To the surprise of many, Team USA had a rocky start to their quest for gold at the Tokyo Olympics when they lost their first two exhibition games against Nigeria and Australia. Recent roster changes also added to Team USA’s issues, leading to some predictions that they will not win a fourth consecutive gold medal.
Despite the setbacks, Gregg Popovich and his squad managed to redeem themselves by securing wins against Argentina and Spain before heading out to Japan. Devin Booker, Khris Middleton, and Jrue Holiday are set to join them after the NBA Finals. Team USA’s first game will take place on Sunday against France, another contender for the gold medal.
Here are three bold predictions for Team USA at the upcoming Tokyo Olympics.
3. Keldon Johnson, JaVale McGee will play key roles
With Bradley Beal and Kevin Love bowing out of the Olympics, Team USA turned to two surprising figures in Keldon Johnson and JaVale McGee as replacements. While some are questioning these choices, Johnson has already made an impact on the team after initially being a part of the Select Team.
The San Antonio Spurs youngster had an impressive showing against Spain with 15 points on 7-of-9 shooting from the field to help the team to an 83-76 victory. Johnson’s off-ball cutting and energy provided a major spark in the second half after Team USA struggled in the first half.
On the other hand, McGee didn’t get to suit up against Spain and will be making his first appearance with the team in Tokyo instead. Certainly enough, the veteran’s rebounding and shot-blocking abilities should greatly benefit the team, especially given their lack of big men aside from Bam Adebayo.
Having two complementary guys who can bring the intangibles to the table will definitely give the squad a more complete dynamic moving forward.
2. Kevin Durant will lead the team in scoring
On a roster full of the NBA’s bigger names, Kevin Durant is still undoubtedly the best player on this team and should lead the team in scoring, with Damian Lillard also playing a key scoring role as the starting point guard.
KD admittedly wasn’t always at his best during the exhibition games, but he will definitely get better and more efficient on the court as he improves his chemistry with his new teammates moving forward. Durant’s vast experience of playing internationally along with his scoring prowess will surely be on display as he aims to carry a good chunk of the scoring load and remain at the forefront of the team’s offensive attack in the Olympics.
1. Team USA will still bag the gold medal
Gregg Popovich’s squad has already faced a ton of criticism, especially after their surprising defeats against Nigeria and Australia. The roster construction also irked many fans as they felt that the team could have slotted in young stars like Trae Young, Zion Williamson, and Ja Morant over some of the others.
Certainly enough, this isn’t the best squad that Team USA could have put together, but it is still brimming with talent from top to bottom. Having a multi-titled head coach in Popovich will also help their comeback cause, especially as they aim to avenge their subpar performance in the 2019 FIBA World Cup.
Undoubtedly, the rest of the world has been improving at a fast rate. But at the end of the day, Team USA is still loaded with NBA players who are stars in their own right. Though they still have to work hard to get their chemistry going, the overall talent of the roster is definitely there. Fans can expect the team to kick into high gear once the real competition finally gets going.
Team USA is expected to make the necessary adjustments and overcome the tough challenges that await them in Tokyo in a bid to reclaim their spot at the top of international basketball once more.