Monday, May 20, 2024

Team USA already has a 12th man in mind despite roster release

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While USA Basketball has announced most of its roster filled with NBA superstars for the 2024 Olympics, the roll call left one spot open for a veteran yet to be determined. According to Shams Charania and Joe Vardon of The Athletic, the powers at be say Kawhi Leonard “is the leading candidate” for the last spot.

As both reporters note, Leonard is “battling an injury” and might be recovering this offseason and not up to play in the Olympics. Currently, the star is a huge question mark for the start of the playoffs as L.A. heads into the first round. The All-NBA wing suffered some soreness in his knee right before the start of April.

If Leonard is unable to go, then it appears that Jalen Brunson, Paul George, and Paolo Banchero are the candidates for the final spot. With the final name on the roster unknown at this current time, it’s fair to wonder who will end up being the 12th man once the Olympics tip-off.

While it’s is extremely unfortunate, Leonard’s days of playing highly-competitive basketball 365 days a year are probably over. With the long-term injuries that the star has already gone through, it’s hard to see a world where his legs will be healthy enough to play in the Olympics if the Clippers endure a long playoff run.

It would not be ideal for L.A. and Leonard would likely prefer to win a title than play in Paris, but it’s something to keep in mind if the Clippers end up losing to the Mavericks.

While Paul George and Paolo Banchero fit a lot better in the international game, having Brunson on the squad would give the Americans another elite scorer and play-maker.

George’s defense is better than Brunson’s, but the Clippers star could have his own injury issues to worry about if the franchise goes deep in the playoffs. The free-agent-to-be might not risk upsetting his new squad by playing competitive basketball this summer.

No matter what ends up happening, it seems like Leonard will have first licks when it comes to who fills the final spot on the USA roster.

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