[USA Basketball]: Never Too Early Team Selection Brainstorm

USA Basketball gold medal winning squad from the 2021 Tokyo Olympics

Non-Patented, Non-Analytical Selection Strategy:

  1. Review roster for 2021 Olympic squad to refresh memory
  2. Create list of top international opponents to keep in mind when constructing roster
  3. List and analyze player pool by position
  4. Narrow down list based on who is likely to participate, who is recently/chronically injured, current contract status, motivation to play (again or for the first time after being snubbed previously)
  5. Finalize team invitation list (including 2nd team/practice squad)

2021 Team USA Roster:

Bam Adebayo
Kevin Love*
JaVale McGee**
Kevin Durant
Jerami Grant
Draymond Green
Keldon Johnson**
Khris Middleton
Jayson Tatum
Bradley Beal*
Devin Booker
Zach LaVine
Damian Lillard
Jrue Holiday

* = Bradley Beal and Kevin Love did not participate in the Tokyo Olympics
** = 
Keldon Johnson and JaVale McGee replaced Beal and Love

2021 Select Team Roster:

Saddiq Bey 
Miles Bridges
Anthony Edwards 
Tyrese Haliburton
Tyler Herro 
Keldon Johnson 
Josh Magette 
Dakota Mathias 
Immanuel Quickley 
Naz Reid 
Cam Reynolds 
Isaiah Stewart
Obi Toppin
P.J. Washington
Patrick Williams 
John Jenkins
Darius Garland

Funny how just a short amount of time changes perception a lot. In 2023, Zach LaVine, Draymond Green and Jerami Grant would probably not be top candidates to be selected again. And JaVale McGee and Keldon Johnson would not be candidates at all for the roster. Looking at the Select Team roster, only Edwards, Haliburton, and maybe Quickley would be considered this time around. With Grant Hill and Steve Kerr taking over for Jerry Colangelo and Coach K, it’s time for a roster overhaul, especially with so much young talent in the league.

Eligibility Requirements for Select Team:

  • Combination of size, strength, athleticism, shooting, and positional versatility
  • Clutch genes for crunch time heroics (if needed)
  • High basketball IQ to be able to thrive with other players in Steve Kerr’s system
  • Two-way players only (if possible)
  • Healthy mix of battled-tested veterans + up-and-coming stars
  • NBA championship AND Olympic gold experience

International opponents to keep in mind when constructing Team USA roster:

Luka Doncic
Joel Embiid (France or US or Cameroon?)
Franz Wagner
Giannis Antetekounmpo
Josh Giddey/Patty Mills
Rudy Gobert/Victor Wembanyama!
Niokola Jokic
Lauri Markkanen
Rosters for Spain and Argentina (as always)
Domantis Sabonis
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander/Benn Mathurin/RJ Barrett – Team Canada on the rise!

Player Pool/Invite possibilities:

Jarrett Allen – maybe
Karl Anthony Towns – plays for Dominican Republic
Bam Adebayo – yes
Mitchell Robinson – no
Robert Williams – no
Joel Embiid – yes
DeAndre Ayton – maybe
Jaren Jackson Jr. – yes
Myles Turner – yes
Nic Claxton – no
Brook Lopez -yes
Onyeka Okongwu – not yet
Wendell Carter – maybe

Jayson Tatum -yes
John Collins – no
De’Andre Hunter – no
Evan Mobley – yes
Julius Randle – no
Mikal Bridges – yes
Paul George -maybe
Kyle Kuzma – maybe
Keldon Johnson – no
Jimmy butler – yes
Jerami Grant – maybe
Paulo Banchero – will play for Italy
Aaron Gordon – no
Jalen Williams – maybe
Brandon Ingram – yes
Jarred Vanderbilt – intriguing
Cam Johnson – no
Dorian Finney-Smith – no
Jeremy Sochan – will play for Poland
Jabari Smith – not yet
Trey Murphy – not yet
Keegan Murray – not yet

Anthony Edwards – yes
Devin Vassell – intriguing
Cade Cunningham – yes
Jordan Poole – no
Steph Curry – yes
Jaylen Brown – maybe
James Harden – maybe
Donovan Mitchell – yes
Jalen Brunson – yes
Jrue Holiday – yes
Tyrese Maxey – no
LaMelo Ball – yes
Bradley Beal – maybe
Tyler Herro – no
Ja Morant – maybe
Desmond Bane – yes
De’Aaron Fox – yes
Trae Young – maybe
Scottie Barnes – maybe
Zach Lavine – maybe
Scoot Henderson – not yet
DeMar DeRozan – yes
Darius Garland – yes
Devin Booker – yes
Tyrese Haliburton – yes
Dejounte Murray – maybe
Josh Hart – no
Jaden Ivey – not yet
Damian Lillard – yes

Recently (or chronically) injured:

Anthony Davis
Brandon Ingram
Cade Cunningham
Chris Paul
Kawhi Leonard
Kevin Durant
Khris Middleton
Klay Thompson
Jimmy Butler
Lebron James
Paul George
Robert Williams
Zion Williamson

Probably won’t participate, and why?

