2021 USA Basketball

The national anthem played over the loudspeakers as the United States stood atop the podium, wearing their Gold Medals. It was the fourth consecutive Olympic Gold Medal, and seventh Gold Medal since we started using professional basketball players in 1992. Every four years, the USA Basketball plays the role of favorite in the men’s basketball event, and 2021 was no different. It didn’t happen without bumps in the road, and there was definitely reason for skepticism. Losing exhibition games (yes, games plural) is one thing, but losing against France in the qualifying rounds was concerning to say the least.

I had taken the position on the Infinity Sports Podcast several times, that Team USA would not get the Gold this year, and there were two reasons. First, was the poorly constructed team. Players left off that should have been there, and role players on the roster who shouldn’t have been there. Secondly, is the poor coaching by Greg Popovich, and his staff, including Warriors coach Steve Kerr. I was wrong, and glad to be, but that doesn’t change the fact that we need to right the ship, and dominate in 2024.

Who Will Not Be On the Team in 2024

There’s not denying that we will have a new team altogether in 2024, and here is a list of folks who will not be making the trip to Paris.

Greg Popovich and Steve Kerr: The coaching staff did a poor job figuring out a way to get the most talented team in the games to win. I would even go as far as to say they never figured it out, but rather, Kevin Durant figured it out for them.

LeBron James, Steph Curry, Chris Paul: Each team needs veteran leadership, but there is a difference between veteran leadership and old men with walkers. These three players will slow down a team that needs youth and energy.

Klay Thompson, Anthony Davis: Youth is on the side of these players, and if fully healthy, would be enormous assets to the team. However, they are never healthy, and even if they are for the games, their respective teams will protest them risking an injury in the Olympics.

Kevin Durant, Draymond Green, Devon Booker, Jimmy Butler: Some guys just flat out won’t want to play. It could be that they already have three Gold Medals, and the idea of winning one has lost its luster, and for some, it never had any luster to begin with. At least, not as much as having the summer off.

2024 USA Basketball Team

2024 Team USA Basketball Coaches

Team USA Coaching Staff

Greg Popovich has become a coach who just manages personalities. He’s forgotten how to actually coach a team to win (as evidenced by his record without Tim Duncan). All Steve Kerr has ever been is a personality manager, and 2024 needs a team of guys who can actually coach the game of basketball.

Erik Spoelstra: My first choice would actually be Brad Stevens. A player’s coach who also happens to be an X’s and O’s savant. He’s not really interested in coaching anymore, however, and his summer is now busy with signing and trading for a roster. So the next best guy on my list is Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra.

Like Stevens, and like Popovich in the early days, Erik Spoelstra is a brilliant game planner and knows how to manage the big personalities of NBA superstars. He will be what this team needs to go undefeated in the 2024 Games.

Tom Thibodeau: Every head coach needs an offensive and defensive coordinator. Since defense wins championships, or in this case, medals, New York Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau is the perfect first assistant for Spoelstra. He is the hard-nosed, push the players til they puke, kind of guy that Coach Spoelstra needs riding shotgun. Every good cop needs a bad cop to get the job done.

Mike D’Antoni: For every ying there is a yang, and for every defensive mastermind, there is an offensive genius. Team USA needs to not only shut down inferior offenses around the world, but they also need to run and gun, to engineer those blowouts. Nobody lights a scoreboard up quicker and more frequently than the Brooklyn assistant coach.

2024 Team USA Roster

Damian Lillard USA

Damian Lillard, Guard

The first of two holdovers from the 2021 Gold Medal team, Lillard provides much-needed veteran leadership. He has won the Gold before, and he will be a senior player on the squad, without being a senior citizen.

There is no denying that Lillard, the current face of the Portland Trailblazers (for now) is a legitimate superstar. He has a case to be a top-five player in the league, and his skill set is undeniable.

Not only is he a playmaker out of the point guard spot, but can play off the ball and score with ease in a myriad of ways. The team will need three-point shooting, and Lillard has range for days. This is like adding a younger Steph Curry to the team.

