The Olympics are over and Team USA men’s basketball took home another gold, thanks to a dominant win over Serbia Sunday. But while the internet will be filled with all sorts of hot takes today ranging from Carmelo’s leadership to Coach K’s brilliant coaching and maybe even a little on “The Summer of Draymond” we decided to do something different: Look ahead. We’re a society that always likes to think about what’s next,. What will Team USA basketball look like almost a full decade from now, at the 2024 Olympics when the squad is filled almost exclusively with guys who are playing college or high school basketball right now (my colleague Andrew Lynch projected the 2020 team last week). Now before we get started, there are an obvious few caveats: A lot is going to change in eight years. We don’t know how these young guys will evolve, who will get injured, and what kind of outside scare could keep some people off the team. Heck, we don’t even know who will be coaching. Gregg Popovich (who will coach in 2020) will be 75 by then, so it really could be anybody from Brad Stevens to Doc Rivers, to heck, Geno Auriemma. OK, probably not the last one, but here’s our projection of what the 2024 Olympic roster will look like.
NBAE/Getty ImagesNathaniel S. Butler
PG: Markelle Fultz (currently entering his freshman year at Washington)
So there’s at least a reasonable chance you’ve never heard of Fultz (like a lot of guys on this list), but by this time next year you probably will have: He could be the No. 1 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft. At 6-5, he’s the perfect size to one day become a star NBA guard, and has the perfect blend of scoring ability and ability to set up teammates to start for our hypothetical, 2024 squad. He isn’t ball-dominant like Kyrie Irving (something that hurt Team USA early in Rio) and should have no problem averaging a cool 10-12 per game, while also keeping his teammates happy by piling up the assists. The best part: Fultz already got Team USA experience, after earning MVP honors for Team USA at the Under-18 World Championships this summer. (You can watch Fultz’s highlights here)
NBAE/Getty ImagesSam Forencich
PG: Lonzo Ball (currently entering his freshman year at UCLA)
As mentioned above, the one thing that Team USA lacked all tournament long in Rio was a true, pass-first point guard. A guy who didn’t care about stats, didn’t care about getting his own shot, but instead just wanted to get his teammates involved, and put check marks in the win column. Thankfully, that won’t be an issue in 2024 with Ball on the roster. The UCLA freshman made national headlines this past fall while leading his California high school to an undefeated state championship and averaging a triple-double playing alongside his two younger brothers (who will also both attend UCLA in the future). Often compared to Jason Kidd, he will be the perfect change-of-pace guy on our 2024 squad, a guy who can push the ball in transition and get the red, white and blue easy buckets. The UCLA staff is already raving about Ball (I was down on campus last week, and Steve Alford couldn’t stop gushing about him), and the entire country will be raving about him in the summer of 2024. (You can watch Ball’s highlights here)
Getty ImagesDavid Banks
PG: Trevon Duval (currently entering his senior year of high school)
Although Team USA only had two point guards in 2016, they’ve traditionally carried three and because of it, we’ll add Duval to the list. For those who have never seen Duval play, well, he might be the single most entertaining high school guard I’ve ever seen. Think Kyrie Irving 2.0, a guy who can beat just about anyone off the dribble, get to the rim at will, and finish in the paint. Some are already saying that he could be one of the top picks in the next NBA Draft if he was eligible, but instead, NBA fans will have to wait until 2018 to see his full set of skills on display. By 2024 he will be one of the most entertaining players in the league, and a fan favorite for Team USA. (You can watch Duval’s highlights here)
Kelly Kline/adidasKelly Kline
SG: Devin Booker (currently entering his second year with the Phoenix Suns)
Ahh, yes, finally, someone you’ve heard of! Booker will be one of the sage, old veterans of the 2024 squad and, approaching his 28th birthday (then, not now), should be one of the established stars of the league (LeBron James certainly thinks he’s headed there). In terms of his game, well, unlike so many other guys on this list, you don’t need me to tell you what Booker is capable of. Just know that by 2024 he should be the go-to scorer on this Team USA squad, as well as someone who (like Klay Thompson was supposed to do this summer) can stretch the floor with outside shooting. By the way, who else is excited for the inevitable Booker-Ben Simmons showdown when Team USA plays Australia for the gold?
