LeBron James, Steph Curry, Chris Paul and a handful of other elite NBA players opted out of the 2016 Olympics, but that doesn’t mean Team USA will have any trouble bringing home the gold medal. Yes, from Kevin Durant to Carmelo Anthony, from Klay Thompson to Draymond Green, from DeAndre Jordan to Kyrie Irving, the U.S. men’s Olympic team is utterly stacked.
“Well, there was awhile there where we wondering if Team USA was going to get any of their stars to play,” Washington Post NBA writer Tim Bontemps said on CBS Sports Radio’s After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “There was obviously a lot of concern about the Zika virus. There was at least rumors for a while that pretty much everybody of consequence was going to eventually pull out and really kind of leave Team USA in a bit of a bind. Although some guys between Stephen Curry and LeBron James and Chris Paul and a few other guys bowed out for injury issues or other reasons, the bottom line is the team the U.S. is sending is still vastly superior to the team anyone else is going to have. Barring some kind of catastrophe in Rio, it’s hard to see how this isn’t a pretty comfortable walk to a gold medal.
Durant is the team headliner, while Anthony will making his record fourth Olympic appearance. After those two, it’s nothing but All-Stars, All-NBA players and guys who have won NBA titles.
“There’s stars up and down the roster,” Bontemps said. “There’s a ton of talent, especially in the Olympics, which, ironically, is a far weaker field than the world championships. It’s really hard to see – again, barring some really bizarre result – how Team USA shouldn’t pretty comfortably cruise to an easy win.”
While it should be fun watching Team USA cruise in Rio, the 2016 NBA free-agent class could be a bit of a snoozer, especially with Durant almost assuredly staying in Oklahoma City.
“It’s honestly not that great of a free-agent crop,” Bontemps said. “For all of the talk that there’s been about how crazy this summer’s going to be – and it is going to be an insane summer – there just isn’t a lot of talent available. The next few guys on the list are guys like Andre Drummond, who’s a restricted free agent and not going anywhere. Al Horford is a 30-year-old center. Very good player, but if he gets a five-year max from the Hawks, which he probably will, he’s going to get $150 million, which is a pretty insane contract. Nic Batum is a guy who’s going to get a five-year max contract for a ton of money from the Hornets. Same with DeMar DeRozan, another kind of polarizing guy who’s probably going to get a huge contract to stay in Toronto. Mike Conley is a 28-year-old smaller point guard. He’s probably going to get a huge contract to stay in Memphis, unless they decide not to offer him.
“If all those teams offer those guys the max contract that they’re able to get, they’re probably all going to stay,” Bontemps continued. “And if those guys all stay home, all of a sudden you’re talking about signing guys like Marvin Williams and Jeremy Lin and Luol Deng – guys that are nice players, but those all quickly become the best players available, other than Dwight Howard, who, again, is an older player (in decline) who’s up for a giant contract. For all the money that’s going to get spent, there’s a lot of potential for bad contracts because there’s just not the caliber of player out there to spend it on that you’d expect.”