Building an ideal Team USA roster

Why emphasizing fit over star power could pay dividends for U.S. team

Originally Published: July 31, 2012
By Neil Paine | Basketball-Reference.com
Kevin Durant, Chris PaulCatherine Steenkeste/NBAE/Getty ImagesKevin Durant and Chris Paul would be cornerstones of an ideal Team USA roster.

In this old article about the ill-fated 2004 U.S. Olympic basketball team, Bill Simmons described his philosophy on Olympic team-building thusly:

"The Summer Olympics [is] a blank canvas. ... A chance to build a superior basketball team from scratch -- not an All-Star team, a basketball team. Choosing from 300 of the greatest players in the world, we would want one dominant big man; one quality point guard; one great scorer immediately designated for Alpha Dog Status, two other good shooters, two other rebounders, one athletic swingman who can defend the other [team]'s best shooter, a backup point guard, two energy guys, and a 12th man who will hustle in practice and just be happy to be on the team. If we pick the right guys, we know we're winning the tournament and possibly ending up on ESPN Classic. It's just a fact."

Eight years later, here we are attempting to reselect Team USA using this 2004 formula with some help of advanced metrics. It features American-born players who filled each role the best based on their 2011-12 campaigns.

Of course, some of the players listed below are injured and were unavailable for the actual U.S. team. But for our purposes here, what follows is an idealized version of the roster that illustrates precisely how good the Olympic team could be. It isn't wall-to-wall superstars, but this isn't the NBA.


To read the full article, you must be an Insider.

Neil Paine writes for FiveThirtyEight, the data-supported sports, politics and culture site coming soon from ESPN.