NBAE/Getty ImagesNathaniel S. Butler
SG: Gary Trent Jr. (currently entering his senior year of high school)
The son of a former NBA power forward, Trent actually plays on the wing, and might be the best pure scorer not currently playing in college basketball or the NBA. At 6-5 (and likely still growing), he can light it up from anywhere on the court; a guy who is just as comfortable hitting a three as he is pump-faking, and hitting a floater in the lane. Frankly, his game is a lot like Booker’s, meaning there won’t be any drop-off when Booker needs a breather, and Coach Auriemma goes to the bench. This guy is going to be a star in the league. (You can watch Trent’s highlights here)
Kelly Kline/adidasKelly Kline
SF: Josh Jackson (currently entering his freshman year at Kansas)
While I wouldn’t say that Jackson quite has Kobe Bryant’s demeanor, it’s pretty darn close. Simply put, I’ve never seen a high school kid play with so much passion, energy and, at times, anger. I’ve also never seen one who takes so much pride on defense, and so much excitement out of shutting down the other team’s best player. Heck, this is the guy who once trash-talked Gary Payton, and who Payton described as ‘having some dog in him.’ That’s also why he is so important to Team USA in these 2024 Olympics. He’s the alpha-male, take-no-BS, bring-your-A-game-or-else personality that the 2016 Rio squad lacked. In addition to starting at small forward for our squad, he will also be the emotional leader as well. (You can watch Jackson’s highlights here)
Getty ImagesLeon Halip
SF: Jayson Tatum (currently entering his freshman year at Duke)
Oh, wow, now this could get awkward. You see, in pursuit of putting together our team, the final roster spot came down to two players on the wing: Brandon Ingram, and the player who will take over for him at Duke next year, Tatum. That’s right, we’ve got a good, old-fashioned Duke fight, and by 2024 Coach K won’t be there to break it up! In the end, Coach Auriemma gives the edge to Ingram’s replacement at Duke, who frankly I think is the better player. Tatum is the same size as Ingram, but already stronger, and a more fluid athlete, not to mention a guy who can score just about any way he pleases. His current Duke teammate, and fellow freshman, Frank Jackson told me a few weeks ago that Tatum is a ‘freak’ and he’ll bring that freakiness to the (hopefully) Los Angeles Games in 2024. (You can watch Tatum’s highlights here)
SF/PF: Michael Porter Jr. (currently entering his senior year in high school)
Ask college coaches or NBA scouts the current high school player who seems like a lock to be a future NBA All-Star, and the answer they give, almost universally is Porter. At 6-10, he’s already got the body of an NBA-stretch four, with the skill of a true wing player, a guy who --- even at his size --- is totally comfortable grabbing a rebound and taking the ball coast-to-coast for a dunk. In 2024, Porter will still only be 25 years old, meaning he will just then be entering his prime. By the way, remember how I mentioned that Fultz was MVP for Team USA at the Under-18 FIBA Americas championship this summer? Porter was the leading scorer on that team averaging over 15 a game. (You can watch Porter’s highlights here)
PF: Harry Giles (currently entering his freshman year at Duke)
Like Porter, Giles was once a guy who was routinely mentioned as a can’t-miss future NBA superstar and he still has that upside. The only problem is that he’s already lost two full seasons (including last one) to two separate knee injuries. Thankfully by 2024, all the injury talk will be a thing of the past, as Giles will have officially emerged into the player many think he can be: The best power forward in the NBA. Often described as ‘a young Chris Webber’ Giles can handle the ball, run the floor, pass and shoot, as well as post-up in the paint. Versatile enough to play five in a small offense, he’s the perfect guy to start at power forward for our Team USA squad. (You can watch Giles’ highlights here)
Getty ImagesFrancois Nel
PF: Edrice ‘Bam’ Adebayo (currently entering his freshman year at Kentucky)
With DeMarcus Cousins retiring after the 2020 Olympics with a decorated international career that includes two Olympic gold medals, two World Championships and a surprising Nobel Peace Prize win in 2019 (who saw that one coming?) we need an old-school banger in the paint, someone who will bring toughness and physicality when we need it the most. So who better to do that than a fellow Kentucky Wildcat, and a kid whose nickname is ‘Bam?’ At 6-9, Adebayo is a tiny bit undersized, but makes up for it by playing with a ‘motor’ that is rarely seen in a player so young. Adebayo is the closest thing this team has to a ‘role player’ but he will play a very important role as the U.S. shoots for (what is hopefully) its fifth straight Olympic gold medal. (You can watch Adebayo’s highlights here)
