Kevin Durant just announced that he has withdrawn from FIBA competition for team USA this summer.
While this is a huge emotional blow to the team, the team has to immediately search for his replacement. As fellow ISH writer Alex Floch wrote, Kevin Durant was a shoe in for Team USA and was likely to represent the team as the best player in the competition.
Now, the team must immediately shift it’s attention to replacing a leader like Durant with some of his abilities in the starting lineup. Let’s take a look at the options.
Look to the Reserves
Guys like Gordon Hayward, Kyle Korver, Klay Thompson, Chandler Parsons, and even bringing back Bradley Beal may be the team’s best option.
These swingmen have proven themselves in the NBA as some of the top guys out there. Why else would they have been invited to team USA in the first place? Hayward would bring the most polished, all around game to the starters at small forward, while Klay Thompson brings great shooting off the bench. Those guys are near locks for the team now.
But, Kyle Korver and Chandler Parsons are still fighting for a spot, and this departure may have opened up that exact spot. If the team does choose to leave the sharpshooter or defensive specialist off the roster, bringing back Bradley Beal to a backup wingman should be looked at. Beal brings much more all around scoring than both Thompson and Korver, as they are more specialist. Beal probably didn’t get as close of a look as he deserves, and renouncing his cut may be a smart move by the coaching staff.
Right now as it stands I see Gordon Hayward as the best option on the roster to replace Durant in the starting lineup. His shooting, facilitating, and defense make him the most similar guy to the reigning MVP.
Look to the Select Team
While they cannot come in and start, forward Tobias Harris, Jimmy Butler, or Harrison Barnes all offer help on the wing with the loss of Durant.
This may be a bit of a desperation move, but coach K and company need to take a long hard look at if one of these guys fits the needs of swingman for the national team. Jimmy Butler stands out as a great addition to this team. He plays a lot like Paul George, and that is what this team may need to replace both him and Kevin Durant.
Butler brings good shooting, ferocious defense, and a will to win. What more could a team ask for from a guy supposed to fill the shoes of an MVP?
Look to DeMar DeRozan
The last hyperathletic forward remaining, DeMar DeRozan was a standout performer last season. An All Star snub, DeRozan averaged 22.7 PPG last season, just 9 positions behind Kevin Durant. He also stepped up in the playoffs, increasing his average to 23.9 points in seven games vs. Brooklyn.
DeRozan is likely to make the final roster anyway, but the coaching staff needs to seriously consider inserting DeRozan as the starting small forward. Next to guards Derrick Rose and James Harden and big men Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins, DeRozan brings some great athleticism to this lineup.
DeRozan would run nicely alongside Derrick Rose in transition and would be able to make up for some defensive lapses bound to happen from James Harden. The lack of shooting in this lineup is worrisome, but no one can keep up with this lineup on the run.
DeRozan is no Kevin Durant, but he brings defense and leadership to this team that may be looking for some come time to play vs. the other big guys like Spain, Brazil, and Australia.
Look to Kevin Love
With the recent rumored trade between the Cavs and the T-Wolves that sends Love to Cleveland, Love finally has some certainty in his life. With that, rejoining Team USA as the face of the team and best player would be a great move by the talented forward.
While playing Love at small forward would be unconventional, it would be the best thing for this team. He brings the shooting and the go to scorer traits that Kevin Durant brought. He also makes us bigger and stronger than playing guys like Gordon Hayward or DeMar DeRozan.
Love would immediately be the best shooter on this roster. He even outshot Kyle Korver from three last season, hitting 190 (5 more than Korver) three pointers last season. This would be key as he would be our go to scorer on a roster that is begging for one.
Nothing unites a nation like a national team in a US vs. ALL competition, and Kevin Love has the opportunity to become a national hero and darling almost overnight if he so chooses to rejoin Team USA. And, after some scrutiny from trade demands and not so team friendly behavior in Minnesota, earning this good attention could repair his reputation as a hero of a personality rather than a headache.
While the team has a lot of options, they need to decide soon so they can start having a bit of consistency in practice. The best option obviously would be bringing in Kevin Love, but that also is not the easiest option. DeRozan and Hayward offer their own sets of skills and are obtainable, but they lack go-to power. A player from the select team is highly unlikely.
So, USAB fans, what do you think?
Who do you think should replace Durant as the starting small forward for Team USA?
Leave who you think should replace Durant in the comments section.