- Marc Stein, ESPN Senior Writer
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LaMarcus Aldridge, John Wall and Kawhi Leonard were all expected to be in Las Vegas at the end of the month as prime candidates to be on the roster USA Basketball will be sending to FIBA’s inaugural World Cup of Basketball in August.
Yet you can rest assured that Team USA will be an overwhelming favorite to repeat its 2010 success in Turkey and continue its reign as world champs even without those three.
There’s still a chance Wall might be added to the group bound for Vegas before Mike Krzyzewski’s players are required to report to Sin City on July 27, but the 19 names confirmed to be in attendance still offer Coach K an abundant number of options as he zeroes in on a 12-man roster.
There are at least a half-dozen players widely considered by league insiders to be locks for the plane to Spain on Aug. 23: Kevin Durant, Kevin Love, Blake Griffin, Anthony Davis, James Harden and Steph Curry. It’s a safe bet Paul George, Kyrie Irving, Damian Lillard and, of course, Derrick Rose -- if healthy -- all have a strong claim, too.
So competition will be fierce for what might be only a couple open spots ... with another slew of qualified candidates in the mix.
For extra shooting, Krzyzewski and USAB chairman Jerry Colangelo can turn to Klay Thompson, Bradley Beal, Gordon Hayward and Kyle Korver. DeMarcus Cousins, Andre Drummond and Kenneth Faried are the young big men who will be trying to break through on the international stage. And then Colangelo announced Monday that Chandler Parsons and DeMar DeRozan have been added to the original 28-man player pool from January to make the competition even deeper for a seat on the USAB’s charter flight to Europe after three August exhibition games in Chicago and New York.
Aldridge and Leonard have apparently opted for rest this summer after their long seasons, with Leonard also in the midst of negotiations on a contract extension with the Spurs. Wall is also recharging after the Wizards’ run to the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs, but the door has not been closed on a late summons to camp at month’s end after the recent pullout of Russell Westbrook, with Westbrook deciding to give a right knee that endured three surgeries last season more time to mend.
Yet let’s be clear here. The amount of firepower at Krzyzewski’s disposal makes it ridiculous to overanalyze any absentee or three. Team USA’s talent base is the envy/fantasy of every other nation in the 24-team field.
And that includes the hosts, who find themselves facing a considerably tougher path to the Sept. 14 title game in Madrid than the Yanks. We point you back to this Stein Line Live piece from February, which details how mighty Team USA won’t even have to see Spain, France or Argentina until the championship game, because the three vet-filled squads most capable of upsetting them were all drawn together in the Bracket of Death.
Only one of those three titans of the international game, in other words, can make it to the title game and prevent the United States from repeating as tournament champions. Winning the worlds, as they did in 2010, would automatically qualify the Yanks for the 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil, while clinching a summer off in 2015.
37dMarc Stein and Mike Mazzeo