What 2016 Team USA Olympic Basketball Roster Would Look Like with Derrick Rose
Derrick Rose is back from the ACL injury that kept him out of the entire 2012-13 season, and now he's ready to start his worldwide tour of domination, which will officially begin when he suits up in the season opener against the Miami Heat.
Rose's basketball prowess won't be contained in the United Center and the 29 other arenas that the NBA calls home. By the time the 2016 Olympics roll around, he'll be showing off his skills in Rio de Janeiro as part of Team USA.
When head coach Mike Krzyzewski was asked by ESPNChicago.com's Nick Friedell about whether or not he wanted Rose on the roster, he left no wiggle room. Phrases like "Oh yeah" and "I want him to be on the team" were used.
And why wouldn't Coach K want him? It's not like NBA MVPs grow on trees. At least not while LeBron James has been a part of the Association.
But when you're dealing with a 12-man roster of the most talented players in the country, a decision about one single roster spot can have sweeping ramifications. Let's take a look at how the entire team unfolds with Rose on board.
Starting Point Guard: Derrick Rose, Chicago Bulls
When asked if he would like to play in Rio, Derrick Rose left no room for doubt, saying he'd "love to play on the team," according to Friedell.
If he really does want to travel for the Olympics and is healthy enough to play, D-Rose will almost be a lock for the starting lineup. Kyrie Irving and some of the younger point guards in the NBA will give him a serious run for his money, but let's not forget how young the former MVP also is.
Rose is only 25 years old, and he'll have yet to turn 28 during the summer of 2016. He'll still be right in the middle of his athletic prime, and that's a scary thought for the rest of the world.
So far, Rose has used the preseason to prove that he can still be just as explosive as he was before tearing his ACL. He's displayed no hesitation cutting off of the formerly injured leg, and the results have been rather promising for his ability to pick up where he left off when he went down against the Philadelphia 76ers.
Chris Paul is still arguably the best point guard in basketball, but Rose won't be far behind him during the 2013-14 season. CP3's crown is up for grabs, and it'll be in a different set of hands by the time 2016 rolls around.
Chances are, those hands will have a few tattoos on them.
Starting Shooting Guard: James Harden, Houston Rockets
Well, here's a no-brainer.
Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade are both starting to move into the twilights of their respective careers (though they still have great years left in the tank, don't get me wrong). And beyond them, James Harden is the only truly elite shooting guard left in the NBA.
In fact, the three aforementioned players are the lone shooting guards in my personal top 50 NBA players, though Jimmy Butler, Eric Gordon, Monta Ellis, Klay Thompson, Bradley Beal, Iman Shumpert and Dion Waiters could all get there soon enough.
Butler and Beal in particular will be threats to make the Olympic roster three years from now, but they still won't pass the bearded shooting guard, who has already emerged as a top-10 standout and one of the absolute best offensive players in basketball.
Between his knack for getting to the basket, ability to draw contact and sweet lefty stroke from the perimeter, there aren't many holes in his offensive game, and he's proven that he can thrive either on or off the ball.
Plus, Harden is only 24 years old. It's not like he's going to start declining by the time Rio rolls around.
Starting Small Forward: Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder
If James Harden starting at shooting guard is a no-doubter, does that make having Kevin Durant in the starting lineup a negative-doubter? After all, it's even more of a sure thing.
It seems strange because Durant has piled up so many accolades during his incredibly successful NBA career, but he's only 25 years old, and he won't turn 28 until after winning yet another gold medal for the United States.
By that time, he'll have racked up another scoring title or two and may even have supplanted LeBron James as the best player in basketball. There's a rather large gap between the two at the moment, but let's not count that out since the Oklahoma City Thunder superstar is nowhere near his ceiling.
Durant's game is perfectly made for international competition. Not that it's ill-suited for NBA ball, of course. But that shorter three-point arc and the up-tempo speed that Team USA runs at both suit him well, and he's a good bet to score more points in Rio than anyone in the world.
You can pencil him in right now. And if you feel like it, go ahead and use something with more permanent ink.
Starting Power Forward: LeBron James, Miami Heat
Believe it or not, this one isn't a guarantee. There's a solid chance that LeBron James could sit out instead of becoming the first player in Team USA history to suit up for four different Olympic squads (an honor that Carmelo Anthony could receive as well).
Over the summer, an anonymous source told Yahoo! Sports' Marc J. Spears the following:
LeBron is going to be three years older during the next Olympics. He will have two older boys. He has a lot to endure with his family. He played in three Olympics. Everyone that knows LeBron knows it's always based on a decision at that moment. But if the moment was today, the answer would be no.
Personally, I don't believe that bit of speculation.
LeBron loves basketball as much as it's possible to love anything, and it's hard not to remember the pure, unmitigated joy that crept across his face as he danced euphorically on the sidelines after winning the last gold medal. He'll want that feeling again, even if he'll be 31 years old when he gets to experience it.
At that stage of his career, LeBron will still be uber-elite.
He may not have a stranglehold over the No. 1 spot in any sane person's set of player rankings, but he'll be in the conversation and may only trail Kevin Durant. Quite frankly, he could still be the best player in the world without making anyone bat an eye.
And if he's on the roster, he's going to start. Power forward is a natural fit for LeBron because he can make good on his physicality more than ever and use what's likely to be a highly developed set of post moves.
