Unfortunately for basketball fans, the summer of the lockout will not fall on a summer in which the USA Men's National Basketball team competes.
But whatever. I wrote this article about what the roster would probably look like, position by position, if
the Olympics were this year. The only part of this article where my opinion comes in is when I'm guessing who the coaches would choose. So this is all prediction.
Honestly, the USA could basically make a team out of the American players that aren't even on this list and still probably win every game by double digits (see 2010 FIBA World Championship).
Not too many teams besides the usual group (Spain, France, etc.) will be able to put up any fight against America.
One thing that America would consider is past international experiences, or lack thereof. It is hard to determine exactly where the line is when it comes to rewarding players for past successes on the team or who will be disadvantaged for never having participated.
While most countries with less options try to stick with the same core group of guys each summer, America has recently been changing things around. In fact, not a single player on the 2008 Redeem Team was on the 2010 World Championship team that also won gold.
But honestly, does it matter? Both groups went undefeated. So it's difficult to judge how the coaches could reward players for their recent experiences. So I repeat, does it matter?
If both teams were such successes, how can you be biased towards either one? Well, there is actually some potential bias. Look at the rosters of the powerhouses in the 2010 Championship. Argentina didn't include Manu Ginobili.
Germany didn't include Dirk Nowitzki. Australia didn't include Andrew Bogut. France didn't include Tony Parker or Joakim Noah, among others, and (this is the big one) Spain didn't didn't include Pau Gasol. The list actually keeps going.
A huge portion of the world's best players passed last summer.
So I'm going to keep that facet to minimum importance, although there will be a few cases where it will matter. Considering that nobody important has really failed recently, these predictions are mostly going on simply the best possible roster.
Wow has this one changed from a couple years ago. Well, sort of. The obvious names are Derrick Rose, Chris Paul, Deron Williams, John Wall, Russell Westbrook and Rajon Rondo.
Chauncey Billups and Jason Kidd would've been in consideration a year ago, but both of them had significantly less significant years this year (no offense at all to Kidd's postseason), although do note that Kidd has never lost an international game.
Wall and Rondo just aren't quite there yet, and Westbrook has very little chance after this year's postseason. That leaves Paul, Williams and Rose. What a shock.
So who should start?
Deron Williams is coming off a less-than-ideal year, and his popularity isn't quite in the stratosphere right now. While Derrick Rose just won MVP, not to mention gold in the last championships, most NBA experts still agree that Chris Paul is the better point guard overall.
While Rose was a part of last year's summer team, Paul was one of the key factors in the 2008 Olympics. Paul is better defensively, and most importantly right now, he's a better distributor, so I expect him to get the starting nod.
Rose still makes the team though. Now the question is, does Williams? D-Will can play point guard or shooting guard, and with only two shooting guards making the team most likely, there would be a spot for him.
He can pass or score with the best of him, and his defense is above adequate. Also, he's done very well in previous competitions, so I think he'd make the team.
This one is too easy. There are two obvious picks, and it's obvious who starts.
If the Olympics were this summer, Kobe Bryant would start at shooting guard, and Dwyane Wade would come off the bench as a sixth man.
It worked out pretty well in 2008, didn't it? Wade led the team in scoring and won MVP off the bench.
Really, there's not much else to say. With three point guards making the team, a third shooting guard should not, not that anybody stands out.
This one isn't as easy. A lot of factors come into this one. First of all, unlike the last position, there are three names that stick out. LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony.
All of them have experienced past international success. LeBron and Melo were key cogs in the Redeem Team, and Kevin Durant single-handedly terrorized the rest of the world last summer.
While it's clear that LeBron should make the team, it's not clear if he should start or not. It's also not clear who his backup should be, or if he should have two.
Of the three, LeBron is the best defender, rebounder and passer, which is extremely important when he's on a team where everybody is a star. (I almost came up with a great knock on the Heat, but I couldn't quite pull it off. Let me know if you come up with one.)
But one thing that he's not great at is completely relinquishing control, which will be very necessary considering that he's on a super-team. (I feel really lame about not being able to come up with one here too.)
Out of the three, Kevin Durant seems the most capable of being a role player at times. In fact, last postseason, his team nearly lost every close game because he had trouble asserting himself.
But he seemed to do a great job picking and choosing his times last summer. In fact, he dominated the whole tournament without even really dominating the ball on his team. So does this mean that he should make the team? Yeah, I think he would.
So that leaves Carmelo. Carmelo's ability to play on a team has been severely questioned recently, and that's not just because of his poor defense (although he is a good rebounder for a small forward).
