The USA’s New Dream Team?
The Dream Team. Everyone knows who they are. When the Olympic Committee first allowed professionals to compete in basketball in the 1992 Barcelona Games, the World was introduced to the “USA Dream Team.” Since that time, every four years a new version of the dominant Men’s USA Basketball Team takes the world by storm. Since 1992, the USA Men’s Team is 45-3, with all three losses coming in the 2004 Athens Games. The other 5 Olympic Teams since 1992 have been a perfect 8-0 on their way to gold medals. Next month Team USA will head to Rio for the 2016 Summer Games with a new-look squad led by Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony. Only Kyle Lowry (30) and Anthony (32) are over the age of 30 and only Durant and Anthony have any Olympic experience. Jimmy Butler, DeMarr DeRozan, Lowry, DeAndre Jordan, Harrison Barnes, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Paul George, DeMarcus Cousins, and Kyrie Irving fill out the roster. So how will this team stack up to the great teams of the past? Let’s see which teams you remember.
1992 Barcelona-“The Dream Team”
Jordan, Bird, Magic, Malone, Stockton, Barkley, Pippen, Ewing, Robinson, Drexler, and Mullin, 11 Hall of Famers, and 6 MVPs. All but 35 year old Bird were in the prime of their careers. Who will forget Christian Laettner being taken over Shaq and Isiah Thomas being left off at Michael’s request? Few people remember that Jordan didn’t even lead this team in scoring and Magic didn’t lead the team in assists. Nope, Barkley led in scoring and Pippen in assists. Any team that MJ doesn’t lead in scoring and Magic doesn’t lead in assists is pretty special. This team destroyed teams to the tune of 51.5 points per game and averaged 111 points. This group is known by many as “The Greatest Team Ever Assembled.”
Five holdover members of Dream Team I played on the team, Malone, Barkley, Stockton, Pippen, and Robinson. They were joined by Shaq, Hakeem, Reggie Miller, Penny Hardaway, Mitch Richmond, Gary Payton (Glenn Robinson is pictured, but didn’t play), and Grant Hill. The average margin of victory was 31.75 points. This was an extremely balanced team with eight players averaging at least nine points per game with Barkley leading the team with 12.4. With Shaq, Robinson, and Olajuwon this team had the best group of Centers in Olympic history. This team also likely has 11 Hall of Famers (all but Penny Hardaway should make it).
Many of the top NBA superstars decided that it was better to rest during the summer than go to the Olympics and this represented the first Olympics where the talent level was significantly lower than the Dream Teams. The massive turnover in roster resulted in a close two-point win in the semi-final game. For the first time the world began to view USA basketball as vulnerable. The team was led by Kevin Garnett, Alonzo Mourning, Jason Kidd, Vince Carter, and Gary Payton. Margin of victory was “only” 21.6 points per game. This team is memorable for one play more than anything else, Vince Carter jumping over 7’2″ Frederic Weis on a monster dunk. This was before the days of YouTube or the internet would have broken that day.
Young stars Lebron James, Dwyane Wade, and Carmelo Anthony joined Allen Iverson and Tim Duncan on a team with little-to-no chemistry and little experience than in other years. Carlos Boozer, Lamar Odom, Stephon Marbury, Richard Jefferson, and Shawn Marion all played considerable minutes, but there was not a clear pecking-order offensively and too much isolation one-on-one play. The margin of victory was just 4.6 points and the three losses represented more losses than the US Men’s Team had lost in Olympic history. This was Tim Duncan’s only chance at a gold medal and not winning a gold medal and being associated with this team was one of the few blemishes on Duncan’s basketball resume. This was the most disappointing team in Team USA history.
After an embarrassing showing four years earlier, the top players were once again willing to give up their summer vacations to represent their country. Kobe Bryant, James, Wade, Anthony, Kidd, Chris Paul, Dwight Howard, and Chris Bosh made this a much more talented team than the 2000 and 2004 squads. With 7 or 8 future Hall of Famers this team helped the USA reestablish its dominance by beating opponents by an average of 27.9 points per game. Jason Kidd retired from Olympic play with a perfect 48-0 record in international play.
The London Team looked like a classic Team USA squad, beating opponents by a tidy 32 points per game and trailing in the fourth quarter only once. Some called this roster the best the USA has ever assembled. Led by Kobe, Lebron, Durant, Carmelo, and joined by Harden, Westbrook, Deron Williams, Chris Paul, Andre Iguodala, Kevin Love, Tyson Chandler, and Anthony Davis, this team shot a ton a threes and set an all-time scoring record with 156 points against Nigeria. The team had five players average double figures, led by Durant at 19.5 and Anthony at 16.3. This team made news when Kobe Bryant and Lebron James said publicly that this team would beat the 1992 Dream Team, claiming that the speed and three-point shooting would be too much for the Dream Team to stop. Only Kobe was past his prime, where the Dream Team was older. Some argued that the reason why the margin of victory was smaller than the Dream Team’s margin was simply because the world had somewhat “caught up” with the US in terms of basketball. It’s tough to tell for many of these players, but it is looking like at least 3 or 4 of these players will not make the Hall of Fame (Williams, Chandler likely will not, and Love, Iguodala, and Griffin are still too tough to say).
At first blush, this team looks like one in danger of losing a game. It is far less experienced than the teams the USA has sent to the Olympics since adding professionals in 1992 and has less star power. Ten players have never played in the Olympics and this team does not have as many proven scorers as the typical Team USA. Harrison Barnes and DeAndre Jordan join Tayshaun Prince, Richard Jefferson, Lamar Odom, and Emeka Okafor as the only players selected to Team USA to not make a single NBA All-Star team. Obviously, they still have some time to do that. The only other team to have multiple non-All-Stars was the 2004 Bronze Medal Team. This team has only 1 NBA MVP trophy (Durant), the lowest MVP total since the 2000 team that had 0 MVPs. In contrast, members of the Dream Team had combined to win the 9 NBA MVP awards prior to the 1992 Games (Jordan, Magic, Bird) and ended up with 6 MVPs winning 15 MVP trophies over a 16 year span.
Comparing this 2016 Team to its predecessors is interesting. Although only two players have Olympic experience, this is the oldest Team USA since 2000. This team lacks the star power, but it’s 10 All-Stars is inline with other Gold Medal teams. One of the non-All-Stars, DeAndre Jordan, was All-NBA 1st Team last year, so the talent is there. Check out how the teams compare at the time the players were selected.
|AS Selections||# of AS||# of MVPs||MVP Awards||Ave Age||Scoring Margin|
With players like Steph Curry, Lebron James, Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul, James Harden, Anthony Davis, Damian Lillard, John Wall, Blake Griffin, and Karl-Anthony Towns all sitting this one out, it’s amazing the team is as strong as it is. It is not as good as the original Dream Team, but regardless of the lack of Olympic experience, Team USA has talent and is always the favorite in basketball. France will have Tony Parker, Boris Diaw, Rudy Gobert, and Nic Batum; Australia will have Aron Baynes, Andrew Bogut, Matthew Dellevadova, Joe Ingles, and Patty Mills; and Spain will have Pau Gasol, Ricky Rubio, Nikola Mirotic. Still, the world expects the Americans to be the team to beat, and we should expect nothing less than another undefeated run to a Gold Medal.