Much has been made about Team USA’s depleted roster which has seen some of its top talent opt out of playing this year with the Tokyo Olympics of 2020 coming up. Team USA is beginning its camp this year with 15 guys competing for 12 spots. Here is a rundown of all the guys who will be participating in the Vegas camp:
Kemba Walker (Boston Celtics); Kyle Lowry (Toronto Raptors); Donovan Mitchell (Utah Jazz); Marcus Smart (Boston Celtics); De’Aaron Fox (Sacramento Kings); Khris Middleton (Milwaukee Bucks); Harrison Barnes (Sacramento Kings); Jayson Tatum (Boston Celtics); Jaylen Brown (Boston Celtics); Kyle Kuzma (Los Angeles Lakers); P.J Tucker (Houston Rockets); Myles Turner (Indiana Pacers); Bam Adebayo (Miami Heat); Thaddeus Young (Chicago Bulls); Brook Lopez (Milwaukee Bucks); Mason Plumlee (Denver Nuggets)
This isn’t exactly a list that screams “Dream Team!” But there’s enough talent on the team for the squad to compete for and win the FIBA tournament. The path to success for Coach Greg Popovich will be complimenting the blossoming young talent with steady veterans who understand the value of playing a specific role. With that begin said, here is my projected roster.
Kemba Walker (Boston Celtics)
Walker is one of the three locks I have on this team. He’ll come in as the teams more dynamic playmakers and is coming of a season in which he just averaged 25.6ppg, 5.9apg and was voted an all-star starter and made an All-NBA team. He’ll be tasked with balancing his score-first mentality with creating for others, which will serve as a bit of a test drive into what he’ll be asked to do for his new team.
Kyle Lowry (Toronto Raptors)
Assuming Lowry comes into this completely healthy from his thumb surgery, I expect him to make the team as one of the few guys with main team experience. Lowry should bring a steadying presence for the young guys and can be another coach on the floor in a way no one else on the roster can. It’s a gift for Team USA that heading into a contract year and off an NBA championship Lowry is still willing to play for them and they’d be wise to waste no time getting him on the team.
Donovan Mitchell (Utah Jazz)
The third-year combo guard will have a chance to get on the big stage for the national audience to see. For all his critics to point to his inefficiency and largely volume-based scoring, there’s no denying that Mitchell is one of the premiere talents in the league who has shown the ability to take over games in a way few players of his age have shown.
Marcus Smart (Boston Celtics)
Smart makes it for some of the same reasons Kyle Lowry will. He’s an elite playmaker, he’ll defend across the board, and he can be the extension of the coach on the floor whenever he gets in. Smart’s versatility will also allow the team to do interesting things like have two other guards on the court with him because of his ability to defend bigger wings with a lot of success. He isn’t the type of dynamic threat that usually appears on these rosters, but he’s the type of glue piece that can hold a young, inexperienced team together.
De’Aaron Fox (Sacramento Kings)
Fox was a late addition to the main Team USA roster and I have a feeling it’s because they plan on making him part of the 12-man roster. The third-year point guard has been turning heads at the camp with Walker citing his improved shooting and Stein making the ultimate proclamation after day 3 of camp:
Fox is one of the more exciting players invited to camp with a dizzying array of speed and playmaking. He’ll make the early mornings worth it.
Khris Middleton (Milwaukee Bucks)
Middleton comes in as the only wing player with an all-star nod on his resume and has shown how dangerous he can be as an off-ball scorer in Milwaukee. Middleton will be one of the primary options for Team USA as a proven reliable scorer in the league and his defensive versatility is why he’s another one of my locks to make the team.
Jayson Tatum (Boston Celtics)
Tatum will come in as another one of the Celtics player and probably the most likely to make the roster of the four outside of Kemba Walker. Tatum is a 3-level scorer with ability to defend across the board. He’ll be one of the few guys on the roster that can get his own shot on a consistent basis, especially at this level.
Jaylen Brown (Boston Celtics)
After getting one of the latter invites I think Brown will end up making the roster for two reasons: versatility and off-ball offense. At a well-built 6’5, Brown has shown an ability to defend 1-4 and can be tasked with defending point guards or stretch bigs on a possession-by-possession basis. Offensively, Brown can shoot from three, attack close outs, and is dangerous as an off-ball cutter. He’s the play-finisher to compliment all the playmaking that will exist on the roster.
P.J Tucker (Houston Rockets)
Tucker’s fit on the roster is an easy and important one. He’s a low-maintenance veteran leader who can defend across the board and shoot three’s. He’ll open up some lineup flexibility with his ability to shift to the five for some stretches.
Myles Turner (Indiana Pacers)
Turner is my last lock to make the roster. He’ll be one of the best rim deterrents in the tournament and his pick and pop ability along with his rim rolling will allow him to put immense pressure on defenses. His size will also give him the ability to own the boards on both sides of the court which is something he’s slowly been working at doing at the pro level.
Bam Adebayo (Miami Heat)
Bam is a personal favorite mine. I’m a big fan of bigs with passing ability and Bam has potential to be an elite DHO and PnR finisher at this level. He, along with Tucker, will get a lions share of the small-ball 5 minutes and will further allow Pop some more lineup flexibility. For Heat fans, I’m sure they’ll be interested to see how Bam’s shot and ball-handling have come along over the summer. Though I’m not sure he’ll get a ton of those opportunities, they’ll be plenty of games with the game well in hand where players will be able to break out some of the new skills they’ve been working on over the summer.
Mason Plumlee (Denver Nuggets)
I’m sure I’ll have the most pushback with this one but let me lay out my argument for why I have Plumlee on this team. For one, Plumlee is one of the more underrated passing bigs (in large part because he plays behind the best passing big of all-time), amongst bigs who played at least 15 mins last year he was in the top 10 in Ast%, AST/TO ratio, and Assist ratio. He has the ability to be an offensive hub for a unit and brings hard-nosed defense and rebounding for times when the team may need to grind out a victory. He doesn’t have the shooting touch or post-skills of a Brook Lopez, but he is the type of low-maintenance player who brings a complimentary skill set to the plethora of perimeter-oriented players on the roster.