USA Basketball is zeroing in on its final World Cup roster as Utah Jazz star Donovan Mitchell and the rest of the crew head Down Under.
Less than 24 hours after leading Team USA to a relatively easy win over Ricky Rubio, Marc Gasol and Spain, Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell and his cohorts in red, white and blue boarded a plane for Melbourne, Australia.
Next up for Mitchell and the Americans: it’s another week of training camp, followed by consecutive friendly bouts with Jazzman Joe Ingles and the Aussie Boomers. Then, it’s on to China.
With this being the last leg of camp before Team USA tips off World Cup play in Shanghai on September 1, head coach Gregg Popovich and his staff are hard at work making final determinations on which players will make the final 12-man roster. However, much of the work has been taken off their shoulders thanks to withdrawals.
That continued to be the case this weekend.
Houston Rockets big man PJ Tucker was the first domino to fall. The 34-year-old and most veteran player in camp for Team USA officially removed himself from the roster equation on Friday ahead of the Spain game because of ongoing ankle issues.
On Saturday, Sacramento Kings point-man De’Aron Fox became the latest to withdraw, after playing only six minutes in the exhibition game.
Fox’s withdrawal was something of a surprise; the Kings star has consistently been name-checked as one of the standout performers and an ultimate competitor in camp. In my estimation, his energy on the floor and speed with the ball would have been major assets for the team and he absolutely should have made the World Cup roster.
However, San Antonio Spurs guard Derrick White got more court time against Spain after getting bumped up from the Select Team last week.
Elsewhere on the roster, Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart was officially cleared to play for the team after dealing with a calf injury.
As a result, USA Basketball has sent the following 13 players to Australia —
If I had to guess, I would say White and Smart will duke it out for the final roster spot. On the other hand, it’s hard for me to see Coach Pop bringing three centers to China, which would put Plumlee on the bubble for me as well.
In any case, Mitchell looks to be locked in for the big tournament, and this will be a team that depends heavily on his scoring ability to survive. He, Walker and Tatum figure to be the key cogs offensively for the US.
In a way, the World Cup could provide a sneak preview of what Jazz fans will see from Mitchell next season. Despite the monster additions the team made over the summer, Mitchell will have to take his game to a new level on both sides of the ball if the Jazz want to make good on their championship aspirations.