Snubs & Surprises of USA Basketball World Cup Roster
Team USA is now in session.
Just not for everybody.
With the FIBA World Cup in Spain only weeks away, Team USA revealed its training camp roster, per USA Today's Sam Amick.
Familiar faces abound, as do some surprising inclusions. There are also some notable absences, most of which aren't to be considered snubs.
Others aren't so lucky. A select few are too lucky.
We're here to find out just who those luck-laden and misfortune-maimed individuals are.
Surprising Self-Snub: Kawhi Leonard
Team: San Antonio Spurs
2013-14 Stats: 12.8 points, 6.2 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.7 steals, 52.2 percent shooting, 19.4 PER
Disclosure: Not really sure what you classify Kawhi Leonard as here.
According to the San Antonio Express-News' Mike Monroe, Leonard is out on his own accord:
Watching the struggles teammate Tony Parker experienced during the 2013-14 Spurs season after competing for the French national team in last summer’s Eurobasket tournament, Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard made what he called a very difficult decision to withdraw from competition for a spot on the United States team that will compete in the FIBA World Cup in Spain later this summer.
Let us all admire and abhor this decision at the same time.
Playing in back-to-back NBA Finals no doubt takes a toll on the body—even a 23-year-old body sculpted by a stone-faced Leonard who remains stoic whether he's walking on the court, the street or broken glass. Rather than risking further injury, Leonard has made the adult decision, electing to sit this one out.
(Quick aside: Someone inform Derrick Rose and his paper knees that's not illegal.)
Leonard is still considered a strong candidate to earn a spot on the 2016 Olympics team, so there is that to look forward to. His gritty defense coupled with his understated shooting and underestimated explosion will add an interesting dynamic to the running-and-gunning attack USA has in place at the moment.
Until then, we'll have to settle for knowing he's a Finals MVP, who, at the very least, won't skip out on the NBA's regular season.
Snub: John Wall
Team: Washington Wizards
2013-14 Stats: 19.3 points, 4.1 rebounds, 8.8 assists, 1.8 steals, 43.3 percent shooting, 19.5 PER
This is not OK.
John Wall should absolutely be on this list of 19 players. There is no question. No doubt.
Allow Matt Moore of CBS Sports to take it away for one moment:
The biggest, and most glaring exclusion is that of John Wall. It's fairly difficult to make the argument that Kyrie Irving is better than Wall, and Damian Lillard becomes essentially a tie once you factor in defense. There's still a good chance Wall makes it due to injury or another reason for someone pulling out, but that doesn't change the fact that his exclusion remains an insult for one of the better point guards.
Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski also makes it a point to say Wall still has a chance of making the roster, but people, come on. This is unacceptable.
Wall was excluded from the initial 28-player pool released in January and has once again failed to secure an inclusion here. As one of the NBA's brightest rising stars, his absence, even if only temporary, is unpleasantly noticeable.
Coach Mike Krzyzewski and managing director Jerry Colangelo clearly have this shoot-threes-or-be-killed dynamic going, and that's fine. If it were any other season of Wall's career, some of us could be sold on this ousting.
But Wall shot a career-best 35.1 percent from deep last year and remains one of the most explosive players in the NBA at any position. He also became just the 10th player in league history—yes, the 10th—to average at least 19 points, four rebounds, 8.5 assists and 1.5 steals per game for an entire season. Team USA can use all he provides.
"It’s more motivation because I didn’t make McDonald’s game," he told The Washington Post's Michael Lee in January. "I wasn’t national player of the year. I wasn’t rookie of the year. So those are just tabs I keep to motivate myself to prove people wrong.”
Here we were thinking he already proved enough people wrong for everyone to know excluding him from this invite list would be, well, wrong.
Surprise: Kyle Korver
Team: Atlanta Hawks
2013-14 Stats: 12.0 points, 4.0 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 1.0 steals, 47.2 percent three-point shooting, 13.5 PER
Team USA is going to shoot all the threes.
When Kyle Korver was initially named to the 28-player list, I was stunned. Now I'm simply flabbergasted. And confused.
