*** Column Editor's Comments
Welcome to the first installment of Clip Chat, my weekly column where I discuss the Clippers, NBA, basketball, etc with Clips Nation's newest author Caden Kinard. Caden is an assistant video editor for the Men's Basketball team at the University of Texas, Austin, an experienced sports broadcaster and journalist, a former high school basketball player and coach, and most importantly, one of my best friends. We've known each other since we were in diapers, and I'm extremely proud and lucky to have him helping me out.
Clip Chat is purposely designed in a back-and-forth style in order to mirror the more organic type of basketball conversations fans have with their friends on a daily basis; these posts will literally generate from emails and conversations between Caden and myself. Hopefully they are filled with equal parts information as well as entertainment. Please enjoy and be a part of our discussion by leaving comments below.
USA Basketball has announced their 34 man roster for the 2015 Olympics minicamp, the pool of players Jerry Colangelo will pick from when choosing a national team. In order to qualify for the 12-man roster for Rio 2016, players must show up for the August 11-13 camp, even if they are recovering from injuries. The Clipper were fortunate to have their Big 3 invited to the minicamp, with DeAndre Jordan, Chris Paul, and Blake Griffin all slated to attend. The complete 34 man roster is as follows:
Big Men: LaMarcus Aldridge, DeMarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis, Andre Drummond, Blake Griffin, Dwight Howard, DeAndre Jordan, Kevin Love, Mason Plumlee
Wings: Carmelo Anthony, Harrison Barnes, DeMar Derozan, Kevin Durant, Kenneth Faried, Rudy Gay, Paul George, Draymond Green, Tobias Harris, Gordon Hayword, LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, Chandler Parsons
Guards: Bradley Beal, Jimmy Butler, Michael Carter-Williams, Mike Conley, Stephen Curry, James Harden, Kyrie Irving, Victor Oladipo, Chris Paul, John Wall, Klay Thompson, Russell Westbrook
Larson: What do you think is the best 12 man roster you can make from this 34 player pool. Keep in mind that international play is different from NBA basketball, so it might not just be taking the 12 best players. Let's divide up the groupings into three categories: Big Men, Wings, and Guards.
Caden: Anthony Davis is the only big man who warrants the "no brainer" label. He's anointed the next best player in the NBA, is a defensive stud, and his offense game would fit perfectly next to a bunch of super-stars. Summer reportings have stated that he has immensely improved his NBA three-point shot, and in international play the three-point line is about a foot and a half shorter. His length causes nightmares and those stretchy arms are going to able to take full advantage of FIBA rules, swiping balls left and right off the rim. Heck, I haven't mentioned he made the roster in 2012 and he had yet to play a game in the NBA.
Larson: I'm not going to argue with you at all about the Brow and his automatic placement on the roster. For all we know he could be the best player in the NBA by the time Rio comes around. I think he's perfect for international play where he can comfortably slide over to center and provide whatever rim protection is needed. But I would go as far to say that DeMarcus Cousins and Blake Griffin should also be locks as big men to make this roster. Both are so skilled all-around that they can easily play the 4 or 5 depending on lineups; they pass, they rebound, they can lead a fast break, can post-up or shoot jumpers.
Caden: I agree that Boogie is a clear choice above the rest. His size, power, and agility is unmatched by anybody in the NBA, can you imagine him going against poor Nigeria? He shoots well enough that he could play next to Anthony Davis or any other big on the roster. If the Kings think can play next to Willie Cauley-Stein, then he can play next to anybody. Defensively he is underrated in the NBA, providing a similar effect as a rim protector to Deandre Jordan says Nylon Calculus. I don't necessarily agree that Blake is a lock, but he would make my 12-man roster. The improvement of his jump-shot gives him the option to play the 4 position in a more spaced out international game. His handles and finishing ability in the open court separate him from other options. I believe Deandre will earn the final big spot. Since USA basketball revamped its selection process, they have had a traditional, pick and roll, rebounding, defensive focused big man. In 2008, it was Dwight Howard. In 2012, it was Tyson Chandler. In 2016, it will be DJ. I think the other big men give enough shooting that spacing will not be a problem, and that's before playing small-ball with Lebron or Durant at the 4. DJ knows his niche, he excels at it, and he will provide the best rim protection come Rio 2016.
