USA Basketball is looking for reinforcements to go to the FIBA World Cup in China with several of the country’s biggest stars not expected to play, and Wednesday morning Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reported that Los Angeles Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma will be one of a few players that will join the national team’s training camp in August to fight for a roster spot:
As NY Times reported, Anthony Davis, Kemba Walker, Donovan Mitchell and James Harden also planning to play for Team USA.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) June 5, 2019
This is obviously great news for Kuzma personally, and another indicator of how well-viewed his around the league. Kuzma joins LeBron James and Alex Caruso among Lakers players to have represented the United States with the senior team. So far, Kuzma, Mitchell and Tatum are the only players under the age of 24 set to have a chance at a roster spot.
Now, despite some stars not competing, the list above still makes it clear that Kuzma will eventually have an uphill climb to make the final roster of 12 players for the actual tournament once the training camp roster is finalized. Of the players listed there, these are the ones that are probably all-but-guaranteed to make the roster (barring injury, or an unexpectedly huge influx of names to the pool, obviously):
- Anthony Davis
- James Harden
- Damian Lillard
- Kevin Love (in part due to previous USA basketball experience usually being rewarded by this program)
So that’s already four names, and that’s without mentioning a couple of the guys that are probably nearly universally viewed as better than Kuzma right now, such as:
- CJ McCollum
- Bradley Beal
- Kemba Walker
- Donovan Mitchell
That makes eight, and if that list stands, that means that Kuzma would be competing with at least Eric Gordon, Brook Lopez, Jayson Tatum, so obviously with that 12-man list he’d make the cut, but it’s likely that more big-name players join this training camp in the months to come, potentially forcing Kuzma out — and that’s without guessing at whether Zion Williamson can make the jump to the senior team from the select team.
Still, Kuzma even being given this opportunity at his age is not only a great personal achievement and accolade, but also a chance for him to use the offseason competing against — and learning from — some of the game’s best players. If he’s still a Laker by the time this camp rolls around, that’s clearly a great thing for both him and the team.
After the conclusion of Team USA’s training camp, the World Cup will take place from Aug. 31 to Sept. 15.