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John Schuhmann

Kevin Durant (right) must show some defensive prowess if he hopes to make the Olympic team.
Larry W. Smith/NBAE via Getty Images

Durant, Rose have early edge as mini-camp begins

By John Schuhmann,
Posted Jul 23 2009 10:47AM

LAS VEGAS -- USA Basketball mini-camp gets started on Thursday, with 22 players competing for the chance to join the men's senior national team in the coming years.

There will be a lot of talent in the gym, but the supply will be greater than the demand. Eight players from last year's Olympic team -- Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, LeBron James, Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade and Deron Williams -- have verbally committed to play in the 2010 World Championships in Turkey and the 2012 Olympics in London.

That gives the team the following (tentative) depth chart:

PG: Paul, Williams
SG: Bryant, Wade
SF: James
PF: Anthony
C: Howard, Bosh

If those eight are all healthy and keep their word, there will be four roster spots open. Of course, injuries, contract status and personal obligations will be factors every year. Remember, the purpose of this mini-camp isn't to pick four guys to fill spots. It's to establish a pool of players for the next three years. That pool should have about 25 players in it, so it's possible that most of the 22 guys here will still be on the list.

But which of those 22 have the best chance of making the roster? First, there's a lot of time (and a lot of basketball to play) before a team must be selected for the trip to Turkey next summer. And there's even more time before the Olympic roster must be set.

So, the following list could change dramatically in the coming days, months and years.

If the U.S. does not win the World Championships in 2010, they will need to finish first or second in the 2011 FIBA Americas tournament in order to qualify for the Olympics. That may be a greater opportunity for some of these mini-camp guys to play, as the opponents won't be as strong, and some of the returnees may want to take that summer off.

Here's one writer's top 10 list of which players in the mini-camp have the best shot at making the squad. Keep in mind there may also be a player or two (such as Brandon Roy or Blake Griffin) who was unable to participate this week that still has a shot to play in the next three years.

1. Kevin Durant, SF, Oklahoma City -- The 2006-07 Rookie of the Year almost made the team for the 2007 FIBA Americas tournament after an impressive training camp and intra-squad game. He's a lethal offensive weapon, he's just 20 years old and you can almost guarantee that he'll be on the roster next year and in 2012. His playing time, though, may hinge on his ability to play defense.

2. Derrick Rose, PG, Chicago -- Team USA carried three point guards each of the last two years and Kidd's retirement from international competition should create an opportunity for a youngster. Rose is the overwhelming favorite to be that guy. His ability to drive-and-kick against zones could be an asset, but must improve his jumper.

3. Danny Granger, SF, Indiana -- One of only two All-Stars at this week's camp, Granger will be 32 years old when the London Olympics arrive. We know he has the desire, as being an Olympian has been a goal of his since coming into the league. So far, the reigning Most Improved Player has done a good job so far of working to achieve his goals. There's a need for a small forward who can also play the four, so he's got a shot.

4. O.J. Mayo, SG, Memphis -- After Durant and Rose, Mayo is the most talented offensive player at mini-camp. And he may be good enough of a shooter that the U.S. wouldn't have to carry a guy like Kyle Korver, who is a stellar shooter -- but can be a liability in other aspects. For Mayo, he must show an some defensive ability and a willingness to keep the ball moving if he doesn't have a good shot right away.

5. Kyle Korver, SF, Utah -- Korver is the only real "shooter" at the mini-camp. The Bucks' Michael Redd had that role last year and didn't play that much. Still, it's a risk to build a roster for international play without a player you can trust to knock down shots.

6. Andre Iguodala, SF, Philadelphia -- Along with Granger, Iguodala is best suited for the Tayshaun Prince role: a defensive stopper with length. The U.S. has thrived on forcing turnovers and getting out on the break, and that's exactly what Iguodala does best. But he's not as good of a shooter as Granger, and this team always needs guys who can shoot at the two, three and four spots.

7. Devin Harris, PG, New Jersey -- If Paul, Williams or Rose isn't available, Harris could be the next point guard in line. He's been in the program as a member of the Select Team in years past.

8. Thaddeus Young, SF/PF, Philadelphia -- Young is another guy with length who can force turnovers and get out on the break. He's eight years younger than Granger and four years younger than Iguodala, and a better shooter than his teammate.

9. Brook Lopez, C, New Jersey -- With Griffin missing mini-camp with a right shoulder strain, Lopez's potential ranks best among the bigs. If Carlos Boozer doesn't return, there's a need for a true big on the roster. Lopez has the size and is developing the skills. It's just a matter of whether or not he's mobile enough to be an asset in the international game.

10. Paul Millsap, PF, Utah -- If Millsap continues to develop his offensive game, he could be one of the best power forwards in the league three years from now. Rebounding is always critical, and he's got a nose for the ball. Kevin Love could steal this spot if he impresses in mini-camp.

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