The United States Olympic basketball team was announced Saturday, a bit more than six weeks after NBA commissioner David Stern said perhaps it was time to revisit the notion of NBA players competing in the event.
This is the 20th anniversary of the United States using pro basketball players in the Olympics. The "Dream Team" came about after the U.S. had to settle for the bronze in the '88 Olympics using college players (the majority of the team had been taken in the '88 NBA draft, but because they had yet to play a pro game, they were eligible for the Olympics).
[ Related: No-lympians: NBA pros who withdrew from the Olympics ]
The "Dream Team" idea has taken some of the mystery out of the Olympics basketball competition; the United States won gold in 1992, 1996, 2000 and 2008, though the Americans only won bronze in 2004. That was one of just four times the U.S. has not won gold since basketball became an Olympic sport in 1936; the U.S. famously finished second, to the Soviet Union, in 1972, and did not compete in the 1980 Olympics because of a boycott.
Stern said in late May there might need to be an age limit (23 and under) placed on U.S. competitors in basketball. That's likely what is going to happen, and since sports fans like the “what if?” game: What if no pros were allowed in these Olympics? What would the U.S. team look like?
Here is one opinion.
C Anthony Davis, Kentucky
Buzz: He is on the current U.S. team, as an alternate. He would be the focal point of the U.S. defensive effort, and given some of the quirky rules in international basketball (including being able to take the ball off the rim) Davis' defensive presence would be even bigger than usual.
F Thomas Robinson, Kansas
Buzz: An athletic big man who is ferocious on the boards, he would pair well with Davis. Robinson is an effective low-post scorer and also has the ability to nail the occasional 15-footer. His quickness would be an asset against opposing big men who like to step outside and shoot.
F Harrison Barnes, North Carolina
Buzz: His perimeter shooting would make him an important part of the team. Did he live up to his high school hype at North Carolina? No. But he is a talented offensive player who also is able to put the ball on the floor and is a decent rebounder. He also could see some minutes at guard if the U.S. team wanted to go bigger.
G Isaiah Canaan, Murray State
Buzz: He is super-quick, and his pesky defense would bother opposing guards. Canaan is also a good passer with 3-point range. He plays bigger than his listed height of 6 feet, and he isn't afraid to mix it up in the lane.
G Kendall Marshall, North Carolina
Buzz: A team with this many scorers needs a pass-first point man, and Marshall is that guy. This team is filled with great athletes who can run all day, and Marshall thrives as the orchestrator of an up-tempo attack.
F Draymond Green, Michigan State
Buzz: His solid all-around game would make him a valuable member of the squad. His passing ability, especially, would be a useful trait. He's a tough-minded guy who doesn't mind doing a lot of the dirty work, and it would be interesting to see him working with a talented center (i.e., Davis).
F Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Kentucky
Buzz: He's another tough-minded guy who doesn't mind getting his hands dirty. His athletic ability would prove bothersome to numerous opposing forwards, and he runs the floor as well as most guards. He also brings a "get-it-done" attitude.
F Doug McDermott, Creighton
Buzz: He's another solid outside shooter who could stretch zones. In addition, he has a solid mid-range game and also knows how to score in the paint. He's a tough rebounder, and while he isn't an elite athlete, he has a high basketball IQ and uses that to his advantage on defense. He's another guy who could play a few minutes at guard if the U.S. team wanted to go big.
F Jared Sullinger, Ohio State
Buzz: Forget the talk about the bad back; the guy can score in the low post. He is strong and bulky, and uses both traits to carve out space in the lane. That comes into play with his rebounding as well, especially on the offensive end. He could be exploited by opposing big men who can step outside and hit 15-footers with regularity, but Sullinger could do some exploiting of his own with his strength.
G Bradley Beal, Florida
Buzz: Every good team needs a guard who can rebound, and Beal hits the boards with a, well, zeal. He led Florida in rebounding and is also an effective offensive player. He can score from beyond the arc, and he also can nail the 15-footer and finish at the rim. He can be physical on defense, too, which would bother some opposing backcourt men.
G John Jenkins, Vanderbilt
Buzz: You need a zone-buster, and Jenkins would be that guy. He has trouble creating his own shot, but the guy is deadly off screens and has range to 25 feet. He’s also lights-out at the line. Pair him with a big man who can pass, such as Green, and he could do some heavy damage.
G Damian Lillard, Weber State
Buzz: He's a combo guard, of sorts, in that he's a super-quick point man who also is a legitimate scorer. His ability to nail the 3-pointer on one possession, then blow by a defender and get into the lane on the next possession, would make him a valuable member of the team. His quickness also makes him a good on-ball defender.
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