The two time defending Olympic gold medal winning Team USA basketball team will be looking to win a third straight FIBA World Championship, which is now called the FIBA Basketball World Cup, they will be again fielding a great team. They have not announced their final roster just yet, but two big pieces that were a part of their 2012 Olympic gold team are all but guaranteed to sit out. Chris Paul and LeBron James will sit out to rest after another long NBA season. Russell Westbrook will likely sit out as well to rest a knee that has bothered him since late last season.
Despite missing star players like those, Team USA will still possess many top NBA players. Kevin Love, Kevin Durant and Blake Griffin have all said they will play, so this team will not be short on star power. Players such as James Harden, Anthony Davis, Stephen Curry, Damian Lillard, LaMarcus Aldridge are also likely to be on this team as well. This would leave 4 open spots to fill
In the past Team USA has carried 4 point guards because of the versatility they can bring at both guard spots and I expect this to happen again. Rose is working out and is said to about 100%. If this is true, no way he isn’t on the team. He is likely gonna want to prove to himself, the Bulls organization and people around the league that he’s still a top notch performer. Having a big tournament would go a long way for him.
Next I suspect Kyrie Irving will be selected. He’s a guy that can light it up and get to the rim. He has performed well at Team USA’s Vegas camp and he’ll definitely be a big time contributor on this team.
That leaves two spots and only one of them will be a perimeter player. Guys like Kyle Korver, Klay Thompson and Chandler Parsons would all be great selections here, but this spot will go a player who can bring more versatility on both ends of the floor. The selection will be Paul George. He’s a rising star in the league and he can get it done on both ends. He can handle the rock, get to the rim, knock down the three ball and defend a team’s best perimeter scorer. That’s what separates him from the other guys and why Team USA elects to go with him here.
The last spot will go to a big guy and they like to go with a young guy here to fill out the roster who they don’t necessarily figure to be a key piece. Andre Drummond is who I expect them to select. He probably won’t play a whole lot in the tournament, he will get some experience and practice against some of the best players in the world. It can only help him.
Projected Team USA Starting Lineup:
PG: Derrick Rose
SG: James Harden
SF: Kevin Durant
PF: Kevin Love
C: LaMarcus Aldridge
In pool play Team USA is not likely to face much of a challenge, but once they get to the round of 16 and further, they’ll face some challengers. Spain is clearly the 2nd best team in the field and are the two teams likely to meet for the Gold Medal, but some other teams will not make it easy on the US.
A team like Australia could pose a threat. Patty Mills led the Olympics in scoring and is really coming into his own as an NBA player. He should have no problem scoring in this tournament. They also have a guy in Dante Exum in the backcourt who will be a top 5 pick next week and will look to impress. Aron Baynes will be their best big man. Not having Bogut hurts The Aussies, but Baynes will be a pretty solid big guy and has some good chemistry with Mills. They probably won’t beat Team USA, but with their explosiveness in the backcourt and a decent front court, they will hang tough with the US.
Brazil is another team who will play Team USA tough. A front court of Nene and Splitter will be really good defensively in the paint and will be pretty offensively. Varejao will be able to come in and give them some energy, rebounding and a little scoring. Leandro Barbosa will be give them some offense from the backcourt and push the pace, but they lack overall shooting. They’ll win a lot of games cause of how good they’ll be defensively, but don’t possess enough scoring from the backcourt or enough floor spacing. They’ll play the US tight but Team USA is too explosive offensively for them.
Spain, however, is Team USA’s biggest challenger. They possess all the things that will make a game against Team USA a true classic. They have scoring in the interior with the Gasol brothers, perimeter shooting with Rudy Fernandez and Jose Calderon, big men who can knock down the mid range J with the Gasol brothers and Serge Ibaka. A true setup man in Ricky Rubio, who can be a true magician with the basketball who can make things happen in transition. They also have a few big guys who know how to protect the rim. They’ll present the biggest challenge to Team USA and if they play it will be some intense, high quality international basketball.