USA Basketball’s supremacy on the world stage is under threat. While the Americans have claimed gold in men’s basketball during the last four Olympic runs since a disastrous bronze finish in 2004, another dubious effort at the FIBA World Cup this summer highlighted just how tenuous the United States’ gasp on the top podium spot really is.
The U.S. sent a team full of quality NBA players to the World Cup this year, and still finished in fourth place with a 5-3 record. The 2019 team at the World Cup was even worse, finishing in seventh place. The World Cup typically gets the “B-team” from the U.S. filled mostly with young players, but there’s still an easy case to make that Team USA had the most talented roster in the field top-to-bottom in its last two tries and still couldn’t medal.
The problems with the program run deeper than just top-line talent. FIBA play has different rules with no three-in-the-key, a smaller court, and a shorter three-point line. While slower-footed big men struggle to survive in today’s NBA, they often thrive in FIBA with less space to cover and the ability to plant themselves in the paint.
Following USA Basketball’s recent disappointment in the World Cup, there was a report that LeBron James is interested in joining the 2024 team at the Paris Olympics for one last ride with the program. James is reportedly recruiting the top stars, including Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Anthony Davis, and more. The biggest question facing the Americans in 2024 is a recruitment battle with France over Joel Embiid, the reigning MVP who could pick either country to compete for as a native of Cameroon.
Even if USA Basketball does put together its top roster for the 2024 Olympics, it’s possible it won’t have the best player on the floor deep into the tournament. Nikola Jokic could play for Serbia, Giannis Antetokounmpo could play for Greece, Luka Doncic could play for Slovenia, and Embiid may end up choosing France.
With the Paris Olympics set to start on July 26, 2024, we tried to determine the best possible roster USA Basketball could put together. Here’s our initial 12-man group, with some replacements if not everyone chooses to play.
USA Basketball’s ‘Dream Team’ roster for 2024 Paris Olympics
G Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors: For my money, Curry is the top American player in the game right now entering the 2023-2024 season. He’d obviously give Team USA the greatest shooter of all-time, and someone whose constant movement off the ball would open up space for everyone else.
F Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics: Tatum is arguably the top American player who will still be in their 20s during the Paris Olympics. He was a key member of the gold medal team in Tokyo in 2021. He’d give Team USA a big wing who can space the floor as a shooter, defend multiple positions, and offer fantastic one-on-one scoring ability.
F Kevin Durant, Phoenix Suns: Durant was the MVP for the Americans during the Tokyo Olympics. He’s a supersized wing scorer who can play on-or-off the ball with a sweet shooting stroke and deep range. He’s also a long defender who can still compete on that end of the court in his golden years.
F LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers: If LeBron is playing for Team USA in the Olympics, he’s starting. James will be 39 years old when the Olympics begin, but he can still be a bulldozer driving to the lane, a high-IQ defender, and a tremendous passer.
C Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers: Getting Embiid is the biggest key for Team USA. He would thrive in FIBA play as a massive center who could put a lid on the rim defensively and score in bunches in the mid-range area.
G Devin Booker, Phoenix Suns: Ultra talented scorer who was a big part of the gold medal team in Tokyo and keeps getting better.
G/F Jimmy Butler, Miami Heat: Butler is the type of player you want to go into battle with. He’s a lockdown defender, strong driver, and just a complete all-around player. He won a gold with Team USA in 2016 in Brazil.
C/F Anthony Davis, Los Angeles Lakers: He might not exactly be a FIBA center, but there’s no doubt Davis is the top American big if they can’t land Embiid. AD’s length and shot-blocking would be huge defensively. He last played for Team USA in 2012.
C Bam Adebayo, Miami Heat: Getting Adebayo on board again is also key after he anchored the American defense in Tokyo. He’s one of the top defensive bigs in the world with an elite combination of strength and mobility, and he’d also bring playmaking offensively.
