- Mike Mazzeo, ESPN Staff Writer
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- If Mike Krzyzewski and Jerry Colangelo were selecting the 12 best players from the remaining Team USA World Cup roster, Mason Plumlee probably would not make it. Plumlee doesn’t possess as much talent as fellow centers DeMarcus Cousins and Andre Drummond.
But Colangelo and Krzyzewski have said they aren’t selecting the best players. They are selecting the best fits.
And that’s why Plumlee has a good chance to make the team -- whether his critics like it or not.
He’s not a star. But this team is already loaded with them, so he doesn’t have to shine.
Plumlee is the perfect role player for international competition -- an athletic reserve big man who will do the dirty work and finish off the occasional highlight-reel alley-oop dunk. He doesn’t need the ball in his hands to make an impact, but he’s no slouch in that aspect of the game either.
Does Krzyzewski being the coach of Team USA help? Of course it does. How could it not? Plumlee played for Coach K for four years and knows what he expects.
But this is not about favoritism.
It’s also important to remember that Plumlee isn’t vying for a spot in the starting five. And Team USA likely isn’t going to win or lose the World Cup a month from now because Plumlee was selected as its 12th man.
Anyone who has seen Plumlee play a lot has seen the strides he’s made. He certainly has a long way to go, especially in terms of defense and midrange shooting, but he’s already exceeded early expectations since being drafted by the Nets in the first round a season ago. His game needs work, but he’s shown a willingness to improve.
It’s unknown how many centers Krzyzewski and Colangelo will decide to take to Spain. Anthony Davis is a lock. Then there’s the pool of Cousins, Drummond and Plumlee.
All three are intriguing fits. It often feels as if Drummond has limitless potential, though he’s still young, while Cousins had a career year with the Sacramento Kings last season.
Still, Colangelo and Coach K may decide that Plumlee fits the team's needs best.
It doesn’t mean that Plumlee is going to be on the 2016 Olympic team. It doesn’t mean that he’s made it solely because Krzyzewski coached him at Duke. It doesn’t mean that he’s better than Cousins or Drummond. It doesn’t mean he’s going to play a ton of minutes. He may not play at all.
It just means that Plumlee is the best fit for the World Cup roster that’s being put together. If you can’t understand that, you’re probably never going to.
5dSteve Ilardi and Jeremias Engelmann