Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Breaking down Team USA men’s Olympic basketball roster for 2024 Paris Games

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Fifty-six All-NBA selections. Eighty-three All-Star appearances. Fourteen NBA championships. Eight MVP awards. Nine Finals MVPs. Twenty-nine All-Defense honors. Ten Olympic gold medals.

USA Basketball men’s senior team managing director Grant Hill assembled an experienced, accomplished and legendary who’s who of NBA stars for the U.S. at the 2024 Paris Olympics: LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, Joel Embiid, Kawhi Leonard, Anthony Davis, Jayson Tatum, Devin Booker, Jrue Holiday, Bam Adebayo, Anthony Edwards and Tyrese Haliburton.

Able to get commitments from most of the top American players, Hill had a difficult task selecting just 12 and sought a combination of offense, defense, size, length and versatility that can combat any team the U.S. faces at the Olympics especially France, Australia, Serbia, Canada, Germany, and possibly Spain and Lithuania if those two teams qualify.

“A lot of thought did go into, and I’m sure everyone on here understands that the FBA game is a different game than the NBA game,” Hill said. “And so you want players whose games certainly translate on that stage. I’ll be honest, I learned a great deal having gone through last summer. I learned certainly the teams, the elite teams, the teams that seriously have a chance to contend for gold medal. I learned the diversity and styles and just to feed the game overall. I mean, you go through a World Cup, you really pick up on quite a deal, quite a bunch.

“I think defense, I think experience, collective understanding of just how to win, whether that’s on the FBA stage or even on the NBA stage, and then it’s a puzzle. You want obviously talented individuals, but you want players who can blend and can fit and can play certain roles that you need.”

The U.S. is a heavy favorite to win gold for the fifth consecutive time.

Breaking down the roster and its considerable strengths:

Team USA boasts explosive offensive firepower

Scoring won’t be a problem, not with James, Durant, Curry, Tatum, Booker, Embiid and Davis leading the way. There is 3-point shooting, low-post options, playmaking and versatility.

The U.S. can play big or small with several rotation options. It will be on head coach Steve Kerr to find the best five-player options but that is a luxury no other men’s Olympic basketball coach will have.

Holiday is the perfect pick here, too, because he’s a player who doesn’t need to score but can run the offense and get the ball to those who can. Plus, he can score if necessary.

Think of this five-player rotation: James, Durant, Curry, Tatum and Embiid. There is the ability to play one-on-one, move the basketball, shoot from the outside, get the basketball inside and create mismatches at every position.

Start making wise substitutions: Leonard in for LeBron, Edwards in for Curry, Davis in for Embiid. Similar problems for the defense exist.

They also have the players to use two bigs – Adebayo alongside Embiid or Davis.

Building a team with defense in mind

The U.S. finished fourth at last summer’s FIBA World Cup and defending and rebounding were issues the Americans couldn’t overcome. Now, it wasn’t a perfect roster. It’s hard to get the very best player to commit for two consecutive summers, so the U.S. was limited.

However, Hill understood size, strength, length and defensive versatility were necessary for Paris. He has that with some of the game’s best defenders and rebounders, and it’s a group that has the ability to play small-ball or go big and switch, such as a forward or center having the ability to defend a guard or wing and a guard having the ability to defend a wing or forward.

“Defense was certainly a priority and … having guys that are capable of locking down, guarding multiple sets within a possession,” he said. “The beauty of the FBA game is that you’re going to see a little bit of everything. You’re going to see big teams that are incredibly physical that try to beat you up and play sort of an old school style of play. …”

Booker, Holiday, Tatum, Leonard, Edwards, Adebayo, Embiid and Davis are strong defenders in addition to James, Durant and Curry having the ability to do so.

What about injuries and contingency plans?

Leonard missed the final eight games of the regular season with right knee inflammation and his status for Game 1 of the Los Angeles Clippers’ first-round series against Dallas is unclear. What if Leonard or other players are unable to play because of an injury.

“We shown in years past that we’ve had to make changes and we do have time in the event that something unforeseen were to happen, that we have a contingency plan and we have that at every position,” Hill said. “We’ll keep that internal. We hope that that doesn’t happen.

“You have to learn to expect at times the unexpected, be able to adapt and adjust. So as we’ve gone through this process, we’ve kept that in mind and we know that the playoffs are up and coming and things can happen. And so we’re well aware of that and we’re prepared in the event that for whatever reason, if someone were not to be able to play that, we have some other options as well.”

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