Anthony Davis – super injury prone, on ice for next season
Zion Williamson – super injury prone, on ice for TNT broadcast team
Robert Williams – super injury prone, on ice for next season
Paul George – vet after deep playoff run/injury prone
Kawhi Leonard – vet after deep playoff run/injury prone
Cade Cunningham – recovering after missing most of the season + Pistons have ‘plans’ for next season
Lebron James – injured foot needs to heal, doing billionaire things, visiting colleges with Bronny
Chris Paul – vet after deep playoff run, always working on healing up
DeMar DeRozan – played a ton of minutes just to make play-in
Zach LaVine – played a ton of minutes just to make play-in
Draymond Green – played a ton of minutes just to survive in the West
Kevin Durant – wild card/not likely to play, vet after deep playoff run (they hope!)
Khris Middleton – vet after deep playoff run/healing from injuries
Klay Thompson – vet after deep playoff run
James Harden – vet after deep playoff run
DeAndre Ayton – would need to apply for US citizenship to be eligible
Kyrie Irving – free agent

Probably won’t participate, buuuut maybe they would?!’ wild cards:

Damian Lillardlikely to play — after being shut down early for Blazers. Playing with Steph in the backcourt maybe something he can’t pass up.

Jimmy Butlerlikely to play — rarely turns down an opportunity to battle (or travel) and will be working out like a MF’er anyway, so why not go to Paris.

Kevin Durantnot likely to play — recovering from injuries during the season + what he hopes will be a long playoff run. On the other hand, he was injured for 30+ games this season which resulted in less wear and tear. Plus, just like Carmelo in past years, he loves playing for Team USA.

Joel Embiidnot likely to play — injury prone + deep playoff run + may play for France or Cameroon. No doubt the USA would happily take him if he’s willing to go to play for them. Makes little sense to play for France unless he wants to play 4 with Gobert a Center and Wemby at the 3.

Ja Morantnot likely to play — off court issues + Memphis can’t risk him getting injured. On the other hand, maybe his agent/PR team/Nike would urge him to do it in order to repair his reputation.

Jrue Holidaynot likely to play — vet after deep playoff run + played a lot of minutes this season to keep Bucks as one of the top teams in the league amidst all the continued Middleton instability.

Not a great fit for int’l play:

Julius Randle – average defense + a bit of a ball stopper

Trae Young – Shooting and shot creation, but no D

Tyler Herro – Streaky shooting and average D

Jordan Poole – Shooting and shot creation, but no D

Nic Claxton – too slim to battle with international bigs

James Harden – experienced, physical guard, but big minus on defense


Bradley Beal – he was invited in 2021 but went into safety protocols right before the team left for Japan forcing him to miss the entire Olympics. Unfortunately, many other guards have passed him in the pecking order since then, due to him missing time with various injuries + a chronically underachieving Wizards organization.

Team USA Invites:


Bam Adebayo – combines all-world defense with excellent shooting, passing, and reliable free throw shooting. He’ll anchor the D and get out and run on offense, beating lumbering bigs up the court all day long.

Brook Lopez – with his impressive play this season for the Bucks, it’s perfect timing for him to be on the roster. He’ll bring toughness, veteran leadership and an inside-outside, two way presence that will be valuable.

Bigs honorable mention: Jaren Jackson Jr., Jarrett Allen, Myles Turner


Jayson Tatum – no-brainer selection for his elite shot creation and defense. Tatum is an incredibly versatile and, many times, dominant two-way player that will be tough for any country to try and shut down.

Brandon Ingram – despite running into injury issues in recent years, but when healthy, Ingram has proven he can carry a team offensively, creating shots, setting up teammates, and using his length to torture the other team on D.

Evan Mobley – some may say it’s a bit too early for Mobley to be included, but his rebounding, elite defense and ability to blend in with various lineups as a a supportive piece will be incredibly helpful. He’ll provide rim protection and clog up passing lanes on D, and then beat his man down court on the break for easy baskets.

Jimmy Butler – toughness, leadership, work ethic, and culture-reinforcing awesomeness, along with an uncanny ability to get to the line, Jimmy can do anything the teams needs at a variety of positions.

Mikal Bridges – despite being less of an elite scorer than a Donovan Mitchell or Jaylen Brown, Bridges is Mr. Reliable in terms of availability, has the size, speed, length and athleticism to impact the game on both ends, and has shown to be a more versatile scorer as a Brooklyn Net. He’ll be important connective tissue for the team which, as we know, is always important to have.

