Blogtable: USA’s backup center

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.

BLOGTABLE: Risk/reward and the USA | Indy’s dilemma | Pick a center

> Now you’re Mike Krzyzewski. You have to pick a backup center for Team USA. DeMarcus Cousins, Mason Plumlee or Andre Drummond? Why?

Steve Aschburner, If I’m Coach K, I find myself with a last name that gets misspelled and mispronounced more often than “Aschburner.” Wait, what? Oh, I take Cousins. And it doesn’t even have anything to do with the style of international basketball or World Championship glory. I take Cousins because he could benefit the most from the ultimate-team experience, maturing perhaps into a better NBA citizen and teammate. It’s the least Team USA can do for all that lavish talent at its disposal, a give-back — if “Boogie” were to pay attention and embrace the lesson — that would help the player, his team and the league.

DeMarcus Cousins (Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE)

DeMarcus Cousins (Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE)

Fran Blinebury, DeMarcus Cousins. Just on all-around skills and innate talent. Cousins is a superstar waiting to break out and this experience could and should be the challenge that keeps him focused and brings out the best in him. If that happens, he’s got the greatest upside for now and for looking ahead to 2016 in Rio.

Jeff Caplan, I’m pretty sure Andre Drummond is going to get the nod from my colleagues, but I’m picking DeMarcus Cousins as sort of the feel-good story with the most upside. We all know Cousins has tremendous talent. If Western Conference coaches didn’t view him as an immature malcontent he might have been an All-Star last season. So maybe Team USA, and with another year of age, is what makes it all click-in for Cousins. It certainly can’t hurt (I don’t think). And if it doesn’t happen, Colangelo and Coach K can reset next summer in preparation for Brazil in 2016.

Scott Howard-Cooper, Probably Plumlee. Team USA would have wanted to maximize its athletic advantage anyway, but the shortage of bigs increases the need to play fast. Plumlee is best suited for the end-to-end game. The other two have obvious appeals, though. Cousins’ range and passing ability is a great fit for a big in the international game, and Drummond as a rim protector and physical center would be a nice option for Mike Krzysewski against teams with size (Spain, Brazil). Plus, the lineup around Drummond would make up for his lack of offense. Meanwhile, the question of Cousins and his attitude must be factored in, except that we don’t really know how he has been behind closed doors.

Sekou Smith, NBA.comAndre Drummond would be my pick. The U.S. is going to need added size and someone capable of not only protecting the rim but also serving as a bruiser around the basket on offense. Cousins is a more polished offensive performer right now but Drummond gets up and down the floor a little better and doesn’t necessarily need the ball in his hands to make an impact. Coach K needs someone he trusts to fill that role, which is why Plumlee is still in the mix. But when I hear Jerry Colangelo talk about picking the best team and not the best players, it lets me know that anything is possible when it comes to cutting the roster down.

John Schuhmann, First of all, I’m waiting until after the next three exhibition games — against Brazil, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico — so that I can see these guys in some close-to-real FIBA action. And I’d limit Anthony Davis‘ minutes in next Saturday’s game against Brazil, which could tell us a lot about the Cousins-Plumlee debate. If I had to make a decision now though, I’d go with Cousins, who showed enough in last week’s Showcase for me to take talent over fit in this discussion. He still has some work to do to secure that spot and nobody has a bigger spotlight on him in these next couple of weeks, but the talent discrepancy could ultimately be too tough to ignore.

Lang Whitaker,’s All Ball blogI take none of them. Cousins needs the ball to be effective, Plumlee doesn’t stand out in any one facet, and Drummond is such a terrible free throw shooter that he’s too much of a liability. So I take none of them and instead keep Kyle Korver. Then if Anthony Davis gets into foul trouble, I go super small and put Kevin Durant at the 5 and try to trade 3 for 2s. And considering the USA is in the weaker bracket, you might only need a true backup center in the Finals against Spain and their monster Pau Gasol/Marc Gasol/Serge Ibaka front line. I’m not sure it’s worth using a roster spot on a guy you might not even have to use.

Ole Frerks, NBA Deutschland: This is a difficult choice. Cousins is the best jump-shooter of the trio, which is important for international basketball, but he also lacks lateral quickness in defending the pick and roll, which is equally essential. Drummond is a more frightening presence at the rim and a beast on the boards, but his poor free throw shooting could hurt the team in late-game situations. Plumlee has the same problem and also lacks experience. Personally, I’d go with Boogie and hope he hustles enough on defense. He has the best skillset for international basketball and should profit from the other guys like Durant or Rose, who should be able to teach him a thing or two about how to carry himself as the highest level.

