Team USA's minicamp begins this week, and it features two Wizards: Bradley Beal and (after a last-minute decision) John Wall. Nineteen players will begin training with Team USA in Las Vegas, and coach Mike Krzyzewski must decide on 12 before the team goes to Spain at the end of August.
Those are pretty good odds for both Wall and Beal, especially since several players have dropped out since this process started and several others may do so sometime down the line. Derrick Rose, for example, is very much in the mix now and is purportedly able to go full speed through any drills, but this is also his first competitive basketball experience since tearing his meniscus last November, which was his first competitive basketball experience since tearing his ACL in the 2012 playoffs. It wouldn't stun me if he eventually dropped out to focus on being ready for the Bulls' season.
Still, it's no slam dunk that either, much less both, make the final roster. The guard position is crowded, though Krzyzewski will likely take more guards because international play rewards small ball. As NBA.com's John Schuhmannnotes, Krzyzweski has historically taken six guards, three "forwards" (leaning smaller rather than bigger) and three big men. Will that change now that there are so few bigs available? Perhaps.
As of now, I'd say there are five locks: Stephen Curry, James Harden, Kevin Durant, Paul George and Anthony Davis. Those five could make up the starting lineup. If Rose is ready to go, he has an edge over the rest of the guard crop due to his international experience. That leaves at least three other guard spots, with the following players competing for them:
- Kyrie Irving
- Damian Lillard
- John Wall
- DeMar DeRozan
- Bradley Beal
- Klay Thompson
- Gordon Hayward
- Kyle Korver
Wall naturally clusters with Irving and Lillard, two similar players that nevertheless may be better suited to international ball because of their shooting. On the one hand, that may put Wall at a disadvantage because his game doesn't translate as well. On the other hand, it could be an advantage because he brings a unique skill, especially if Rose eventually drops out. That's how Russell Westbrook made his way onto the 2010 and 2012 teams.
Still, if Rose stays, there might only be one spot available for Wall, Lillard and Irving. Will Krzyzewski bend and take more point guards?
Of course, if he does that, Beal might lose out. His disadvantage relative to his peers: his size. Whereas DeRozan, Hayward and Thompson can swing up to the 3/4 if needed in international play, Beal is probably a 2/3 only. Probably. Beal's best chance is if Krzyzewski considers someone like Thompson or DeRozan a 3/4, leaving one more guard spot open. The 3/4 slot is fairly shallow, with only Chandler Parsons and maybe Paul Millsap as top candidates behind Durant and George.
Thus, it seems both have to really fight to make the roster. Wall especially needs to stand out during the minicamp, because I sense he's certainly behind Irving and possibly behind Lillard too in Krzyzewski's point guard pecking order. Beal, meanwhile, probably has to do something to overcome Thompson's superior size to get a look. We'll be watching closely.