Who would we put on the Men’s Basketball Olympic Roster?

Story posted February 10, 2016 in Sports, CommRadio by Sports Staff

In late January, USA Basketball released the 30 finalists to compete for a spot on the 2016 Men’s Olympic roster to compete in the Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro. Roster cuts will be made throughout the summer at the conclusion of the NBA season. Among the finalists include multiple NBA Finals MVP award winners and nearly every candidate has been named to multiple All-Star teams.

This will be Mike Krzyzewski’s last summer as head coach of the men’s national team. Coach K will enter the summer accumulating only one loss at the helm of the national team.

Throughout the next three months, ComRadio’s Jeff Jezewski, Marley Paul and Ryan Stevens will give their predictions on how roster cuts will be made until narrowed down to the final 12 spots.

Ryan Stevens

Starters

C DeMarcus Cousins (Sacramento Kings)

F LeBron James (Cleveland Cavaliers)

F Kevin Durant (Oklahoma City Thunder)

G Kawhi Leonard (San Antonio Spurs)

G Stephen Curry (Golden State Warriors)

There isn’t a lot to dispute surrounding Curry, Durant or James. The biggest surprise might be opting to go with Kawhi Leonard at the other guard spot.

The question surrounding DeMarcus Cousins since entering the NBA has been how bad does he want to be great? The narrative is developing into a positive along with Cousins’ ability to bring his offensive game from the rim and dominate inside.  Cousins’ three point shooting percentage has increased about 10 percent from a year ago while still being able to play with his back to the basket.

Some may want another outside shooter, but the growth we’ve seen out of Leonard since the Spurs won the 2014 Finals has been nothing short of incredible. Despite being known for his defensive paralysis, Leonard is shooting over 47 percent form beyond the arc and over 50 percent overall.

Bench

6. Carmelo Anthony (New York Knicks)

7. James Harden (Houston Rockets)

8. Russell Westbrook (Oklahoma City Thunder)

9. Anthony Davis (New Orleans Pelicans)

10. Draymond Green (Golden State Warriors)

11. Andre Drummond (Detroit Pistons)

12. Klay Thompson (Golden State Warriors)

Same as the starters, it would appear that Anthony, Harden, Westbrook and Davis are locks.

I give Draymond Green the nod because of his ability to play in pick-and-roll situations. Stats don’t tell how valuable Draymond Green can be to this team on both ends, especially defensively on the perimeter and inside, as well as being the perfect prototypical four man to play foreign competition.

This team needs three legitimate inside big men and despite feeling DeAndre Jordan would thrive on offense with this team, Andre Drummond has earned this spot because of what he does on the glass. Drummond is to this team as Kenneth Faried was to the 2014 FIBA World Cup team.

Imagine how fun it would be to see Klay Thompson and Steph Curry in a less restrictive game than what is already run in Golden State? The perfect off-the-ball guard is going to make his presence felt.

Still in contention:

13. John Wall (Washington Wizards)

14. Paul George (Indiana Pacers)

15. Chris Paul (Los Angeles Clippers)

16. LaMarcus Aldridge (San Antonio Spurs)

17. Blake Griffin (Los Angeles Clippers)

18. Kyrie Irving (Cleveland Cavaliers)

19. Jimmy Butler (Chicago Bulls)

The guard spots are always the closest calls, but like Andre Drummond, Wall’s progression has been a bright spot during a lull of a season in DC. There may not be anyone in the league faster with a ball in his hands, but Wall is a gift that’s also just scratching the surface.

I’ll be the first one to admit I was wrong about Paul George. I thought he would never be able to rebound to this level so quickly, but even one of the most gruesome injuries ever witnessed isn’t slowing PG-13 down.

It would be weird to picture this team without Chris Paul on it, but adding Draymond’s element snubs a point guard off the bench. His experience and respect throughout the NBA will certainly play a factor when deciding to keep the 30 year old on the team.

If you had asked me before the year started, I would have thrown Aldridge on the roster.  His production has dipped a little since arriving in San Antonio, but that doesn’t take away from how valuable of an asset he is. It’s tough to rank the limited amount of big men on this entire list.

Griffin was on the 2012 Olympic roster before an accident prevented him from traveling. It’s hard to say no to a forward that has done a good job evolving his offensive game and shoots over 50 percent for his career.

Kyrie Irving is the most lethal ball handler in the NBA in my mind still hasn’t hit his stride after missing the beginning of the ’15-’16 season.

I would hate to see Jimmy Butler’s injury scare remove him from contention. He plays with a similar mindset to Leonard, but a little more advanced on the offensive end under the direction of Fred Hoiberg.

The Rest

20. Demar DeRozan (Toronto Raptors)

Here’s another guy who has grown into an All-Star candidate that will be on the surface for years to come, but I’m not sure he’s ready to take his place among the 12 best.