Akshay Manwani, NBA India: I understand Mason Plumlee probably fits better with Team USA’s fast-paced style, but I would go for DeMarcus Cousins. There is no substitute for talent and Cousins has shown that with the right environment, he can make a huge impact. Cousins finished fourth in Player Impact Estimate (PIE) rankings for 2013-14, just behind the likes of Kevin Durant, LeBron James and Kevin Love. Also, Cousins still hasn’t hit his ceiling in the league. There is a huge upswing that can be leveraged for the future by giving Cousins the experience of playing with Team USA now.


  1. A says:

    Cousins is the starting center
    End of debate

  2. TTKIN says:

    I’d go Cousins or none of them. Cousins has had superstar potential on the verge of breaking out for yrs now. USA basketball usually helps players fully achieve that (I still remember how SCARY good Rose was after 2010).

    But, his attitude is a huge problem and the US doesn’t need other countries seeing one of our top players stomping around the court arguing about everything. Not exactly the image I want other countries to have of us.

    So, if behind those closed doors, Cousins has been under control, pick him. If not, go with Lang’s suggestion and pick none of them.

  3. Jay says:

    This is ridiculous… So if they choose Plumlee over Cousins due to being a better “PnR defender” and “lateral quickness” then if Kevin Love didn’t back out then they may as well choose Plumlee over Love. And we all know Kevin Love is a terrible defender… But I’m sure Love would have been a lock because his name speaks 25ppg and 15rpg but doesn’t speak “my name is Love and I’m an atrocious defender.” Cousins over Plumlee for sure. Heck, if they choose Drummond then I wouldn’t be mad at all. But Plumlee needs to go home already. And if you argue, “oh but we already have superstars we need role players who don’t need the ball” since when are superstars not capable of adjusting to a new system and play a role given to them?? Superstars can play without the ball if they wanted to and impact without it. Role players can only do one thing..

  4. Rhedz03 says:

    I would go with cousins…

    Cousins, Drummond
    Davis, parson
    Durant, derozan
    Harden, curry, korver
    Rose, Irving, lillard

  5. Json says:

    Why is Plumlee even considered in this discussion? Just because he used to play for the coach? That doesn’t mean squat… Plumlee is just a really good role player and there are plenty of those in the league already so why him over Drummond or cousins? If Plumlee is so good then why didn’t the nets use him more often? This guy is way overrated. His brother Miles is way better. Mason Plumlee is like Robin Lopez so why didn’t Lopez make the select team? The dude played a crucial role on a winning team. This Mason Plumlee thing over Demarcus should never be said again… Anyone who thinks a role player over a top 5 center should be selected is in over their head. And stop sayin Demarcus is still the head case he was back then, face it, the man has grown up now and besides team usa has superstars to make him know his place.

    • lalalalla says:

      it’s becoz he blocked a potential winner by LeBron last year during the regular season… other that, ho-humm…

  6. dustydreamnz says:

    I was surprised Plumlee made the squad too. I’d choose Drummond because he’s a superstar on potential, Shaq couldn’t shoot free throws either.

  7. whatpercent says:

    Plumlee couldn’t hold Cousins jock.

    I can’t believe there is even a debate.

    Absolutely Cousins.

  8. Superstar says:

    Whoever is selected among these three gentlemen will always be a back-up. C’mon guys? Davis will stay in 5 most of the way.

    All i see is you talking: “talent, talent, talent” which all points to Cousins. Remember that when you have 4 shooters on the floor, you would want a quick-big to corral that rebound and gain possession. Drummond is the best in that department, who can run, defend and COACHABLE.

  9. bballjunkie1 says:


  10. Spurs Fan says:


  11. Mark says:

    Plumlee? Really?

  12. Bartholomew says:

    Definitely Demarcus.

  13. jfack says:

    depends on who you playing.. if u need offense or defense.. personally i like plumlees hustle. you can never get too much hustle.

  14. mee(a)t says:


  15. baftba says:

    Don’t pick Cousins. Dude gets ready to punch someone every time he gets fouled. Needs to grow up before playing international ball; nobody wants to see a pouty baby–or worse, a brawl–at one of these things.

  16. idonthate says:

    I don’t want to hate, but don’t you guys think that plumlee is superoverated??

    • Json says:

      I agree. He’s not even that good to be honest. If he was then why did the nets start old man KG over him? Lol ridiculous.. He hasn’t won any awards or achievements yet. But people think he should be selected over Cousins lol. If team usa wanted a hustle player, they should’ve kept Millsap or Faried or even invited Robin Lopez. Besides Cousins dominated Plumlee in the scrimmage game and he didn’t even need the ball…

  17. idonthate says:

    I don’t want to hate, but don’t you guys think that plumlee is superoverated?

