This July, the United States, along with all other qualifying teams, will send their best basketball players to London for the 2012 Summer Olympic Games. With LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Kevin Durant, and Kobe Bryant, among other all-stars making the trip, it seems like a no-brainer that the U.S. is the absolute favorite to win gold. Since the event was introduced in 1936, the U.S. has taken home 13 gold medals, 1 silver, and 2 bronzes.
However, what if Olympic basketball became a 23-and-under event, making most of the current team ineligible?
Recently, it was reported that NBA commissioner David Stern has pushed for this age limit in order to revitalize a different international basketball contest: the FIBA Basketball World Cup. Rather than the Olympics, Stern envisions basketball’s biggest names playing at the recharged “World Cup of Basketball” in the hopes that the NBA could share in the increased revenues generated by FIBA.
From the name, it is natural to compare Stern’s concept to the FIFA World Cup, always one of the most anticipated sporting affairs. From ticket sales, the contest is extremely profitable, a quality that Stern, along with NBA owners, hopes to achieve in his version of the “World Cup.”
Currently, the FIBA World Cup is completely in the shadow of Olympic basketball as exemplified by the Beijing Olympics and 2010 FIBA World Championships. In Beijing, the “Redeem Team,” consisting of James, Wade, and Bryant along with Carlos Boozer, Jason Kidd, Deron Williams, Michael Redd, Dwight Howard, Chris Bosh, Chris Paul, Tayshaun Prince and Carmelo Anthony, won the gold medal easily. However, these 12 superstars, the best the U.S. had to offer, all opted out of the World Championships for a variety of reasons ranging from free agency to personal reasons. Rather, younger players, namely Durant and Russell Westbrook, led the U.S. to their fourth FIBA gold since the contest began.
But, if Stern’s vision becomes reality, there would be a role reversal, as the Olympics would then showcase the world’s best up-and-coming, young basketball players.
At this point, we are unable to predict what will happen with respect to this age threshold. But, which 12 players would the U.S. send to London if the team were 23-and-under? Here’s what the team would look like:
Starting Lineup (w/ 2011-2012 statistics):
Point Guard Derrick Rose: (discounting torn ACL): 21.8 ppg, 7.9 apg, 3.4 rpg Guard Russell Westbrook: 23.6 ppg, 5.5 apg, 4.6 rpg Forward Kevin Durant: 28.0 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 3.5 apg Forward Blake Griffin: 20.7 ppg, 10.9 rpg Forward/Center Kevin Love: 26.0 ppg, 13.3 rpg
Key Bench Players (w/ 2011-2012 statistics):
Shooting Guard Eric Gordon: 20.6 ppg, 3.4 apg, 2.8 rpg Shooting Guard James Harden: 16.8 ppg, 3.7 apg, 4.1 rpg Forward Anthony Davis: N/A Point Guard Kyrie Irving: 18.5 ppg, 5.4 apg Center DeMarcus Cousins: 18.1 ppg, 11.0 rpg Center Greg Monroe: 15.4 ppg, 9.7 rpg Power Forward Kenneth Faried: 10.2 ppg, 7.7 rpg
*players in italics on current 18-man preliminary 2012 Olympic Men’s Basketball roster