The NBA Playoffs are in full swing. Many of the players leading their teams on title runs this spring are also strong candidates to make the U.S. national team for the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.
With a lockout looming (and one that probably won't be short), it's not out of the question to say that the next time Lebron James or Kobe Byrant could play a meaningful basketball game after this NBA season is next summer in England.
Several members from the 2008 "Redeem Team" and the 2010 World Championships have already expressed interest in returning to the national team. The red, white and blue will be the favorites, no matter who makes the final roster cut.
This is easily the biggest lock for the starting lineup.
Howard is the three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year and will once again be the defensive anchor for the Olympic team. He is the best center in professional basketball since Shaquille O'Neal was in his prime.
The star for the United States at the 2010 World Championships, Kevin Durant is now one of the best players in the world. He has led the NBA in scoring the past two seasons and is the biggest reason why the Oklahoma City Thunder are the NBA’s team of the future.
Durant may play small forward in the NBA, but a 6' 9" forward with a great three-point shot is ideal for power forward in international basketball.
The NBA’s most contentious superstar will take his talents to England in a lineup that is even more star-studded than the one he plays for in South Beach.
Bryant may end up declining, but he is still playing at an elite level for the Los Angeles Lakers.
He was the leader for the gold-medal-winning team in Beijing and will be the leader for another gold-medal-winning team in London.
Here’s another player who will be returning from the “Redeem Team.”
Paul may not be a New Orleans Hornet in the summer of 2012, but he will be on the national team. The NBA’s best point guard will also be the starting point guard for this team.
The breakout player of the 2010-2011 NBA season has played his way on to the 2012 national team over the likes of Tyson Chandler and Andrew Bynum.
Love didn’t play much for the 2010 World Championship-winning team, but he will be the defensive anchor for the second unit next summer. The biggest weakness for the “Redeem Team” was their lack of a true backup center. This won’t be the case in London.
Griffin’s rookie season was one of the most impressive in recent memory, even if he red-shirted for a year. He instantly established himself as one of the league’s rising stars and the power forward equivalent of Vince Carter.
Aside from his scoring ability, Griffin is also an excellent passer and rebounder.
Anthony was the starting power forward for the 2008 Olympic team, but he will get bumped to the B team with Kevin Durant now in the mix.
Anthony played for the national team in the 2004 and 2008, and will be making his third appearance in the Olympics next summer.
Wade will once again anchor the backcourt for the second lineup.
He is one of the five best players in the world and an integral part for the success of the national team. Wade is also likely to see some playing time with the starting lineup.
He may be the favorite for the 2011 NBA MVP award, but Rose will still be a backup on this team.
This season, he has carried a Chicago Bulls team from mere playoff contention to the best record in the NBA. Rose is equally effective as a shoot-first or a pass-first point guard.
Point guard is the deepest position in today’s NBA, and the U.S. Olympic basketball team will once again have three players from the position.
This was the most difficult selection for the team with several great candidates.
Rajon Rondo is a triple-double threat every night, but his outside shooting is too weak for the international game.
The case can be made for the inclusion of John Wall, but he will have to wait until Rio de Janeiro in 2016 for his Olympic appearance.
Stephen Curry is a great three-point shooter, but this team has more than enough scoring options.
The choice comes down to Russell Westbrook or Deron Williams. A strong argument can be made for either player, but Williams will be the team’s third point guard because he is more of a pass-first player and has better outside shooting.
The argument can be made that the final spot on this team should go to a great three-point shooting guard like Brandon Roy or a guard-forward such as Danny Granger.
This team already has enough depth at shooting guard and small forward, as well as adequate three-point shooting. The 2008 team had Michael Redd on its roster to be their de facto three-point specialist. However, he only scored 25 points in seven games and didn't even play in the gold medal game against Spain.
The biggest weakness for the "Redeem Team" was their lack of big man depth, with only one center and two power forwards on the roster. While Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony are capable of playing the power forward position in international games, depth is still needed up front.
Bosh was a member of that "Reedem Team" and is still one of the top power forwards in the NBA, despite his role as the third wheel for the Miami Heat. LaMarcus Aldridge may be more deserving of the 12th spot, but LeBron James and Dwyane Wade will make sure their fellow Heatle isn't left behind for the Olympics next summer.
C: Dwight Howard
PF: Kevin Durant
SF: LeBron James
SG: Kobe Bryant
PG: Chris Paul
C: Kevin Love
PF: Blake Griffin
SF: Carmelo Anthony
SG: Dwyane Wade
PG: Derrick Rose
Third PG: Deron Williams
12th Man: Chris Bosh