Team USA basketball should prioritize younger generation of players

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The U.S. men’s basketball team has been dominating global competitions for a long time. Ever since the Dream Team of 1992, which included Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Karl Malone, Charles Barkley and many other greats, the different variations of USA team rosters have been second to none on the international stage.

Since then, the game’s biggest stars, including Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and others, have teamed up in patriotic style to represent the nation, winning Olympic gold medals and wearing the flag on their bodies (uniforms) with pride.

Team USA has recently overhauled its coaching staff. Duke University head coach Mike Krzyzewski had been handling these duties for a long time, before San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich was recently granted the honor. But what about the players themselves? Should Team USA continue to create super teams that consist primarily of the game’s greatest stars? Or should there be a shift in the way these rosters are constructed, in an effort to include younger players who can develop on the global scene and become the new faces of the national team?

The truth is that even a younger and inexperienced team would most likely capture the top spot in any global tournament, despite not having much (if any) experience in such situations. Moreover, this could actually be the best possible way to preserve the team’s long-term success. That’s not to say, for instance, that LeBron James shouldn’t be invited to play in the 2020 Olympic Games. But rather that LeBron doesn’t need ten more All-Stars with him on that team in order to bring home the gold.

Allowing younger players to play alongside James would have several benefits. They would get an opportunity to play with the greatest player(s) in the world, while also getting elite coaching from the best the basketball world has to offer. They can forge relationships, create friendships, and network, which would go a long way in ensuring a smooth transition of power when James and other members of his generation decide to call it quits.

So which players from the 2016 Olympics in Rio should be invited back to join the team? And which shouldn’t? Also, which young talents should replace the older members of past USA teams?

LeBron is an exception. He is a generational talent, who has so much to teach the young guys, and his presence is a virtual guarantee that the team will take home gold. Kevin Durant is also someone who should be invited back, simply because of his demeanor and the way he carries himself, which in many ways are just as good as his on court play. But should Carmelo Anthony, DeMarcus Cousins, and Kyle Lowry still be on the team?

When you think about it, wouldn’t you rather have a more diverse combination of players? Some assortment of fresh faces. The NBA landscape is getting more interesting each year. There are young studs like Anthony Davis and Devin Booker, who would make for great members of Team USA. Moreover, just last year we saw three rookies play great basketball. Ben Simmons was the best rookie in the regular season. But in the playoffs, we witnessed the ascent of Donovan Mitchell and Jayson Tatum. The latter was so impressive, he was keeping up with King James in the Eastern Conference Finals. Even Victor Oladipo impressed everyone with the way he carries his Pacers teammates through the postseason. It just seems that the public would like to see some new combinations of talented players on the USA roster. 

All of these young guys have lot of hunger to prove their worth. Yes, they all had some very high points in their first season in the league. But they haven’t yet solidified themselves as true stars in the league. Letting them get this experience at a young age could go a long way in boosting their status as the best the league has to offer. And it would set up Team USA for the foreseeable future, as the young guys would eventually replace the older generation, who could be retired before the 2024 Olympics come around.