Differences Between Team USA's Olympic Roster and FIBA World Cup Squad



Differences Between Team USA’s Olympic Roster and FIBA World Cup Squad


It’s probable that Team USA will assemble a roster with greater experience for the Paris event.

Indeed, Team USA missed its opportunity for a World Cup gold medal in the recent defeat against Germany. However, this outcome shouldn’t come as a shock to USA Basketball. Over the six 21st-century World Cups held so far, Team USA has clinched victory only twice. The primary reason behind this trend is their tendency to assemble a less experienced squad. In the case of Steve Kerr’s recent roster for the Philippines, it included just three All-Stars: Anthony Edwards, Tyrese Haliburton, and Jaren Jackson Jr., all of whom earned their first All-Star selections in the previous season. Notably, no player on the roster was in their 30s.

This pattern at the World Cup reflects a stark contrast with other nations, which typically build their teams with a focus on continuity. Team USA often lacks this continuity due to major stars hesitating to commit to multi-year international duties. Older players are frequently occupied or fatigued from the NBA season, prioritizing the Olympics over the World Cup. Consequently, Team USA tends to recruit the best young talent available. Ideally, a few of these young talents shine and secure spots on the Olympic roster. However, these roster positions are often occupied by more experienced players.

The consequences of this approach became evident in the loss to Germany. Germany possessed a squad with significant continuity, including many players who had earned bronze at EuroBasket the previous summer. This level of continuity is a challenge for Team USA to match. To secure gold in Paris, Team USA will need to rely on its exceptional talent. Let’s explore some potential changes that could take place as they build a roster for the Olympics, aiming to achieve what the World Cup team could not.

Pursuing the MVP: Team USA’s loss to Lithuania exposed a concerning trend – the United States no longer produces dominant big men. With limited options in the frontcourt, the answer to this problem seems clear: Joel Embiid. Each team can bring one naturalized citizen to FIBA competitions, and Embiid is eligible as a naturalized American citizen. His decision on which nation to represent, the USA or France, where he also holds citizenship, could significantly impact the outcome in Paris. France already boasts Rudy Gobert and the promising Victor Wembanyama, forming a formidable frontcourt trio. If Embiid joins Team USA, it levels the playing field, allowing the USA’s superior perimeter talent to shine. Steve Kerr’s roster choices may hinge on whether he can secure the MVP.

Beyond Embiid, there are other options, including Chet Holmgren and Evan Mobley, who have showcased their skills in international competitions. However, they may not match up well against players like Embiid or Nikola Jokic. Myles Turner and Brook Lopez have previous Team USA experience, but their performance in the 2019 World Cup was underwhelming. Anthony Davis and Bam Adebayo are experienced but may not be available due to various factors, including injuries. Thus, identifying the right center will be a challenging task for Team USA.

Strength in Numbers: Steve Kerr’s appointment as Team USA’s coach also raised hopes of luring Stephen Curry, one of the greatest American players never to have participated in the Olympics. While Curry has expressed interest, players of his caliber have numerous commitments. Other Golden State Warriors players like Draymond Green and Klay Thompson could be valuable additions. Beyond the Warriors, Kevin Durant, a former Warrior, might also consider another Olympic appearance.

In addressing the frontcourt issue, Kevon Looney emerges as an unconventional but potentially effective choice. His exceptional rebounding ability could address Team USA’s glaring weakness in this area. History has shown that non-superstars can contribute significantly to gold medal-winning teams, and Looney could fill a vital role.

Olympic Alums vs. World Cup Challengers: Some players from the 2023 World Cup team may earn consideration for the 2024 Olympics. Anthony Edwards appears likely to secure a spot, while Tyrese Haliburton, Mikal Bridges, Austin Reaves, and Josh Hart have made strong impressions. Jaren Jackson’s candidacy could hinge on the team’s center depth, but Paolo Banchero faces stiff competition in a crowded forward category.

Among the 2021 Olympians, there is intense competition for roster spots. Devin Booker and Jayson Tatum seem strong contenders, and Jrue Holiday’s defensive prowess adds to his case. Damian Lillard’s decision to participate may depend on various factors. Zach LaVine’s performance in Tokyo and his ability to stay healthy could impact his selection. Furthermore, the Select Team, featuring talents like Cade Cunningham and Chet Holmgren, adds more depth to the selection pool.

