Thursday served as an important moment in advancing the international careers of 24 of the best young American basketball players in the world.
OK, so there's only so much that an intrasquad scrimmage can tell us, but with LeBron James likely ending his international career and several prominent Team USA players moving into their 30's, it's clear that it's almost time for a youth movement.
Thursday's scrimmage at the Thomas & Mack Center, which saw Team White defeat Team Blue, 128-106, gave us a great glimpse of that tremendously compelling future.
Team USA will head to Spain next summer for the FIBA World Cup, and by then, the 2016 Rio Olympics will be right around the corner.
It's never too early to start thinking about the roster, so let's take a look at what we saw on Thursday night. Here are the rosters that were assembled for the game (* denotes starter):
|Blue Team||White Team|
|Damian Lillard *||Kyrie Irving *|
|Gordon Hayward *||Jrue Holiday *|
|Dion Waiters *||Paul George *|
|Greg Monroe *||Kenneth Faried *|
|Anthony Davis *||DeAndre Jordan *|
|Harrison Barnes||Ryan Anderson|
|DeMarcus Cousins||Mike Conley|
|DeMar DeRozan||Andre Drummond|
|Derrick Favors||Michael Kidd-Gilchrist|
|Klay Thompson||Ty Lawson|
|Kemba Walker||Chandler Parsons|
|John Wall||Tyler Zeller|
An Excess of Point Guard Talent
If 28-year-old Chris Paul decides to call it quits on his international career and Derrick Rose chooses to concentrate on his health, Team USA won't miss a beat in the backcourt.
Kyrie Irving and Damian Lillard started Thursday's scrimmage opposite each other, and it took them all of about 100 seconds to start putting on a show.
Lillard drills a three from about two feet from behind the arc with a defender in his face. Irving comes right back and converts a three-point play with a left-handed layup in traffic. Lillard back with a drive to the hoop. Irving responds with another score.
Comcast SportsNet Northwest's Chris Haynes summed it up perfectly:
It's clear coaching staff wants to see Damian Lillard and Kyrie Irving go at one another. And they're getting it. Fun back-and-forth b-ball.— Chris Haynes (@ChrisBHaynes) July 26, 2013
Oh, and when Irving and Lillard went to the bench or shifted to the 2, in came guys like Ty Lawson, Mike Conley, John Wall, Jrue Holiday and Kemba Walker.
Health withstanding, I believe Irving, who finished with 23 points on 6-of-8 shooting to go with seven assists , will make the FIBA World Cup roster. But it wouldn't be surprising to see another one of those youngsters work his way onto the team, depending on what the veterans do.
And in 2016, things may only get cloudier.
Anthony Davis is Going to Be a Major Factor in Rio
Anthony Davis was a part of last summer's gold-medal squad in London, but injuries during his rookie season raised questions about when he would next help Team USA.
Well, he reminded everyone on Thursday why he is such an alluring talent.
He started off his production by knocking down two long jump shots in a row. Then, he did something that very few players in this world are capable of—he picked off an attempted alley-oop, waved off his point guard and took it coast-to-coast for the dunk.
Take a look:
He finished with 22 points and seven rebounds.
Don't forget, this guy is 6'10" and turned 20 in March.
Davis is the exact type of big man you want in the international game. He's long, athletic and can handle the ball and step outside and hit the jumper. He also plays elite defense and has lots of room to get better.
He's going to make the World Cup team next summer, and cracking the starting lineup for the 2016 Olympics in Rio is easily obtainable if he stays healthy.
This Team Will Always be a Joy to Watch
Besides Irving and Davis (Paul George probably already had a spot), I wouldn't say that any other World Cup roster spots were "locked down" on Thursday (Kenneth Faried came close), but we certainly got a glimpse of how entertaining some of these youngsters can be.
John Wall and Anthony Davis' dunks can be seen above. Kenneth Faried had a couple of dunks and a big run-down block. Harrison Barnes, who scored 18 points, did this:
I'm so sorry, Ryan Anderson.
Who most impressed you on Thursday?
It's important not to put too much stock in a scrimmage since defense is limited, but it's clear watching a game like this that players are only getting more and more athletic. Point guards are throwing down huge dunks, big men are running the court, and it's all awesome.
International competition tends to play to an open, free-flowing game, and these youngsters are very well-suited for that.
The future of Team USA is in incredibly capable hands.