Jayson Tatum USA

Jayson Tatum, Wing

The other player from the 2021 team that makes it three years later is Boston Celtics superstar Jayson Tatum. He has years of experience playing playoff basketball and knows what it takes to win at the international level.

By 2024, he too will be mentioned in that top five category. We saw a huge leap in his game during the 2020-21 NBA season. Not only did he add extra length by growing two inches (now stands 6’11”), but his three-point shot has become more constant, and more dangerous off the dribble.

He does tend to play a little bit of hero ball at times, but that will be a good thing in 2024 when the team needs a hero, and Durant isn’t there.

Donovan Mitchell USA

Donovan Mitchell, Wing

By the time 2024 rolls around, Donovan Mitchell could be the best player in the NBA. He is a premier scorer and completely unstoppable on the offensive end of the floor. He attacks and finishes with authority, and his shooting gets better season after season.

Mitchell is also an elite perimeter defender. He can lockdown positions one through three, and rebounds well. This is all because he plays with a fire and intensity reminiscent of Kobe or AI. If you are going to win a Gold Medal, you need that type of player on the floor.

You need a player who is not afraid to chew out teammates and pump everyone up when they need it the most. Though Lillard and Tatum have more experience, it’s Mitchell who will be the leader of this team.

Karl Anthony Towns USA

Karl Anthony-Towns, F/C

Team USA needs size, and we saw that in 2021 as they got bullied inside by any decent big man. Their lack of interior presence even made Aaron Baynes look like he should be an NBA All-Star.

Karl Anthony-Towns brings that size, and the ability to hold down the paint on both ends of the floor. The 6’11”, former number one overall pick has career averages of 22.9 points and 11.6 rebounds per game. It’s easy to forget about him because he plays in Minnesota, but he is a force to be reckoned with.

By the summer games in Paris, he will be 28 years old, and at the absolute top of his game. His inclusion on this team is not a suggestion, but a necessity.

Trae Young USA

Trae Young, Guard

If you can’t have Steph Curry on the team, why not get an upgrade, like Steph 2.0. There’s no secret why the Hawks gave Young a supermax contract this off-season. He has outperformed Steph each year of his career so far, and there’s no indication that will stop now.

The only player in NCAA history to lead the nation in both scoring average and average assists per game, it’s fair speculation that he will do the same thing at the pro level. Last season he averaged 25.3 points per game (14th in the league) and 9.4 assists (second). In the playoffs, he averaged 28.8 and 9.4 respectively as he carried the Hawks into the playoffs.

An MVP is no doubt in his near future, so let’s put a Gold Medal next to it in his trophy case in 2024.

Zion Williamson USA

Zion Williamson, Forward

Zion Williamson was the most hyped basketball, player prior to turning pro, since LeBron James. He is no stranger to the world having its eyes on him, and he has handled the pressure as well as anyone expected.

His one year at Duke he averaged 22.6 points and 8.9 rebounds while shooting an astonishing 68 percent from the field. There were questions about his physical conditioning his rookie year, but no questions about his athleticism. He stands 6’7″ but plays like he’s 7’4″. Great use of his frame, and he can jump through the roof.

Last season Zion averaged 27 points and 7 rebounds for the Pelicans while shooting 61 percent from the field. By 2024, expect this Larry Johnson clone to be averaging 30 and 11, and rivaling Giannis as the best power forward in the NBA.

Ja Morant USA

Ja Morant, Guard

The number two pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, and the 2020 Rookie of the Year, takes another guard spot on this backcourt-loaded team. Ja Morant is the engine of the Memphis Grizzlies. How far can they go? As far as he is willing to take them.

He averaged 19.1 points and 7.4 assists last season, and like Donovan Mitchell, can lock down any perimeter player on defense. He has a non-stop motor and attacks the rim like Russell Westbrook in his prime.

His three-point shooting needs some polish, but expect by 2024, it will be hard to spot a weakness in his game. Nobody in the world can keep pace with this guy, and he will be a huge problem for every other country.