While other notable names are theoretically available, age and injuries may preclude some, including LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, and Zion Williamson. Players like Jaylen Brown and Donovan Mitchell, who were part of the 2019 World Cup team, have not returned to international competition. Ja Morant, too, faces hurdles in earning a spot on the roster.

In summary, Team USA faces a competitive selection process as it strives for Olympic gold in Paris. The choice of big men, potential additions like Joel Embiid or Stephen Curry, and the fierce competition among candidates from both the World Cup and Olympic squads will shape the final roster.

So, what might an ideal Team USA roster comprise?

As previously discussed, Stephen Curry and Joel Embiid emerge as the top priorities. Together, they would create an offense that is virtually unstoppable in FIBA settings, where post-play and shooting are paramount. Following these two stars, the starting lineup could feature the three best players from the 2021 Olympic team: Devin Booker, Jayson Tatum, and Kevin Durant. It would be a formidable challenge for any opponent to contain this starting five. Additionally, Anthony Edwards is a strong candidate and would serve as the sixth man.

With the core of the roster now established, attention turns to specific roles. Mikal Bridges is the clear choice for the forward stopper and provides an extra shooting option. Selecting a guard stopper is more complex. At the moment, Jrue Holiday leads the pack, but with his age and free agency status before the Olympics, his priorities may shift. Derrick White’s size is advantageous against FIBA teams that look to exploit smaller guards, but Alex Caruso’s defensive prowess is countered by limited offensive contributions. Marcus Smart offers improved offense but struggled in the 2019 World Cup. For now, we’ll go with Holiday (keeping in mind this is the ideal team), though there’s room for others to stake their claim during the season.

At least two big men are needed. The backup center role, if accepted, suits Bam Adebayo. Jaren Jackson’s struggles with rebounding and fouls at center make him a less reliable choice, but Adebayo, a gold medalist in Tokyo, would thrive in a low-minute role. To complement him, a big man with shooting ability is required. If Chet Holmgren’s rookie season unfolds as anticipated, he could be an excellent fit not only for his shooting but also because he’s faced Victor Wembanyama in international competitions and prevailed. If the French rookie lives up to expectations, Team USA will need all the assistance it can get.

This leaves us with two remaining roster slots, one for a guard and one for a wing. Tyrese Haliburton has earned the guard position with his performance at the World Cup. While he may not share the court as frequently with Curry, Booker, and Holiday ahead of him, he excels as a transition ball-handler in FIBA play and, at the very least, offers solid shooting and intelligent cutting as a low-usage role player.

In the final wing slot, Josh Hart secures a place due to his strong World Cup showing, even though he may not log many minutes. He has rarely been challenged on the perimeter in the World Cup, which could be a vulnerability Team USA can overcome with its depth. The challenge lies in the fact that many American forwards with a similar profile face similar issues. Hence, we opt not to default to players like Aaron Gordon, Herb Jones, or Jaden McDaniels. Nevertheless, on a team with Stephen Curry and ten other superstars, Hart should be able to thrive in the Olympics, especially considering this isn’t a high-minutes role.

Here is the envisioned 12-man ideal roster:

PLAYER | POSITION | NBA TEAM Stephen Curry | Guard | Golden State Warriors Devin Booker | Guard | Phoenix Suns Anthony Edwards | Guard | Minnesota Timberwolves Jrue Holiday | Guard | Milwaukee Bucks Tyrese Haliburton | Guard | Indiana Pacers Kevin Durant | Forward | Brooklyn Nets Jayson Tatum | Forward | Boston Celtics Mikal Bridges | Forward | Brooklyn Nets Josh Hart | Forward | New York Knicks Joel Embiid | Center | Philadelphia 76ers Bam Adebayo | Center | Miami Heat Chet Holmgren | Center | Oklahoma City Thunder

It’s worth noting that much can change over an NBA season, with injuries, shifts in player performance, and other factors at play. Team USA may not secure all these players, but with the abundance of talent available, they are likely to remain favorites in Paris, despite the recent loss to Germany.




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