As most of the basketball world had their eyes glued to Twitter to keep track of the latest happenings of the NBA Trade Deadline, the G League quietly swooped in some significant announcement. That proclamation was that the G League officially named the players that will be competing against Team Mexico in the NBA G League International Challenge.
The event will take place during the NBA All-Star festivities as the game will tip off on Sunday, February 18th at 4:30 Eastern Time at the Verizon Up Arena in the Los Angeles Convention Center. Fans will have an opportunity to watch it streamed live on NBA.com, the NBA App, Twitch or on the ESPN App (United States only). This game will also be broadcasted in Spanish on Univision Deportes Network in mainland United States and Puerto Rico and Televisia Deportees network in Mexico.
Although this will only be an exhibition game, it will have some importance as these players will also be competing for an opportunity to play with Team USA in their two FIBA World Cup Qualifying Games. Three days before that game against Mexico, the fourteen players selected will participate in the USA World Cup Qualifying Team that runs from February 15th through the 20th.
The training camp and that exhibition game will help head coach Jeff Van Gundy, his coaching staff and the USA Basketball Men’s World Cup Qualifying Committee select the final 12 man roster that will play later that month in FIBA World Cup Qualifying games. Those two games will take place in Santa Cruz, California as Team USA will play Cuba on February 23rd and Puerto Rico on February 26th.
Now that we have that out of the way, let’s get to the actual roster. To start, we’ll see three players return to Team USA that competed in the FIBA World Cup Qualifying games from November. That trifecta includes Larry Drew (Sioux Falls), Travis Wear (South Bay) and former Semaj Christon (former OKC Blue guard and current NBA free agent).
Joining that trio will be a slew of current G Leaguers that have experience playing at the NBA level. The biggest name is Santa Cruz forward Terrence Jones, who was a first-round pick in the 2012 NBA Draft and played a total of 232 games in the NBA with three different teams. Alongside Jones, other NBA vets include Alonzo Gee (Sioux Falls), David Stockton & Aaron Harrison (Reno) and Xavier Silas (Northern Arizona). Coinciding those NBA and Team USA alums, other G Leaguers joining this team include: Trey McKinney Jones (Fort Wayne), Rodney Purvis (Lakeland), Marcus Thornton (Canton), Devin Williams (Maine), Rashawn Thomas (OKC Blue) and Taylor Braun (SLC Stars).
At first glance, this team seems to be loaded with fantastic perimeter shooters. Among the fourteen players selected, half of the roster is currently shooting 39% better from beyond the arc during this G League season. Although this shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone, as the original team shot 50% from 3 during the initial FIBA World Cup Qualifying games from November, things might actually be better with this version. For starters, Van Gundy could realistically work with a small ball lineup that includes Drew, Thornton, Silas, Braun and Wear.
Honestly lineup may be able to crush the hopes of any team that are unfortunate to go against them. Because not only is point guard Larry Drew shooting 42% from 3, he’s a fantastic facilitator that’s currently averaging 7.6 assists per game with a 2.8 Ast/TO ratio. If he’s able to put up those numbers on a normal G League team, imagine what he can do when he’s surrounded by great perimeter shooters. I don’t think Puerto Rico and Cuba will be even know how to stop that lineup.
Looking away from those solid perimeter shooters, this team USA squad also has a good array of versatile players. For example, forwards Terrence Jones and Rashawn Thomas are both power forwards that can defend multiple positions and do some work as facilitators. Sure, they might not be standout perimeter shooters, they could still help team USA in more ways than just putting the ball in the bucket. Coinciding with that, backcourt threats like Stockton, Gee and Harrison are reliable scoring threats that have experience playing against some of the best competition in the world, whether they were in the G League, NBA or playing for overseas teams.
As we get closer to the NBA G League International Challenge and the FIBA World Cup Qualifying Games, Ridiculous Upside will give you more insight and analysis on the players that will be competing for Team USA. Make sure to follow @ridicupside on Twitter or keep going to RidiculousUpside.com if you want to keep up with the latest happening of this team, the NBA G League or even this year’s NBA Draft.