With the recent injury to NBA superstar Paul George, the talks of bringing college players back into the fold for international play has risen. Until the 1992 Summer Olympics, college players where exclusively used in international basketball tournaments. The 1992 Dream Team solidified the idea of using professional players for the long-term, given their incredible success.
However, on the heels of the gruesome leg injury to George, some are calling for the return of college athletes instead of risking the careers of the professionals.
Whether or not that is the right or wrong decision is not what this article will be about. Instead, let’s have some fun and look at what the roster might look like if the NBA decided to use college players in this year’s FIBA World Cup.
This argument is fun to consider simply because of the incredible lineup they could field, relatively speaking. Assuming that (1) no one was injured and (2) no one would decline the invitation to play, the roster would be very good compared to other possible college-filled rosters. Using both players heading to the draft and players entering college, a 12-man roster for Team USA might look something like this:
PG – Marcus Smart, Elfrid Payton
SG – Zach Lavine, Gary Harris, Rodney Hood
SF – Jabari Parker, Doug McDermott, TJ Warren
PF – Julius Randle, Aaron GordonC – Noah Vonleh, Jahlil Okafor
Considering this lineup only features one player NOT drafted into the NBA, this is a very talented roster, and the one non-draftee is the #1 recruit and a huge force down low (figuratively and literally). While there were a handful of more options, I molded the roster similar to what Coach K typically has.
The mixture of defense (Smart), athleticism (Lavine, Gordon), all-around talent (Parker), scoring (McDermott), and rebounding (Randle, Vonleh) gives Team USA a very well-rounded roster.
Naturally, though, this team likely wouldn’t be able to compete with the giant Spain. Currently ranked 2nd behind America, the trio of Pau Gasol, Marc Gasol, and Serge Ibaka alone would be more than this young American squad could handle.
Outside of that, though? Team USA could hang with about any other team. Given Mike Krzyzewski’s preference of small-ball, I’d suspect a lineup of Smart-Lavine-Parker-McDermott-Vonleh, giving USA a stretch four in McDermott. However, with talents like Randle and Gordon on the bench, it’s hard NOT to play those two.
Talent-wise, the best lineup Team USA could field would be Smart-Parker-McDermott-Randle-Vonleh, with Gordon as a sixth man. Most due to age, this team would certainly not be lacking on athleticism, and I suspect Coach K would use nearly all 12 players in rotation to wear down opponents. Best case scenario, USA would finish 2nd to Spain, but it’s hard to see this team not medaling in Spain.
What do you think? Would this be your roster? Could they medal in Spain?