LAS VEGAS -- In 2012, the national team suffered a setback when Blake Griffin had to withdraw because of a knee injury that occurred just a month before the Olympics in London. But in the long run, it seems there was a hidden upside from that event.
Anthony Davis, then freshly drafted as the No. 1 overall pick from Kentucky, got the last spot on the eventual gold-medal winning team. Two years later as Team USA prepares for the World Cup in Spain, Davis is no longer the guy at the end of the bench. He is now a vital part of the roster.
As has frequently been the case, the Americans have extreme depth at the guard spots but are thin at the big-man positions. It didn't help when Griffin again had to withdraw because of injury, and Kevin Love and LaMarcus Aldridge decided not to take part, further depleting the big-man ranks.
This has thrust a spotlight on Davis as he becomes the likely starting center. Team USA needs to be dominant defensively while staying out of foul trouble, which is often a major challenge for big men in FIBA play. Simply put, there's no one else on the roster like him.
"What was a bad situation two years ago turned out to be lucky," coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "His comfort level with us helps him tremendously right now. He was exposed to that level of talent with Carmelo, LeBron and Kobe that year. He has to play a huge role for us."
Davis has come a long way as a player since that summer two years ago when his role was to watch and learn. He's matured into one of the best young big men in the NBA with huge expectations in the coming years.
He was already penciled in to be a leading contributor on the 2016 team that competes in Rio, but with the injuries and withdrawals this summer that process has been accelerated. He will get the chance to be a difference-maker in Spain in a few weeks.
"All of  has helped and played a part in the role for me this year," Davis said. "I've got a lot of confidence in myself. We have a lot of talent, but we also know it's going to be a battle."
Krzyzewski has always preferred to play small and pressure the ball, and his roster naturally favors that style. When the Americans get to Spain, Davis will start at center, Kevin Durant will start at power forward, and Paul George will likely start at small forward.
As part of training camp this week, assistant coach Jim Boeheim has once again started teaching the zone defense he has built his career on. While playing this way it's possible the team could play without any center, with Durant -- or a player like Kenneth Faried or Paul Millsap -- playing in the middle of the floor.
At the start of the week, Mason Plumlee was a member of the select team that was brought in to practice against the national team. After one day, he was promoted to the main team and has continued to carve out a niche.