In coordination with managing director Jerry Colangelo, Duke Head coach Mike Kryzyzweski, along with a few other high level assistants, has been charged with the duty of winning the inaugural FIBA World Cup which tips off at the end of August, for USA Basketball.
The team has a pool of supremely talented stars from every corner of the NBA to choose from. And now, through a training camp set-up in Las Vegas, the coaching staff will have the headache (or pleasure) of trying to shrink the number of participants from the 20-somethings down to just 12 – with an extra three players or so on stand-by.
But who will survive at shooting guard between the James Harden, Klay Thompson, Bradley Beal and DeMar Derozan?
Ever since breaking out of the shadow of Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant in Oklahoma City, Harden has established himself as a bona fide superstar and arguably the best shooting guard in the NBA.
That’s because he is an excellent scorer (ranked fifth in each of the past two seasons) thanks to his lethal jumpshot and impressive handle. However, his craftiness and savvy is what’s most noticeable about his game.
Everyone knows that when he is dribbling, he usually wants his dominant left-hand. But even when defenders try to cover it, he always finds to get to where he wants, whenever he damn well pleases.
Plus, a lot of the time he either gets there, or ends up going to the free-throw line for some freebies. As such, he is consistently one of the league leaders in average free-throw attempts, and this past season he finished third with 9.1 attempts per contest.
On defense though, the less said the better.
Just like Harden, Derozan is another who has figured out a way to consistently find a way to get to the free-throw line having finished the 2013-14 campaign with an average of eight foul-line shot attempts per outing.
His biggest attribute however, is his outstanding athleticism. Put it this way: as a defender it’s probably best to just let him have a nice, easy dunk when he has a running start. Otherwise you’re just asking to get put on a poster. Case in point…
At 6-foot-7, he also possesses the size to play as a small forward and that will no doubt help his cause.
Beal comes into the camp vying for one the “designated shooter” roles. Although that’s not to say his game is limited to just chucking up shots. Far from it.
The Washington Wizards standout has a decent handle and is capable of creating own looks off the dribble. Plus, thanks to his handling, he is also capable of filling in at the point guard slot on a part-time basis.
His biggest weakness is probably the fact that he doesn’t play particularly great defense. It’s not horrendously bad, but it’s nothing special, either. Also, the prime skill he brings to the table is scoring in general. Unfortunately the team already has that in abundance.
Just like Beal, Thompson is also going for the gunner role on the team. Although, unlike his fellow competitor, he doesn’t quite have the ball handling skills to lose defenders off the dribble.
Nevertheless, his outstanding shooting usually means defenders have to close out on him really quickly, and that usually affords him the room he needs to take a dribble towards the rim for a lay-in or easy mid-range jumper.
Furthermore, during the first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs, he showed he is also capable of keeping up with the some of the best offensive players in the world, when he was assigned to keep tabs on Chris Paul.
Granted he didn’t shut him down, but he did as good a job anyone could have in that series.
Who makes the team?
Let’s be realistic, James Harden is a shoe-in to make the trip, and because a couple point guards on the team can fill in at shooting guard, there is probably one other spot available at the two.
That will likely go to Thompson thanks to his ability both offensively and defensively. And thanks to his 6-foot-7 frame, he can easily transfer those skills to the small forward position at the international level.
As for the Beal and Derozan, they will likely battle it out for the emergency back-up spot and the latter will probably win the role. That’s because Derozan can play both at either guard or forward and there lies his value.
Versatility is an extremely valuable asset in the international game.