21. Gordon Hayward (Utah Jazz)

Similar to DeRozan: tremendous growth, but not ready to join the group yet. At 25, Hayward has an opportunity to get back into contention in 2020.

22. Harrison Barnes (Golden State Warriors)

23. DeAndre Jordan (Los Angeles Clippers)

24. Mike Conley (Memphis Grizzlies)

25. Kenneth Faried (Denver Nuggets)

26. Brad Beal (Washington Wizards)

27. Kevin Love (Cleveland Cavaliers)

28. Dwight Howard (Houston Rockets)

29. Rudy Gay (Sacramento Kings)

30. Andre Iguodala (Golden State Warriors)

Marley Paul

Starters

C Anthony Davis (New Orleans Pelicans)

F LeBron James (Cleveland Cavaliers)

F Kevin Durant (Oklahoma City Thunder)

G Kawhi Leonard (San Antonio Spurs)

G Stephen Curry (Golden State Warriors)

Stephen Curry has taken the NBA by storm. He’s followed up an NBA championship and MVP season by guiding his team to a record-setting 47-4 start this season while averaging 30 ppg, 7 apg and 5 rpg. Keeping pace to the Warriors are the San Antonio Spurs, anchored by defensive specialist and 2014 Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard. Leonard, an All-Star starter for the first time, is growing into the one of the league’s best and most consistent two-way players and with continued development through this NBA season, he deserves a starting spot in Rio.

Not much to think about with LeBron James. If he wants to play, the spot is his. But at age 31, it is possible James may opt to rest this summer as the 3-time medalist – and possible free agent – looks to regain his undisputed MVP form.

Anthony Davis is the prototypical big man in the modern NBA. He’s long and athletic, runs the floor well and has great timing for making defensive stops. Kevin Durant is a bona fide scorer, capable of getting his shot off against anyone with his nearly 7-foot frame. He’s one of the most efficient scorers in the league, averaging 28 points at a 50/39/90 percent clip. If healthy, these two dynamic forwards should fill out the rest of the starting lineup.

Bench

6. Carmelo Anthony (New York Knicks)

7. James Harden (Houston Rockets)

8. Russell Westbrook (Oklahoma City Thunder)

9. DeMarcus Cousins (Sacramento  Kings)

10. Draymond Green (Golden State Warriors)

11. Andre Drummond (Detroit Pistons)

12. Klay Thompson (Golden State Warriors)

Former Thunder teammates James Harden and Russell Westbrook are sure-fire picks to make the final roster. Harden, a prolific scorer with a knack for getting to the free throw line, provides a dynamic offensive punch that overcomes his shortcomings on the defensive end. Nobody matches Westbrook’s intensity. He’s Oklahoma City’s point guard - a triple-double threat every time he steps on the court  - but typically plays off the ball for Team USA while bringing an unmatched level of passion that has surely impressed coach Krzyzewski.

Similar to his fellow 2003 draftee James, Anthony may not be overly joyed about committing to international basketball this summer at age 31 and entering his 13th NBA season. His rapport with coach K and Team USA, though, is probably strong enough to warrant a slot on the team.

DeMarcus Cousins is a terror offensively, and a deceptively smart defender when engaged. He very likely can contend with Davis for a starting spot; but if not, he is easily one of the best big men available, currently averaging 27 points and 11 rebounds while expanding his range to the 3-point line, hitting one per game at a respectable 35 percent. 

The Warriors duo of Draymond Green and Klay Thompson provide familiarity among another set of teammates, plus two versatile two-way players, a major bonus in international play. Green is capable of guarding taller players straight up, and containing shorter players on switches. Thompson is a knockdown 3-point shooter with a quick trigger, while recognized a great defender – often taking the toughest backcourt assignment at Golden State.

Andre Drummond’s stock is sky-high right now, as the 22-year-old is averaging 17 points and 15 rebounds, seemingly all off of raw talent. Team USA should snatch him up this summer and help him refine his game and become a vital asset for future competitions.

Still in contention

13. Kyrie Irving (Cleveland Cavaliers)

14. Paul George (Indiana Pacers)

15. Chris Paul (Los Angeles Clippers)

16. LaMarcus Aldridge (San Antonio Spurs)

17. Blake Griffin (Los Angeles Clippers)

18. John Wall (Washington Wizards)

19. Jimmy Butler (Chicago Bulls)

Kyrie Irving and Coach K go back years, since the hall of fame coach successfully recruited him to Duke. Irving has shown he was more than deserving of the No. 1 overall pick in 2011 and, if healthy, can overtake any aforementioned player to provide a backup point guard.

Back and better than ever is Paul George. If any of the veterans sit out, look for him to possible sky all the way up to the starting lineup, but if not, it may be a close call due to a crowded bunch.

