to get into foul trouble, Krzyzewski could go with Durant as the five, but that's not going to work against Spain, who also feature Serge Ibaka in addition to Los Gasols.

And, offense needs to be taken into consideration with this roster. Yes, the perimeter will be doing the heavy lifting, but if the backup has to play significant minutes, wouldn't USA want someone with some offensive talent? That gives Cousins the nod and means it's impossible for both Drummond and Faried to make the squad.

We all know Cousins provides more headaches than staring at a strobe light after a bottle of tequila, but he won't get out of hand with this group. Cousins yearns for respect at the national level and if he starts with his nonsense, the American basketball hierarchy will bounce him out of Vegas quicker than a cheat.

Faried is an interesting choice, but he'd make the team more as an energy guy than a big man. Every team needs a high-octane athlete and Faried would be that. He could also spell the bigs in a pinch.

THE OTHER SPECIALIST

KYLE KORVER

If Faried is the energy guy, Korver is the long-range shooter. The reason he makes the list is simple: he is the best 3-point specialist on this roster by a mile. Bradley Beal might turn into that one day soon, but for now, that's Korver's title.

THE FINAL SPOT

CHANDLER PARSONS

If Team USA has weaknesses on this current roster, it could use more shooting and possibly someone who could play some big forward in a pinch. Parsons fits the bill best, slightly better than the recently-added Paul Millsap.

If I had to wager my own money, it seems Klay Thompson has a better chance to make the team. However, there's plenty of guards available and few forwards. That gives Parsons the slight edge.

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