Kyle Korver is one step closer to competing in the 2014 FIBA World Cup later this month.
Cuts for the Men’s USA Basketball team were officially announced, and among those cut were Washington Wizards duo John Wall and Bradley Beal, along with the Atlanta Hawks’ own Paul Millsap.
The cuts were originally scheduled for Saturday, August 2nd, but were postponed following Paul George’s gruesome leg injury.
The cuts for USA Basketball have trimmed the number of players on the roster from 20 to 16. There are only 12 roster spots up for grabs and Kyle Korver, having withstood initial cuts, has a very good chance of making the team.
Beal, like Korver, is a player primarily known for his perimeter shooting ability. Although he is listed as a 2-guard, at 6-foot-3, internationally he is able to play both the shooting guard and small forward position. Beal was one of three players on the initial training camp roster whose main goal was to be a 3-point shooter.
With Beal being cut from the roster, there are only two 3-point specialists: Korver and Klay Thompson.
Historically, head coach Mike Krzyzewski and USA Basketball Director Jerry Colangelo have sent a roster with five guards, five forwards and two centers.
Team USA followed this distribution for the roster in the 2012 Olympics.
For the 2010 FIBA World Cup, they only took one center, Tyson Chandler. This move, however, was not by choice. Many of the athletes who competed in the 2008 Olympics did not take part in the 2010 FIBA World Cup. This left coach Krzyzewski with a depleted pool of players to choose from. What is interesting to note here is that Kevin Love was on the roster. While Love is considered a power forward in the NBA, with his size he can easily play the center position internationally.
What about 2008?
For the 2008 Olympics, Coach K decided to take six guards, four forwards and two centers.
If you look back through Coach K’s tenure as head coach of Team USA, you will find that generally he likes to stick to the trend of five guards, five forwards and two centers.
This year, USA Basketball has a slew of candidates to play center including DeMarcus Cousins, Andre Drummond, Mason Plumlee, and Anthony Davis. With there being a surplus of centers on the training camp roster, Coach K will have no trouble filling the position on the roster.
So where does Kyle Korver fit into this exactly?
At 6-foot-7, Korver can play either the guard or forward position. Internationally, he will probably be asked to play the small forward position more often because of the decreased length in the international game.
If only one center is eliminated, there are still only three cuts Korver would need to avoid to make the team.
If two of the centers are eliminated, the roster would be down to 14. For simplicity sake, let’s act as though Coach K will follow the model of five guards, five forwards, and two centers.
The roster selected for training camp included eight guards, eight forwards and four centers (according to the box score James Harden is a forward).
Two guards and two forwards were cut (George was not officially cut but is unable to play), which means there are now six guards and six forwards competing for 10 spots.
Korver, because of his size, is considered a forward on this roster. This means that Korver is one of six forwards competing for five spots.
The actual number of guards and forwards may differ on the roster when final cuts are announced, but one can expect Coach K will include four pure guards and four pure forwards. Two of those spots will most likely be “wild card” spots because that is what USA Basketball has done historically.
Korver is also a specialist. If you are suspect about specialists making the USA Basketball roster, just look at the 2008 team.
Atlanta Hawks fans should remember what happened that year well because Atlanta’s own Joe Johnson was cut in place of 3-point specialist Michael Redd.
Klay Thompson, who is competing for the same spot as Korver as the primary 3-point shooter, is also very good at shooting the deep ball. While Thompson is also more of a well-rounded player than Korver is, simply put, Korver is a better shooter.
Let me also say Korver is by far the best shooter on this roster, just check out this video of Korver beating Thompson in a 3-point shootout after a Team USA practice session.
If that doesn’t convince you, I’d highly suggest you read this piece on Korver by Grantland’s Zach Lowe titled “Kyle Korver: An Offense Unto Himself.”
Thompson is someone who should be considered as a candidate for one of those “wild card”spots.
Korver can, and will, beat Thompson out for a spot on this team, not only because of his ability to shoot, although that will be the primary reason, but also because of his veteran experience.
Here’s a fun fact to throw in regarding veteran leadership and this USA Basketball team: in the past three major tournaments Team USA has competed in, Coach K has always, I repeat always, brought on a player older than 30.
If you are wondering is there any other player on the roster who is older than 30, the answer is no. Derrick Rose, Chandler Parsons, Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry are all the closest to being 30, and they’re all only 26 years old.
So who is going to be cut here if it’s not Kyle Korver?
Put your money on either Thompson, Parsons or Gordon Hayward.
Hayward will most likely be the first gone from this group because of DeMar DeRozan’s spectacular performance in the scrimmage where he put up 16 points, four rebounds and two assists.
DeRozan and Hayward are both well-rounded players, but with DeRozan’s excellent performance Hayward has now become redundant and will need to go.
Parsons struggled to get anything going in the scrimmage, only scoring five points on 1-0f-4 shooting. He also hasn’t received the rave reviews that Korver has about his practice performance, which will not help Parsons come cut time.
Even if Thompson survives cuts and makes the team, there are two players on this team, other than the centers, who Korver has outplayed thus far.
Korver has been talked about very well so far by the Team USA coaching staff, which will only help him when more cuts come along. He is also the only real veteran on this team and like we said earlier, Coach K doesn’t do tournaments without veteran experience.
Korver should be a lock for to make Team USA. He has done too much to not deserve this. There are only two 3-point specialists remaining on this roster after Beal was cut, and that should allow Korver to hold down a roster spot.
For now, Atlanta Hawks fans can only hope Korver makes Team USA. They need not worry though — if history is any indication, Korver will make this team.