In the ongoing effort to develop continuity within its FIBA World Cup and Olympic teams, Team USA recently held a mini-camp in Las Vegas. The camp only lasted three days, beginning on Monday, July 22, and culminating with a Blue vs. White scrimmage game on Wednesday, July 25.
The participants included 26 current NBA players and two collegiate athletes. Among the attendees were Kyrie Irving, Paul George, Klay Thompson, and Marcus Smart of Oklahoma State University and Doug McDermott of Creighton University.
Prior to the camp beginning, Head Coach Mike Krzyzewski, was eager to get the players on the court and to “replenish the pool of players that we will use for the World Cup in Madrid next summer and then in Rio for the 2016 Olympics.”
The roster for the World Cup games next summer received a significant boost when both Kevin Durant and Kevin Love committed to representing USA. However, the situation doesn’t appear to be as rosy for the 2016 Olympic team as Marc Spears of Yahoo! Sports reported on July 24 that Lebron James is unlikely to ever suit up again for the United States.
Without diminishing his accomplishments, it is a strange decision for a player of his caliber especially when considering he owns a bronze medal to go along with his two gold medals. With an influx of talent, USA Basketball executive director Jerry Colangelo said he has no intentions on asking James to play for the U.S.
In contrast to James, recent reports have indicated Chris Paul is leaning towards playing in the 2016 games, due in large part to Krzyzewski also deciding to return to coach the team.
Taking all of that into consideration, here is the roster I believe Team USA should assemble to chase the gold medal in 2016. Due to their respective injuries and in Kobe Bryant’s case, age, Bryant and Derrick Rose were not considered for a roster spot.
Though if each were to be healthy and playing at a high level in 2016, they would unquestionably be in the mix for a spot on the roster.
International basketball tends to present a different rhythm and style of play than what is commonly seen in the NBA. Due to that, it is imperative for the guards on the roster to be versatile.
When speaking to the guards who attended the mini-camp in Las Vegas, Coach Krzyzewski said, “Don’t come in and everybody try to be a point guard. Try to be a guard.”
With that in mind, the guards that should be on the 2016 roster are: Russell Westbrook, Kyrie Irving, James Harden, Chris Paul, and Klay Thompson.
Each player in the group brings a different set of strengths to the team, and each could conceivably guard both the point guard and off guard positions.
The breakout player of this group should be Irving. Irving has already had an impressive start to his NBA career and is a rising star with few weaknesses in his game.
As with the guards, forwards must be also be versatile, able to score from inside and outside of the paint, and be able to guard multiple positions.
The players that best meet the criteria are: Paul George, Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Love, Kevin Durant, and Kenneth Faried.
Everyone knows Durant’s name and after the Indiana Pacers’ recent performances in the playoffs, George’s name has started to garner a lot of attention as well.
In the 2016 Olympics, George will take the international game by storm.
In 2008 Team USA had one legitimate center on the roster in Dwight Howard and in 2012 they had one and a half in Tyson Chandler and Anthony Davis.
In 2016, Howard and Davis should be united to form a long and athletic front line. Davis is listed as a forward on Team USA’s official roster, though given his height and length, he is considered a center for the purpose of this article.
Not much of a breakout player to look for in this group. Howard and Davis will presumably both be asked to defend and rebound- something each is already known for.
If constructed as outlined above, Team USA should once again capture the gold medal in Rio behind its well-rounded roster, which would be capable of winning in a multitude of ways.