With the 2020 Summer Olympics set to take place in Tokyo, Japan between late July and early August, the United States is surely primed to dominate the competition in a variety of different events — men’s basketball included. Only recently, Team USA narrowed down its list of players to 44 finalists with the 2020 Sumner Olympics now looming large as the team will eventually need to be thinned even further as only 12 players can travel to Tokyo.
With a list that already includes 16 Olympians, the majority of these 44 finalists will unfortunately not be selected for the 2020 Summer Olympics as the United States could realistically field a few 12-player teams that would compete at a high level in Toyko. Even so, there are three criteria that should help narrow down this list of immensely skilled players — injuries, talent level and positional need.
Unfortunately for both Team USA, the players and the fans slated to be in attendance in Japan, this initial criteria should eliminate a slew of talented players right off the bat. Because players must stay as healthy as possible throughout the NBA offseason as their respective franchises are counting on them to do so, even players that are slightly banged up or injured should just stay away from the 2020 Summer Olympics altogether. Despite the fact that playing on the world stage means something special to all of the players on the list, health and safety should always come first.
With that being said, some of the best basketball players in the world should sit out en route to being left off of the United States’ final 12-man roster. The players that shouldn’t even be in consideration due to injury and health status include Golden State Warriors point guard Stephen Curry, Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant, Los Angeles Clippers swingman Paul George, Brooklyn Nets point guard Kyrie Irving, Los Angeles Clippers swingman Kawhi Leonard, Indiana Pacers guard Victor Oladipo and Golden State Warriors shooting guard Klay Thompson.
With the likes of Curry, Durant and Thompson currently sitting out of NBA action due to injury, Irving and Oladipo only recently returned from stints away from their respective teams. Additionally, the tandem of George and Leonard have been unable to play on a regular basis over the course of the 2019-20 regular season — whether it is due to injury or “load management.” However, if “load management” is that important, the 2020 Summer Olympics should already be out of the question.
Although all 44 players on this list are superstars or nearly superstars at this point in their respective basketball careers, there are 17 players on this list that simply cannot make it any further in the process. Talented, yes, but not talented enough to compete for the final few roster sports on this year’s squad.
As a result of this threshold, Sacramento Kings power forward Harrison Barnes, Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal, Indiana Pacers guard Malcolm Brogdon, Boston Celtics swingman Jaylen Brown, Utah Jazz point guard Mike Conley Jr., Los Angeles Clippers big man Montrezl Harrell, Brooklyn Nets shooting guard Joe Harris, Philadelphia 76ers power forward Tobias Harris, Boston Celtics small forward Gordon Hayward, Los Angeles Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma, Milwaukee Bucks center Brook Lopez, Los Angeles Lakers center JaVale McGee, Milwaukee Bucks guard Khris Middleton, Denver Nuggets big man Mason Plumlee, Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart, Indiana Pacers big man Myles Turner and San Antonio Spurs guard Derrick White should be eliminated from contention.
With seven players initially missing the cut due to injury before another 17 just couldn’t cut it in terms of elite talent level, the original 44-player roster has now been cut down to just 20 men. With 20 left in contention, eight must still be cut before the final 12-player roster is officially assembled for Team USA Basketball. The eight players that will come up just short are Miami Heat big man Bam Adebayo, San Antonio Spurs big man LaMarcus Aldridge, San Antonio Spurs shooting guard DeMar DeRozan, New Orleans Pelicans big man Brandon Ingram, Cleveland Cavaliers power forward Kevin Love, Toronto Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry, Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Chris Paul and Boston Celtics point guard Kemba Walker.
As a result, the final 12 players that will create a well-rounded and elite roster for USA Basketball should be Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker, Miami Heat swingman Jimmy Butler, Los Angeles Lakers big man Anthony Davis, Cleveland Cavaliers center Andre Drummond, Golden State Warriors power forward Draymond Green, Houston Rockets guard James Harden, Los Angeles Lakers center Dwight Howard, Los Angeles Lakers swingman LeBron James, Portland Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard, Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell, Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum and Houston Rockets point guard Russell Westbrook.
In an ideal world, this team would no doubt deliver a gold medal back to United States soil.