John Collins USA

John Collins, F/C

There were rumors that John Collins wanted out of Atlanta, and did not like playing alongside Trae Young, and then he crushed those rumors by signing a 5 year, $125 million contract extension to stay in town.

He’s 6’9″ and extremely fast up and down the floor. Jumps like he has springs in his sneakers, and all he has done so far in his career is average 16.6 points and 8.4 rebounds per game. The majority of his buckets come on putbacks and transition dunks, and he will be part of a very fast unit.

He’s a double-double machine, and his shot is still getting better. His familiarity with Trae is a bonus on this team, and John Collins likely backs up KAT as the team’s starting center.

Lamelo Ball USA

LaMelo Ball, Guard

Finishing up an impressive rookie season, LaMelo has been playing pro basketball (or at least against pros) since he was 15 years old. He is a long and athletic playmaker, and despite having the Ball family form to his jump shot, still shot 35 percent from deep last season.

He will be 22 at the start of the next Olympics and adds a serious playmaker to this team. His court vision and instincts are second to none. He will probably get the least amount of playing time of all the primary ball handlers on the team, but if LaMelo is riding the bench, that speaks volumes about this team’s depth.

Averaged 15.7 points, 5.9 rebounds, and 6.1 assists as a rookie last season, and expectations for the 2023-24 season are something in the vicinity of 22/8/10.

Tyler Herro USA

Tyler Herro, Wing

This is the lone role player selection on this team. Tyler Herro is not a star, and never will be a star, but he will always be a threat from three-point range. He is a pure spot-up shooter, and when you play against the rest of the world, you will need that.

The international game is speeding the floor and finding open shooters. This Team USA is built to run, but they will find themselves in half-court games, and when they do, a guy like Tyler Herro becomes invaluable.

He averaged 15 points per game last year, in only his second season, but there are too many scorers on the Miami Heat for him to develop into a number one option. However, when Team USA finds itself facing a slow-moving zone defense, it shouldn’t surprise anyone when Herro leads a quarter, half, or even a game in scoring.

De'Aaron Fox USA

De’Aaron Fox, Guard

Another player who is easy to lose in the shuffle is De’Aaron Fox, because he plays for the Sacramento Kings. He averaged 25.2 points (that’s not a typo) and 7.2 assists last season in the NBA’s black hole. He shot 48 percent from the field.

If it’s true that speed kills, this guy is an assassin. Nobody in the league gets up and down the floor faster or carves up defenses with as much precision. If Fox played in LA or NY, he’d be a household name.

It’s a pretty good bet that when 2024 rolls around, he will have forced his way out of California’s capital, but he will find his way on this team quicker than you can blink, or he can break a defender’s ankles.

Jalen Green USA

Jalen Green, Wing

So he’s only a rookie and has yet to play an NBA game. That won’t be the case in 2024, and Jalen Green has all the makings of a perennial All-Star. The best comp for his game may be a better version of Tracy McGrady.

He’s already played one year professionally in the G-League, and showed he can get buckets. A lot of them. Not the strongest defender, but give him some time. By the time he reaches his prime, he has 30 point scorer written all over him. That’s a few years after these games, but we need to keep that Gold Medal farm system stocked. 2024 will be the first of at least three Gold Medals for this young man.

Emoni Bates USA

Emoni Bates, Wing/Forward

If you thought it was a stretch putting a rookie on here then this one is really going to blow your mind. Emoni Bates will graduate High School in 2021, and decide between college or G-League, just like Jalen Green.

He is the best prospect in years and is almost guaranteed to be the top pick in the 2022 Draft. He’s 6’9″ and 201 pounds, so he needs to add a bit of weight, but this kid moves like a 6’5″ shooting guard. He is raw but extremely versatile.

He will be the youngest player on the squad, but don’t let that fool you. By 2024, when he is averaging 20 points per game in the NBA, he could potentially be a starter on Team USA. Another not-so-bold prediction; Emoni Bates is the 2023 NBA Rookie of the Year.

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