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USA Basketball: Mason Plumlee over DeMarcus Cousins? I mean...Sure, why not?

Mike Ehrmann

Brian Windhorst of reported on Thursday that Mason Plumlee is "likely" to make Team USA's 12-man roster over DeMarcus Cousins, which was met with a great sense of pride among Brooklyn Nets fans, especially right here on NetsDaily. Elsewhere, the pending decision was met with great confusion as to why a second-year player in Plumlee, who played just 18.2 minutes per game as a rookie, would get the nod over Cousins, arguably one of the most talented big men in the NBA.

Over at SB Nation, Satchel Price wrote his take on the situation with the premise being that there is "no good reason" why Plumlee should make the team over Cousins. He does make a few points, some basketball-related, others Dukie-related, as to why Plumlee would make the team over Cousins, but then wraps with, well, "there is no good reason" for him to take the 12th and final spot over Boogie.

Truth is, I'm fairly aligned with each of Price's points, both for and against Plumlee making the team, except for the last one where he finds no good reason why Mase should make the final roster. Especially this argument:

While Plumlee brings some unique traits to the table, including more lateral athleticism and a special bond with the head coach, any logical analysis of the situation says this would be a bad decision. Cousins is simply a better basketball player than Plumlee, without being redundant to other pieces on the roster.

It's a trap!

The "he's a better basketball player" argument is one I can't necessarily get with in this situation. Yes, Cousins is the better player. All things being equal, you trade Plumlee for Cousins straight up 100 out of 100 times if you're the Brooklyn Nets. Cousins is a "case," for sure, and sometimes you can't coach the case out of the kid. But, sometimes you can...ish -- hey, I've seen things; I've seen Zach Randolph level out, so, anything is possible -- and that's why I don't align myself with those in the "he's too much trouble" camp. Meaning, Cousins over Plumlee if I'm starting an NBA team today.

Truthfully, Plumlee isn't the game-changer that Cousins is, and it's not as if he's expected to catch up -- we'll never project him to be a 22 and 11 guy. Let's not forget, too, that Plumlee is actually older than Cousins, who's been in the league for four seasons now. So, on that point, yes, Cousins is the better player and, believe it or not, the better prospect going forward.

"Cousins is the better player," though, doesn't mean case-closed for adding him to the final roster of the USA Basketball team. That's not how these things work. I mean, the reason Jerry Colangelo was brought in as the Team USA managing director is because that best man up process earned Team USA a Bronze medal in 2004.

But what makes Plumlee the better choice, though, if he's not the better player?

Great question.

This I like:

And this:

And this:

And also this:

Oh, wait. Whoops.

Again, you won't find anyone making the argument that Plumlee is the better player, and such is how social media works these days, outrage is contagious. "Me too, guys!" I, like you, can't believe that Plumlee might actually make this team over Cousins. But, it wouldn't bother me none if he did...or didn't.

Price, while saying there is "no good reason" for him to make the final cut, however, makes a pretty good case for Plumlee in his piece.

Take this:

Plumlee certainly isn't a player who would command possessions, not on a roster with this kind of talent. That's not always a great thing, but under these unique circumstances, it's one reason with some possible basketball sense behind it.

And this:

For a team like the U.S., which is bubbling with talent, maybe Coach K and company simply don't want to mess up a good thing with one bad apple. While it would be unfair to characterize Cousins as a legitimate problem, it's fair to wonder how he might react in a chippy, physical game while throwing elbows for 40 minutes against Marc Gasol.

And this:

This quote from Coach K, via USA Today, pretty clearly signals some concern for the way Cousins fits into the team's plans:
"In DeMarcus' case, the style we play lends itself to what Anthony does, or even what a Plumlee is doing," Krzyzewski said. "A little bit of Drummond (also), because Detroit, what they do, is they put he and (guard Will) Bynum in the game and all they do is pick and roll. DeMarcus' game is different, so he has an adjustment to make and he's trying to make it."

And also this:

While Plumlee brings some unique traits to the table, including more lateral athleticism and a special bond with the head coach, any logical analysis of the situation says this would be a bad decision.

And there you have it. The case made for Plumlee, by Price, in a piece saying Plumlee should not make the team.

"But, Cousins is the better player!"

Aligned. Totally. Cousins is the better player. But, is that what we're looking for here? The better player? Or are we talking fit, and talking about someone who Coach K knows he can rely on? (To be honest, the "Coach K is familiar with him" argument I actually hate.)

I write about the Nets on this here blog. And Mason Plumlee was a pleasure to cover this past season, and is easy to root for. Naturally, I would love to see him make the team. At the same time, I love me some Boogie. I love watching the kid play and think it would be a great honor for him to make the team and a nice step in righting whatever is "wrong" with him.

Is it Plumlee? Is it Cousins? Really, at the end of the day, what truly matters is this:


The belief is that Colangelo and Coach K are going to put together the best possible team to not just compete in but to win the FIBA World Cup. If it's Plumlee, man that's fantastic. If it's Cousins, great. But let's not pretend like Mason Plumlee isn't a fantastic value add to this team.

I mean, Satchel Price made some fantastic points as why Plumlee would be a great addition to Team USA in his piece about why Mason Plumlee has no reason being picked over DeMarcus Cousins.

I think we have to remember that, guys, we're all on the same team this time!

Go Mason Plumlee. Go DeMarcus Cousins. Go Team USA. Just, the contagious "me too" outrage is a bit overdone.