Team USA celebrated its third straight gold medal Sunday afternoon, routing Serbia to cap off a tournament that — despite some uneven performances throughout — saw Team USA finish it undefeated.
Adding into the difficulty of this choice is the fact the World Cup — the former World Championships — will return in China in 2019. Having the World Cup and the Olympics in back-to-back seasons will present players with something — playing internationally two years in a row — that they haven’t done previously, when the World Cup and the Olympics were separated by two years. Also, any added benefit to being in the Asian market that would come with playing in Tokyo would only be magnified by playing in China the year before — which could wind up being the determining factor in players choosing which tournament to participate in.
So with the explanations out of the way, here’s The Washington Post’s best guess, from four years away, at who will be part of the 2020 Olympic Team:
PG: Stephen Curry
SG: Klay Thompson
SF: Kawhi Leonard
PF: Kevin Durant
C: Anthony Davis
For most of the big-name players who missed out on this year’s Olympics, either by choice or injury — names like LeBron James, Russell Westbrook. Chris Paul — they’ve already won a gold medal, and thus won’t feel like they have to check a box by getting a gold medal. One notable player who doesn’t fit into that category, however, is two-time reigning NBA MVP Stephen Curry. He’ll be 32 and on the edge of his prime in 2020, but his shooting prowess will make him an easy choice to make the team.
Thompson and Durant were two of the mainstays of this year’s team, and should be in similar positions in 2020, while Davis would have been a cornerstone of this year’s team if he hadn’t been out of commission after undergoing shoulder surgery. As for Leonard — another of those players who passed on participating this summer — he’ll not only be in his prime, but will have a chance to play for Popovich in Tokyo. It’s hard to see him passing that up.
PG: Kyrie Irving
SG: Jimmy Butler, Devin Booker
SF: Justise Winslow
PF: Aaron Gordon
C: DeMarcus Cousins, Myles Turner
Irving, as the starting point guard on this year’s team, will be 28 and at the peak of his powers in 2020, making him a prime candidate for the squad, and it wouldn’t be surprising at all if he became the starter. The other two returning players from this year’s entry on the bench — Jimmy Butler and DeMarcus Cousins — present two things this squad will need. In Butler’s case, that is defense and positional versatility, while Cousins showed again for stretches in this tournament how he can dominate FIBA competition.
That leaves several spots at the back of the roster open for younger players to emerge and make the team. This is where the true gray area comes into play: in 2012, Davis made the team before he’d played a single NBA game. In 2008, Durant nearly made the team after playing just one NBA season. So for players set to come into the league next season and beyond — two names that immediately come to mind are Harry Giles and Josh Jackson, who are bound for Duke and Kansas, respectively, and are projected top five picks in 2017 — they could burst onto the radar from places no one is even considering now. The same goes for just about everyone who was part of the Select Team that participated in Team USA’s Las Vegas training camp last month — including players like D’Angelo Russell, Jahlil Okafor and Emmanuel Mudiay, who are coming off their rookie seasons — as well as incoming rookies Brandon Ingram, Kris Dunn and Denzel Valentine.
For our purposes, though, the remaining four spots on this version of the 2020 team came from four other players who were part of that Select Team last month: Devin Booker, Justise Winslow, Aaron Gordon and Myles Turner.
Booker, despite playing at 19 years old, averaged 19 points per game after the All-Star Break last season, and looks like he has a chance to become a star at shooting guard in the near future. Winslow drew rave reviews in Miami for a maturity and poise that immediately allowed him to fit into a mature Heat locker room, and he’s poised to take the mantle as the team’s face of the franchise now following Dwyane Wade’s exodus to Chicago.
Turner is exactly the kind of big Team USA is always searching for: long and incredibly athletic, with good defensive instincts and the ability to shoot from distance. He should be a cornerstone with the Pacers alongside Paul George for years to come.
Gordon is likely the biggest gamble of these 12 names, as he averaged 9.2 points and 6.5 rebounds last season in his sophomore year in the NBA with the Magic. But he also is a physical freak — at 6-foot-10 with insane athleticism, he looks like he steps onto a court straight out of a video game. And if incoming Orlando coach Frank Vogel can do for Gordon, who turns 21 next month, anything like what he did for George with the Pacers, Gordon will be well positioned to make a name for himself on the international stage by the time 2020 rolls around.