PF/C: Wendell Carter (currently entering his senior year of high school)
Carter is one of the most unique young men to come through amateur basketball over the last few years, a guy who recently took time away from hoops to perform in a school play, and who is a good enough student that he is considering Harvard as a legitimate college option, alongside Duke and Kentucky (Fox Sports will actually have a profile of Carter tomorrow). Basically he’s Karl-Anthony Towns Jr. from a personality standpoint, and if you’re looking for a guy to compare him to on the court, Towns is a good name as well. At 6-11 and 260 lbs. he already looks like an NBA center when he walks in the gym, and by 2024, he should actually be one of the best centers in the league. Look for him to start at center for the 2024 Team USA squad and very possibly end up the team’s leading rebounder. (You can watch Carter’s highlights here)
Kelly Kline/adidasKelly Kline
C: Andre Drummond (currently entering his fifth year with the Detroit Pistons)
Was it a bit of a surprise that a 31-year-old, coming off his 12th NBA season wanted a shot at playing in the 2024 Games? A little bit, but Team USA will gladly take Drummond, who will serve a very important role for the team as not only one of the strongest low-post offensive scorers on this team, but also its best rebounder and shot-blocker as well. Also, he'll be the oldest player on the team, one whose international career began way back at the 2014 World Championships.
Biggest snubs: Dennis Smith Jr., PG (entering his freshman year at NC State)
Smith is a bona-fide killer, a freak athlete who is as fearless on the court as a young Russell Westbrook. And potentially just as talented. The problem is that the 2017 and 2018 drafts are filled with great point guards, and there are only so many spots to give. Unfortunately for guys like Smith and De’Aaron Fox (a freshman currently at Kentucky) it had to be left off of this year’s roster, although knowing Smith, the snub very well could fuel him to an MVP type year during the 2025 NBA season. In speaking with Coach Auriemma after cuts, he said leaving Smith off the roster was his single toughest decision he had to make. (You can watch Smith’s highlights here)
Todd Burandt/adidasTodd Burandt
SG: Malik Monk (entering his freshman year at Kentucky)
By 2024, Monk will have established himself as one of the NBA’s premiere shooting guards, and will have likely taken over Westbrook’s role as the single freakiest athlete in the entire league. At the same time, the wing is loaded with talent, and the shooting ability of Booker and Trent simply gave them a leg-up on Monk. Monk is by no means a ‘bad shooter,’ he's just not quite at the level of the other guys on this roster. (You can watch Monk’s highlights here)
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY SportsBrian Spurlock
SF: Brandon Ingram (entering his rookie year with the Lakers)
Ingram will never be the superstar Lakers fans are hoping for (as I’ve stated for months, he’s simply a good player in a historically weak draft) but he will be a fringe All-Star and a very good NBA player. The problem is that the two wing players on this roster --- Jackson and Tatum --- have the potential to be really good, and maybe even great. On a loaded wing we had to leave someone off the list, and unfortunately, Ingram is the guy who missed the cut.
NBAE/Getty ImagesNathaniel S. Butler
F/PF: Jabari Parker (entering his third year with the Milwaukee Bucks)
At one point in time I thought that Parker should have been the No. 1 pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, and while I clearly whiffed on that, I do still think he has the ability to be a fringe All-Star long-term in the NBA. His skill-set is perfectly suited international basketball, but unfortunately, there just wasn’t a spot for him on a roster loaded in the front court with Giles, Porter, Carter and Adebayo.
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C: Willie-Cauley Stein (currently entering his second year with the Sacramento Kings)
Cauley-Stein is just a different cat, a unique soul, a guy who could just as easily be retired in 2024 and painting murals on Venice Beach (seriously, the kid is a crazy good artist) instead of playing in the NBA. At the same time, even for a free spirit like Cauley-Stein, basketball pays the bills, and while he’ll never be a superstar in the NBA, he does have one unique skill-set that this team is sorely lacking: Shot blocking and an interior defensive presence. If for some reason Drummond backs out at the last minute Cauley-Stein would be the first call to fill that role. Aaron Torres covers college basketball for FOXSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @Aaron_Torres or Facebook. E-mail him at ATorres00@gmail.com.