Forwards honorable mention: Cade Cunningham, Paul George, Kyle Kuzma, Scottie Barnes, and Jalen Williams


Steph Curry – if Steph wants to play, Steph will play! This legendary shooter will strike fear in any opposing team and his gravity will open everything up for his teammates. He’ll also help to bridge the communication/connection between the new roster and Steve Kerr which will fast track the team chemistry.

Anthony Edwards – still needs to mature more, but has shown a lot this year leading the Wolves to a respectable record despite not having KAT in the lineup. His combo of size, speed, and shot-making will be unstoppable in international play. And without needing to carry the offensive load, he can exert more energy on defense where he has shown to be formidable.

De’Aaron Fox – proved a lot this season co-leading the Kings to the playoffs for the first time in 17 years. He improved his 3-point shooting and lost bulk from last season which has helped him reclaim his elite speed. His mojo will be at an all-time high after the global support for the Kings playoff run which will pair nicely with his emergence as one of the most clutch players in the game.

Devin Booker – another no-brainer pick at guard. Booker would have been a top-5 MVP candidate this season if it wasn’t for injury issues. Lights out shooting, toughness, experience, and his clutch gene will all prove invaluable.

Damian Lillard – we always wanted to see a Lillard/Steph backcourt in a high stakes series, stretching defenses to distances that would seem unthinkable if not for their all-world range. Lillard was incredible this season and will be a strong veteran leader and clutch scorer that will help unite everyone.

Guards honorable mention: LaMelo Ball, Darius Garland, Jalen Brunson, Jaylen Brown, Donovan Mitchell, Tyrese Haliburton

Alternate Invites and/or Select Team Players:

Goals of inviting:

  • To get some of these guys into camp and feel like part of the Team USA mission
  • To have elite guys ready for call-up if someone bails or gets injured
  • To develop young stars who will be asked to step in for future Olympics

Myles Turner
Jaren Jackson Jr.

Kyle Kuzma
Scottie Barnes
Jalen Williams
Jaylen Brown

Cade Cunningham
Donovan Mitchell
Tyrese Haliburton
Desmond Bane

Oh, and IF Embiid has any interest in playing for Team USA, then he is more than welcome to come win a gold medal with us!

Key Dates/Links:

2023 FIBA World Cup – Phillipines/Japan/Indonesia – August 25 – September 10

2024 Summer Olympics – Paris, France – July 26, 2024 – August 11

5/30 Update from Joe Vardon/The AthleticTeam USA releases preseason schedule ahead of 2023 FIBA World Cup:

USA Basketball will begin its 2023 preseason schedule in Las Vegas against Puerto Rico, the Americans announced this morning. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Team USA’s will play an exhibition against the Puerto Rico at 10 p.m. ET on August 7, at T-Mobile Arena, to conclude training camp for the FIBA World Cup.
  • The USA will then travel to Spain and the United Arab Emirates before arriving at the Cup in the Philippines.
  • Team USA will face Luka Doncic and Slovenia in Spain, as well as the No. 1-ranked Spain team.

[Lost Fundamentals]: Steve Kerr on Boxing Out and Attention to Detail

(photo courtesy of BusinessInsider.com)

This is the modern NBA; guys don’t box out. It’s just the way it is. Every night on League Pass, I see the same thing. Players let guys come in from the weak side, and they think, ‘I’ll just get the rebound.’ It’s a disease that’s rampant in the NBA. The problem is, if you’re a real small team like us, then it’s going to hurt you more than it will hurt other teams.

Most of these guys didn’t have a high school and college coach yelling at them for a combined eight straight years. It’s a different world today. And players grow up in a different way in terms of their basketball background. The detail is often the thing that is lacking.

Players have never had more skill than they have today in my mind. I’m amazed by the skill level. But the little things, getting back in transition — every night on TV, I see teams let a guy run past them in transition for a layup. We do it; every team does it. If you did that 25 years ago, your coach would take you out and he wouldn’t play you again. Now everybody does it, and as a coach, you can’t take everybody out. So there are certain parts of the game that are just different; players aren’t as locked in on those things. I think just because it’s a different time.

It’s not even like a college box out or a high school box out. In the NBA, it’s more about locating the guy and just putting your hand or your forearm in his chest, letting somebody else go chase the ball. So we were staring up at butterflies, up in the air just looking up and guys were coming right by us. That doesn’t matter what kind of possession it is, what kind of shot it is, it’s just the awareness to go hit somebody.

Reference: ESPN [Nick Friedell]


Red Auerbach and Bill Russell on the fundamentals boxing out

Bobby Knight coaches clinic – drilling players on boxing out

Jr. NBA – drills for youth basketball on boxing out