5 NBA Players Who Will Benefit Most from Team USA Experience
The chance to play against the world's best players and team up with some of the biggest stars of the NBA can do wonders for both up-and-coming talents and established veterans who need a spark.
For the FIBA World Cup this summer, Team USA should be an interesting blend of both young and old as they prepare for the Olympics in two years. Unfortunately, this won't be the best possible team that could be trotted out, as multiple players have pulled out or were left out of the pool of 19 players.
I appreciate the invitation to play for Team USA this summer. It is a special opportunity anytime you have a chance to represent your country, and I was honored to be included. However, right now I want to focus and dedicate 100 percent of my energy on improving and preparing for the upcoming season with the Clippers.
It's certainly understandable that some would rather focus their energy on the upcoming season, and while that's sort of a bummer, it does open up potential spots for others who could really benefit from the experience.
A guy like LeBron James doesn't have much to gain in this setting, but for others this could be a path-altering offseason.
Let's take a look at five of the players who will benefit most from the experience of playing for the national team this offseason.
It's not very often that you would say a former MVP needs the experience of international play, but Chicago Bulls guard Derrick Rose is badly in need of some reps against high-caliber competition in a real game setting.
Rose has spent so much time rehabbing from knee injuries over the last few years that actually playing should help keep him sane and prepare him for an important season with the Bulls.
While some might be sheepish about Rose playing in anything but NBA games at this point, shaking off the rust in the World Cup makes plenty of sense. There's no better way for him to build confidence and trust that his knees are ready to go than to play well this offseason.
Even if Rose doesn't end up playing much in what's looking like an incredibly crowded backcourt for Team USA, the time spent working out against the NBA's elite will be a good step back into the fold.
For entertainment purposes, here's hoping Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins makes the team and has multiple "Charles Barkley against Ghana" quotes and moments. Team USA could really use his size up front, and an engaged Cousins is definitely one of the most dominant players in the league.
For Cousins, this should be a huge chance to play alongside elite players and get a taste of the type of commitment on both ends that's necessary to be a true star. Sometimes elite talents just need a little push, and this experience could be it.
Here's what Ailene Voisin of the Sacramento Bee thinks about Cousins joining Team USA:
"This will be a great experience for Cousins. He is surrounded by terrific talent and exposed to one of the best coach's in the history of the game. Can only help his maturation process."
The discipline Mike Krzyzewski and his staff could help instill in Cousins would do him wonders, as he's a steady temperament away from being a nightmare for opponents on a nightly basis.
Cousins may have the most to gain of any player from the elite coaching Team USA can offer.
If you're looking for a breakout candidate for next season, Andre Drummond should be near the top of your list.
After a pretty strong sophomore campaign last year for the Detroit Pistons, Drummond now has a proven coach in Stan Van Gundy who will use him as a dangerous pick-and-roll threat offensively.
Drummond's size and athleticism should be a huge addition for Team USA, as it's hard to imagine there are many players around the world who can handle him on the glass. He's just too much.
For someone with so much raw ability, Drummond could really benefit from the coaching and the little tricks of the trade he can learn from some of the more established stars. Great players have a habit of making the game easy, and they'll show him exactly what he needs to do in order to be dominant.
There's virtually no aspect of the experience that can't help Drummond's growth. He has young legs, so he can take the reps and really develop the kind of skill that will make him a more complete player on both ends of the floor.
Perhaps no player in the league has a bigger adjustment process to go through next year than Kyrie Irving, who will go from the lead dog for the Cleveland Cavaliers to a sidekick for LeBron James.
Irving can start the process this offseason by playing off the ball more and getting in practice with other elite talents.
It's a delicate balance between deferring and still remaining aggressive offensively, and this experience could help Irving find the right mix and play the kind of basketball he will this season.
While it would be helpful if James were playing, Irving can still benefit from being reunited with Coach K, his coach for a year at Duke.
He should get plenty of playing time, and if he can focus defensively and show that he's ready to compete on both ends, Irving could start his year off right with a great performance in international play.
Even though he's already recognized as one of the league's best players, a lot of people still haven't seen everything Anthony Davis is fully capable of on both ends.
This could be a coming-out party of sorts for Davis, even though he has a bit of Olympic experience, as the opportunity to play with some of the league's best players could help free him from the double-teams and lack of space he's experienced with the New Orleans Pelicans in his first two years.
Davis has a lot of skill offensively, and it would be nice to see him let loose a bit and try different things. All of the natural ability is there, so Davis can use this time to work on new skills with a great coaching staff.
If Davis is ready to make the leap to a true top-five player in the NBA, this experience playing with and against the best of the best could help tremendously.