With the NBA postseason coming to an end, there are two important dates coming up this month in regards to basketball. The NBA Draft takes place on the 23rd of June, and Jerry Colangelo will be picking the final 12-man roster for U.S.A. Basketball at this year’s Olympic Games four days later on the 27th. The problem for Colangelo, Krzyzewski, and company is that eight of their best options have pulled out because of injury or personal reasons. These eight players include the back-to-back MVP Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Chris Paul, John Wall, Anthony Davis, Blake Griffin, and LaMarcus Aldridge. Of these eight, four are point guards, and arguably are the top point guards the NBA has to offer. So what does this mean for U.S.A. Basketball this summer? They’re backcourt depth has been slashed, but they will still be the obvious favourites going into Rio. These losses just mean that Coach K will have to play slightly bigger lineups, he won’t be able to play three guard lineups as he has in past international competitions. However, they still have a ton of talent to choose from, and who better to help them with these decisions than me? First, let’s look at the pool of players that are still available.
Guards: Andre Igoudala, DeMar DeRozan, Kyrie Irving, Klay Thompson, Bradley Beal, Jimmy Butler, Mike Conley, Paul George, Damian Lillard
Forwards: LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Love, Kenneth Faried, Rudy Gay, Harrison Barnes, Draymond Green, Gordon Hayward, Kawhi Leonard
Centers: Dwight Howard, DeMarcus Cousins, Andre Drummond, DeAndre Jordan
Now let’s break it down:
- In the 2014 World Championships, Team U.S.A. brought three point guards along; Curry, Irving, and Rose. There are only three point guards left in the pool; Irving, Conley, and Lillard. Will they take all three?
- On that same team, there were only four swingmen on the roster; Thompson, Harden, Gay, and DeRozan. This summer they will definitely take more than that.
- Without the clear number one center Anthony Davis, who will be protecting the rim for this team?
PG: Kyrie Irving
- MVP of the 2014 World Championships, of the three point guards remaining he is the only one with national team experience. He has to be the obvious choice at point.
SG: Klay Thompson
- The second half of the Splash Brothers, think about all the open shots he gets within an offense where he is the second option. What happens when he’s the 4th, possibly 5th option? I foresee many open corner three’s.
SF: Kevin Durant
- A near 7 footer that can score at will inside and outside, could you imagine a better player for the international game?
PF: LeBron James
- He may choose to skip the Olympics after playing in his sixth straight Finals, but if he decides to play he will be the point forward for this team.
C: DeMarcus Cousins
- It’s possible that DeAndre Jordan or Dwight Howard could be looked to start for their defensive abilities, but with the perimeter length this team will boast Cousins offensive abilities should trump all the others.
- Between him and Mike Conley, Lillard deserves this spot much more. He’s an incredible shot creator and three point shooter.
- George was essentially promised a spot on this team if he wanted it following his horrific leg injury. He’s a proven first option and will provide great shooting and defence off the bench.
- While DeRozan was a member of the 2014 team, I have Butler beating him out. He can make outside shots at a much better rate and his defensive prowess puts him over the top. Unfortunately, not sure how many minutes he will accrue on this squad.
- Defensive player of the year. Think back to 2012 when Igoudala was on the Olympic roster solely as the lockdown perimeter defender. Now make Iggy’s hands larger, bump his intensity up a bit, and improve the three point shot and you get the beast that is Kawhi Leonard.
- Best highlights of his career occurred during his time playing with the national team. Melo won’t be winning anytime soon in New York, so let the guy get a third gold medal.
- Another defensive, ball-handling forward that will have a large role on this roster if selected. Can you imagine a 5 man defensive lineup of Lebron, Kawhi, George, Durant, and Green? Oh boy.
- This was tough. Drummond played well in minimal minutes in 2014 with the national team, but after selecting the score-first Cousins I decided to go with a defensive backup. After watching Dwight play for Houston this year, it was easy to pick between him and DeAndre. He may not play a lot, especially if Draymond sees minutes at the 5-spot, but could be a great rim-protecting option at the end of the bench.
No baby-faced MVP, no triple-double machine at the point, no bearded foul creator, but none of these losses will make a difference. This U.S.A. roster will clean house down in Rio this summer, even if they play defensively at 50%, they are that long and disruptive. Hopefully one day I will be able to make tough cuts for the Canadian national team, but until then I’ll just have to cheer for our neighbours to the south.