Love's Spot In Team USA Roster Pool A Testament To His Development Inside The Program

by Mark Remme
Web Editor

Wolves forward Kevin Love, at left, was an early committal to the Team USA program for 2014-16. He was rewarded witha spot in their roster pool on Thursday. (Photo credit: Garrett Ellwood/NBAE/Getty Images)

It was no surprise Wolves forward Kevin Love was selected for the U.S. Men’s National Team’s roster pool on Thursday—Love played a significant role in helping Team USA secure Gold at the London 2012 Games, and he was an early committal, along with friend Kevin Durant, to stay with the U.S. Program in this 2014-16 competition cycle.

But when they officially announce that you’ll represent your country, it’s still a big deal. So when Team USA announced its group of 28 players that will be part of the program’s roster pool for competition over the next two years, it still merits talking about the implications of Love’s selection in that exclusive group.

Love made his mark on the Summer Games in 2012, showcasing his diverse skills across the board on both ends of the court. He was fifth on Team USA with 11.6 points per game, and he led the U.S. with 7.6 rebounds per contest in London. He shot 36.4 percent from 3-point range and .630 from the field. And if you remember against Spain in the Gold Medal contest he had a hand in putting together strong second-half defensive possessions.

He’s been a product of the Team USA program, and that’s an important piece of this equation. When Jerry Colangelo and coach Mike Krzyzewski teamed up after the U.S. failed to secure Gold in 2004, their main goal was to put together a program that would not only benefit the team in 2008 but also well into the future. It paid off with headliners like LeBron James and Kobe Bryant buying in to lead the way in 2008 and 2012, but it also opened up a culture for Team USA to build from the ground up and continue replenishing the talent pool.

Love became a prominent member on the team during the 2010 World Championships and earned Gold in 2012. Now, he’s one of the staples of this group. But there are others who will follow suit with opportunities to move up to the senior team’s roster.

This time around, as Team USA prepares for the FIBA World Cup in Spain this summer, there is a ton of new talent to look at—including Bradley Beal, LaMarcus Aldridge, Kawhi Leonard and Stephen Curry.

That’s one of the main points of emphasis Krzyzewski noted during his conference call on Thursday morning. He said this program was built on three Cs—continuity, commitment and camaraderie.

“They’re USA basketball players, and the USA basketball players have been part of it in some aspect,” Krzyzewski said. “We feel like the program that Jerry has organized has been a good one, and we’re developing it to the highest level right now.”

One other interesting note about this group is the level of post play that could be at Krzyzewski’s disposal moving forward. In 2012, Love played a decent amount at the 5 and we saw James and Carmelo Anthony rotating into the 4 spot. Part of that has to do with maximizing athleticism and playing small, but the other part of it was really the only true center on the roster was Tyson Chandler.

This particular roster pool still has Chandler but also has Dwight Howard, Andre Drummond and DeMarcus Cousins. That gives Coach K more true centers to work with, at least in evaluation, and could give Team USA in this early portion of the competition cycle a chance to expand their abilities to play big and small. Love factors into this because he certainly can bolster a smaller lineup at the 5 and bring defending centers out to the perimeter with his range and pick-and-pop capabilities, but he can also settle into his traditional power forward role and become that same stretch 4 threat.

This World Cup roster will be filled with some of these younger players, because some of the veterans like James, Anthony and Chris Paul will not play in Spain. Colangelo said it’s an important opportunity to evaluate and get more experience with this younger group of players.

That will help build a deeper roster pool for Rio de Janeiro in 2016.

Team USA built itself back as an elite world competitor on the basketball court, and Love is part of that equation. Being part of Thursday’s announcement is another example of the type of player Love has become over the past few years and how his skill set is viewed by the top members of the Team USA community.

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