Basketball is one of the places where American exceptionalism still rings true. When we put out our best players, we dominate. In the 2014 FIBA world cup, we haven’t had our biggest stars. Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant, Lebron James, Kevin Love and Dwight Howard are nowhere to be found. This year we’ve sent out the B-squad. The team this time around is younger, but still star laden, and it shows the future of the league.
As the quarterfinals begin, here’s a quick summary of who’s on the roster.
Kyrie Irving. – Cleveland Cavaliers
Projected to be a star in Duke, he’s spent most of the last few years either injured or otherwise languishing in obscurity in Cleveland. He was the number one draft pick in 2011, originally Cleveland’s reward for the awful season after Lebron left. Although he hasn’t made the playoffs, he’s expected to be LeBron’s other sidekick in Cleveland now.
Stephen Curry – Golden State Warriors
Injuries threatened to derail his promising career, but for the last few seasons, Steph Curry has been healthy and has become one of the best shooters in the NBA. He’s led the league in three pointers made and attempted for the last 2 years. He’s also the active leader in 3 point percentage.
Derrick Rose – Chicago Bulls
He was the first pick in the vaunted 2008 NBA draft. In 2011, he won the MVP for not being LeBron James leading his team to the number one seed in the Eastern Conference. He was established as the next big thing until he got hurt and missed most of the last 2 season (playing in 10 games out of 164).
James Harden – Houston Rockets
He was the Sixth Man of the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2012. After a dispute over a contract extension (Harden wanted a max contract, Oklahoma wanted to pay him less) he was traded to the Houston Rockets. His individual stats have improved greatly, making him the best shooting guard in the league. He’s also a horrific defender. He’s the only person on the team who was a significant contributor to the 2012 USA basketball team.
Klay Thompson – Golden State Warriors
Klay was second in 3 point field goals made to his teammate Steph Curry. Over the last 3 years he’s transformed from great role playing shooter to best wing defender on the team. He’s a net positive on defense for his squad. His team thought so highly of him that they refused to trade him for Kevin Love in the offseason.
DeMar DeRozan – Toronto Raptors
In his 5th season in the league, he made his first All-Star appearance. He helped lead the Raptors to their first playoff appearance since 2008 last year. After they traded Rudy Gay he really stepped up to lead the team.
Kenneth Faried – Denver Nuggets
Former 4 year player at Morehead, Faried has been a top 10 offensive rebounder for the Denver Nuggets. Standing at a generous 6’8, he out works and out hustles players on both ends of the glass. He’s currently entering a contract year and his performance in USA basketball could help him get on his way to a contract extension.
Rudy Gay – Sacramento Kings
Rudy gay wasn’t invited to join the team until after Paul George’s injury and Durant’s subsequent departure. He was drafted in the 2006 draft, making him the longest tenured player on the team. He’s been much maligned as a poor decision maker, but he shot an impressive 48% since being traded to Sacramento.
Miles Marshall Mason Plumlee – Brooklyn Nets
Like the other Plumlee brothers he played at Duke. His presence can largely be attributed to the fact that Coach K, famous Duke head coach, is also the head coach of USA basketball. He just finished his rookie season in the NBA. His biggest highlight was a game winning block against Lebron James last year, sweeping the season series. He’s also the backup to often-injured Brook Lopez.
DeMarcus Cousins – Sacramento Kings
Top ten scorer. Top 5 rebounder. 5th in PER. Hot head. Suspended twice last year. He’s an amazing talent. He’s Rudy Gay’s teammate and the best player on an otherwise ugly Sacramento Roster.
Anthony Davis – New Orleans Pelicans
Unibrow. Anthony Davis is everything you want in a power forward. In only his sophomore year, he averaged 20 points per game, 10 rebounds per game and led the league in blocks per game. He hadn’t played an NBA game yet when he was on the 2012 USA basketball roster, but now he’s the leading scorer and shot blocker on the team.
Andre Drummond – Detroit Pistons
I almost forgot he was on the team, seeing as US basketball only plays him 6 minutes per game, even neglecting to play him at all in one game. He was also drafted in the same class as Anthony Davis and has shown himself to be better in some ways. He had the most offensive rebounds in the league, and averaged 13.2 rebounds per game (2nd). He’s also a top 10 shot blocker. On the other hand, he’s much maligned for his free throw shooting (29.5% in college, 37.1% and 41.8%). 238 players shot 75 or more free throws last year. He was ranked 238th. Put another way, 19 people shot 3 pointers better than Drummond shot free throws. He’s been a really good player for the Pistons and hopefully he’ll be a star in year to come under the tutelage of Stan Van Gundy.