Team USA is gearing up for the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup which is scheduled to begin Aug. 31 and with 13 players, they must cut it down to 12 before it officially begins.
Kyle Kuzma is looking like a safer bet each day to make the final roster, but of course nothing is guaranteed.
With De’Aaron Fox unexpectedly withdrawing, it became just one cut that Team USA has to make. With that, Kuzma’s chances of making the final roster continue to rise, especially after a solid performance in the team’s 90-81 victory against Spain at the Honda Center where he recorded seven points, five rebounds, and three assists in 17 minutes.
And rightfully so, Kuzma believes he’s earned a roster spot on Team USA and says that he feels he’s done everything he can control to make that happen, according to Kyle Goon of Orange County Register:
Asked if he’s done enough to make the final roster, Kuzma said yes.
“I’m not one to really grade my performances, but I think my energy was at a high level,” he said. “That’s the only thing I can really control.”
Kuzma also said that he’s improved and played well in all the categories that head coach Gregg Popovich really cares about such as rebounds, defense, and hustle:
“At the end of the day, as long as you’re playing hard, playing defense, rebounding, that’s what (Popovich) wants,” he said. “That’s what he kind of prides all his teams on. As long as we do that, we can kind of stay on his good side.”
Right now, the players that are guaranteed to make it are Kemba Walker, Donavan Mitchell, Khris Middleton, Myles Turner, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Brook Lopez, and Harrison Barnes. This leaves four spots remaining for five possible players. Kuzma, Mason Plumlee, Derrick White, Marcus Smart, and Joe Harris will likely all be up for that final cut.
Kuzma receiving 17 minutes in the game against Spain does significantly improve his chances in that group. Due to a slight injury, Smart received zero minutes while White got eight minutes, Plumlee had 14, and Harris had 19.
Kuzma seems extremely motivated to make this roster — as he should. Team USA has always been a great learning experience for young players, and Kuzma certainly could stand to improve on some things before heading into the most important season of his young career.