The All-NBA teams released Wednesday indicate a hypothetical but ideal U.S. men’s basketball roster for this summer’s FIBA World Cup, and early top candidates for the 2024 Paris Olympics.
For the first time in history, four or the five players on the All-NBA first team are international — center Joel Embiid (Cameroon, though he is also eligible to represent France and the U.S.), forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (Greece) and guards Luka Doncic (Slovenia) and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (Canada).
That’s another sign that a U.S. team that doesn’t have a large group of its best players will be vulnerable come the World Cup in August and September in the Philippines and the Paris Games. The U.S. World Cup roster is not expected to be named until after the NBA Finals.
In total, Americans filled nine of the 15 slots on the All-NBA first, second and third teams. Players who also received votes were also announced, which allows creating this fantasy roster of the top 12 U.S. players from the past regular season (as voted on by people who cover the NBA):
Guards: Donovan Mitchell (second team, 349 vote points), Stephen Curry (second team, 188 vote points), De’Aaron Fox (third team, 144 vote points), Damian Lillard (third team 137 vote points)
Forwards: Jayson Tatum (first team, 484 vote points), Jimmy Butler (second team, 182 vote points), Jaylen Brown (second team, 169 vote points), Julius Randle (third team, 125 vote points), LeBron James (third team, 81 vote points)
Centers: Anthony Davis (also receiving votes, 65 vote points), Bam Adebayo (also receiving votes, 9 vote points)
The hypothetical 12th and final spot would go to Ja Morant at guard (44 vote points) or Kevin Durant at forward (35 vote points).
The All-NBA voting supports what recent years have shown: center is the position of need for USA Basketball over the next two years. Getting an Olympic commit from Davis or Embiid could be paramount for U.S. national team director Grant Hill and head coach Steve Kerr.
Though he didn’t make an All-NBA team this season, Davis received by far the most votes among U.S. centers and is the lone American to make an All-NBA first, second or third team at center in the last six seasons. However, he did not play in either of the last two Olympics after injury-filled seasons.
Then there’s Embiid, the NBA MVP. He has never played in a major international tournament and appears to be eligible to play for his native Cameroon, France or the U.S. Cameroon didn’t qualify for the World Cup, making it unlikely that it qualifies for the Olympics, so it’s expected that Embiid will choose between the U.S. and France.
France’s head coach said two weeks ago that he doesn’t think Embiid will play at the World Cup because he is getting married this summer, giving Embiid more time to decide on his nationality.
What’s more, France, which beat the U.S. in group play at the Tokyo Olympics and lost the final 87-82, could field a team with three premier 7-footers: Rudy Gobert, projected No. 1 NBA Draft pick Victor Wembanyama and Embiid.
For the last World Cup in 2019, the U.S. roster included one of the 11 Americans who made an All-NBA team the previous season (Kemba Walker). That U.S. team lost twice at the World Cup and finished seventh overall, the worst major tournament result in U.S. men’s basketball history.
For the Tokyo Olympics, the original U.S. roster included two of the 10 Americans who made an All-NBA team the previous season (Bradley Beal and Damian Lillard). Beal withdrew before the Games due to COVID-19.
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