Observations on Team USA cuts

I tweeted this moments before checking out of my hotel room in Las Vegas last Sunday, and I'll say it again now that they've done it: Cutting JaVale McGee from Team USA was a mistake.

He brought a unique skill set to a team hurting for size, he was an insurance policy in case Tyson Chandler (who missed 68 games the past two seasons due to injuries) gets hurt or gets into foul trouble, and he was the perfect 12th man candidate in that he might be needed for only 5-6 important minutes during the entire World Championship, but those could be the very 5-6 minutes that make or break this team's fortunes.

USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo did seem to indicate that McGee would be on call for the rest of the summer.

"He's very raw, he's very young, he's a real babe in terms of game experience and he has a real future. So that's really how we left it with him: Keep working on your game and you may get a call sooner rather than later. You don't know. We're playing that by ear," Colangelo said.

Team USA may ultimately decide to put just one true center on the final 12-man roster that will be submitted Aug. 26.

"We don't have big guys, I mean a lot of them. We have a lot of perimeter guys, and we're not going to pick someone up on a trade or anything like that. These are our guys, and we feel good about them," coach Mike Krzyzewski said on a conference call announcing the cuts. "Maybe [Kevin] Durant and [Rudy] Gay will play a lot at the 4, which isn't bad. We had Carmelo [Anthony] and LeBron [James] play the 4 all the time, and [Chris] Bosh being our center for a lot of the Olympics when Dwight [Howard] wasn't in. So we're just trying to personalize the system to fit the strengths of this group, and we're going to have to rely on really good perimeter defense to make sure we don't get hurt inside."

Krzyzewski went on to say that Lamar Odom could emerge as the backup center, something that would happen if Brook Lopez fails to make the 12-man roster. Lopez recently lost 20 pounds from a bout with mononucleosis, and he was told to work on his conditioning before the team reports to New York on Aug. 9 for the start of training camp.

Colangelo said several players were specifically told they will be on the bubble in New York. (Click here to see the news story on the cuts).

"At this point we don't know how many bigs we'll end up with. Is it one? Is it two? We don't know. We'll have to wait and see. But we do want to see how Brook Lopez looks after two weeks of getting himself in shape. He's struggled, he's disappointed in his performance, but he wants this opportunity. And when someone has that kind of an attitude you're going to give them a little bit of rope."

Aside from Lopez, we can safely surmise that the bubble list begins with Jeff Green, who needs to mix it up inside the way Kevin Love has been doing (Krzyzewski went out of his way on the conference call to praise Love for being the team's best rebounder), and also includes Danny Granger, who was given the benefit of the doubt in the cut considerations because he suffered a slight calf injury at practice last Thursday.

Eric Gordon/Stephen Curry is another obvious bubble situation, with four of the five guard spots seemingly locked up by Derrick Rose, Chauncey Billups, Russell Westbrook and Rajon Rondo (Note to Rondo skeptics: For all his faults, he rebounds better than any guard in the NBA -- something that'll obviously be needed in Turkey.) Krzyzewski has said he wants to take no more than five guards to Turkey (six if you include Durant, who is listed at that position but will play at the 3 and 4 spots for Team USA).

So before squeezing in a little vacation, I'll leave you with my July 28 prediction of who will be on the 12-man roster when it is submitted in Turkey on the night of Aug. 26:

C: Chandler, Lopez.

F: Odom, Love, Andre Iguodala, Durant, Gay. (Green, Granger cut)

G: Billups, Rose, Westbrook, Rondo, Curry. (Gordon cut)