We've seen him do this for the Miami Heat, and he'll continue to do so for Team USA in order to maximize the amount of talent in the starting five.
Starting Center: Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans
Anthony Davis is going to be a stud.
Although his rookie season was a little bit disappointing thanks to a never-ending stream of nagging injuries and an inability to play elite defense, he still showed flashes of greatness. There were highlight-reel dunks, sensational rejections and moments in which he looked capable of developing into the next great stretch-four.
Remember, this kid is only 20 years old. He still is, well, a kid.
By the time Rio rolls around, Davis will have one hell of a unibrow developed into a bona fide starting center capable of impacting a game on both ends of the court. He'll have honed his defensive instincts and ability to crash the boards. He'll be hitting mid-range jumpers with his eyes closed.
Quite frankly, he could be best American center in basketball.
Dwight Howard will still be right in the thick of things, but he'll be on the verge of hitting 30 and won't want to waste any of his healthy games on international competition when he could be resting himself for a title pursuit.
There are a couple other young options as well, but Davis also has one more leg up: He's been a part of Team USA before.
He cut his teeth during the 2012 Olympic Games, and he didn't look even remotely out of place, despite the fact that he'd never played a single NBA game before joining LeBron and Co. That experience will serve him well in the toughest competition for a starting gig.
There's a razor-thin margin between starting at center and failing to make the roster at all. Just ask DeMarcus Cousins in this hypothetical scenario.
Kyrie Irving, PG, Cleveland Cavaliers
This young gun is the future of the point guard position, even if he won't surpass Derrick Rose within the next three years. Actually, he may very well do that, but he's still more suited for a role as the team's sixth man given his lack of defensive excellence.
Irving is only 21 years old, and he's displayed massive potential with a deadly jumper, a knack for finishing in traffic and a set of handles that would even make Jamal Crawford jealous.
He might as well be a lock for the roster.
John Wall, PG, Washington Wizards
Speaking of young point guards, expect big things from John Wall throughout the 2013-14 season, then look for him to continue improving as he gets more and more experience playing with quality teammates.
Twenty points and 10 assists per game aren't out of the question this year, and those may be disappointing numbers for him by the time 2016 gets here. Wall is a dynamic floor general with great vision and a terrific ability to get past any defender when he wants some quality time with the rim.
If he can develop a potent jumper, he'll be yet another lock. But for now, he's earning the final spot doled out to backup guards by narrowly beating out Damian Lillard and Stephen Curry, no matter how much fun it would be to see the latter shoot three-pointers behind a shorter arc.
Russell Westbrook, PG/SG, Oklahoma City Thunder
It'll be tough for him to continue the trend now that he's set to miss the beginning of the season, but Russell Westbrook has gotten better during each and every season of his NBA career. And he's still only 24 years old.
Of all the guards on this roster, only Westbrook and James Harden are truly capable of playing shooting guard, and that's what makes him worth rostering ahead of the many other talented point guards who call the USA home.
Westbrook has Team USA experience, and he's not going to be experiencing any sort of decline before he gets to add to his resume.
Carmelo Anthony, SF/PF, New York Knicks
Team USA belonged to Carmelo Anthony in 2012, even if LeBron James was still the de facto leader of the bunch. He left an indelible mark on the proceeding, drilling three-pointer after three-pointer and just flat-out torturing opposing defenses.
'Melo could very well opt not to play in Rio, but something tells me he'll want to make his fourth outing with the Olympic squad, becoming the first player in USA history to do so (tied with LeBron James if he chooses to do so as well).
And if he decides to play, he'll make the team. There's no doubt about that.
Paul George, SF, Indiana Pacers
Speaking of having absolutely no doubt, we don't need to question whether or not Paul George will be on the roster. He's the man who would step into the starting lineup if LeBron chose to stay home, and for good reason.
George broke out in a big way during the 2012-13 campaign, asserting himself as an up-and-coming two-way superstar. He plays some of the best defense in basketball already, and he can make an impact in any way you desire on the offensive end.
Three years from now, he'll be more careful with the ball, possess a more consistent perimeter jumper and be universally considered one of the 10 best players in basketball.
Kevin Love, PF, Minnesota Timberwolves
This is the toughest decision among the forwards.
The spot could very well go to a young stud like Kawhi Leonard or Jimmy Butler. It could be handed to Blake Griffin, whose athleticism and dunking prowess would be sure to leave the Rio-bound crowds and international television audience in awe.
But in terms of team construction, it just makes the most sense to include Love. His rebounding and ability to function as a true stretch-4 is something that only Anthony Davis offers, and there would otherwise be a big void every time the Unibrow needed a rest.
Love is by no means the most glamorous option, but he's the right choice for Mike Krzyzewski and the rest of the coaching staff.
Andre Drummond, C, Detroit Pistons
Andre Drummond is just going to be that good in three years.
Going into the 2013-14 campaign, I have him unofficially listed as the No. 13 center in basketball. With only an injury-shortened rookie season under his belt. At just 20 years old.
Drummond is a premier alley-oop finisher and has shown flashes of Defensive Player of the Year potential, an award for which he should already be in the conversation during his second professional go-around. Three years from now, Drummond could be a top-10 player and widely considered the best center in basketball.
He's a tireless worker and has made enormous strides already. That's not just going to change.
So while this is undoubtedly a bold selection, I'm going to stand by it and wait to collect my winnings until we get to 2016.