With the announcement that David Stern and NBA owners are interested in changing USA Basketball from 'Dream Teams' to 'Pee Wee Teams', basketball fans seem to be torn on the issue. Since 1992, the United States have sent 12 of the league's best players ranging from incoming rookies to old veterans. Now Stern and company ponder the issue of spurning the veterans in favor of a roster filled with players 23-years-old and under for the 2016 Olympic games. Veteran Laker Kobe Bryant let his feelings on the topic be known last week, stating “It’s a stupid idea”.
But is it? Sure your roster could be filled with guys that aren't even legally allowed to get into a bar, but is that a bad thing? Does it make it more interesting to see new blood try to obtain the gold? David Stern is not suggesting the NBA go the route of the 1980 USA Hockey team to create their own 'miracle on ice.' These are still NBA phenoms. The 2012 Team USA roster already has a shot of youth and they're doing just fine.
2016 is still a long ways away and there is no telling who could be on that roster. So while fans scratch their heads and search for the latest 17 and 18-year-old phenoms that might wear the red, white, and blue at the next games, let's put Stern's hypothetical scenario into action for 2012.
Below is what a 23 and under USA 12 man roster would have looked like if it took place this season. With that said, Derrick Rose's injury is still in effect. He wasn't available for this year's games and he's not available for our hypothetical roster either.
* Kevin Durant (23)- Arguably the best offensive player in the game. Durant finished up 2012 by leading the Thunder to the NBA Finals and completed a 3-peat for the NBA scoring title, becoming the first player since Michael Jordan (96-98) to do so.
* Kevin Love (23)- Love has become a force in the NBA. He's the best power forward in the league. Love was a double-double machine racking up 53 straight games with a double-double, breaking Moses Malone's record. Love also added the 3-ball to his game, something he did not show at UCLA often.
* James Harden (22)- Harden won the 6th Man of the Year award in 2012 averaging 16.2 ppg and was a key part of the trio that took the Thunder all the way to the NBA Finals. His offensive power, especially in transition, cannot be denied.
* Blake Griffin (23)- Critics are often labeling Griffin as 'one dimensional' but the kid can play. He has brought excitement to the Clippers for the first time since…well, ever. Yes, most fans only see the highlights where Griffin is posterizing some poor defender with a monstrous dunk, but he is fundamentally sound. He finished the 2012 season averaging a double double with 21 ppg and 11 rpg.
* Russell Westbrook (23)- I know, I know. All of these guys are already on the Team USA roster. Don't worry, we are reaching that part soon enough. As for Westbrook, he is the prime example of a Jekyll and Hyde type player. One game he is absolutely destroying teams racking up 30 points, and the next game he's shooting his arm off like a gunslinger from the Wild Wild West while making every wrong decision possible. Westbrook is an amazing player, but as a PG he passes too little and averages nearly four turnovers a game. If Westbrook improves upon that, he could be the best PG in the league. He's also a nightmare on defense, as we have seen in International play, making opponents work their hardest just to get it over half court.
Now for the new kids on the block.
* Brandon Jennings (22)- Jennings has an uncanny ability to finish around the basket. His step back jumper has embarrassed a ton of defenders. He's only in his third season and he has improved every year, averaging 19 points per game and 5 assists per game. Jennings would be a great asset for International play.
* DeMarcus Cousins (21)- Cousins should have been on the Team USA roster this year ahead of a few players. He was an absolute beast and dominant in every aspect this season. The 6'11'' monster averaged 18 ppg, 11 rpg, 1.5 spg, 1.2 bpg. He is too strong and physical for any defender in International play. Cousins is the closest thing that we will see to the next Shaq. Sure, he's a hot head who could lose his cool like Charles Barkley did back in 1992 when he elbowed an Angolan player the size of a broom, but who wouldn't care to see Cousins act like he's in the WWE? He would embrace the role of the 'Big Bad American.'
* John Wall (21)- Wall has been impressive since his NBA debut despite playing on a lowly Wizards team. He is the only player in the NBA to average at least 16 ppg, 8 apg, and 4 rpg. Wall's speed is second to none in the NBA, so unless Usasin Bolt starts to play basketball, no one can stay in front of him. He would be a lot of fun to watch on a team full of stars and I expect him to be a consistent NBA All-Star in the near future.
* Eric Gordon (23)- Gordon has already proven that he can play internationally based on his performance at the 2010 World Basketball Championship. He has a precise ability to slash through the defense with his deadly penetration and his automatic jump shot. If Gordon can stay healthy, he and the new, young Hornets squad of Anthony Davis and Austin Rivers, could be a remake of the Thunder's young trio.
* DeMar DeRozan (22)- This Compton, California native is about the best thing left in Canada outside of Hockey and Hall of Fame wrestler, Bret Hart. DeRozan is an explosive player and suits a position our hypothetical team needs. He's a great transition swingman and averaged 16 ppg this season for the Raptors. His 3-point shooting is very poor but he would most certainly dunk on every foreign player that got in his way. Chances are, you will see him really shine when he inevitably leaves Toronto.
* Tyreke Evans (22)- Evans won the 2010 NBA Rookie of the Year award during his first season with the Kings. He has played PG for most of his career but recently the Kings have had trouble finding a suitable position for him and are trying him out at small forward. Despite whatever hybrid position/player he may or may not be, Evans is incredibly talented and one of the better ball handlers in the league. Evans averaged 16 ppg, 4.6 rpg, and 4.5 apg. This young squad could use a player like Evans; a guy who can adapt to whichever three positions you need him to play.
And last but not least
* Greg Monroe (21)- This team needs another solid Center and Monroe fits that perfectly. Monroe, a former star player from Georgetown, has the Motor City excited about basketball again due to his development. Monroe is nearly averaging a double-double with 15 ppg and 9.7 rpg. His rebounding skills and set of post moves on the block make him an efficient player to take on foreign bigs. With Monroe and Cousins as your team's centers, you have a modern version of the Bash Brothers.
Could this collection of players win the Olympic gold? Possibly. Regardless, the youth and talent in this Jr. Dream Team would be amazing to watch. Their speed alone would make it appear as if you're watching old Roadrunner cartoons, and who knows, maybe this set of youngsters still watch them.
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