And, much like Bleacher Report's Adam Fromal was in January, slightly irked:
I'll be the first to tell you that Kyle Korver is a great and criminally underrated basketball player. It's my duty as a fan of the Atlanta Hawks, as I get to witness firsthand the contributions that he brings to the table—solid defense and good interior passes, for example—other than three-point shooting.
But there is no world in which Korver belongs on Team USA.
Korver does a lot more than just shoot threes. On Team USA, however, that's all he would do. He's not being brought in for his defense or his secondary passing abilities. Coach K hasn't fallen in love with the steely look that washes over his face each time he drains a three.
Finding the bottom of the net from deep is all Korver would be tasked with doing, which isn't enough. He's not suited for Team USA's pace of play, and he doesn't make up for his middling athleticism with superior rebounding or defense.
Chandler Parsons offers a near-identical offensive skill set, plus the capacity to run the break again and again. Korver's inclusion creates some unnecessary overlap that not even his league-leading 47.2 conversion rate from deep can hide.
Specialty players like him have little business playing on this sort of stage.
Snub: Greg Monroe
Team: Detroit Pistons
2013-14 Stats: 15.2 points, 9.3 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.1 steals, 49.7 percent shooting, 18.1 PER
Greg Monroe is a "snub," in the loosest sense of the word.
Matthew Tynan of SB Nation elaborated on this back in January:
The big man is part of a crowded frontcourt in Detroit, but the USA roster is perhaps even more cluttered. As many as 10 power forwards and centers will be part of the pool over the next three summers, and it's difficult to make a case for Monroe over any of them. He's been a good player, but he doesn't have the same sort of offensive value as a LaMarcus Aldridge or Blake Griffin, and he doesn't have the same defensive impact as a Dwight Howard or Andre Drummond. He's a bit in-between and, again, this team is deep.
All of what he says holds true today. The field up front will be overwhelmingly crowded in the coming summers. It also doesn't help that Monroe's contract situation hasn't reached a resolution.
And yet it would have been nice to see Monroe get some burn as a tweener big man this summer, not unlike Anthony Davis. He doesn't have the offensive range Brow does, and he's nowhere near as talented defensively, but he certainly deserves a look.
Kenneth Faried is the guy we should look toward here. He's all heart, and his motor fits Team USA's end-to-end theme. But he's limited both offensively and defensively. Monroe has a more reliable jumper, and while his speed and explosion aren't comparable to Faried's, he can work within a faster-paced system.
That he's an offensively oriented player who grabs eyes with his gaudy point totals only makes him a better match for our nation's finest, which approaches defense like it's optional.
Surprise: Gordon Hayward
Team: Utah Jazz
2013-14 Stats: 16.2 points, 5.1 rebounds, 5.2 assists, 1.4 steals, 41.3 percent shooting, 16.2 PER
Gordon Hayward is having himself a summer.
First he finds out two teams—the Charlotte Hornets and the Utah Jazz—are willing to pay $63 million for his services. Now he earns an elite honor that, frankly, he doesn't entirely deserve.
Put away your pitchforks, shivs and steel-rimmed hats for a second. Hayward is a phenomenal basketball player. Yours truly is higher on him than most. But we've got a problem here.
Although he joined Michael Carter-Williams, LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook as the only five NBA players to average at least 16 points, five rebounds, five assists and one steal per game last season, his efficiency continued its downward spiral, an unsettling regression that can be attributed to defenses using their resources to stop him before anyone else.
Playing alongside a wealth of other scoring options should suit Hayward, giving him more freedom to score and diminishing the need for him to be a point forward—something he has developed into but was never considered coming out of Butler.
Thing is, the Jazz shouldn't want Hayward becoming accustomed to being the third or fourth option on the floor. That's not what life will be like in Utah. While that potentially overstates the impact Team USA basketball has on the regular season, Hayward is still young and developing. Anything out of the ordinary can affect his immediate arc.
There's also no guarantee he'll thrive as an off-ball scorer. He hit just 31.4 percent of his spot-up attempts last season and 42.5 percent in 2012-13, according to Synergy Sports (subscription required).
Toss in his inconsistent three-point shooting (30.4 percent last year; 41.5 percent in 2012-13), and there's little to suggest Hayward is anything more than a reach here.