A semi-in-depth breakdown of who will make the 2016 Team USA Olympic Roster after the release of the 30 Finalists.
After yesterday’s announcement of the 30 finalists, here’s a little preliminary look at the Team USA Roster for this summer’s Olympics. 30 Finalists for 12 roster spots. Tryouts are obviously months away, but why not do some early predictions on the final roster. Let’s get into it…
When you go through the roster, there are 9 guys that you can basically consider locks at this point based on seniority, longevity, international performance, and status in the league. Lebron, Melo, and CP3 are grandfathered in as the “team leaders”. They are absolute mortal locks. Same with Curry, Durant, and Westbrook, who have locked down the 3 “Mortal Lock” positions of the next generation. Davis is the best big man in the league and has Olympic experience, so he’s a lock. And while there are players I would absolutely rather have on my team than Kyrie and Harden, they’ve solidified roster spots based on their previous international performance and Kyrie’s connection to Coach K. They’re locks, like it or not.
So that leaves three roster spots. Three spots for 21 guys. When you look at where the locks fit in…
Guards: Curry, Westbrook, Paul, Irving, Harden
Forwards: Lebron, Durant, Melo
…you’re really just filling needs in the frontcourt. There’s 6 true ball handlers there when you factor in Lebron, so there’s no need for another PG (Sorry Wall and Conley). And all of those guards are capable of playing off-ball at the two (Beal and Derozan, you’re out too).
So what you’re looking at is a need at Center and a need for defense (and to a lesser extent shooting) on the wing.
First, let’s trim the rest of the fat here…
Barnes, Gay, Iggy, Hayward you’re out. Too much wing depth there. Aldridge, Faried, Jordan, Love, hope you enjoy the extra reps, thanks for coming. And Dwight Howard, what the fuck are you even doing here? Just leave before camp even begins. We all hate you. You’re trash.
So that leaves three open spots for 8 guys
Klay, Kawhi, Butler, George, Draymond, Cousins, Drummond, and Blake.
Of those guys, I think Kawhi is the biggest lock. Fills that Iggy role from 2012. Defensive stopper, three point shooter, off-ball cutter, and will be content playing without the ball. Perfect fit.
And at this point I don’t really see how you can leave Draymond off this team either. From a competitive, alpha-dog standpoint, he has to be there. He’ll own those Team USA practices and make it impossible to cut him. And when you talk about fit, he’s right there with Kawhi. Defense, three-point shooting, great passer, will happily play without the ball. Then you add in the chemistry with Steph and the ability he gives you to roll out a superstar version of the Warriors small-ball lineup, he has to be there. Nobody is stopping or scoring on a Steph, Kawhi, Durant, Lebron, Draymond lineup.
That leaves one spot. With Kawhi and Draymond there I just don’t see a need for lesser versions of them in Butler or Blake. And with respect to Paul George and all he went though 2 years ago, there isn’t really that much of a need for him after Lebron, Durant, Melo, AND Kawhi. At this point, you can either fill that last spot with a shooter in Klay, or with a true center. And when you talk true centers, I’m taking Cousins over Drummond without even a second’s hesitation.
So that’s what it comes down to… Klay or Cousins. Do you want another shooter, who can come in and also lock down the other teams best guard, or do you go with the league’s most dominant big man and basically save him for the Spain game?
Personally I’m going Cousins. I just think you have to have that size. Not just for Spain with the Gasols, but for teams like France with Gobert, and Lithuania with Valenciunis, and… *GULP*… Latvia with Kristaps*.
It’s just too important. This team has enough shooting and enough perimeter defense. What this team does not have is actual physical size.
Yes Davis is great, but he’s still thin. Yes Draymond can guard almost any center in the world, but he’s still 6’7″. And yes Lebron and Melo can body up with big men when they need to, but they’re also both sacrificing height. You can get away with a four man big rotation of Davis, Draymond, Lebron, and Melo for 98% if these games and still murder the world. But when it comes down to those few desperate minutes when AD is in foul trouble and Draymond can’t deal with someone’s height, you need to be able to break the glass on Cousins and let him go to work. He’s in.
So that’s the roster:
Curry, Westbrook, Lebron, Melo, Davis starting
Paul, Kyrie, Harden, Kawhi, Durant, Draymond, Cousins off the bench.
Might as well skip camp. That’s the best you’re gonna get.
^ Absolutely kidding about that. Team USA Minicamp is the most underrated event in all of sports. If I could get unfettered access to one thing and one thing only, this is it. The 30 best basketball players in the world not named Kristaps Porzingis, legitimately competing all-out to get on that roster because they understand how important it is to train with the best players in the world all summer. Easily the most underrated few days in sports.
P.S. Just to reiterate, I’m leaving Harden and Kyrie and their bum-ass defense home if it’s my choice. Give me Klay, George, Butler, or even Wall over them any day of the week. But there’s no chance Coach K leaves those guys off the roster. Too much history.
*I’m not even going to let my mind think about rooting against Kristaps.