Constructing the 2016 Team USA Basketball Olympic Roster

Injuries have already riddled the Team USA basketball roster for the Rio Olympics quickly approaching in August. This week, Steph Curry and LaMarcus Aldridge joined John Wall, Anthony Davis, Blake Griffin, and Chris Paul on the list of players who have bowed out of the competition due to injuries and recovery. Adding to this issue, is concerns over the Zika virus. LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony, among others, have stated that they may skip out on the games this year due to Zika concerns. For LeBron, I think the wear and tear on his body after a sixth straight finals trip will also be a factor in his decision. If I had to guess right now, LeBron will not play in Rio, but Carmelo will give it one last international go, where he has arguably played some of his best basketball.

Luckily for USA fans, we also have the deepest collection of basketball stars in the world. Coach K and company have plenty of options to fill out the final 12 man roster. Here is how I would assemble the roster to lead us to a third straight Gold Medal in Rio.

Options (according to USA Basketball):

Guards:

  • Bradley Beal
  • Stephen Curry
  • Mike Conley
  • James Harden
  • Gordon Hayward
  • Kyrie Irving
  • Damian Lillard
  • Chris Paul
  • Klay Thompson
  • John Wall
  • Russell Westbrook

Forwards:

  • LaMarcus Aldridge
  • Carmelo Anthony
  • Harrison Barnes
  • Jimmy Butler
  • DeMar Derozan
  • Kevin Durant
  • Kenneth Faried
  • Rudy Gay
  • Paul George
  • Draymond Green
  • Blake Griffin
  • Andre Iguodala
  • LeBron James
  • Kawhi Leonard
  • Kevin Love

Centers:

  • DeMarcus Cousins
  • Anthony Davis
  • Andre Drummond
  • DeAndre Jordan
  • Dwight Howard

My Picks:

Guards:

  • James Harden
  • Kyrie Irving
  • Klay Thompson
  • Russell Westbrook

Forwards:

  • Carmelo Anthony
  • Jimmy Butler
  • Kevin Durant
  • Paul George
  • Draymond Green
  • Kawhi Leonard

Centers:

  • DeMarcus Cousins
  • Andre Drummond

 

Talent and versatility. Those are the main two factors I looked for in constructing the roster, and I think mine is full of both. I wanted a team of guys who could play multiple positions, defend any type of player, and of course get buckets.

While there are only two “point guards” on this team, I would trust half of this team to bring the ball up. Westbrook should be a lock to make this team, and Klay should be too as one of the best two-way players in the world. While I do not love Kyrie, he is a darling of Coach K and has played some of his best basketball in international play. He also showed last night, in Game 3, how good he can be when he has the hot hand. Harden is just too good offensively to leave off this team.

At forward, Kawhi, KD, Draymond, and Paul George can matchup on defense with almost anyone in the world. I am also fairly certain than if KD and Kawhi are on the floor together, their arms would take up the entire baseline. As mentioned before, Carmelo thrives in international play and it might be his only shot for a few years to play with other talented players besides my guy Kristaps Porzingis. Jimmy Butler got the 12th spot on my team assuming LeBron backs out. He is a solid all around player who can also play some shooting guard for Harden or Klay if needed.

Boogie is the most talented center in the world and has been solid before in international play. I have no concerns that Coach K and the other leaders on this team will keep him focused and under control. Drummond is a good rebounder and shot blocker to put in there if needed, but I expect Team USA to play “smaller” lineups with guys like Durant and Draymond playing in the paint.

To be honest, Coach K could pick none of these players and still field a good enough roster to win Gold in Rio. America is rich with basketball talent, but it will be important that the roster builds a strong chemistry in the next few months before the Olympics. We cannot have a repeat of 2004 again. I do not see that being an issue with this team, considering most of them have played for Team USA in some capacity before, not to mention a few guys are teammates in the NBA. It is Gold or Bust for Team USA this summer, just as it should be.

-Nick Bair

Photo Credit: Christian Petersen/Getty Images

 

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