By Flint Wheeler
Many of the NBA’s top players decided to skip the 2016 Rio Olympics, but the United States men’s basketball team is still filled with stars. With a 12-man roster that includes nine All-Stars from the 2015-16 season, Team USA is the overwhelming favorite to take home the gold medal. Current Las Vegas odds have the stacked U.S.A. team at -900. That means give the guy across the counter $900 then wait for them to win and get $1000 back.
The roster is so stacked that any five-man lineup that Team USA could put together would give them the advantage over the opposition. But who are the best players on the team?
LeBron James and Stephen Curry both decided to pass on playing in Rio after a grueling NBA Finals, making it obvious who is the team’s top star. Russell Westbrook, Kawhi Leonard, Chris Paul and James Harden will also watch the Olympic Games from home.
Here’s how I rank the best players on Team USA:
1) Kevin Durant
He might not be the best player on his NBA team, but Durant is clearly the star of Team USA. A perennial MVP candidate, Durant’s length and shooting ability will make him a nightmare for opposing countries in Rio.
2) Klay Thompson
An argument can be made for others at No.2, but Thompson’s prowess on both ends of the floor gets him the nod. He might be the NBA’s best defensive shooting guard, and he ranked 12th in scoring average this past season, even though he had to share the ball with Curry.
3) Kyrie Irving
Irving was much lower on the list before the start of the playoffs, but he emerged as a superstar in the 2016 NBA Finals. He’s the best point guard on the roster, and if Team USA needs to score down the stretch of games, Irving is the best option after Durant.
4) Draymond Green
His antics during the playoffs and recent off-the-court issues might cause some to forget how good Green actually is. Green might be the NBA’s best defender because of his ability to guard all five positions, and he was the Warriors’ No.1 facilitator with 7.4 assists per game. Playing with four other All-Stars at one time, he might be the glue that holds Team USA together.
5) Kyle Lowry
One of the NBA’s most underrated players, Lowry was the star of the team that lost one more game than the Cleveland Cavaliers and entered Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals with a chance to take the series lead.
6) Paul George
One of the NBA’s best two-way players, George can do it all. His 41.8 percent shooting isn’t ideal for international competition, but George averaged a career-high 23.1 points because of his ability to get to the hoop and shoot three-pointers at a rate better than the average player.
7) Jimmy Butler
Butler broke out as an All-Star two years ago and looked like he might be ready to become an elite star in the league. While he remains a top two-way player, he failed to take the next step last year as his shooting numbers suffered and the Chicago Bulls failed to reach the playoffs.
8) DeMarcus Cousins
Cousins is the team’s best big man, and he fills up the stat sheet like few in the NBA can. But he’s always playing on losing teams, and it’s not only because of the lack of talent around him.
9) Carmelo Anthony
The oldest member of Team USA, Anthony isn’t the superstar that he once was. But he remains one of the NBA’s best pure scorers when healthy, and he won’t have to carry a heavy load in Rio like he does with the New York Knicks.
10) DeMar DeRozan
The shooting guard is coming off the best season of his career, averaging career-highs in points (23.5) and assists (4.0), while posting his second-highest rebounding average (4.5). But his overall game makes him the weakest member of the team’s backcourt.
11) DeAndre Jordan
He’s one of just two members of Team USA that’s never been an All-Star, but Jordan is the team’s best rebounder and shot-blocker. His defense is somewhat overrated, but he’ll play an important role as one of the team’s two true centers.
12) Harrison Barnes
An important player on the NBA’s best regular-season team of all time, Barnes is clearly the worst of the bunch. Barnes has never come close to making an All-Star team, and he was brutal in the finals with 9.3 points per game on 35.2 percent shooting.
This isn’t even close to the bast team the U.S. could have put on the court but that won’t matter one but as Team U.S.A. will win the gold – Easily.