Predicting The USA Basketball Lineup For The 2016 Rio Olympics

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Photo: @usabasketball/Instagram

The USA Basketball Men’s National Team minicamp in Las Vegas is in full force with 34 players invited to contend for one of 12 spots on the team that will go on to compete at the 2016 Rio Olympics. Among them, eight are new additions to the national team and 26 are returning members including LeBron James, Steph Curry, James Harden, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving. That is to say, the competition’s quite literally world class despite some of the game’s biggest names—mostly older players like Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade and Tim Duncan—stepping aside, and others—like the outspoken Derrick Favours—claiming to have been snubbed. We took a look at the list of candidates and have named the most likely team to be fielded in Mexico next summer.

Starters

LeBron James (PF)
Unlike the three-time Olympic athlete’s world-beating credentials, James’s participation is still up in the air. He hasn’t—and likely won’t—yet made an appearance at the Vegas minicamp. Despite that, the team’s managing director, Jerry Colangelo, told ESPN that there will always be a spot for James on the roster, should he decide to claim it—and he very well may. We’re guessing the allure of becoming the only basketball player with three gold medals may prove too great for the inherently competitive player.

Kevin Durant (SF)
The injury-plagued player has been one of the greatest to play the sport when not injured, and if his most recent account holds up, he’s finally back to his old self four months after undergoing surgery on his foot. Hopefully he retains his chops from his 2012 stint on the U.S. Olympic gold medal team.

Anthony Davis (C)
Another returning player who had played on the 2012 gold medal team, Davis provides the big man power for the starting squad and will count Blake Griffin as an able stand-in. Davis has the ability to play both ends of the floor—especially in the paint on defence—and recorded a top-four highest player efficiency rating in league history last year.

Stephen Curry (PG)
This NBA Finals MVP needs little introduction. With his all-time shooting skills extending to catch-and-shoot perfection and the ability to space the floor with his patented threes, he would quickly make the proceedings in Mexico a flashback to his gold-winning performance at the 2014 World Cup in Spain.

Kyrie Irving (PG)
With some international experience under his belt, the 2014 FIBA World Cup MVP and two-time NBA All-Star works best under pressure, particularly when in a supporting role under LeBron James. His combination of shooting, passing and scoring abilities—along with his crazy fast footwork and speed—make Irving a shoo-in.

Bench

Kawhi Leonard (SF)
Though the former Finals MVP has received multiple invitations to join international teams before, he has always turned them down. Until now. Expect the 2015 NBA Defensive Player of the Year trotted out to stifle the competition with his freakish length, which also lends itself to his nabbing extra points in transition. Bonus.

Blake Griffin (PF)
Though he made the final cut for the 2012 Olympics, Griffin sat out due to injury. This year, he’d be bringing his stellar (and versatile) short game to the roster. Oh, and the extremely athletic baller knows how to put on one a hell of a show.

Kevin Love (PF)
Rounding out the Cleveland Cavaliers’ contribution to the team is Love and his ability to stretch the floor. His size would be a tremendous asset against European teams, and particularly in Team USA’s traditionally tense stand-off with Team Spain.

Russell Westbrook (PG)
If the 2012 gold medalist stays healthy, Westbrook is a overpowering player whose offensive stats are pure wizardry—just take a peek at his record-breaking streak of triple-doubles last season. He’s the perfect man to spring on an opposing team.

James Harden (SG)
Commanding the association’s second-highest scoring record last season, Harden has already shown the international stage what his scoring ability looks like during the United States’ 2014 World Cup bid. Combine that with insane handles, prowess at stealing the ball and ability to spread to floor, and you’ve got a pesky player ready to shut down opponents in Rio.

DeMarcus Cousins (C)
The guard-heavy lineup this year makes Cousins’ inclusion a bit of a necessity. He adds much-needed size to the roster and is capable of playing backup to Davis. He’s adept defensively with top-three rebounding chops and skill at blocking shots. And his scoring? Fifth-best in the league last year.

Klay Thompson (SG)

Shoring up the defensive end is Thompson, part two of the Golden State Warriors’ Splash Brothers. He’s an excellent shooter capable of defending several positions and spacing the floor, making him one of the roster’s most versatile potential inclusions.
 
 
 
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