On Tuesday afternoon, USA Basketball announced that the organization would be launching a six-member committee to select players that would help them qualify for the 2019 FIBA World Cup. For the first time ever, USA Basketball will look to qualify for that event by utilizing players from the NBA Development League, which will be known as the NBA Gatorade League beginning in the 2017-18 season.
That committee will consist of USA Basketball men’s national team director Sean Ford, who will serve as the nonvoting chairman of that group. Other committee representatives include a crop of terrific basketball minds with D-League experience which include: NBADL Player Personnel and Coach Relations Manager Tony Bollier, Long Island Nets GM Trajan Langdon, Sioux Falls Skyforce GM Adam Simon and Houston Rockets Executive VP of Basketball Operations Gersson Rosas.
“With USA Basketball entering the new FIBA qualification system for the men’s 2019 World Cup and 2020 Olympic competitions, we’re excited to work with the NBA D-League to field competitive teams for the 2017-19 USA’s World Cup qualifying games. The USA Basketball World Cup Qualification Committee features appointees with outstanding basketball experience who will have the important task of selecting USA Basketball teams to compete in this new system,” USA Basketball CEO Jim Tooley said in a press release. “This will be an excellent opportunity for NBADL players to showcase their talent and experience meaningful and important international competition while representing the United States.”
Although this is definitely a great opportunity for D-League players to represent Team USA, this move was mainly due to the actual timing of the initial qualifying events. Compared to past FIBA events, most of the qualifying periods coincide with the actual NBA/D-League regular season.
The first-round of qualifying will for Team USA will be: November 20th-28th, 2017, February 19th-27th, 2018 and June 25-July 3, 2018.
Meanwhile, the second round of qualifying will consist of two games between August 30th-September 8th 2018, two more between November 26th-December 4th, 2018 and the final two will take place between February 18th-26th, 2019.
While we’re still more than three months away until the actual qualifying rounds begin, we can still speculate about which D-League talent that USA Basketball will feature. Without further ado, here’s our idea about how USA Basketball’s roster should look like when its filled with D-League talent.
Note: This roster will only feature players that were under D-League contracts at the end of the season. A prospect becomes ineligible once he’s called up to the NBA.
PG: Ray McCallum: As the player in this starting lineup with the most NBA experience, McCallum shines as the type of player that would shine in international competition. That’s due to McCallum shining as your prototypical pass-first guard that regularly does a nice job of finding his teammates. McCallum’s passing accumen as a facilitator was seen by him averaging 7 assists per game with a really solid 2.6 AST/TO ratio.
In addition his great facilitating, McCallum has showcased an ability to shine as an on-ball cutter and mid-range shooter. Those skills are evident in the video below, where McCallum messed around and get a triple-double against the Maine Red Claws.
SG: Vander Blue: To the surprise of nobody, the reigning D-League MVP is positioned in our starting starting lineup. Even without that award, Blue would probably stand as our go-to scoring threat because of how dynamic he is on that end of the floor.
His incredible knack as a scorer was evident in the 2016-17 season as he scored 24.8 points, 5.1 rebounds and 3 assists per game on 44% from the field and 35% from beyond the arc. Although he isn’t the best perimeter shooter, Blue can still shine in a variety of different ways from mid-range shooting, occasional post-ups and making strong on/off-ball cuts.
Among those skills, he does his best work as an on-ball cutter where he can use his terrific handles to make his way towards the paint with either his left or right hand. Once he lands in the restricted area, Blue can shine by being able to finish with a textbook layup or vicious dunk.
SF: Jalen Jones: After going small in the back-court with the 6’2 Ray McCallum and 6’4 Vander Blue, we add some size with the addition of Jalen Jones. Standing at 6’7, 220 pounds with a 6’11 wingspan, Jones has the ability to either work as a small forward or stretch four. That versatility allowed him to be a dominating force during his debut season in the D-League as it’s difficult for opponents to game plan for Jones.
Throughout the season, Jones showed the rare ability to just take control of a multitude of different ways. Whether it’s working the offensive glass, posting up or hitting the perimeter jumper, Jones was just an offensive menace as he put up 21 points, 9 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game on 45% from the field and 35% from beyond the arc.
PF: Jameel Warney: Transitioning over the front-court, Jameel Warney makes this roster after a phenomenal second half to the season. Following the All-Star break, the 6’7 Warney put up 22.6 points, 10 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.1 steals and 1 block on 62% from the field in 34 minutes per game.
Those great averages were due to Warney being able to fully enter #BullySzn as he regularly utilized his beefy 260 pound frame to out-muscle the opposition. The biggest way where Warney bullied opposing bigs was on the offensive glass where he averaged 3.7 rebounds per game, the third-highest average in the entire D-League.
While he stands a bit undersized as a 6’7 power forward, he makes up for it by just always being the hardest player on the court. Whether he’s fighting for an offensive rebound or dashing towards the paint in pick-and-rolls, Warney shines as a player looking to wreck shop on any individual possession.
C: Dakari Johnson: Although there were some solid options for starting center, we had to go with OKC Blue big Dakari Johnson. Throughout the entire D-League season, Johnson just shined as the best center in the NBA D-League as he averaged 18.5 points, 8 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.3 blocks per game on 56% from the field in only 29 minutes per game.
Standing at 7’0 and 250 pounds with a 7’2 wingspan, Johnson plays more like big from the 80’s or 90’s than someone from the modern day. That’s due to Johnson doing his best work as a offensive rebounder and post-up threat, compared to the face-up threats that you see today from players like Karl-Anthony Towns or Kristaps Porzingis. Johnson did a great job within his comfort zone, as he hit 57% of the 115 total hook shots that he attempted during the 2016-17 season. That average is actually comparable to Marc Gasol (49%) and Brook Lopez (49%).
Guards: Darius Morris, Gabe York and Kevin Murphy
Forwards: Justin Harper, Scott Wood, C.J. Leslie
Center: Eric Moreland