The 2016 USA Olympic Basketball Team Could Be a Lot Better
Plain and simple, the Olympics are exciting. For basketball geeks, they're even more exciting.
After all, it's only once every four years we get to see the absolute best of the best take the floor together in a series of competitive games. It's a basketball fan's Woodstock.
But, this year, it's not going to be quite the same. We won't see the best the United States (and the NBA) has to offer in Rio de Janeiro.
Meet the 2016 U.S. Olympic Men’s Basketball Team
Roster: https://t.co/SVpGiA5Dxl#UNITE #RoadToRio #USABMNT pic.twitter.com/hcg1tqPUOX
— USA Basketball (@usabasketball) June 27, 2016
Don't get me wrong, the United States will be heavily favored, nonetheless. But, essentially, this is our B Team, and the numbers support that belief.
Our in-house metric, nERD, is the primary measure I will be referencing in this article.
This number is a player ranking that measures a player's total contribution throughout the course of an 82-game season, based on efficiency. League average is zero, and comparable to win shares, nERD provides an estimate of how many games above or below .500 a league-average team would be with that player as a starter.
How does this squad look?
|2016 Olympic Team||nERD|
This list of names is nothing to thumb your nose at.
The without-a-doubt best player on the team is Kevin Durant, who tallied this season's second-highest nERD, behind only Stephen Curry, the league MVP. The team also contains three other players with a nERD of 10 or better, and there isn't a single player with a negative score on the squad.
The team's biggest strength -- unsurprisingly -- will be the three-point shot. Even without Curry and his league-leading 5.1 three-balls per game, the roster is chock-full of elite three-point shooters. Three players averaged at least seven attempts per while four poured in at least 2.6 makes per contest in 2016.
As a unit, the 12 players combined for 19.7 makes on 52.6 attempts a game this past season, amounting to a percentage of 37.5% from beyond the arc. In comparison to the Golden State Warriors -- the NBA's leader in attempts (31.6), makes (13.1), and success rate (41.6%) -- this team is even more potent from outside.
And considering the international three-point line is more than three feet closer than the NBA arc, this team should have no problem lighting it up.
But, based on the numbers, our national team could be much better. In fact, I think this team would be damn near unstoppable.
|2016 Non-Olympic Team||nERD|
This roster is made up of the top players, in terms of nERD, to either not make the cut or back out of the games for whatever reason (personal, injury, Zika virus).
As you can see, this group is a lot better than that Jerry Colangelo and company are sending to Brazil. It boasts eight players with double-digit nERD scores, opposed to the former list's four.
No disrespect to Kyle Lowry, but Curry would be a huge improvement at point guard, while guys like Kawhi Leonard, LeBron James and Chris Paul, with a total of 115.1 career Defensive Win Shares between them, would make the starting squad that much better defensively.
How do these two teams stack up to the 2012 Olympic roster?
|2012 Olympic Squad||nERD|
The numbers don't lie. The 2012 squad -- even with Anthony Davis yet to play an NBA game, therefore not accumulating a nERD score for the 2011-12 season -- was far better than the one headed to Rio this time around.
That team went 8-0, with an average margin of victory of 32.1 points, and won the Gold Medal. Imagine what a team with the players in the second list could do.
As for this year's squad, it's remained to be seen how they'll fare, of course. I wouldn't expect them to return with anything less than Gold, but their performance isn't likely to be as dominant as that of their predecessors.