Led by Kevin Durant‘s 30 points, the USA basketball team claimed another gold medal at the 2012 Summer Olympics beating Spain, 107-100. With several players and possibly head coach Mike Krzyzewski not expected to return for the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the U.S. will have a good amount of turnover on their next Olympic roster. Here’s a sneak peek at what Team USA could look like in four years.
Chris Paul will be 31 years old and Deron Williams 32 by the time the next Olympics roll around. Jason Kidd was 35 when he played four years ago in Beijing so the window isn’t completely shut on CP3 or D-Will giving it another go around but more than likely, team USA turns to the younger generation of point guards.
Russell Westbrook was a key component off the bench with his pressure defense and elite athleticism. He will certainly be back on the roster along with Derrick Rose who would have been on this summer’s team had it not been for a torn ACL in the playoffs. Neither is a real threat from the outside with their three-point shooting which will be a downgrade from the Paul/Williams duo. Assuming Kyrie Irving continues to build off his awesome rookie season, he is the favorite to be the third point guard. Rajon Rando probably deserves to be on the roster after being left off this year but the scuttlebutt is that his lack of being a likeable teammate will keep him off the roster once again. Stephen Curry is another name that might be floated around due to his outside shooting.
This is where the biggest change will come. I am assuming that Kobe Bryant will hang up his Olympic jersey and Dwyane Wade won’t return to the team either. That leaves this year’s 11th man James Harden as the likely candidate to start at the two. Eric Gordon was one of the final cuts for this year’s team and should be the favorite to be the second shooting guard due to his outside shot and defensive ability. I think Hornets’ rookie Austin Rivers could be a sleeper candidate especially if his dad, Doc, ends up coaching the team which is a real possibility since Coach K. is not expected to return to the sidelines. Bradley Beal or UCLA freshman Shabazz Muhammad could be options as well.
You have to imagine LeBron James will be back to help further his legacy by becoming the first American to play on four Olympic teams. Even if LeBron is back, the 2016 team will be Kevin Durant’s. His three-point shot is absolutely deadly in the international game and both of those guys will resume their role as the starting forwards.
If Carmelo Anthony is back, it will also be his fourth straight Olympic games. I’m 50/50 on whether or not he returns but am leaning towards saying no. That means team USA will be without their top sixth man who can score the basketball and play bigger in a smaller line-up like ‘Melo did.
I think second overall pick Michael Kidd-Gilchrist gets the nod as the new Andre Iguodala of the team; a versatile defender, glue guy who doesn’t need to score to impact the game but is explosive in transition. I’ll also throw Paul George and Kawhi Leonard’s names out there to give you something to think about. The top recruit in the 2013 class, Jabari Parker might be a possibility as well.
Tyson Chandler will be 34 and I can’t imagine Dwight Howard being asked on the team after the charade he went though this off-season (although LeBron still played despite his “Decision” debacle.) With that being said, Kevin Love should once again don the red, white, and blue after a very impressive Olympic performance. His ability to board, shoot the three, and incredible outlet passing makes him a solid fit on the roster.
Blake Griffin would have been on the team had it not been for a torn meniscus in his left knee. He and his replacement, Anthony Davis should both make the team. Davis should get much stronger over the next four years just like Chandler did after this rookie season and might be the favorite to start in the middle. If the final roster spot goes to another big man, names like DeMarcus Cousins, Greg Monroe, Andrew Bynum, Thomas Robinson, UK freshman Nerlens Noel, and Indiana’s Cody Zeller could all be in the mix.
So the 2016 USA roster will probably look something like this:
So who takes the 12th spot? I’m rolling the dice here and going with Thomas Robinson over Austin Rivers. Because Westbook can play either guard position, I don’t think the U.S. takes another guard even though Curry and Rivers’ scoring ability would be a nice plus. I just think Robinson is going to be a stud in the NBA due to his inside/outside ability, athleticism, strength, and toughness. It’s a great debate, huh?
David Kay is a senior feature NBA Draft, NBA, and college basketball writer for the Sports Bank. He also heads up the NBA and college basketball material at Walter Football.com and is a former contributor at The Washington Times Communities. David has appeared on numerous national radio programs spanning from Cleveland to New Orleans to Honolulu. He also had the most accurate 2011 NBA Mock Draft and the most accurate 2012 NBA Mock Draft on the internet (Yup, repeat champ… #humblebrag.)
You can follow him on Twitter at David_Kmiecik.Follow paulmbanks