Derrick Rose isn't new to USA basketball, having been part of the 2010 team that won gold at the FIBA World Cup. But seven of his teammates are wearing the red, white and blue for the first time, and for die-hards it's created a fun environment to watch some of the game's up-and-coming stars show off their talents to the entire world.
Players like Kyrie Irving, DeMarcus Cousins, Klay Thompson and Kenneth Faried — all first-timers — don't have the same star appeal as former Team USA members LeBron James, Kobe Bryant or Carmelo Anthony, but through three games — all wins — have provided plenty of entertainment and excitement about the future of both NBA and USA basketball.
Make no mistake, the current crop of USA players is talented. Aside from being ranked No. 1 in the FIBA world ranks, the current group features a former NBA MVP (Rose), a reigning All-NBA first team member (James Harden), the game's brightest young star (Anthony Davis) and best shooter (Stephen Curry) in addition to up-and-comers in Irving, Cousins and Andre Dummond who soon will have their names listed among the game's best.
And for basketball enthusiasts — this writer included — the 2014 team has to be considered one of the funnest to watch. Sure, it'd be awesome to see James, Kevin Durant (who opted out last month), Anthony and Blake Griffin running through the tournament on their way to yet another gold medal. Paul George (leg injury) and Kevin Love (in the middle of trade rumors) also would have added more star appeal to the team, but watching a group of relatively inexperienced international players work together for the first time and fight through struggles — they trailed at halftime against Turkey on Monday — is just as enjoyable as watching future Hall-of-Famers shatter international records.
And that's what made Grantland writer Andrew Sharp's column Tuesday so intriguing.
In his piece titled, "Keep Team USA Young Forever," Sharp floated the idea of every USA basketball player being allowed one "cycle" with the organization: qualifying, the World Cup and finally the Olympics. Then you're done.
Sharp cites the obvious reasons that it'd give more opportunities for the young stars in the league — Rose won MVP after his first stint with Team USA — who would get more out of the experience than veteran players who have been around the block with international tournaments. It also would take pressure off the bigger stars in the league — Durant, a member of the 2012 Olympic team in London, cited mental fatigue as his reason for bowing out — and for the fans, it'd be a treat to cheer for an entirely new roster each time around. As much fun as the likes of Davis, Curry, Irving and the rest of the squad will be to watch the next decade, fans would get to see 12 new players take the court each "cycle" and watch ALL of the young talent in the NBA perform, not just a handful of new guys every four years.
[WORLD CUP: Pau Gasol continues early dominance with Spain]
Whether or not this idea ever picks up serious traction, there's a chance a few of the young Bulls get the chance to earn a spot on the USA roster in the future.
Doug McDermott: Before he was a member of the Bulls, the Creighton All-American was part of the USA select team that practiced with the qualifying team. He also participated this past summer, and though his NBA prospects are yet to be determined his outside shooting would be a boon for Team USA. The Kyle Korver comparisons are all too easy, and though Korver didn't make the final roster this year, sharp-shooting wings Thompson and DeRozan did. Versatility is a key in international play, so if Dougie McBuckets is able to prove his worth playing some "4" in addition to his role on the perimeter there's a real chance he gets a look on the next go-round.
Jimmy Butler: For as talented as Team USA is offensively, touting seven players who averaged at least 20 points per game last season, there's still plenty to be desired on the defensive end. Though Davis, Drummond and Mason Plumlee have the interior on lockdown, Harden, Curry, Irving and even Rose aren't known for their defense. Enter (hypothetically) Butler, who in his third season was named to the NBA All-Defensive second team this past year. He's just a career 31 percent 3-point shooter but as one of the best perimeter defenders in the game there's a spot for the 24-year-old somewhere down the road. Butler was set to play with the select team this summer before a groin injury kept him out of action.
Taj Gibson: Gibson, 29, doesn't have youth on his side — he'd be the oldest player on the current team — but he was part of the 2013 Select Team, so he's got some experience working for him. Having honed in his midrange game and locking down defensively, Gibson is coming off a career year in which he averaged 13.0 points and 6.8 rebounds in nearly 29 minutes per game and has an international-friendly game. He'll be 33 years old at the time of the 2018 FIBA World Cup, but speaking hypothetically on the "one cycle" theory he'd be a great fit, assuming he continues his progress.
Nikola Mirotic: The newest member of the Bulls was left off Spain's roster in place of Serge Ibaka, the one allowed "naturalized" member of the team. But Mirotic will get his chance soon enough. At just 23 years old and considered one of the best international players in the world, Mirotic has plenty of time left to venture back into the FIBA World Cup and Olympics, potentially joining his new teammate Pau Gasol on the Spain national team.