Thursday, May 3, 2012

What if: 23-and-under U.S. hoops roster for London

After writing about John Wall joining the U.S. Men's national program and the potential for a 23-and-under team going forward, I started wondering what a team with that type age restriction could look like this summer.

Of the players likely headed to London for real, only Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Love (and the injured and therefore not eligible even in the What If world Derrick Rose) are options. Here's my projected 12-man roster with six alternates, starters in bold:

Power forward: Blake Griffin, Kenneth Faried

Small forward: Kevin Durant, Paul George

Center: Kevin Love, Greg Monroe, Anthony Davis

Wing guard: James Harden, Klay Thompson

Point guard: Russell Westbrook, Kyrie Irving, John Wall

Alternates: Avery Bradley, DeMarcus Cousins, DeMar DeRozen, Gordon Hayward, Brandon Jennings, Kawhi Leonard.

Frontcourt: Durant and Love provide the scoring and both knock down 3's at a high rate. Love's inside-outside combo makes him an ideal option for the international game... I'm not the biggest Griffin fan, but no way he the "Poster Child" stays home... Monroe's passing makes for a nice attribute, though his defense is another story. That's where the shot-blocking Davis steps in... Cousins is the wild card in more ways than one. If Monroe/Davis are deemed enough behind Love in the middle, Team USA can add a pure banger like Faried (or go with a sixth guard). If they want another inside presence, Boogie gets the nod...I will always advocate for having 2-3 true role players rather than trying to jam typically starring options into jobs they do not usually take on. On this team that means Faried and Davis (and potentially Bradley in the backcourt).

Backcourt: Going with three point guards is a must and the scrimmage battles between Wall, Irving and Jennings would be a showstopper. Jennings is a superior 3-point threat to Wall and that could swing the difference, but I'll go with homer pick - though also a legitimate call - for now... I could also see the decision-makers wanting a defensive stopper like Bradley to get after France's Tony Parker... Derrick Rose would be a lock if healthy and Iman Shumpert - also out with a knee injury - would offer similar attributes to Bradley against wing players...Thompson's outside touch makes him the designated zone buster...Harden's old school style fits in with any lineup and Westbrook's athleticism on the international stage will be YouTube-tastic.

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