With Team USA‘s minicamp now concluded, what are Bradley Beal‘s chances of heading to Rio in 2016? While Beal was unable to participate fully in the minicamp because of an injury to his right fibula, he still has the potential to make the Team USA roster because of both his shooting ability and the lack of competition at shooting guard.
For all the talk about the center position being at its weakest in years, the lack of elite shooting guards has gone unnoticed. You have an aging Dwyane Wade, an aging Kobe Bryant, James Harden and then a significant drop off. With both Wade and Bryant’s Olympic careers probably over, there isn’t much left in the shooting guard pipeline to replace them. This was emphasized last summer when Team USA had Eric Gordon, Andre Iguodala and Harden as the finalists to play behind Bryant, with Iguodala and Harden garnering the nod. Furthermore, Team USA played both Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook at shooting guard to shore up the team’s shortcomings at the position.
So, save a fall-off reminiscent of Tyreke Evans‘ career after his rookie season, and Beal will be a finalist when the time comes to select the team headed to Rio. With Harden probably giving the Olympics another go, according to Durant anyway, that leaves two spots up for grabs. With Bryant getting up there in age and Iguodala being, well, Iguodala — a plus defender who can’t shoot and is turnover prone (how’d he make the team again?) — it’s safe to say that both spots will be open come 2016, if not 2014 when the World Championships will be underway.
In looking at the invitees to the Las Vegas minicamp, I’d have to rate Klay Thompson and Beal as the top two options to fill Bryant and Iguodala’s spot. Still, these two being the top options isn’t saying much. The only other true shooting guards at the camp were Dion Waiters and Gordon Hayward. Although a numbers crunch at small forward could slide Paul George over to shooting guard, Beal and Thompson would still have a good shot at both making the team because of their shooting ability.
Thompson and his “Splash Brother” Stephen Curry formed what Golden State Warriors head coach Mark Jackson called one of the best shooting backcourts in NBA history. This distinction would put Thompson ahead of Beal in the event that the George move occurred, but one still shouldn’t short change Beal’s shooting ability. Beal shot 39 percent from three his rookie year, and that was after he underwent a significant shooting slump to start his career with John Wall sidelined.
All in all, this upcoming season will play an integral role in determining Beal’s immediate future with Team USA. Beal has to improve his ball-handling skills and become more of a factor attacking the basket. Even if these improvements aren’t apparent next season, Beal still has to feel confident that he can earn a spot among the nation’s elite next season. Even as a one-dimensional offensive player, there is a spot Beal could fill, the designated-shooter role, once filled by one Michael Redd.