Larson: WOAH. Hot Take. Picking DJ over Dwight Howard, LaMarcus Aldridge, or Kevin Love. I'll be honest and say I was going to say I'd take Kevin Love. I think you can never have enough shooting, and Love can rebound and shoot from deep making him an asset for international play. He also fits the token white player roster slot. But, I can understand your argument for DJ and having a legit rim protector. The fastbreak, highlight dunks alone would make having DJ on the team worth it. Plus, Kenneth Faried destroyed teams on the glass in World Cup last year, can you imagine DJ getting minutes? DeAndre could actually average that 20/20 Mark Cuban was talking about this summer. Part of me wonders if we even need his rim protection with Brow and Boogie though. I also remembered Kevin Love's inability to play defense just now. So you talked me into it; let's go full Homer Simpson and take DJ in the last spot 30 percent for basketball reasons and 70 percent to see if he can dunk on a whole country at once.
Larson: Can we get the no-brainers out of the way and say Kevin Durant and LeBron James make the team if healthy and wanna play. (Though there is some rumor LeBron is only coming to 1 day of the minicamp).
Caden: Yes. Next.
Larson: I'm taking Kawhi Leonard as my next wing player. With a team resembling an offensive juggernaut, I want at least one player that's a lockdown wing defender. I want to be able to stick Kawhi on the opposing team's best player and watch them be taken out of the game while cowering in fear over dribbling in front of his monster mitts. Plus, his offensive game and shooting are good enough for me.
Caden: EXCUSE ME?! Have you forgotten about the Olympic Human Torch, Carme7o? Let me remind you he has the scoring record for the United States Men's Olympic Basketball team. Not Jordan. Not Kobe. Not LeBron. Not Tayshaun Prince. The last time Carmelo took an uncontested jump shot was the 2012 Olympics, since then he has been practicing contested looks on the Knicks. During this camp, and when he makes the final roster, he's going to see an open rim, smile, and do what he does best, shoot the rock. His last healthy season, 2013-14, he shot 43.8 percent on catch and shoot three pointers. That's what he will do on this team. Oh, just in case, he can be a dominant scorer in the post. I think the value added offensively in a team setting with Carmelo is more than the value added to the team defensively with Kawhi. Most of the players invited to the camp are good to great two way players, it's not like there will be any big holes defensively. And no one internationally has an elite threat offensively that merits Kawhi's individual focus.
Larson: Two words for you: Finals MVP. I'll take Melo over Kawhi when he has one of those in his trophy room at home.
Caden: GM LeBron might attempt to have a say in this. Does he want to re-live the Kawhi Finals nightmare during practice with the missing banana boat friend, Carmelo, staying home?
Larson: I'm tempted to only take 3 wing players so I can squeeze in 5 guards, but I'm a little scared over not having enough depth there. I feel like a Paul George or Jimmy Butler or Klay Thompson could be valuable on this team as the 12th man but I'm not sure who I leave off yet to give them a spot.
Caden: Not enough depth...? Have you seen this team? MAKE A DECISION.
Larson: Let me pick my guards first and then I'll revisit who I want.
Larson: I think you and me will both agree on Steph Curry, Chris Paul, and James Harden. You have, what were in my opinion, the top 3 MVP candidates from last season right there; guaranteed roster spots. They're legitimate superstars in the league and have to be on the team. I think we may disagree on who fills the fourth guard position though. Who you got?
Caden: Westbrook! Him and DJ fit in a certain mold for why they will make this team, it's not just what they do, but how they do it. Westbrook provides the most highlights on a game-to-game basis in the NBA. He's like a sports car, maybe not the most practical, but dammit you want it in your garage. If you want to gauge what it will be like to have Westbrook on the 2016 Olympic team, just watch last years All-Star game. Strategically, Westbrook can play either guard position, and with the right matchup, could play the 3. Defensively, with the Thunder, he's known to attempt suicide steals, where if he misses it's an easy bucket. Coach K will harness that ferocity, and when Westbrook is fundamentally sound, he's an incredible individual defender. Who is your choice for the fourth guard spot?
