US FIBA Team Showcasing What's Next in NBA's Galaxy of Stars

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US FIBA Team Showcasing What's Next in NBA's Galaxy of Stars
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When USA Basketball settles on its 12-player collection for the FIBA World Cup roster, the chosen ones might want to fire up the WNBA's old marketing slogan: We got next.

Regardless of which players head coach Mike Krzyzewski tabs for his potential international power of today, the group is sure to feature some of the biggest and brightest NBA stars of tomorrow.

Now, all of these names are familiar to hoop heads, and some are well known among the masses.

Reigning MVP Kevin Durant, two-time All-Star James Harden, blossoming swingman Paul George, "Uncle Drew" Kyrie Irving and three-point sniper Stephen Curry don't need a coming-out party. Everyone has already seen their elite credentials.

But for a fresh batch of budding ballers—and one injury-plagued point guard desperate to reclaim his once-prominent perch—this competition could be a springboard to superstardom.

 

Anthony Davis

There's no better place to get the drooling started than 21-year-old phenom Anthony Davis.

An All-Star representative from the New Orleans Pelicans last season, he's still in the learning stages of a dramatic transformation that took him from being a lightly recruited, 6'3" high school point guard to a highly coveted, 6'10" NBA power forward.

His physical tools are raw, but that didn't stop him from posting 20.8 points, 10.0 rebounds and 2.8 blocks as a sophomore in 2013-14. As his game gets more refined, it's scary to think just how far he can go.

"The Anthony Davis lexicon, much like the one that accompanied LeBron James a decade ago, is one written in equal parts awe and fear," Bleacher Report's Jim Cavan wrote. "In particular, a fear of the unknown—the ways in which Davis stands to explode time-honored notions of production, position and even potential."

A bigger, better Davis arrived at training camp in Las Vegas and quickly claimed a spot near the top of the team's pecking order.

"We're going to have to have active bigs," Krzyzewski said, via Jimmy Smith of The Times-Picayune. "Our main guy is Anthony Davis."

And this isn't the same Davis that torched NBA defenses last season, either. According to Nakia Hogan of The Times-Picayune, Davis has spent the summer "working on adding the corner [three]-point shot, more post moves and a pull-up jumper off the dribble to his repertoire."

Durant recently told reporters that Davis is the NBA's "next in line." It sounds like that line is moving.

 

Andre Drummond

Even with the casualties suffered in the frontcourtLaMarcus Aldridge, Blake Griffin and Kevin Love all withdrew from the team—this goup's interior still packs a massive amount of potential outside of Davis.

Andre Drummond, the ninth overall pick in 2012, is reportedly closing in on a roster spot.

"Reports out of Las Vegas say Pistons third-year center Andre Drummond should make the USA FIBA World Cup team as a second-team backup to starters Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins," wrote Perry A. Farrell of the Detroit Free Press.

The 20-year-old Drummond is a rare breed for the simple fact he stands 6'10" tall, tips the scales at 270 pounds and has jet packs on his legs that propelled him to a draft combine vertical of 33.5 inches, per DraftExpress.com.

He's a sight to behold, even in a league littered with physical specimens.

Yet, there are more than natural gifts that make him unique. He can the mundane look miraculous. Like livening up a pregame layup line.

Or protecting the paint during a practice scrimmage.

Drummond won't always stuff the sexy parts of the stat sheet—although he did average an astounding 18.4 points and 17.4 rebounds in the month of April—but the plays he does make are hard to miss.

He lives in the lane. Of his 479 field goals last season, more than 91 percent were either dunks (183), layups (177) or tip-ins (78), per Basketball-Reference.com.

His physical gifts should grab the attention of the World Cup crowd. If his offensive range expands the slightest bit, he could be one of the tournament's biggest talking points.

 

DeMarcus Cousins

Getting publicity has never been a problem for DeMarcus Cousins, but too often he's been cast in the wrong light.

Granted, he's responsible for a lot of that heat. His track record shows multiple suspensions and repeated run-ins with officials. (He's been called for a league-high 33 technical fouls over the last two seasons.)

Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

As Cousins told ESPN The Magazine's Tim Keown, though, he feels his problem may be more public perception than anything:

I'm not the first franchise guy to be suspended for a game. I shouldn't have done it, but why does it automatically mean I'm a horrible person? Look at Kevin Garnett. I'm pretty sure he's been suspended as a franchise guy. But when he does something, it's, "He's passionate." Joakim Noah, "He's passionate. You want him on your team." So how does mine come up? "He's immature. He needs to grow up."

Whatever the source of his reputation, it has too often prevented people from appreciating his very appreciable gifts. "Boogie" put up 22.7 points and 11.7 rebounds in only 32.4 minutes a night last season, numbers only seen from true NBA elites.

Since the turn of the century, only eight other players have posted a 22-point, 11-rebound season stat line: LaMarcus Aldridge, Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, Blake Griffin, Dwight Howard, Kevin Love, Shaquille O'Neal and Chris Webber. All of those players have been selected to the All-Star Game at least three times.

Cousins has yet to participate in the midseason classic.

That's how someone who finished the 2013-14 campaign ranked fifth in player efficiency rating (26.1), per Basketball-Reference.com, can still be waiting be waiting for his big break. People might know that he's good but perhaps not how good he really is.

"I believe what [coach Mike Krzyzewski] wants from me is to be a physical specimen, be a defensive anchor, control the paint," Cousins told reporters. "Be a dominant force in there."

As long as he can keep the focus on his on-court exploits, he'll open plenty of eyes—for the right reasons this time.

 

Derrick Rose

Remember him?

Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

It's a foolish question to ask about the youngest MVP in NBA history, but then again, he's been off the grid for a while. Save for a 10-game showing last fall, Derrick Rose has essentially been sidelined for two straight seasons, shut down first by a torn ACL and later by a torn meniscus.

With Rose back inside the lines, optimism is running rampant through the streets of the Windy City, but expectations for his international run are tempered.

"A successful World Cup for Rose would simply see him hold up through what could be nine games in 16 days, including two back-to-backs," wrote Sports Illustrated's Ben Golliver. "Anything more than that would be icing on the cake."

Of course, it's getting harder to keep hope in check with every rave review that slips out of Sin City.

Rose said he's back to 100 percent, or if it's somehow possible, even past that point, via K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune:

Kryzezewski hasn't masked his excitement about the floor general, via Nick Friedell of ESPN Chicago:

"He looks, to me, as good as when we had him in the world championship in '10, when he was at full strength coming [into] an MVP year," Syracuse coach and Team USA assistant Jim Boeheim told Friedell. "He's been the most impressive guy here."

That last statement speaks volumes.

Regardless of talent, it's hard for a headliner to stand out among a sea of lead acts, for a single star to attract the attention of a galaxy.

But Rose has played this role before, mastered it even. He isn't clamoring for a seat among the NBA elites. His chair is still sitting at the table. It's just covered in clouds of dust.

But with each particle he brushes aside, he's one step closer to greatness. He's one step closer to being Derrick Rose again, a transcendent force set to reintroduce himself to the basketball world and continue on his journey to recapture it.

 

Unless otherwise noted, statistics used courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com and NBA.com.

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