Still, he's versatile. At times, he's the most dominant perimeter scorer in the league. At other times, he's the most dominant post scorer in the league. And the team is lacking more in post finesse than anything else.
But I'm going to use this as my one time where past experience really is the deciding factor. Melo had a great 2008 campaign, even though he was, to an extent, playing behind LeBron.
Although I might regret ever including this, he's a bona fide star at the international level, and although his contributions might be in a limited amount of fields, I just don't think they'll turn him down when he says that he'll do what it takes to defend gold.
Now, one idea that was presented to me is that, because there are multiple guys who really should start, could somebody be slid to the power forward spot to open up space? I mean, the power forward spot is, indeed, lacking, compared to the rest of the team.
LeBron is one of the most athletic and versatile players ever. So why can't he start at power forward to let Durant start at small forward? Well, in an NBA situation, I'd be OK with it. But who are the primary guys, no, who is the main guy in the whole competition that America would most have to worry about?
Pau Gasol, in my opinion, and I'm probably not alone. Many people think that Spain is the only team that could truly challenge America, and Pau is the most important player on that team.
As a Warriors fan (see Sunday, Nov. 21, 2010), I can tell you that on his best days, that man is unstoppable, and having a perimeter player starting against him at his position is really not the best idea.
But in general, international competition is usually dominated by bigs, at least on most teams, and power forward is the primary position where having a quality defender is adequate.
While LeBron is adequate because of his athleticism and skills, you need more than 6'8" at the power forward position against European teams.
So while team chemistry might not be totally premium this way, LeBron starts at small forward, and Kevin Durant and Carmelo get good time off the bench.
As I said in my last slide, the power forward position is a key position for European teams. Whoever starts at power forward for America must be a decent rebounder, something of a threat on offense and just straight up tall.
While Amar'e Stoudemire isn't the best defender, and according to many sources, he's a center, I firmly believe that he'd start at power forward if the Olympics were now.
While Pau Gasol might be able to get what he wants off of him, Amar'e would make him work a lot on defense. And regardless, a lot of the time here would be taken up by LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and whoever his backup is, as he could be the starting center's (we all know who it is, but I'm keeping it a surprise anyway) primary reserve.
Now the backup power forward spot becomes a dogfight between several big names. Many older or at least bona fide international players are in the mix, like Kevin Garnett, Chris Bosh, Tim Duncan and Carlos Boozer.
There are also a few names that might actually be of higher valor as of this very moment, like Zach Randolph, but more importantly, Kevin Love and Blake Griffin. But in my opinion, the guy who gets the spot is LaMarcus Aldridge.
Still, this one I'm very shaky on. Aldridge is long, tall, athletic, a great rebounder and a very solid defender. When called for, he's one of the best post scorers in the league. He's a great teammate, he's a very hard worker, and he's accustomed to just being an amazing role player.
But once again, I'm not sure. One year ago, this would've been such a different scenario.
So who would back up Dwight Howard? After Dwight, the center position is easily the least star-studded one in the NBA. There are only two American stars at center in the NBA, and one of them is starting at power forward.
Al Horford and Andrew Bogut come next, but they're from the Dominican Republic and Australia, respectively. So whoever it is cannot be a scorer, because they'll be playing among a group of better ones.
Whoever it is needs to truly be a role player on the team and just someone who plays great defense and rebounds very well. So Brook Lopez isn't your guy. Al Jefferson is great, but he doesn't exactly fit the mold.
It's amazing how hard it actually is to come up with a great American inside presence. Tyson Chandler did it well in 2010. Andrew Bynum and Emeka Okafor are also names that come to mind. So I'll take Bynum.
He's huge, he's a great rebounder and he's a great defender. And he probably won't struggle with his attitude in the Olympics anyway, so, despite what Tyson Chandler did last summer, that's probably your guy.
This is my best guess as to how it would really work out:
PG: Chris Paul, Derrick Rose, Deron Williams
SG: Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade
SF: LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony
PF: Amar'e Stoudemire, LaMarcus Aldridge
C: Dwight Howard, Andrew Bynum
These are all the guys that I could, in any way, actually see making the team, but I don't think would:
PG: Rajon Rondo, Russell Westbrook, Jason Kidd, Chauncey Billups, Stephen Curry
SG: Eric Gordon, Monta Ellis, Joe Johnson, Brandon Roy
SF: Danny Granger, Rudy Gay, Paul Pierce, Andre Iguodala
PF: Chris Bosh, Carlos Boozer, Kevin Garnett, Blake Griffin, Zach Randolph, Tim Duncan, Kevin Love, Lamar Odom
C: Tyson Chandler, Emeka Okafor, Al Jefferson, Brook Lopez, Javale McGee