  18. olbl says:

    if he can behave, i pick cousins. you have to represent good when you play for your country, instable guys are not welcome. of course he is super skilled. but with AD and the other guys, it will be ok too. (ok, not great).
    if he can just play ball and sit down, hard foul or not, bad referee or not, then i go for cousins.

  19. zen says:

    i would take cousins over drummond he is a bit more polished on both end but not as athletic…. plumlee is a good player but shldnt even be in the conversation even though he can get out an run the floor

  20. vinsanefan says:

    What if the Spurs were to keep two backup up centers — Cousins and Drummond. Cousins would play the vast majority of the minutes due to his superior talent at the offensive end and Drummond could serve as sort of an insurance policy against Spain. The way I see it the U.S. should select players based on their goal of winning the tournament. With the exception of a scary game against Lithuania in the last Olympics, the only team that’s shown it can really compete with Team USA is Spain. There are some other good teams out there, but I honestly feel like the Spaniards (plus African mercenary Serge Ibaka) are the only team with a realistic chance of defeating the U.S. In that case, it might be nice to have a bruiser like Drummond in order to deal with the 21 foot frontline of Gasol squared and Ibaka. Drummond probably wouldn’t be used much other than against Spain or perhaps another team that tries to overpower the U.S. with size. Plus, having two backup centers could prove crucial if one of the U.S. big men were to tweak an ankle, get sick, foul out, etc. They can cut a player like Korver, Gordon Hayward, Klay Thompson, etc. Each of those guys are great basketball players but there are plenty of other players capable of doing everything they do and more. In conclusion, if Coach K is having a hard time deciding which backup center to select maybe he should just choose two.

  21. ibrahim says:

    cousins …. he’s more of an all star player the leader of the Sacremento kings and plumlee and drummond are really good but not good enough that’s out of the question.

  22. harriethehawk says:

    If we just took out the past tense verbs here: “hasn’t been a good team player”, “hasn’t been quick running down the court”, has a history of being a butthead, has had consistent bad temperament, etc. etc. Take it away and who do you have? A really great basketball player who deserves a 2nd chance. He was slighted for these reasons form becoming an All-Star. Give the guy a BIG break!!! This will help him as a player, will enhance the USA team, and further down the road, will help the Sacramento Kings because I believe he needs this boost to really boost his team as their leader. He can do it. Demarcus Cousins would be my choice if I was Coach K.

  23. j-kid says:

    They need to pick Cousins. Too much talent, too much power, too much everything for international players. 92. 96, 00, all have strong power centers. and then the 04..” ya I go with cousin… Plumlee fits better, but Cousins guaranteed victory.

  24. Ahmed says:

    I know one thing, Team USA needs rebounding. And guess who is the best rebounder in the league? Andre Drummond!
    He averaged 13.2 rebounds per game last season, and 14.7 rebounds per 36 minutes. He is an outstanding rebounder. Team USA really needs someone like him!

    Plumlee is not a good rebounder at all. Per 36 minutes he averages 8.7 rebounds a game! That’s below league average among centers.

    Cousins is not a good team player.

    Drummond all the way!

  25. taekayo says:

    Drummond… a workhorse on the boards, no need to shoot. Doesn’t have as much potential talent as Cousins, but has has more energy to be e defensive stallion. This is after all a team built with superstars. Drummond could play (and is willing) to be an effective role player for the team.

  26. rickycota says:

    Plumlee everyday. You already have a lot of scorers so you neeed role players like Plumlee. Cousins is not a team player and he needs the ball to create his shots. With Plumlee, is more athletic and better defensively. Drummond just not good for me. With Davis and Plumlee USA will do just fine. Cousins, is undisciplined too and could cause trouble if he gets heated. Plus, Coach K knows Plumlee from Duke and I think it will help Plumlee.

  27. jdub455 says:

    plumlee… the current structure of the us team will not rely on post scoring… the guards and wings position are loaded with scorers. this team is a running team. plumlee will fit just right because, he plays hard, he plays tough D, he’s a physical rebounder and he has no problem scoring zero pts on the offensive end. actually i would have gone with drummond but i dont think he realizes how good he is yet. Cousins on the other hand has got the skillz no doubt, but acts like an immature punk which may have an effect esp. on the physical style of play against big euro guys.

    • Rangers says:

      I would say Drummond.
      He’s the best rebounder in the nba, and extremely efficient. He’s not elite defender but neither is cousins or even plumper for that matter.