Cooper Flagg’s dominant USA Basketball practice is putting NBA hype in overdrive

Cooper Flagg already feels like a lock to be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2025 NBA Draft. The 17-year-old from Maine has enrolled at Duke after stamping himself as the top high school player in the country regardless of class, and he’s poised to become college basketball’s biggest one-and-done star since Zion Williamson. Flagg’s arrival to the NBA was already going to be a celebrated affair, but the hype is reaching new levels after his standout showing with USA Basketball.

Flagg is still only 17 years old after reclassifying to essentially skip his senior year of high school, but that didn’t stop USA Basketball from inviting him to practice against the senior men’s national team ahead of the 2024 Paris Olympics. With LeBron James, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Joel Embiid, and more on the floor as opponents, Flagg didn’t just hold his own against the top players in the world — he thrived.

Flagg reportedly took over Monday afternoon practice with a resounding display of shot-making, hustle plays, and defensive versatility. The national team only beat to the select team by one point, 74-73, and it was the youngest player in attendance leading the way.

Watch this sequence from Flagg, where he hits a tough three over a contest from Anthony Davis, sprints the floor to help stop Davis on a transition opportunity, then sprints back to crash the glass and get a putback.

Here’s another three-pointer from Flagg over the outstretch arm of Davis from the corner. Flagg’s shooting, not typically thought of as one of the strongest parts of his game, is looking awesome against the longest and most athletic defenders on the planet.

Flagg is just so big at 6’10 that he can overwhelm smaller opponents inside. Watch him dart into the lane on a cut, get a mismatch with Jrue Holiday, and hit a turnaround in his face.

How many players in the NBA can really call Holiday a “mismatch” even with a size advantage? Flagg has the kind of immediate polish and long-term upside to make it almost seem reasonable.

Flagg has so many things going for him as a prospect. He has legit NBA size (listed at 6’9, 205 lbs by Duke), impressive run and jump athleticism, a high motor, and a strong feel for the game. He’s a solid shooter, a very good passer, and knows how to move off the ball. Defensively, he’s light on his feet guarding the perimeter, and has great instincts as a help defender. There will be growing pains for anyone as young as Flagg as they go up a level — he went turn 18 years old until Dec. — but it’s looking more and more like he’ll live up to the hype.

The reporters in attendance who were getting their first real look at him came away undeniably impressed.

Cooper Flagg is the real deal, and the league is already preparing for his arrival as mediocre teams like the Chicago Bulls and Brooklyn Nets have started to bottom-out. While the race at the top of the league will be thrilling this season with so many contenders in both conferences, the bottom-feeders preparing for a game of Capture the Flagg all season long will be fascinating in its own right.

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