Larson: USA Basketball veteran who lead America to a gold medal winning the MVP of the Basketball World Cup Kyrie Irving. I understand your argument for Westbrook, but I'm taking Irving over him. To me, Kyrie's game just fits much better with the international style. Sure Westbrook is ferocious and aggressive and may be the most dynamic guard in the world, but his lack of shooting ability is a huge hang up for me. He's a career 30% shooter from behind the arc in the NBA. I know the FIBA line is like a foot and half in, but I just have no confidence in his stroke. Kyrie on the other hand is a lights out shooter; he went 6-6 from deep in the Gold Medal Game against Serbia for the United States. For me, that's advantage Kyrie. The best thing Westbrook can do is penetrate and get to the hole. While that's incredibly important, it's not like Kyrie is some slouch that can't do the same thing. Irving consistently gets to the basket and finishes some of the most amazing layups and floaters of any player. Add to that Kyrie has handles that can straight up embarrass someone in the open court, and I'm taking Uncle Drew all day.
Caden: This may be anti-climatic but Kyrie would get my 12th roster spot...
Larson: You could've just said that in the first place and saved me about 500 words.
Caden: Well, you never asked. But, it sounds like a slap in the face to Kyrie to say "would get my 12th roster spot." I think he's separated himself from the other remaining players, like Butler, Thompson, Wall and George, proving it in the World Cup. Also, he's a Dukie.
Larson: I'm still conflicted over my 12th man. It'd be hypocritical for me to just take Westbrook after arguing for Kryie over him, but I mean can I really leave poor Wussel off? Like he had a dent in his face and was still putting up triple doubles. A FREAKING DENT. Plus I'm pretty scared he'd read this and come hunt me down and destroy me Liam Neeson style.
Caden: Westbrook had my favorite play of the past NBA season. I'm imagining your face as the rim after he reads your paragraph.
Larson: But what about the allure of seeing how many points Klay Thompson could put up in a quarter vs. Canada? 45? 50? That's almost reason enough to take him.
Caden: Why are you demeaning Canada so much in this discussion? Team Canada is going to be Charged Up with Andrew Wiggins and Tristan Thompson leading the way
Larson: and Anthony Bennett (lol)? Don't forgot Canada had Back to Back number one picks.
Caden: ...yes Anthony Bennett, a serviceable NBA player. Also, Canada has another NBA player, Andrew Nicholson. Our border-mates will also have current collegiate stud Kyle Wiltjer and ex-collegiate studs Brady Heslip and Melvin Ijam. They won't be a pushover.
Larson: They also have Celebrity All Star Game MVP Justin Bieber! I'm really really tempted to take Paul George because I want another big wing player, and as a kind of karmic retribution for what happened to him last year.
Caden: I wonder if the guilt will pull Coach K and Colangelo to choose George. In high school, my sophomore year, a player tried out and broke both his wrists attempting to take a charge. Needless to say, he made the team. If George looks anything like he used to, I bet the guilt will be strong enough to warrant a spot, just like my sophomore-year teammate. If George does resemble his past self, then it is completely viable for why he makes the team. He can play the 2-4, score effectively, and be a dominant defender.
Larson: Apparently PG13 has a guaranteed roster spot on the team. I guess if Draymond Green really wants to make the team all he has to do is break his leg. Fingers crossed! Just kidding; I'd never wish injury on another player, even one I hate as much as Draymond. But I agree with you wholeheartedly about George. To me it comes down between him and Westbrook for the final spot. Having Westbrook's uber athleticism could be useful for the team in comparison with the rest of the guards, but so could George's depth and versatility. It's a coin flip for me right now, but I'm going to go with George because I legitimately feel bad for the guy, and I still harbor ill feeling toward Westbrook for the LAC-OKC playoff series and the Game 5 that never happened.
Caden: Sadly, unforeseen injuries will more than likely play a part in this. Let's hope that's not the case. Barring any unusual circumstances my final roster would look like this:
Bigs: Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan
Wings: LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony
Guards: Chris Paul, Stephen Curry, James Harden, Russell Westbrook, Kyrie Irving
Larson: My roster looks like this:
Bigs: Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins, Blake Griffin, and DeAndre Jordan
Wings: LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Paul George
Guards: Chris Paul, Stephen Curry, James Harden, Kyrie Irving
Let us know who'd make your 12 man roster in the comments below!