Drummond appears a great fit for USA Basketball’s World Cup roster

With no Dwight Howard in the mix and Kevin Love and Blake Griffin pulling out, Andre Drummond’s chances to make the USA Basketball roster for this summer’s World Cup look promising.
Andrew D. Bernstein (NBAE/Getty)
by Keith Langlois
Web Editor

Andre Drummond spent four days in Spain in May on an NBA promotional tour. He’d like to spend a few weeks there later this summer engaged in more substantive business: helping the United States win the World Cup of Basketball gold medal. The quest starts this week in Las Vegas, and who isn’t in town might have as much to do with his chances to make the team as who is.

Dwight Howard, who as recently as last summer said he intended to take part in this year’s competition, will sit out this round of USA Basketball. Among the other frontcourt players bowing out only recently are Kevin Love, due to injury worries as he pushes for a trade out of Minnesota, and Blake Griffin, who is reported to have suffered a small break in his back during last spring’s playoffs. The only true centers among the 19 players currently vying for 12 roster spots are Drummond and Sacramento’s DeMarcus Cousins.

It’s no lock that they’ll keep both centers, of course, given the style of international play. But there’s no question which country represents the biggest threat to the United States – host Spain – and no question about the composition of the Spanish national team’s roster. It starts with the frontcourt of Pau and Marc Gasol with Serge Ibaka.

If Jerry Colangelo, Team USA managing director, and coach Mike Krzyzewski build the United States roster with Spain in mind – and Spain, quite logically, figures to factor prominently in their thinking – then keeping both Drummond and Cousins would seem in order. Even though there will be times Krzyzewski will want to go small with Anthony Davis at center and Kevin Durant or Paul George at power forward, it’s unlikely they’d use that lineup very often against Spain as long as Marc Gasol is on the floor. And it would be risky to keep only one of Drummond or Cousins given the possibility of foul trouble or injury.

Why should Drummond’s participation in the World Cup matter to the Pistons?

Pretty simple, really. Players – young players especially – almost always benefit greatly from the sort of elite competition that the World Cup entails. Even the experience of getting to practice intensely this week with the national team hopefuls will benefit him, just as he firmly believed last year’s Team USA minicamp in Las Vegas set the stage for his breakout second NBA season.

Drummond’s history as a quick study and eager learner doubles the likelihood of drawing benefits from the entirety of his USA Basketball experience. Pistons general manager Jeff Bower said he was struck by Drummond’s eagerness to be coached when he observed him in seven practices that led to Pistons Summer League play in Orlando earlier this month.

“I was impressed with how he took to coaching and how he reacted to Stan (Van Gundy) and to (assistant coaches) Bob Beyer, Brendan Malone and Charles Klask,” Bower said. “I was really impressed with his curiosity and his acceptance of coaching and the look that he was seeking more and was waiting to be exposed to things.”

Team USA is heavy with scorers to fill its perimeter positions. They could have Kyrie Irving, Damian Lillard, John Wall and Derrick Rose at point guard alone, plus the likes of Steph Curry, James Harden, Klay Thompson, Durant and George at shooting guard and small forward. Kenneth Faried and Paul Millsap are the other power forward candidates with the late subtractions of Love and Griffin.

With all of that perimeter firepower, the elite rebounding Drummond offers – not to mention his proven ability to score from above the rim, a skill that should be drawn out with all of the shooting Team USA can put around him – would seem an irresistible roster component for Colangelo and Krzyzewski. The chances he’ll get that return trip to Spain look pretty good.