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US Men’s Senior National Team Practice

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Why the US Men’s Basketball team will NOT win Gold in 2024

Can a LeBron James-led group of superstars lead the US to another redemptive gold in Paris?

Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

The US Men’s Basketball team trots out a group of young and inexperienced players for a major global competition and falls short of golden expectations. LeBron James headlines a group of superstars that led the USA to Olympic gold and re-establish the Americans’ status as kings of the basketball world!

Lather, rinse, repeat, right?

The 2004 Men’s Team’s 12-man roster comprised of rookies (Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James, and Dwyane Wade), shoot-first guards (Allen Iverson, Richard Jefferson, and Stephon Marbury), wings who couldn’t shoot threes (Shawn Marion, Lamar Odom) and bigs who were not accustomed to guarding shooting bigs (Carlos Boozer, Tim Duncan, Emeka Okafor, and Amare Stoudemire). Throw in the fact that they were cobbled together weeks before the Olympics and it’s not hard to see why there was a lack of chemistry!

You don’t need to watch the Redeem Team documentary on Netflix to see how USA Basketball rectified the chemistry issues and reclaimed gold status! (Actually, the documentary is still must-watch material)

So, it should come as no surprise that after a humbling experience at the FIBA World Cup — where the USA failed to medal — LeBron James has presumably come to the rescue and wants one “last dance” for global (basketball) supremacy.

Shades of 2004 were present with the 2023 squad. The latest iteration had rookies (Paolo Banchero and Walker Kessler), sophomores (Anthony Edwards and Austin Reaves), bigs who don’t rebound (Jaren Jackson Jr. and Bobby Portis), Wildcats (Mikal Bridges, Jalen Brunson, and Josh Hart), and more players with little-to-no FIBA experience (Tyrese Haliburton, Cam Johnson, and Cam Johnson).

James is doing what’s expected — injecting hope into a program that’s gone astray (again). The difference this time is that the end result may not be the storybook Netflix ending.

Let’s go over some of the reasons why the USA will not be taking home Gold at the 2024 Summer Olympics.

Age ain’t nothing but a number (except for NBA players over 30)

According to Shams Charania, LeBron has already recruited Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Anthony Davis, Jayson Tatum, and Draymond Green. Shams also cited several other big names expressing interest in joining: Damian Lillard, De’Aaron Fox, Devin Booker, and Kyrie Irving.

If you assume all 10 of those names make the Olympic team, that would mean over half the roster (7!!) would be over the age of 30.

  • James (39)
  • Curry (36)
  • Durant (35)
  • Green (34)
  • Lillard (34)
  • Irving (32)
  • Davis (31)

Even if Booker (27), Fox (26), and Tatum (somehow still 19 26) are each in (or approaching) their primes, good luck taking away minutes from the first-ballot hall-of-famers!

Do you know how many members of the Redeem Team were over 30?

Go ahead and Google it. You remember some of the names: James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Kobe Bryant, Carmelo Anthony, Deron Williams, Chris Paul, Carlos Boozer, Jason Kidd, Michael Redd, Tayshaun Prince, and Dwight Howard.

That’s right......there was only ONE (Kidd was 35)!

Yes, the games are shorter and USA’s depth allows for quicker substitutions, but did you see the quickness of these international guards?

The champs are here!

Say what you will about USA trotting out their ‘B’ or ‘C’ team, but the silver and bronze medallists, Serbia and Canada, were without the services of NBA champs, Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray, respectively.

Germany made the biggest statement by going undefeated during the World Cup. They’re not resting on their laurels and already plan on beefing up for Paris.

France could also add some considerable length with Victor Wembanyama AND Joel Embiid! The status of Embiid’s services is worth monitoring as he was granted French citizenship last year — a massive step towards playing for France’s national team.

Australia already has a squad rich with talent. Imagine if Ben Simmons......hahaha sorry, I couldn’t finish that sentence. The funnier sub-plot would be if Irving re-patriated to his birth country!

Don’t forget there are still 4 available Olympic spots. There will surely be an influx of stars who help bring their countries to Paris. Giannis Antetokounmpo (Greece), Luka Doncic (Slovenia), Domantas Sabonis & Jonas Valanciunas (Lithuania), Buddy Hield, DeAndre Ayton & Eric Gordon (Bahamas), and Kristaps Porzingis (Latvia). That’s without mentioning the super team that I hope is secretly brewing in Cameroon with Pascal Siakam, Christian Koloko, and a suddenly patriotic Joel Embiid!

Biggie smalls

Last season, 10 players averaged at least 10 rebounds. Of those 10, only one was American (assuming Embiid is playing for Cameroon France): Julius Randle. Extend that list to players averaging at least 8 rebounds (an extra 17 players) and you get 11 more Americans.

  • 5 are paint-bound rebounding specialists who will get cooked by international shooting bigs (Jarrett Allen, Nic Claxton, Kevon Looney, Mason Plumlee, and Mitchell Robinson)
  • 2 are too young/inexperienced to make the roster (Jalen Duren and Evan Mobley)
  • 2 were on the latest World Cup roster (Kessler and Portis)

That leaves 2 players: Bam Adebayo and Tatum

Do I need to re-list France’s possible three-headed monster in Rudy Gobert, Embiid (wow his name is coming up a lot), and Wembanyama? The Americans were out-rebounded by 16 in their loss to Lithuania who, again, could be adding Sabonis. Nikola Vucevic had 16 rebounds alone in Montenegro’s loss to the States (who had 31 rebounds total).

Who will actually be available?

Look at the prospective roster list again and think about their NBA teams. Booker/KD (Suns), LeBron/AD (Lakers), Tatum (Celtics), Curry/Green (Warriors), and let’s also add in Jimmy Butler/Adebayo (Heat). Each of those respective teams is looking at deep playoff runs — second round at least. How much will they have left for the Olympics?

Assuming even half of the rumoured names show up would be a mini-miracle, especially considering some of their respective injury histories.

Best-case scenario: all the superstars show up with something left in the tank because a) they bowed out of the playoffs earlier than expected or b) LeBron shares his fountain of youth with the team.

Worse-case scenario: USA Basketball fills the roster NOT by fit, but by who’s available.

If we learned anything from the World Cup (and every international competition for the last two decades), it’s that chemistry and continuity matter.

There were 4 countries that qualified for the quarterfinals of the 2020 Olympics AND the 2023 FIBA World Cup: Germany, Italy, Slovenia, and USA. Of the 12-man rosters, the Germans and Italians each had 7 returning players, while the Slovenians had 9(!). The Americans had zero.

You could interpret that two ways: The U.S. is so talented that roster continuity is not essential for tournament success (they did make the semi-finals in both competitions). Alternatively, returning players might’ve helped push the States onto the podium!

For now, the excitement that came with Shams’ latest article should probably be met with a fair amount of skepticism. A lot has to go right for another Redeem Team. Otherwise, we’re looking at a Pipe Dream Team!

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