10 Takeaways from Team USA Basketball Minicamp in Las Vegas
USA Basketball capped off a week of minicamp with a Blue-White intrasquad scrimmage in Las Vegas.
The camp was held for USA's coaching staff to get an idea of who they'd be targeting for the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup in Spain.
Marcus Smart of Oklahoma State and Doug McDermott of Creighton were the only non-NBA players invited. Even for the long shots, the opportunity this minicamp offers is priceless. Young players gain tremendous experience taking in the culture of USA basketball, as well as playing among fellow NBA studs.
Here's 10 takeaways from this week's action
Anthony Davis Has Superstar Upside
Anthony Davis dropped 22 points in Team USA's intrasquad scrimmage, but it was how he picked them up that really blew you away.
He lit it up from outside, finished on the move and handled the ball with ease.
Given his size and ability to play face-up basketball, we're now talking about one of the most versatile two-way players in the entire NBA.
Davis is a guy who's going to make his teammates better because of his ability to finish plays from all over the floor. Jrue Holiday is going to have a target above the rim, on the run and spotting up in New Orleans.
To think he's only entering his second year in the league is scary. When Davis approaches his prime, he'll have the upside of a max-contract superstar talent.
Andre Drummond Is Motivated
Based on some of the comments made by Andre Drummond during minicamp, the Pistons big man appears motivated to turn some heads.
Drummond told David Mayo of MLive.com, "It ain't no long term, I'm trying to make it now. I'm not going there for fun. I'm going there to try to take somebody's spot. I wouldn't use this as just a workout. I'm going there to play as hard as I can."
Pistons fans should love this, as Drummond has been rather laid back since his latter days in high school and one year at the University of Connecticut. This could be a sign he's starting to embrace the personality of a powerful, interior enforcer.
Drummond should be at the center of plenty NBA conversation next season.
Kyrie Irving Is a Future Centerpiece for USA Basketball
Kyrie Irving looked like the best player on the floor during the intrasquad scrimmage, leading his team with 23 points in the win.
Irving has the whole package, not just in terms of his game, but also the way he carries himself.
Not only does Irving project as the centerpiece of this team in Spain, but as a key player for the 2016 Olympic team in Brazil.
Now entering his third year in the NBA, this is the season he takes the next step as the master in command—the time when he converts his talent and the talent around him into wins instead of just personal statistics.
Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors Should Put Up Bigs Numbers in 2013-14
It might be a cliche at this point, but there's no doubting the theory that one of the best ways to improve is by playing with better players.
Gordon Hayward is getting that opportunity now. It's a chance for him to build his confidence as a scorer in this league. And when you consider the rebuilding stage that Utah is in and the lack of offense on the roster, the Jazz will need Hayward to step up as a go-to guy.
Hayward should be featured in this year's offense, as should Derrick Favors, who lost 15 pounds so far this offseason.
With Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap no longer in Utah, Hayward's and Favors' shoulders will be heavily leaned on.
These guys have been in the league long enough at this point to have a good feel for the physicality and speed of the game. And after this minicamp, both Hayward and Favors should be even more prepared to carry the load next season.
Damian Lillard Looking to Take Next Step
Damian Lillard drew some favorable reviews for his performance in Vegas. He may not have performed to the best of his ability during the scrimmage, but those who watched him practice were impressed with his presence.
There's so much to like about him terms of his poise and maturity for a young point guard. His skills and fundamentals are on point, and Lillard is a bright kid who's constantly looking to improve.
Most of the criticism he's received so far has been focused on his defensive struggles, but Lillard has quickly looked to address it. He told Mike Tokito of The Oregonian he still plans on working with Gary Payton this summer, one of the top defensive point guards to ever play in the NBA.
Lillard is one of those guys who's going to ask questions and actively seek out ways to improve. He fits in perfectly with what USA basketball is all about.
For John Wall, the Time Is Now
John Wall appears to have earned himself a max $80 million extension while the minicamp was taking place, according to Michael Lee of The Washington Post, raising some discussion over his perceived value versus his actual value.
The Wizards made it clear what they felt his value was, but now it's time for Wall to back that up.
Wall scored 10 points in the intrasquad scrimmage but other young point guards have taken the reigns as the future for the United States team at the 1.
Now that he's getting paid like a superstar, winning some games would help him regain that label.
DeMarcus Cousins Is Still DeMarcus Cousins
DeMarcus Cousins reminded us of his supreme confidence by telling the media he has no competition for the best big man at camp.
This shouldn't be too shocking. If the Kings were planning on dealing him, chances are it would have happened by now. There's just no way they can get equal value by trading him—Cousins has too much talent, youth and towering upside.
The fact of the matter is that Cousins actually was the top big man at the minicamp. We just have to get to the point where we're talking about his skills and not his behavior.
And that will be up to him and the Kings this year if they want to put some wins on the board.
The Pressure Is on for DeAndre Jordan
It's pretty hard to believe that DeAndre Jordan is now entering his sixth year in the NBA. With the Clippers in win-now mode following a disappointing early exit in the playoffs, the pressure has been put on Jordan's shoulders to provide his team with a more reliable interior presence.
Word out of Vegas is that Jordan has been impressive during minicamp, according to ESPN's Marc Stein. At $11 million a year, he should be.
It's tough not to be critical of Jordan, who just hasn't shown much improvement on a year-to-year basis. Maybe his strong showing at the USA minicamp and a year full of trade rumors will give him the confidence and motivation he needs to take that next step.
Harrison Barnes Could Be a Sneaky Sixth Man of the Year Candidate in 2013-14
Harrison Barnes looked awesome during the Blue-White intrasquad scrimmage, where he finished with 18 points on 6-of-11 shooting.
Barnes threw down another one of his vintage, posterizing slams—this time skying over Ryan Anderson for a lefty finish.
He was fantastic during last year's playoffs and appears to be off to a good start this offseason. Barnes is a bright, mature kid with the mental capacity to embrace a "demotion,"which is probable following the Warriors signing of swingman Andre Iguodala.
As a sixth man, Barnes will get more time playing against opposing teams' second units, where his focus can center on just scoring the ball. And the less Barnes thinks, the better he plays.
He should fill Jarrett Jack's spot nicely as a source of offensive firepower off the bench for the Dubs.
The Pelicans Are Well-Represented in Las Vegas
The New Orleans Pelicans have three key members of their rotation at minicamp, including new addition Jrue Holiday, who the team acquired from Philadelphia for Nerlens Noel during the 2013 draft.
Ryan Anderson also received an invite, along with Anthony Davis, who, to no surprise, has been a clear-cut standout at this year's camp.
It's important for finishers like Anderson and Davis to get a feel for how Holiday operates, so this is some valuable extra time for these three to spend together during the offseason.
Holiday and Davis really have the potential to be a special offensive duo. If the Pelicans can find a way to make their talent jell, this could be a team that makes a move in the West.