4 things you need to know about the 2016 Team USA basketball roster

The list of basketball players who for one reason or another turned down a shot to represent Team USA at the 2016 Summer Olympics reads like a roll call of future Hall of Famers. LeBron James won’t be in Rio this summer. Neither will Stephen Curry, Anthony Davis, Kawhi Leonard, Blake Griffin, Chris Paul, Damian Lillard, James Harden or John Wall, among others.

But 12 NBA players have answered the call for their country, and it’s a pretty solid group of All-Stars. Between Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony and Draymond Green, Team USA should have plenty of firepower and just enough defense to put on a show — and bring home the gold. Here are the four things you need to know about the 2016 men’s Olympic basketball roster:

Seriously, check out the list of guys who won’t be in Rio:

Guards: Steph Curry, Chris Paul, James Harden, Russell Westbrook, Damian Lillard, John Wall

Wings: LeBron James, Blake Griffin, Kawhi Leonard

Bigs: LaMarcus Aldridge, Anthony Davis, Andre Drummond

And compare it to the list of players who will be:

Guards: Kyrie Irving, Kyle Lowry

Wings: Carmelo Anthony, Harrison Barnes, Jimmy Butler, DeMar DeRozan, Kevin Durant, Paul George, Draymond Green, Klay Thompson

Bigs: DeMarcus Cousins, DeAndre Jordan

There’s really not much of an argument to be had. If you lined up those two squads against each other in an All-Star Game, the second would be competitive, but the first would take home the win probably 70 percent of the time — and that feels conservative.

That first "roster" has five NBA championships, six MVPs and two Defensive Player of the Year awards. The latter grouping is impressive — four titles, thanks to Irving, Green, Thompson and Barnes, along with KD’s MVP award — but it’s clearly our "B" team. So how do we make sure we bring home the gold? Well …

Since the current Team USA regime of Mike Kryzyzewski and Jerry Colangelo took over, our Olympic teams have tended to play two point guards at the same time as much as possible. This year, with just two point guards on the roster, Team USA will have to split the primary ball-handling duties between Kyle Lowry and Kyrie Irving.

That’s not a problem, though, because we’re taking a slew of offensively talented wings. Any one of Butler, Anthony, Durant, George or Thompson would be perfectly comfortable initiating the offense. More important, they’ll be tearing defenses apart with their floor-spacing and transition offense. Remember, the international 3-point line is 20 feet, 6.25 inches away from the basket all the way around the arc. The NBA 3-point line, on the other hand, is 22 feet away in the corners and 23 feet, 9 inches away above the break.

That naturally makes the Olympic 3-pointer a much easier shot for NBA pros. If Team USA is smart, it’ll set even more records for 3-pointers in these Olympics. Team USA is slightly lacking in defense this year — although Green might argue against that — so the best approach is to fire away from downtown.

To those wondering why ‘Melo so regularly makes the Olympic team, by the way, this is your answer. He is an absolute behemoth in international play, where he can splash away from the shorter 3-point line, dominate smaller defenders in the post and shut down less sophisticated offensive players with his length and understanding of the floor. Ditto for Kevin Durant, who could easily score 50 points in an Olympic game if he really wanted to do so. With no LeBron and no Curry, expect Anthony and Durant to lead the way.

For now, the Warriors dominate the Team USA roster. Golden State has three current players headed to the Olympics, in Thompson, Green and Barnes. But that might not be the case when the squad gathers in Las Vegas for the first day of training camp on July 21.

Barnes, of course, is a free agent this summer, and there’s a pretty good chance he’ll look to take his talents elsewhere after a rough, up-and-down season and playoffs with the Warriors. Beyond that, he might not have a ton of choice over whether he comes back to Golden State next year. If the Warriors are able to convince Durant to sign in Golden State this offseason, they’ll have to jettison Barnes to make room for Durant’s contract. Imagine, then, a scenario where Durant joins new teammates Thompson and Green in Vegas while Barnes is left on the sideline, commissioning voodoo dolls of the entire Warriors organization while he contemplates his move to the Lakers or the Rockets or wherever he ends up.

That’s not the only awkward Durant-Warriors situation that could come up, though. Say Durant signs a one-year deal to return to Oklahoma City next year with the possibility of re-entering free agency the next summer. And say Thompson and Green feel like encouraging him to consider the Warriors the next time he’s a free agent. That still leaves Barnes out in the cold, with his replacement being wooed by his current teammates.

There’s one way to avoid all of this, though: Barnes could take his fate into his own hands and say goodbye to the Bay Area.

So we’re not sending our best players, and the mood could be kind of off in the locker room. Are we looking at a repeat of the 2004 Olympics, when we disappointingly won bronze?

Almost certainly not, because the level of competition isn’t as high as it was 12 years ago. There’s no "Golden Generation" of Argentinian basketball waiting to pick off Team USA for its hubris. Many of the world’s greatest international players, such as Pau Gasol, are staying home for their own reasons, including fear of the Zika virus, which is dragging down the pool of talent across the world. As long as Team USA follows through on its clear game plan — taking 3s, running devastating pick-and-rolls and getting out in transition — the gold medal should be coming back to America.

But that doesn’t mean it will be easy, necessarily. Don’t be surprised if Team USA has a game or two come down to the wire, if for no other reason than a cold-shooting night from deep. Fortunately, even then, Team USA should have the talent to close out its competition. When in doubt, give the ball to Boogie and let him destroy the world.