'Melo and Paul looking good for red, white and blue

Editor's note: This story was originally published on July 21.

LAS VEGAS -- Cutdown day is coming for Team USA, which needs to whittle its roster of 24 players down to 15 before heading overseas, and then down to 12 for the World Championships.

The first cuts will come Tuesday after the final day of practice. Then the team gets a five-day break, and the final active roster won't be submitted until Aug. 18 -- the day before the tournament begins.

Thus far, Chris Paul has improved his stock the most, with Carmelo Anthony a close second and Joe Johnson third, judging by comments made by coach Mike Krzyzewski after practice Friday.

"Paul has really jumped up. He's the truest point guard, and he gets it downcourt so fast that we have to be able to run with him, and we're not in shape yet to do that," Krzyzewski said.

"Carmelo has stood out, he's like on a mission. I don't know what mission it is, but he's been terrific. I didn't know Joe Johnson, and I don't know if there can be a more solid player. I mean he can play four positions, he shoots, he defends and he doesn't say peep. There's high maintenance, low maintenance and no maintenance. He's no maintenance. And I'm impressed with the potential of Dwight Howard. What an amazing guy, and I just think he's going to grow."

The United States invited 24 players to training camp in Las Vegas, but injuries sidelined Kobe Bryant, J.J. Redick and Paul Pierce, and the death of an infant son caused Lamar Odom to withdraw. Amare Stoudemire is attending and playing, but he's still recovering from knee surgery and seems an extreme longshot to make the final active roster, although Coach K said he had his strongest day of camp Sunday. Michael Redd and Chauncey Billups are in camp but won't be traveling to Asia because of personal commitments.

That leaves 17 players (18 counting Stoudemire) vying for 12 spots, and Krzyzewski offered some insight into what the decision-making process will be when the first cut is made Tuesday.

"We have to be careful not to multiply positions too much," Krzyzewski said. "Can we take two or three points guards on the trip? How many big guys do we need? On the perimeter, do people duplicate something? That's where the decisions will have to be made, and that's going to be tough."

With Coach K's comments in mind, Insider handicaps each player's chances of actually wearing a Team USA jersey when the World Championships begins: