With Kevin Durant and Paul George both being removed from the Team USA roster in the past week the outlook of the 12 man roster heading to Spain for the FIBA World Cup in late August has drastically changed. Now instead of Anthony Davis being asked to just defend, rebound and finish pick-and-rolls the young Pelicans star will be asked to do much more on both ends of the floor as the Americans attempt to qualify for the 2016 Olympics.
What it also means is that the style of play that Team USA will play is one that could actually benefit the Pelicans going forward more than the typical Team USA small ball style that would have seen Davis play the center spot, body up with larger players and not do much offensively besides finish. Instead the team could decide to play bigger, shifting Davis up to his typical power forward role and allowing him to do things like take big men off the dribble, knock down longer range jumpers (potentially FIBA threes, which are shorter than NBA ones) and still work out of the pick-and-roll.
So which players should the Pelicans be hoping make Team USA and which should they hope get cut? The answers lie below.
The Great Fits:
DeMarcus Cousins: Cousins is a big, bulky low post player that is actually a deceptively decent shot blocker. With Cousins patrolling the paint next to Davis the Brow would be able to work from the perimeter with ease knowing that Boogie will be around to clean up some messes on the offensive end and bang with the large centers that will lurk around the tournament. Selfishly I hope that Cousins makes the team and starts next to Davis for the amount of fun it would be, but the Pelicans would probably appreciate it as well.
Andre Drummond: Drummond is probably the player that the Pelicans wish more than anyone makes the roster. He is essentially a more athletic, less aware version of Omer Asik– a raw offensive player who works best in pick-and-rolls but who makes up for it with elite rebounding and terrific rim protection. Like Cousins he is also a bigger, bulkier body that would protect Davis from some of the banging, though unfortunately he doesn’t seem likely to make the roster.
The Good Fit:
Mason Plumlee: The Brooklyn Net rookie is probably going to make the roster as a result of his relationship with Coach Mike Krzyzewski but the Pelicans probably aren’t thrilled about it. Plumlee will provide energy and a body to bang with centers and spare Davis the time but it is hard to see how he is trusted enough to play big, important minutes so it would probably lead to more mileage for Davis. Cousins and Drummond both have the NBA experience that would allow a bit more comfort in big moments to give Davis more rest and both would take a bit of pressure off of him which is always nice.
The Bad Fit:
Chandler Parsons: Parsons would be the best fit in the small-ball style that Team USA actually wants to play with and probably is now assured a spot on the roster. Parsons won’t help Davis rebounding the ball like either George or Durant would have, isn’t a great defender in his normal wing spot and has no international experience. The only real upside for the Pelicans with this is Davis would get more experience playing with a stretch-four after losing basically an entire season of playing next to Ryan Anderson. Anderson is the superior player but time as a five with a shooter around him won’t really hurt Davis.
The Disaster Fit:
Kenneth Faried: I see no realistic way how Kenneth Faried playing heavy minutes at power forward is in any way good for Anthony Davis. Faried can’t shoot, can’t finish in the pick-and-roll, can’t defend, can’t protect the rim, has no international experience and is an inferior rebounder to Drummond. Basically he seems set to make the team and play heavy minutes despite not being the best big man on the roster at any basketball related thing because he plays really hard. What that means for Davis is a heavier offensive load with cramped spacing, a power forward whose mistakes he will spend a ton of time cleaning up and a need to be on the floor for more minutes since Faried can’t play center even in international play. There really doesn’t seem to be any player that the Pelicans should dread making the roster more than Faried as it will only lead to Davis being worn down by the time he gets to training camp two weeks after the World Cup ends.
Obviously there is still plenty of time before the players that will be heading to Spain are decided upon but for Team USA a large part of the decisions that now need to be made are going to be based on how they want to play now that they are missing Durant and George. For the Pelicans sake they should hope the decision to play big is made. In that case the time not only makes Davis better, but it makes him better in ways that will translate most to the NBA season. Which is a scary thought for the rest of the NBA.