Assessing the Team USA point guard battle

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At the end of the August, the inaugural FIBA World Cup (formerly known as the FIBA World Championships) will tip-off as 24 of the world’s best international teams will meet in Spain.

The USA will be hot favourites to win since the majority of the planet’s best players come from the States, which also happens to boast the best basketball league in the world – the NBA. But that’s not to say their journey to the championship will be easy. 

The host nation also boasts a strong squad with likes of Oklahoma City Thunder’s shot blocking specialist Serge Ibaka, the Minnesota Timberwolves’ passing maestro Ricky Rubio, along with Gasol Brothers, Marc and Pau, plus several other big name players.

That’s before we delve into teams like France, Brazil, Greece, Argentina and Lithuania.

But first, Team USA needs to decide which players will make the trip and they will be choosing from an extremely talented pool. The most talented (difficult) position to choose from will no doubt be the point guard spot.

Managing Director Brian Colangelo, Head Coach Mike Krzyzewski and the rest of the coaching staff will have a headache of choosing between: John Wall, Steph Curry, Derrick Rose, Kyrie Irving and Damian Lillard.

All five players are perennial All-Stars and there is no doubt they can contribute. Sadly, not all them can be included. So let’s take a quick look what each brings to the table.

John Wall

Wall is arguably the most athletic player in the entire roster. The reigning Slam Dunk Champion can jump out of the building, is fast as lighting in the open court and is extremely agile. In a nutshell, name anything involving athleticism and he can do it.

Standing 6-foot-4, he is also has great size for a point guard, plus he has an incredibly huge 6-foot-9 wingspan. Combine those to physical aspects with his outstanding athleticism and you have making of nightmare defender.

His offensive game isn’t too shabby either having notched 19.3 points and 8.8 assists per game last season.

However, he doesn’t possess a consistent jump shot, so he may struggle in the international scene, where there is less room for him to drive inside and do damage.

Kyrie Irving

Simply put, Kyrie Irving GETS BUCKETS and he’ll look pretty damn good doing it too.

He isn’t the most athletic of guards, but thanks to his creativity and killer crossover, defenders are almost powerless to stop him getting to the rim. To make matters worse for defenders, he is great shooter from the outside.

Combine those two factors together and you have a nightmare for any defender.
The problem with Irving is on the other end. Over the course of his career, he hasn’t really shown much desire on defense.

Derrick Rose

Next to Wall, Rose is probably the most athletic point guard available. And thanks to his physical gifts, he has been able to terrorise defences in the NBA for several years.

His quickness allows him to get by his man at will and he is an outstanding finisher at the rim; thus the 20.5 points per game average for his career.

Unfortunately he has missed over 180 games in the past due to injuries. He missed the entire 2012-13 campaign and played just 10 games in his comeback season last year because of his knees.

Damian Lillard

The Portland Trail Blazers star has been phenomenal during his two years in the NBA having averaged 20 points per outing thus far. He has built a reputation as a big time player in high pressure situations, displayed great aptitude in pick and roll situations, linking up beautifully with LaMarcus Aldridge for a deadly 1-2 combo.

Recently, he also showed great intensity and desire on defense, during the training camp as he harassed poor Trey Burke with full-court pressure throughout the sessions. 

Ultimately, that may be his best bet to making the team because near-enough everyone on the team is a great scorer. Plus, most (if not all) the other point guards have proven to be better at setting up teammates.

Steph Curry

Incredible shooting? Check. Killer Crossover? Check. Great passing? Check.

Curry has all the tools to be an unstoppable force on offense. Just like Irving, he has ridiculously good handle of the ball, which enables him to dance his way to any spot on the court. His court vision and passing ability is right up there with the best set-up artists.

As for shooting; He is one of the best…EVER.

His defense however is nothing to brag about and opposing point guards can often do as they please against him.

Who makes the team?

The coaching staff will likely take three points guards and odds are the trio of Curry, Irving and Rose make the cut. Meanwhile, Wall and Lillard will probably miss out because of the seniority.

Irving worked his way through the USA system advancing as from the Select Squad and into a fully-fledged international – even though he was born in Australia and could coast onto that squad with his eyes closed.

Curry makes it thanks to the versatility provided by his shooting. That means he can line up off the ball as the shooting guard rather the one that runs the offensive sets.

As for Derrick Rose, his knee injuries are a concern, but he has garnered a lot of praise from some very important people. Assistant Coach Jim Boeheim called him “the most impressive player” at the camp, while Coach K was impressed with his defense.

“His movement on defense has been spectacular,” he said. “When we started practice [Monday], what he did defensively -- whoa. It picked everybody up.

“You don't play that type of defense in the NBA because you have to play 40 minutes and 100 games, but here if you play 20 minutes, that's a lot, but you don't have to play consecutively, so you can go to an extreme -- that's what he's doing.”

Those are three players will be the favorites to make the final 12-man team. Although having said that, there is a strong possibility of adding a fourth guard since the team will play a lot of small line-ups.

That means Wall and Lillard will have to play at ridiculously high level to win over the coaches.

Cleveland Cavaliers
Washington Wizards
Derrick Rose
Chicago Bulls
Portland Trail Blazers
Golden State Warriors
Derrick Rose

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