Back in 1992, the USA Team deployed its 12 best players on the Olympic stage and promptly annihilated every opponent in its path. It was at the time called the Dream Team. A moniker the team has earned and has will be used for the rest of history.
That team was quite the collection of talent with Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird leading the way. These three were flanked by some of the best players in the game’s history: John Stockton, Clyde Drexler, Scottie Pippen, Chris Mullin, Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, David Robinson and Patrick Ewing. The last player on the team was the 1992 Naismith College Player of the Year awardee, Christian Laettner.
Since then, succeeding versions of Team USA have either fallen short of the goal or have not fielded in the best players the NBA has to offer despite winning the gold. But what if the Olympic selection committee was forming the Dream Team for the first time today? Who would be the players that they would select?
Unlike the original Dream Team, we won’t be including a college player on the roster. It’s still baffling to me why they felt they had to choose one from the collegiate ranks and when they did, they failed miserably by selecting Laettner, a one-time All-Star in the pros, over Shaquille O’Neal who would soon be chosen as one of the NBA’s 50 Greatest Players ever.
The Dream Team destroyed all comers with an average winning margin of 43.8 points per game. The goal is to create a team that can come close to the mystique and the greatness that accompanied the original US Team and see if we can approximate that with a versatile lineup that would be talked about by future generations as well.
Great Players But Can’t Play
Some of the best players in the league today can’t join our Dream Team because they have a different nationality. Too bad because that includes Giannis Antetokounmpo who is from Greece, Ben Simmons from Australia, Joel Embiid from Cameroon and Nikola Jokic from Serbia. Though Karl-Anthony Towns was invited to play for Team USA in 2012, he chose to represent the Dominican Republic where his mom hails from, making him ineligible for our Dream Team.
1. Stephen Curry
2018-19 Stats: 29.4 points, 5.2 rebounds, 5.6 assists, 1.3 steals, 45.0 percent 3pt FGs
Curry’s game was created for the Olympics. His shooting range knows no bounds and his dribbling wizardry will allow him to penetrate international defenses easily for kick-outs to open shooters or finish around the basket for the easy two points. The two-time NBA MVP is a shoo-in for the Olympics.
2. Russell Westbrook
2018-19 Stats: 21.4 points, 10.8 rebounds, 10.6 assists, 2.5 steals
If there’s a seam in the defense, Westbrook will exploit it. The Oklahoma City point guard is going to enjoy attacking the basket or dishing to wide open teammates who can easily put the ball in the hole. No need to bother about getting a triple-double, though, because that’s not happening here.
3. Damian Lillard
2018-19 Stats: 25.8 points, 4.5 rebounds, 6.1 assists, 1.0 steals, 37.9 percent 3pt FGs
Lillard’s shooting range is similar to Curry’s and his knack for making key plays and baskets will come in handy when the team needs a bucket from anywhere on the floor. Dame Time in the Olympics is going to be a lot of fun!
4. James Harden
2018-19 Stats: 34.2 points, 6.2 rebounds, 8.8 assists, 2.1 steals, 37.8 3pt FGs
The league’s leading scorer is going to have a field day “step-backing” on the competition. Harden will go to the line often and will cause many from the opposing team to foul out. He will also put many of them on skates which should be very entertaining.
5. Klay Thompson
2018-19 Stats: 21.7 points, 4.1 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.2 steals, 36.0 percent 3pt FGs
If there’s one thing that I love with this fantasy Dream Team is the number of three-point shooters and the Golden State Warriors’ shooting guard is among the deadliest marksmen from deep. Thompson will open up the lane for the US Team’s penetrators to slash to the basket and for the big men to operate down low. This guy is the most likely to have a game where he will explode for 20 points in less than 20 minutes with this team.
6. Paul George
2018-19 Stats: 26.7 points, 8.1 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 2.2 steals, 38.3 percent 3pt FGs
George is playing perhaps his finest season ever. The Thunder’s small forward just keeps getting better and better with every year that he plays and his skills translate beautifully on the Olympic stage. One of the most versatile players in the league, he’s also one of the team’s best defenders.
7. Kawhi Leonard
2018-19 Stats: 27.5 points, 8.0 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.9 steals, 50.3 percent FGs, 37.3 3pt FGs
The 6-foot-8 Leonard will be the team’s primary stopper from the wings but his game is so versatile that he can score as well as anyone on this team. His 27.5 points average this season is a career-high. His ability to play both inside and out will be an asset on the team.
8. Kevin Durant
2018-19 Stats: 28.2 points, 7.3 rebounds, 6.1 assists, 1.1 blocks, 50.6 percent FGs, 37.1 percent 3pt FGs
The lengthy Durant will be unstoppable from the perimeter as both an offensive force and as a defender. No team will be able match up with his 7-foot frame at the small forward spot and he will take advantage of the mismatches that come his way. It would be quite the show to watch the Durantula score at will in the Olympics once again.
9. LeBron James
2018-19 Stats: 27.3 points, 8.3 rebounds, 7.1 assists, 1.3 steals, 51.8 percent FGs
In his 16th season, James continues to defy Father Time, playing the game at the highest level when his peers have either retired or are about to very soon. His playmaking abilities will allow the point guards on this team to focus more on scoring. That will open up the lanes for him to drive to the hole and finish with authority. Though he will be the oldest player on this team, he won’t take a backseat to anyone when it comes to playing time.
10. LaMarcus Aldridge
2018-19 Stats: 20.6 points, 8.6 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.1 blocks, 51.0 percent FGs
The San Antonio Spurs veteran center continues to play well even after 12 years in the league. Aldridge will be one of the elder statesmen in this lineup but he will be valuable both in the locker room as well as on the floor. His post-up game is arguably second-to-none on this roster, making him a threat to score on the block with regularity.
11 Anthony Davis
2018-19 Stats: 28.9 points, 13.3 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 2.6 blocks, 1.7 steals, 51.2 percent FGs
One of the premier big men in the game, Davis is going to be a handful for any player tasked with guarding him. He is putting up MVP numbers this season despite the fact that the New Orleans Pelicans are going nowhere. In the Olympics, Davis will show off his versatility. He can score both inside and out, and will defend the rim with authority.
12 DeMarcus Cousins
2017-18 Stats: 25.2 points, 12.9 rebounds, 5.4 assists, 1.6 blocks, 1.6 steals
Selecting Cousins to play for Team USA may seem like a head-scratcher given that he’s been sidelined for a year now. But when he’s healthy, the Warriors’ center is an MVP-caliber player. Unleashing him once again onto the world’s biggest sports stage will showcase how much better the US’s centers truly are compared to the competition.
Just Missed the Cut
Kyrie Irving, Kemba Walker and John Wall are three of the toughest outs at the point guard position. It was a toss-up between Irving and Damian Lillard, basically, but the latter won by virtue of being a better leader, carrying the Portland Trail Blazers franchise on his own shoulders.
At the shooting guard spot, it was difficult to leave out DeMar DeRozan. C.J. McCollum, Victor Oladipo and Bradley Beal, all of whom could have made it to this Dream Team if there were more spots at the shooting guard position.
The forward spot just didn’t have enough room to squeeze in Khris Middleton, Draymond Green and Tobias Harris. Too bad because each one of them could have made it had it not been for the best players in the league populating the two forward positions.
At center, I only chose two but there aren’t that many centers that I think can play in the Olympics and I’m quite happy with Davis and Cousins at the five already. Aldridge can play center, too, whenever necessary. Andre Drummond and DeAndre Jordan could have made it if not for Davis and Cousins.