Team USA’s basketball team will have a minicamp in Las Vegas next week, part of the process of somehow whittling down the large pool of players down to 12 in time for the Olympics next year.
Provided they meet the conditions, which include being present (but not having to participate) at the minicamp, there are several players that can easily be considered locks.
Anthony Davis is the best big man in the NBA and should only be even better by the time the Rio Olympics are set to start.
LeBron James seems interested in representing his country again and remains one of the best players in the world.
James Harden led the team in the 2014 World Championship, and will be back unless he chooses not to be.
Chris Paul has been a lock on the team for years and nothing has changed there.
Steph Curry’s rise culminated with a championship this season, and it’s difficult to imagine him not making the roster unless he himself bows out at some point in the process.
Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony, pending injury and desire to play, should be considered locks as well.
That leaves only five spots on the squad for competition between the remaining players, likely one reason Damian Lillard has already decided not to try to make it with other NBA stars also considering forgoing the minicamp.
— Marc J. Spears (@SpearsNBAYahoo) August 6, 2015
As of now, 34 players are expected to attend the minicamp, USA Basketball announced on Thursday.
“It’s going to be a very difficult team to pick and get down to 12,” USA Basketball Chairman Jerry Colangelo told ESPN. “So we need to have them [in Las Vegas] because we need to find out where we are with everyone.”
Point Guard Prediction
The third point guard slot can be seen as a competition between John Wall, Kyrie Irving, and Russell Westbrook. Irving has the best shot after getting the starting slot in 2014 and playing for Duke under Coach K, but he did suffer an injury in the playoffs and will likely play deep into the playoffs again next season.
Westbrook and Wall play similar styles, although Wall is arguably the better fit for a team filled with superstars since he can create for others and prefers dishing out assists to scoring.
Derrick Rose, who played horribly during the championships, will not attend the minicamp, seemingly ruling him out of participating in the Olympics. He’s the only member of the ’14 squad to decline to attend the camp. Mike Conley and Michael Carter-Williams are also in the running, although both are probably more insurance than anything.
In the end, unless Irving bows out, put him down as the third point guard.
James, Durant, and Anthony will spend lots of time at the power forward position in international play, leaving Harden and Curry (who will play off the ball some) as the swingman locks.
Klay Thompson, Paul George, Bradley Beal, Rudy Gay, Gordon Hayward, Harrison Barnes, DeMar DeRozan, Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler, Tobias Harris, Victor Oladipo, and Chandler Parsons will all be in the competition for the several swingman slots.
Shooting will be at a premium with this group, although Coach K showed in ’14 that he’s not especially worried with taking players like DeRozan who aren’t exactly known as the best shooters.
Gay and DeRozan have the advantage of playing for the team in ’14, but don’t count the others out yet–especially George, who’s committed to coming back after getting injured during a scrimmage prior to the world championship last year.
It really depends on what Coach K and Colangelo are looking for here–role players to fill in around the stars, shooting, defense, ability to penetrate, or some combination of these skills?
Expect George and Thompson to be at the top of the list and likely make the final squad, with Leonard, Gay, Beal, Butler, and DeRozan on the next tier.
Big Man Prediction
Davis will almost definitely start again at center, with Kevin Love, LaMarcus Aldridge, Kenneth Faried, DeMarcus Cousins, Blake Griffin, Dwight Howard, and DeAndre Jordan in the mix (most people are hoping Mason Plumlee doesn’t somehow make the final squad again).
Cousins and Faried performed well in ’14, but are facing stiff competition.
Count Plumlee and Faried out due to being less skilled than the competition, and count Jordan and Howard out if only because their free throw shooting is a major weakness.
This could be the biggest toss-up of any group, with everyone vying for a spot very talented. But Griffin probably gets the nod in the end, with the final spot going to Love, Cousins, (or Howard or Jordan).
Final Squad Prediction:
Chris Paul, Stephen Curry, Kyrie Irving, James Harden, Paul George, Klay Thompson, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, Anthony Davis, Blake Griffin, DeMarcus Cousins.
Keep in mind the Olympics after this one will look MUCH different, starting with a new coach. James, Anthony, and Paul will probably be done with international play, with some of the others in the pool either dropping off because of desire or decline in play.
With that in mind, let’s make a preliminary prediction for 2020.
2020 Final Squad Prediction:
Stephen Curry, Kyrie Irving, John Wall, James Harden, Klay Thompson, Bradley Beal, Paul George, Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler, Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins, Karl Anthony-Towns