F Mikal Bridges, Brooklyn Nets: Bridges felt like the best player on the 2023 World Cup team. He’s a stud perimeter defender with the length to smoother anyone, and he’s a great floor spacer with his shooting ability.
G Tyrese Haliburton, Indiana Pacers: Team USA needs a backup point guard. I’m giving Haliburton that spot over Damian Lillard, Jalen Brunson, and others because he has the best mix of size, shooting, and playmaking. Team USA was a joy to watch with Haliburton leading the break in the open floor. I’m just not sure if age-34 Lillard will give the team enough defensively.
F Zion Williamson, New Orleans Pelicans: Here’s my wildcard pick. Williamson hasn’t played much basketball recently, but if he can stay healthy this season (yes, that’s a big if), he’d give Team USA a super powerful interior scorer and transition threat that would do well in FIBA.
Obviously, this would be an extremely old group compared to most of the recent USA Basketball rosters at the Olympics. James would be 39 years old, Curry would be 36, Durant would be 35, and Butler would be on the brink of turning 35. Curry has never played in the Olympics before — he did win gold twice with USA Basketball at the World Championships before it was renamed the World Cup. Durant could be ready to call it quits on his international career. Davis hasn’t played in the Olympics in a decade. We already talked about Embiid’s recruitment.
It seems very unlikely that Team USA will actually land all of these players. So, what would their backup options look like?
USA Basketball backup options for 2024 Paris Olympics
- Anthony Edwards: It’s hard to imagine Ant not being on the team. He was the primary option in the 2023 World Cup, and is just scratching the surface of his massive potential.
- Trae Young: Young would add the type of playmaking Team USA desperately needs, but his lack of size defensively and lack of off-ball movement offensively could make him hard to build around.
- Darius Garland: Garland is another small guard who is a brilliant playmaker and shooter. He’d be really good as a bench guard if the U.S. can can surround him with length defensively.
- De’Aaron Fox: Fox has already been mentioned as a potential candidate for the team. He’s coming off a sensational year for the Kings, but I think I’d prefer a guard with deeper shooting range and better facilitating skills running backup point.
- LaMelo Ball: A big guard at 6’8 who can be a dazzling passer and impactful defensive playmaker. There are lingering concerns about Ball after an underwhelming second season in the NBA, but still he’s one of the best young American guards alive.
- Desmond Bane: The Grizzlies’ guard is an awesome movement shooter, which would help open up driving lanes for everyone else.
- Cade Cunningham: Bigger guard who can compete defensively and should be able to shoot better than he’s shown thus far in his brief NBA career. Year 3 is a big one for Cade.
- Jaylen Brown: Power wing who would offer slashing and point of attack defense.
- Draymond Green: It’s Draymond. If he wants to play, Steve Kerr won’t keep him off this team.
- Paul George: PG hasn’t played for Team USA since 2016, but he’d be a fitting addition for a group trying to get the band back together.
- Aaron Gordon: A big, athletic forward who could add rebounding, supplemental rim protection, and above the rim finishing.
- Paolo Banchero: Banchero looked great at the World Cup while mostly being used as a small ball five. His size (6’10, 250 pounds) and skill level would be a nice addition to the team.
- Alex Caruso: Maniacal defender and friend of LeBron James. If there are this many old guys on Team USA, they are going to need someone to defend around them.
- Evan Mobley: Might not be a “FIBA center,” but his talent can’t be overlooked. Mobley is an incredible defensive presence all over the floor, and brings connective traits offensively. He could be a future face of this program, so might as well start grooming him now.
- Chet Holmgren: Holmgren projects as an intimidating shot blocker and power finisher inside. He’ll only be 22 years old for the Paris Olympics, but he makes sense for this roster as a potential stretch five if he can stay healthy this year and show why he was the No. 2 pick in the 2022 draft.
- Kevon Looney: Looney is a monster rebounder and smart defender. He seems like exactly the type of player you need in the front court for FIBA.
- Mitchell Robinson: Long and athletic center who could provide paint protection inside.