Being a member of Team USA is one of the greatest honors in American basketball. You're part of an exclusive club of NBA players that includes the likes of Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Allen Iverson, Vince Carter, and many more of the nation's all-time top talent. Sure, there have also been players that aren't known for being NBA greats, such as Christian Laettner. That doesn't make being a part of the team any less of an honor.
This raises a question. Who on the Hornets has the best chance of being future members of team USA? A team as young and as talented as the Hornets should have plenty of future candidates.
As weird as it is to say, the player with the best chance of making the team might be Cody Zeller. He was a member of Team USA's select team in 2014. This is the team that scrimmages against Team USA during practice. Very often, players are pulled from the select team onto the actual Team USA roster. At this point, Zeller is an athletic hustle guy. Kenneth Faried and Mason Plumlee are on the current team over Paul Millsap, who is a better and more skilled player, so this tells us that Team USA coach Mike Krzyzewski loves his hustle guys. Zeller's entire game is built on hustle plays. It might not be a stretch to think that in years like this, where many of the US's superstars have pulled out, Zeller could get a call up to Team USA.
Of course, the Hornets have players more talented than Zeller. The usual idea would be to take Charlotte's best player and say he has the best shot at being on Team USA. In this case, that would be Al Jefferson. Considering the US's lack of big men and their greatest rival, Spain, having an abundance of them, it feels like a no-brainer to add Jefferson to the team. Unfortunately for Big Al, time is not his side. He's not currently on Team USA's roster, and he's 29. It's unlikely Coach K and crew will want him at this stage in his career.
This means the guys Team USA will be looking for are young, proven, and talented. Kidd-Gilchrist seems like an easy choice. Like Zeller, he's a hustle guy, and he's already one of the best perimeter defenders in the NBA. Unfortunately, Kidd-Gilchrist can't shoot at all. Team USA's wing spots are filled with shooters and that's been true since 2008. Until MKG gets a consistent jump shot, his chances at team USA are slim to none.
That leaves two guys on the Hornets with a chance at Team USA: Lance Stephenson and Kemba Walker. Walker is fast, he can move the ball with his passing and dribbling and he can play off the ball effectively. That off-ball ability is key on a team that usually features the likes of LeBron James and Kevin Durant. The only problem for Walker? Team USA is stacked with point guards. Kyrie Irving, Derrick Rose, Damian Lillard, and John Wall are all possible point guard candidates for this team. Sorry to say it, but unless Walker gets extremely lucky to have all of these guys pull out from the team, he's going to have to make a significant jump. These are superstars he's competing with. The odds are against him.
That leaves us with one. Lance Stephenson is a curious case. Stephenson's talent broke through last season, showing the enormous potential that he has. The shooting guard spot is probably the weakest position for Team USA, and that's to Stephenson's advantage. If he continues to improve the way he has over the last few years, it will be very difficult to make an argument why he shouldn't be on the team. Well, there is one argument.
There are rumblings that Sacramento Kings center Demarcus Cousins won't make the team. This seems kind of crazy considering the lack of big men the team currently has, and that his competition isn't as good as him. The problem? In addition to a recent injury, some might speculate that it's his personality. Cousins has had a bad reputation for his attitude since he came into the league. Cousins wants to win above all else, but sometimes his emotions get the better of him. If you look at Team USA's current roster, it's filled with quiet, stoic types.
This brings us back to Stephenson. We all know about last year's rumors. I hate bringing it up as often as I do, but it has to be noted that if Stephenson doesn't shake the image of being a locker room killer off, he won't be getting a Team USA call up any time soon.
The Hornets have a few players that have a shot at making Team USA. They also have rookies that could very well develop into Team USA players. But we won't know about them until we see them in NBA action. For now, as strange as it sounds. Cody Zeller might have a head start on everybody.