It might still be well over a year away and tickets might not even be on sale yet, but with Team USA‘s first official minicamp of the Gregg Popovich era now officially in the books, it begs the question: Come August next year, just which NBA stars will the juggernaut side be sending to Australia to take on our Boomers?
It’s a speculative notion at best, but the fact remains this: On August 22 and 24 next year, all the might of Team USA will face off against Australia in a two-match series at Melbourne’s Etihad Stadium. This comes just a week before the 2019 FIBA World Cup kicks off in China.
Of Team USA’s star-studded, incredibly expensive, NBA-laden roster, only Paul George has commented publicly on the historic exhibition games in Melbourne.
The Oklahoma City Thunder forward spoke to the Herald Sun this past weekend, stating that “to actually be in Australia and know the level of basketball that they play, it’s going to be fun.”
It’s going to be a fun atmosphere and you wouldn’t sign up for this opportunity if you didn’t think it was going to be a heck of an experience. I think they’re on the cusp of being one of the top three or four countries competing in the World Cup and FIBA basketball.
But who else? Assuming George gets the nod, who else could potentially feature in a Team USA roster that graces Australian turf next August?
Using nothing but mostly meaningless history, limited knowledge, wild speculation, and completely ignoring injury exists, here’s this.
First of all, it’s important to note that this isn’t going to be some sort of half-assed exhibition side. Whatever squad Team USA plans on taking to the World Cup will be the side that suits up in Melbourne. And it will be stacked to the gills with talent.
It’s likely the side will conduct a series of warm-up games in the United States before the World Cup to fine-tune by the squad, but by the time the team travels out here to Australia, the side will be set.
One name likely to feature on the Team USA roster, injury permitting, is Kevin Durant. By August 2019, Durant will be 30 years old and approaching what could turn out to be his final serious chance to claim a World Championship.
After ably anchoring the side during the 2016 Olympic campaign – the last major hit-out for Team USA – Durant seems a logical focal point for the side.
Fitness and form permitting, Boston big man Gordon Hayward also looms as a likely selection in the side as a versatile option that can push into the backcourt when required.
The great LeBron James question is one that also needs addressing, as far as whether he’ll make the trip out to Australia with the side. While it’s true that a World Cup win is perhaps the one accolade that’s eluded James in his career, at (by then) 34-years-old, he’ll have scant left to prove, and could just as easily opt to focus on preparing for the upcoming NBA season instead.
LIKELY SELECTIONS: Kevin Durant, Gordon Hayward, Kawhi Leonard.
The guard pool in Team USA’s roster is replete with talent and selecting a mere handful is a complete asshole of a task. But nonetheless, here we go.
If we assume that, by virtue of speaking the word “Australia,” Paul George is a lock, then the next two obvious selections are Kyrie Irving and Steph Curry.
Irving has been a fixture of Team USA for a hot few years now, and seems set to move into his prime not only as the side’s chief playmaker, but as its leader as well.
As for Curry, injury and fatigue forced him to withdraw from selection consideration for the 2016 Olympics, and a return to the national side – where he has already captured two World Cups – feels like an inevitability.
Around that trio, the side has the flexibility, the playmaking depth, and most importantly the scoring prowess to dominate what’s set to be one of the more hotly contested World Cups in recent memory.
LIKELY SELECTIONS: Steph Curry, Kyrie Irving, Paul George, James Harden, Devin Booker.
There ain’t but two names even remotely worthy of consideration in this discussion: DeMarcus Cousins, and Anthony Davis.
There’s no one else getting near being selected at centre from the current pool of talent on Team USA’s roster. Write these ones down: Unless one of them tears off a leg, they’re virtual certainties.
LIKELY SELECTIONS: DeMarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis.
That, admittedly, makes it one of the more star-studded Team USA rosters assembled in recent memory, and one or more of the crop of high profile players is likely to pull out between now and then.
But even if these wild predictions turn out to be even 33% true, the games against our Boomers at Etihad Stadium next August will be absolute, once-in-a-lifetime must-sees.
It’s an exciting time for Australian basketball, mates.Image: Getty Images / Ethan Miller