Count the United States as the only country in the 2016 Olympic men’s basketball field with such a deep talent pool that many of the program’s second—and even third—choices for roster spots are still all-star-caliber players.
Talent. Depth. Superior coaching.
2016 Olympic Men’s Basketball Preview: United States
All three have been hallmarks of the Team USA program under managing director Jerry Colangelo. And his vision for the on-court product has been led to three straight gold medals by head coach Mike Krzyzewski. He has commanded as much respect from the NBA’s elite players as he has from his recruits at Duke University.
Injuries, deep playoff runs and a general need for offseason rest forced Colangelo and Krzyzewski to do some reshuffling of the deck when it came to building the roster of FIBA’s top-ranked team ahead of this weekend’s tournament in Rio di Janeiro. But thanks to America’s NBA depth, Team USA will still be the odds-on favorite to win the gold, and make it look easy while doing so.
The 2016 version of Team USA will be a contrast of young and veteran, exciting and experienced. Forwards Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Durant are stalwarts of international play and will be relied upon to lead the offense each game. The roster features a lot of newcomers who have either won and NBA title or have been selected to the league’s All-Star game. Some also played for Team USA’s first place FIBA World Cup team in 2014.
There are four NBA champions on the team. They include guards Kyrie Irving and Klay Thompson as well as forwards Draymond Green and Harrison Barnes. Durant was the 2014 NBA Most Valuable Player. He is also a former scoring champion. Toronto’s backcourt tandem of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan; Sacramento center DeMarcus Cousins; Indiana forward Paul George; Chicago two-guard Jimmy Butler and Knicks star Anthony were All-Stars this past season. DeAndre Jordan of the L.A. Clippers will add elite rim protection and athleticism in the post.
Durant and Anthony will likely leading the way in scoring. Krzyzewski will be able to trot out a multitude of lineups that will feature knock-down shooting, athletic rim protection, as well as an abundance of length to lock down opponents defensively. Players like Durant, Anthony, George, Green and Butler are all capable of playing multiple positions when called upon. This gives the roster a level of flexibility other countries won’t necessarily have.
This is despite the fact that many of the staff’s original choices for the roster opted out for various reasons. Kobe Bryant retired. Anthony Davis, LaMarcus Aldridge, Blake Griffin and John Wall all took the time off to heal injuries. LeBron James, Chris Paul, Kevin Love, Stephen Curry and James Harden chose to rest over the off-season. Damian Lillard, Russell Westbrook, Bradley Beal, Andre Drummond, Gordon Hayward and Kawhi Leonard all simply withdrew their names from consideration for the roster.
Team USA, which qualified for the Rio Olympics after going 9-0 and winning the 2014 FIBA World Cup; also went 5-0 in exhibition play in July. They won each game by no fewer than 35 points. They even crushed China twice, winning by scores of 106-57 and 107-57, respectively. Team USA will share Group A in Rio with France, Australia, China, Venezuela and Serbia.
France and Australia figure to be Team USA’s toughest competition in group play. However, it may not matter if the Americans are firing on all cylinders again. Their first game will be against China Saturday at 6 p.m. Over the course of the next week, they will face Venezuela, Australia, Serbia and France, in order.
Guards: Jimmy Butler (6’7” shooting guard), Kyle Lowry (6’0” point guard), DeMar DeRozan (6’7” shooting guard), Kyrie Irving (6’3” point guard), Klay Thompson (6’7” shooting guard).
Forwards: Carmelo Anthony (6’8” small forward), Draymond Green (6’7” power forward), Paul George (6’8” small forward), Harrison Barnes (6’8” small forward), Kevin Durant (6’9” small forward).
Centers: DeAndre Jordan (6’11”), DeMarcus Cousins (6’11”).
Head Coach: Mike Krzyzewski.