Chris Paul is simply a victim of the rise in point guards throughout the game. They are bigger and faster and Paul simply can’t reinvent his aging body. His leadership, however, may deem in a spot depending on how valued it’s viewed.

LaMarcus Aldridge and Blake Griffin are fine players in their own rights, but too one-dimensional to keep up with the others on the team. Neither of them has been mistaken for defensive stoppers, and Griffin’s stock is at an all-time low with off the court drama, which Team USA tends to drown upon.

John Wall has never seemed able to get into good favors with Team USA, and with the struggles of his NBA team, I don’t expect the international team to be keeping a close eye on him.

Jimmy Butler’s injury disrupted an impressive breakout season (22 ppg, 4 apg, 5 rpg), so we’ll have to wait and see how he looks when returns from an estimated 4-6 week break.

The Rest

20. Demar DeRozan (Toronto Raptors)

A growing star in this game but not yet on that tier to earn a spot among the best of the best. A special playoff run this season can boost his stock, however.

21. DeAndre Jordan (Los Angeles Clippers)

After securing a max contract last summer, DeAndre Jordan is another big body that can challenge for a spot in the rotation. A force on the backboards and timely shot blocker, him and Drummond are very similar.

22. Harrison Barnes (Golden State Warriors)

23. Gordon Haywood (Utah Jazz)

24. Mike Conley (Memphis Grizzlies)

25. Kenneth Faried (Denver Nuggets)

26. Brad Beal (Washington Wizards)

27. Kevin Love (Cleveland Cavaliers)

28. Dwight Howard (Houston Rockets)

29. Rudy Gay (Sacramento Kings)

30. Andre Iguodala (Golden State Warriors)

Jeff Jezewski

Starters

C - Anthony Davis (New Orleans Pelicans)

PF - LeBron James (Cleveland Cavaliers)

SF - Kevin Durant (Oklahoma City Thunder)

SG - James Harden (Houston Rockets)

PG - Steph Curry (Golden State Warriors)

As I’m sure is the consensus for all of us, Curry, James and Durant are going to start for this team barring injury. Curry is the reigning MVP and is a near lock to reclaim that title again at the end of this season. James is the most physically dominant player in the NBA and is still arguably the best overall player in the association. Add a healthy Durant who is once again taking the league by storm with his expansive offensive repertoire and freakish athleticism for his size and you get a nearly unstoppable core of this team.

This is where things already begin to get tricky due to the depth and ability of the 30 players on the USA roster currently. While guys like Kawhi Leonard and DeMarcus Cousins are certainly in the running, I believe, in terms of style and fit, Anthony Davis and James Harden should get the nod in the starting lineup.

While the Pelicans and Rockets haven’t performed to expectations this season, Davis is still clearly one of the five best talents in the NBA, and Harden’s offensive ability has never been in question. Davis fits in better than Cousins in the International game in my opinion. I think he provides more spacing on the floor and he’s still a much better defender than the improved Cousins. Adding Harden to the starting lineup hurts on the defensive end, but provides enough of a punch offensively to compensate, making this an increasingly dangerous US attack.

Bench

6. Russell Westbrook (Oklahoma City Thunder)

7. DeMarcus Cousins (Sacramento Kings)

8. Kawhi Leonard (San Antonio Spurs)

9. Carmelo Anthony (New York Knicks)

10. Draymond Green (Golden State Warriors)

11. Chris Paul (Los Angeles Clippers)

12. Andre Drummond (Detroit Pistons)

While the starters are the class of basketball in the entire world, the alarming depth of the USA roster makes the decisions so tough, and the team so dangerous. Already, I consider spots six through nine to be locks. I find it hard to see anyway Coach K and company don’t find room for Westbrook, Cousins and Leonard. Plus, Anthony’s been an integral part of the USA roster for years and he’s still a legitimate threat offensively. Westbrook’s two-way ability and athleticism is essentially unmatched at the point guard position, but Coach K may have to reel him back in at times during the Olympics. Cousins is another guy with the reputation for being a loose cannon, but he’s been unstoppable this season for a Kings team seemingly in turmoil every other day.

Leonard, after a few years of high potential, has put it all together and become one of the best, if not the best, two way players in basketball. The Spurs forward is the best wing defender in basketball and has become an offensive threat over the last few years. As we move further down the list, I think Green provides many of the same things as Kawhi, but can bang around inside a little more effectively. Realistically, you can’t have too many guys that can shoot, defend, pass and rebound all while being above average defenders. Green’s emergence for the Warriors makes him a viable option. While the addition of Drummond adds another youthful inside presence offensively, and as a shot blocker, I think Chris Paul has to make this team as well. I know there are already multiple guys on this team with USA basketball experience at the highest level, but Paul is still at the top of his game and has flourished in International play and can provide more veteran leadership off the bench, especially late in games.

