The 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro are quickly approaching, and the potential roster for Team USA is thinning with each passing week. Houston Rockets star James Harden recently pulled himself out, and this gives other shooting guards like the Washington Wizards‘ Bradley Beal and Chicago Bulls‘ Jimmy Butler a better chance to make the cut.
The U.S. team is going to have plenty of forwards and big men to choose from, but it will be interesting to see how the backcourt performs after so many players have opted out. Chris Paul, Stephen Curry and John Wall all decided against competing due to injury concerns, and Russell Westbrook won’t be on the roster either despite good health. That leaves Team USA with only Mike Conley, Kyrie Irving and Damian Lillard as options at point guard, and this should be concerning to managing director Jerry Colangelo. Harden claimed that his decision to skip the Olympics was a tough one.
“As a result of many difficult conversations with my family, the Rockets, and trusted advisors, I’ve notified Jerry Colangelo and Team USA that I will not be competing in the 2016 Olympic Summer Games in Brazil,” the shooting guard said in a statement. “This decision was a painstaking one I did not take lightly. As a member of the 2012 London Olympic Gold Medal Team, and team Captian for the 2014 FIBA Gold Medal team, it goes without saying that USA Basketball has provided me with some of the most meaningful personal and professional accomplishments of my life.”
No American players have said that the Zika virus has anything to do with pulling out, but it must be a concern. Pau Gasol, a longstanding member of Team Spain, is the only NBA player on record that the mosquito-borne illness could impact whether or not he plays.
If Beal is willing to risk it, then he’ll have a great shot at making the team after Harden’s choice. Team USA coach Mike Krzyzewski recruited Bradley out of high school, and that could work in his favor.
Klay Thompson and Butler should both make the roster, but Beal could provide extra shooting and ball handling. He routinely runs the offense in Washington when Wall is on the bench, and Beal has become an excellent distributor over the last few seasons. If he is on the team, then we can expect huge improvements in his game during the 2016-17 NBA season.