2016 Olympic Games: Predicting the 2016 USA Basketball Team in Rio
Kobe's out. LeBron's in. So who else is going to Brazil?
Now that FIBA has officially shot down the NBA's Under-23 campaign, USA Basketball continues to have its pick of the litter when it comes to putting together an all-star basketball program. Although 2012 veterans will surely lead the team in Rio, expect to see quite a few changes between the 2012 and 2016 lineups.
This year's roster featured several of the best players the U.S. had to offer, but it also conspicuously lacked a number of big names who were injured (Dwight Howard, Derrick Rose and Dwyane Wade, to name a few) and may return four years from now.
On top of that, some of the 2012 crew will likely retire or be less interested in offseason competition by the time Rio rolls around. No one's more ready to take their place than the 2012 Select Team, which featured a pool of talented players who could easily develop into Olympic starters by then.
Here's a look at who will be playing for Team USA in 2016.
Considering his stellar resume and that James has already announced he wants to be a part of the team in 2016, LBJ's selection is a no-brainer. If he participates, he'll break the record for most Olympic appearances for a U.S. basketball player, a three-time feat he currently shares with Carmelo Anthony and David Robinson.
He's also only seven points shy of Robinson's Olympic scoring record, which stands at 280.
Kevin Durant is another 2012 veteran sure to reappear in 2016. Durant scored 156 points in London (setting a record for most points scored over the course of an Olympic tournament), including a monster 30 points against Spain in the gold-medal match.
Barring injury, he's likely to represent Team USA for a second time in 2016.
DeMarcus Cousins was a member of the National Select Team this year and has a great shot at joining the roster in 2016. The dedication (and the attitude) is clearly there.
In reference to his appointment to Team USA's official scrimmage team in Las Vegas, Cousins told Sports Illustrated: “I’m not going just to practice. I can make that team.”
Cousins' remarks may have been a bit premature, but perhaps a snub this round will make him even more determined to make the team four years down the road.
Dwyane Wade led the 2008 Olympic Team in scoring, averaging 16 points per game in Beijing. An obvious choice for London, Wade was forced to miss out to undergo knee surgery.
With two NBA championship wins and numerous other accolades under his belt, Wade is almost guaranteed a spot on the 2016 short list.
Chris Bosh was yet another Beijing all-star sidelined by injury in 2012. A strained abdominal muscle sustained during the Heat's championship run added Bosh's name to the list of noticeably absent American playmakers.
Assuming all's well four years from now, Bosh will likely be joining LeBron James and Dwyane Wade on the court for the first Olympic repeat of the Miami Big Three since 2008.
Unless Bosh considers it prudent to skip the Olympics in 2016 (he'll be 32), he'll remain an easy choice for Jerry Colangelo.
Deron Williams and Chris Paul shared the point guard spotlight in 2012, but Williams consistently outperformed his teammate during Olympic competition. Add to that Paul's hint that 2012 was his final Olympic appearance.
In reference to Beijing, Paul told the LA Times: "We competed and we took it all in. But it's nothing like I think this year will be because for a lot of us, I think it will be our last Olympic experience."
In 2012, Williams became the first Net to earn a gold medal, and he's likely to add to his medal haul in Rio.
Russell Westbrook's impressive 2012 season was just the latest in a long line of accomplishments in the NBA and international competition.
In 2010, Westbrook played in every World Championship game in Turkey, averaging 9.1 points per game and bringing home gold for the USA for the first time since 1994.
He was just as solid in his Olympic debut this summer and, at 23, could easily be even better four years from now.
Dwight Howard skipped this year's trip to London to recuperate from a herniated disk, but it's hard to imagine he shed too many tears over it—the guy had some other stuff on his mind.
Now that the he's finally free of Orlando, Howard can get back to being one of the best centers in the league. As long as his distracting off-court antics don't give Jerry Colangelo pause, Howard is likely to repeat his 2008 performance as a starting center.
With Kobe Bryant saying he's out, James Harden may be just the guard Team USA needs to take his place. Although he was a late addition to the 2012 roster, Harden proved to be just as essential on the Olympic court as he is in Oklahoma City.
The biggest Harden story to come out of London may have been the absurd crossover that victimized him during USA's 156-73 romp over Nigeria, but he remains a talented sixth man who will assuredly come off the bench in Brazil.
Derrick Rose was selected for the 2008 Select Team and obviously has the credentials to make the real thing in 2016 (tendinitis kept him off the team in 2012).
To his resume that already includes being a first-round draft pick, the 2009 NBA Rookie of the Year and 2011 NBA MVP, Rose hopes to add an NBA championship ring and Olympic gold medal.
Anthony Davis burst onto the scene as the No 1 draft pick last year and the only rookie on the Olympic team (Davis is the first American player since Emeka Okafor in 2004 to compete in the Olympics without NBA experience).
With four NBA seasons under his belt by 2016, there's no question Davis will be a powerhouse in Rio. Expect the power forward/center to once again bring an unparalleled blend of speed, versatility, height and eyebrow to the table.
Blake Griffin came within inches of London, making it all the way to the July training camp in Las Vegas before succumbing to a knee injury.
In this two years with the Los Angeles Clippers, Griffin has averaged more than 20 points per game and could potentially start in Olympic competition. At 6'10", he will also bring needed height and leaping ability to a 2012 team that featured only three players his stature or taller.
Comparisons to the Dream Team
No American team can step on the court without facing the inevitable comparisons to the original and, some say, the best U.S. team.
Since 1992, the U.S. has had an almost invincible hold on the top of the podium (let's put 2004 behind us, shall we?), and every subsequent win brings us back to the team that started it all. A 2016 roster stacked with MVPs and first-round draft picks will undoubtedly do the same.