USA Basketball made its final cuts on Saturday, a day after their exhibition game against Puerto Rico. Brooklyn Nets’ own Mason Plumlee made the team, alongside fellow bigs Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins, and Andre Drummond.
Plumlee shocked many when it was revealed he was in the running for a roster spot, as he was originally invited as part of the Select Team (a team of rookies and sophomores picked to practice against Team USA). He impressed the coaching staff and was promoted.
Many fans have responded to this in outrage, choosing to see this as a sign of Duke favouritism from head coach Mike Krzyzewski.
However, that is not the case.
Plumlee fits the build of an international center better than most of his Team USA counterparts. The international game requires centers to be more mobile and agile, especially when most of the big men are adept jump shooters. On Team USA, Plumlee may not be the most athletic center, but he is the most comfortable at defending on the perimeter.
It seems as though playing a season with Kevin Garnett has taught Plumlee some sneaky tricks. In the game against Brazil, Plumlee was a pest. He harassed Tiago Splitter and the Brazillian centers, getting physical with them early on. He set hard screens on the point guards, and was willing to do the dirty work. Every team needs that player who doesn’t mind getting his hands dirty and is willing to bring toughness to the team.
Finally, there’s a sense of irony to the fact that while Plumlee is the only rookie on the team, he is one of the most mature players on the team. There have always been concerns surrounding Cousins’ maturity and conduct, especially after some of his on-court antics. Krzyzewski, known for his no-nonsense style, would not have tolerated any of Cousins’ bad behaviour.
Plus, do you really want your center to be pouting and complaining to the referee in the middle of a sudden-death elimination game? Would you really risk your championship hopes a player who pouts and complains when things don’t go his way?
Plumlee has done well and worked hard to make his way from the Select Team to Team USA. To suggest that he only did so due to his ties with coach Krzyzewski would be a disservice to his effort.