Still In Contention

13. Paul George (Indiana Pacers)

14. LaMarcus Aldridge (San Antonio Spurs)

15. Klay Thompson (Golden State Warriors)

16. Blake Griffin (Los Angeles Clippers)

17. Kyrie Irving (Cleveland Cavaliers)

18. Jimmy Butler (Chicago Bulls)

19. John Wall (Washington Wizards)

It’s tough to look at this list and think that these guys aren’t good enough to play in the Olympics, but again, that just adds to how deep this 30 man roster is. I really wish there was room for Paul George on the roster, but I just couldn’t find a place. George has come back incredibly from that horrific leg injury suffered while participating for the USA basketball squad. However, there are too many guys with similar skill sets on this team already. I could maybe see George flipping spots with Green and knocking him out if Coach K believes he needs more offense.

Aldridge is a perfect stretch power forward, but again, just not enough spots. I think the US needs another rim protector in Drummond instead of another stretch big. Thompson may find his way on to this team to add another shooter, but as of right now, he’s on the outside looking in of my list. Despite his immense talent, I would be surprised if a spot opened for Blake after his tumultuous season due to injury and off-court issues.

Finally, the last three guards all seem to have a spot on this team in the future, but maybe just not yet. Irving has still been too inconsistent while returning from injury, but he is a Coach K favorite. With Butler’s knee injury holding him out for the next three-to-four weeks, it would be tough for him to work his way back higher on the list, but he’s a guy to watch for in the future. Finally, just too much talent on this team to find a place for Wall, who has seemed to take a step back this season.

The rest

20. Kevin Love (Cleveland Cavaliers)

While the last two seasons certainly haven’t been his brightest, I still believe in Kevin Love as an offensive threat. Love now has a new head coach, giving him a fresh start and the ability to be fit into the offense more. However, that doesn’t leave him enough time to make up lost ground.

21. DeMar Derozan (Toronto Raptors)

Derozan is a much improved basketball player, moving his way towards perennial All-Star status. His jump shot still leaves much to be desired, however, and that hurts his chances to make this team.

22. DeAndre Jordan (Los Angeles Clippers)

23. Rudy Gay (Sacramento Kings)

24. Mike Conley (Memphis Grizzlies)

25. Dwight Howard (Houston Rockets)

26. Gordon Hayward (Utah Jazz)

27. Kenneth Faried (Denver Nuggets)

28. Harrison Barnes (Golden State Warriors)

29. Andre Igoudala (Golden State Warriors)

30. Bradley Beal (Washington Wizards)

About the Contributors

Ryan Stevens's photo

Ryan Stevens

Senior / Broadcast Journalism

Ryan is a senior from Bloomington, Illinois majoring in broadcast journalism with a minor in english.  He has been involved with numerous radio shows, play-by-plays, beat writes and producing various Penn State athletics events since his first days of being on campus in the fall of 2012 with ComRadio. Since the fall of 2013, Ryan has been involved with State College’s ESPN Radio 1450 as an assistant producer intern and high school football reporter.

During the summer of 2014, Ryan co-hosted Sports Central with Cory Giger streaming over Altoona, Pa. and State College Pa. markets. Ryan also assisted USA Basketball media coverage in New York for World Cup of Basketball exhibition games.

Ryan was the marketing & communications intern for USA Track & Field at the national office in Indianapolis, Indiana. He was the media contact for the 2015 USATF Hershey Youth Outdoor Championships as well as the 2015 National Junior Olympics.

Ryan is also a member of the John Curley Center for Sports Journalism. He can be reached via email at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) and following him on twitter @RyanAStevens.

Jeff Jezewski's photo

Jeff Jezewski

Senior / Broadcast Journalism

Jeff Jezewski is a senior from Nanticoke, PA, aspiring to work professionally in the sports industry. Jeff is currently a production director for ComRadio while also serving as a play-by-play broadcaster and a producer.

In the summer of 2014, Jeff interned with Westwood One in New York City. Jeff served as a live event production intern in his time with the company. In the fall of 2014, he served as an intern for ESPN 1450 in State College.

In the summer of 2015, Jeff acted as a media relations intern for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders.

You can contact Jeff at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or follow him on twitter @JeffJezewski13

Marley Paul's photo

Marley Paul

Senior / Journalism

Marley is a digital & print journalism major with an emphasis in sports journalism and an English minor. A New York City native, he’s covered news and sports for The Canarsie Courier, a local weekly newspaper. Marley’s start at ComRadio began in Fall 2014, primarily in beat writing and he is now an editor at ComRadio. Additionally, he has reported for the Centre Daily Times and StateCollege.com. Upon graduation, Marley envisions a reputable career in sports journalism. He can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or Twitter: @MPaulPSU.