Tuesday, May 28, 2024

2024 Paris Olympics: Projecting Team USA’s 12-man roster with Joel Embiid joining LeBron James, Stephen Curry

2024 Paris Olympics: Projecting Team USA's 12-man roster with Joel Embiid joining LeBron James, Stephen Curry

This could be the team of USA Basketball’s dreams

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Team USA’s roster at the 2024 Olympic Games could be its best in decades. Joel Embiid committed on Thursday to play for the United States, joining a constellation of stars who have pledged to participate. If everybody stays healthy and sticks to his word, then this iteration will, like the 1992 Dream Team, honor the best players of a generation and feature several superstars in or approaching their respective primes.

Before projecting the 12-man roster, here’s a (long) list of other players who want in:

  • Stephen Curry (“It’s the one thing I haven’t done,” he said at media day. “And I also understand the opportunity for Team USA to kind of reassert yourself as dominant in the world and all that type of stuff, so I definitely want to be there, definitely want to be on the team, and hopefully things line up that way where we’re all there.”)
  • Kevin Durant (“I will play in the Olympics next year,” he said at media day.)
  • Devin Booker (“I’ll do it,” he said at media day.)
  • Bradley Beal (“Yes, sir, 100%,” he said at media day.)
  • LeBron James (“From the players that we have here that I can think of off the top of my head that can fill that roster up, I don’t think it’ll be too much of a physical toll,” he said at media day. “I wouldn’t have to do much. I mean, rebound a little bit, pass a little bit, defend, block some shots.”)
  • Anthony Davis (“Bron asked me last year, and I told him, if they ask me, I’m in,” he told Spectrum SportsNet at media day (9:45 mark here). “I mean, I only did it once, really, and I didn’t really — you know, that’s when Bron, Kobe, CP, Melo — I was sitting on the bench. I was 19 years old. So if they ask, I’m definitely in.”)
  • Kawhi Leonard (“Yeah, I wanted to play this summer, but I had other obligations and I would’ve had to leave early, so I wasn’t able to go,” he said at media day. “So we’ll see what happens.”)
  • Paul George (“It all depends on how well we do and how far we go this season,” he said at media day. “That will play a lot into my decision on going and playing over in France. I would love to. I know Bron is in the forefront of creating a hell of a roster, but that’s first and foremost on how my body is, how my health is to finish this season.”)
  • Jayson Tatum (He told The Messenger’s Jeff Goodman at media day that he intends to play in Paris.)
  • Jaylen Brown (“Playing in USA Basketball, I think there’s no greater honor,” he said at media day. “I think playing for your country is definitely — coming from my community, coming from where I come from, coming from where the majority of our demographic come from, having the opportunity to represent that, your community, your outer community and the people that support you, I think that is a part of it as well, so being able to participate would be great.”)
  • Bam Adebayo (He has already committed, per the Associated Press’ Tim Reynolds. Erik Spoelstra, an assistant coach for Team USA, said USA Basketball considered it a “must” to have Adebayo on the roster, per Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.)
  • Draymond Green (The Athletic reported in September that he was prepared to commit.)
  • Khris Middleton (“I would for sure play,” he said at media day.)
  • Brook Lopez (“I’d love to do that,” he said at media day. “It’s something I always dreamed of experiencing since I was a little kid. I’m absolutely for it. I asked Steve Kerr while I was subbing into a game last year — I didn’t ask, I told him I was free this coming summer of ’24, so hopefully this will help remind him.”
  • DeMar DeRozan (“If I’m asked to do it, I definitely, definitely would do it,” he said at media day.)
  • Zach LaVine (“You can’t turn down opportunities like that,” he said at media day.)
  • Fred VanVleet (“I would love to,” he said at media day. “There was some interest this summer, so I was in contact with them. Just didn’t line up with what I had in my personal life this summer, so I couldn’t make the commitment, but I would definitely love to be a part of Team USA.)
  • Aaron Gordon (“If I have the opportunity to play in Paris, that would be amazing, and I would love that and revel in that opportunity,” he said at media day.)
  • Kyle Kuzma (“I would love to, if I got the invitation, for sure,” he said at media day.)
  • Donovan Mitchell (He has indicated he’ll play if asked, per the Associated Press.)
  • Julius Randle (He has indicated he’ll play if asked, per the Associated Press.)

Also of note:

So, who makes the cut?

For the purposes of this exercise, let’s assume everybody mentioned above is healthy and willing to play, so USA Basketball can effectively have anybody it wants. What might this loaded 12-man roster look like?

We can start by including the reported ringleader and all the big names he has recruited: James, Curry, Durant, Green, Tatum, Davis, Booker. That’s seven spots gone already.

Embiid is obviously a lock, and Adebayo is reportedly a done deal. That’s nine.

If Leonard is really on board, you don’t turn him down. Ten.

Lillard wasn’t particularly great for the Tokyo Games in 2021, but he was hurt. Time for him to make up for that. Eleven.

Want another guard? I could easily see Irving getting the nod. He or Morant would be the way to go if you’re looking for star power, but Edwards has more size and would give the team a connection to the group that showed up this summer. From a team-building perspective, VanVleet would make sense, too, given his ability to contribute without getting many touches.

Want another big? Jackson is probably the next man up, and Lopez is another, bulkier option. Holmgren could play the role Davis played in 2012.

Judging by the way USA Basketball has constructed its rosters before, though, I suspect it will lean into their biggest advantages: Length, athleticism and defensive versatility. Bridges would be an absolutely perfect fit, but, if George wants to participate, I think the vet is getting the invite.

So what would this look like? Who starts?

Ha! Does it even matter? Kerr could use Curry as a sixth man if he wants to. He could start the five big wings (James, George, Tatum, Leonard and Durant) and switch everything. The possibilities are endless.

But here’s one hypothetical look:

  • Starters: Curry, Booker, Durant, James, Embiid
  • Reserves: Lillard, George, Leonard, Tatum, Green, Davis, Adebayo 

I might go with one of the Clippers over Booker in order to make the defense as intimidating as possible. The defense should be pretty awesome regardless, though, given that nobody has to worry about playing heavy minutes or carrying an enormous load on offense.

If the actual roster ends up resembling this one, don’t be surprised if Kerr experiments with the rotation throughout the tournament and benches someone you don’t expect. If Booker, for example, ends up on the second unit, it might be because the coaching staff wants him to play the bench-scorer role that Dwyane Wade played (and Edwards didn’t) for Team USA.

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