Before the United States lost to France 83-76 on Sunday, the men’s team had not lost an Olympic match since 2004, where the team finished with a bronze medal. Will history repeat itself? That is unknown at the time being, but what we do know is that this USA team is not the best product that could have been put on display.
Due to the pandemic, short rest between the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 seasons, and how late the NBA Finals ran, many of the true stars opted to sit out the Olympics. Many of the older veterans, who have already won a gold medal, chose rest instead of glory. For others, they are trying to rehab injuries that cost themselves, and their team, in the postseason.
While the perfect USA team may not carry some of these players if it was constructed today, we can still dream of the perfect combination of NBA players. Had the true best of the best been assembled to represent America, this team would have blown every opponent by a minimum of 20 points.
Steph Curry, Kawhi Leonard, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Anthony Davis
This All-Star starting lineup would be one tough team to crack defensively. Headlined by three-time Defensive Player of the Year Kawhi Leonard and former DPOY runner-up Anthony Davis, opposing teams would have their star talent cracked down with this rotation. Steph Curry and LeBron James are both underrated defenders, even at the age of 33 and 36 respectively.
As for the offense, Curry would be labeled as a point guard, but LeBron would be the point-forward with this group. LeBron would be able to facilitate a group of four proven scorers. After all, when Davis was healthy, LeBron led the league in assists in 2020.
Curry is coming off a season where he led the league in scoring at 32.0 points per game. Curry wouldn’t just be the best shooting guard in the USA but would be the best overall shooter in the entire world. Durant, who won two Finals MVPs while playing with Curry in Golden State, averaged 26.9 points last season for the Nets and finally looks 100% healthy.
Overall, this starting lineup would likely go 82-0 if they all played together in the regular NBA. Given how much of a powerhouse the NBA is, there is no doubt that this fourth-quarter lineup would lead the USA to another gold medal.
James Harden, Russell Westbrook, Paul George, Kyrie Irving, Zion Williamson, Bam Adebayo, Jrue Holiday
Durant is the only starter from this team playing, while Jrue Holiday And Bam Adebayo are the only bench pieces. Holiday is going to be one of the most respected players in America after his performance in Game 1 of the Olympics. Holiday led the USA in scoring with 18 points after joining the team two days before their first game due to the Milwaukee Bucks’ scheduling conflict with the NBA Finals.
Despite Holiday’s performance and his first championship ring, Holiday would be the 12th man on this roster. Holiday’s defense is critical in spurts, but the first options off the bench would be James Harden and Russell Westbrook. Harden is a three-time scoring champion, while Westbrook is a four-time member of the triple-double club.
The options are endless. Kyrie Irving might have the best handles in the world and he is your backup point guard? Paul George is coming off a career-playoff season. He is also a great defender and could close out games if needed. Zion Williamson could play at centers. He is big and strong and could play bully ball as France did against the USA. While Adebayo is a great two-way player, Zion is stronger, so the Americans would have depth in both situations.
This bench is the deepest in the world. Realistically, you could probably pick five starters from this bench and the USA team would still beat the opposition by double-digits.
When it comes to the system, Kawhi and AD are the best defenders in the USA. Even though Curry is the “worst” defender in this starting lineup, he can contribute. We saw him do exactly that when he played in a defensively talented squad headlined by Klay Thompson and Draymond Green in Golden State. Durant, who was an underrated defender for three seasons, can also contribute in a major way too. Every great offense starts with defense. Players like Leonard and Davis are superb at snagging steals, which would allow players like Durant to thrive in transition.
Even LeBron is an underrated defender. LeBron owns a career average of 1.6 steals per game. With that said, having LeBron and Durant in transition would be an automatic bucket on the court. Curry would find a way to get open and with one extra pass, you can count that three-point shot every time.
Davis also brings value on the offensive end. Because he has developed a mid-range jump shot, he would pull the opposing center out from the paint, which would open up the middle even more for players like LeBron, Durant, and Leonard, who can put their head down and dribble right through the lane.
As for the bench, you can see some of these similarities with players like Harden, Westbrook, and George. The combination of defense the offense would be too much. The speed and athleticism would also be too much. Imagine a team like France having to defensively stop a player like Westbrook, LeBron, Durant, Leonard, and Williamson on a drive.
Overall, this is a true dream team because this team is living in our dreams. Had injuries and COVID-19 not affected the 2020-2021 season, we might have seen some of these members on the current Olympic team. We missed out on an opportunity to see some of the best represent the country. Hopefully, the current USA doesn’t miss out on a medal.