Ranking the Celtics' top candidates for Team USA in 2020 Olympics
In the history of Team USA basketball, only one active member of the Boston Celtics has ever played in the Olympics--Larry Bird, on the 1992 Dream Team (Paul Pierce did represent the U.S. on a very forgettable 2002 squad that finished sixth at the world championships despite hosting the event). Bird then promptly retired immediately afterwards.
Isaiah Thomas recently mentioned that he wished he'd been able to suit up for his country this year in Rio. Does Thomas have a chance to make the 2020 roster in Tokyo? What about any other Celtics? Sports Illustrated's Ben Golliver tabbed Jaylen Brown as one of 10 "honorable mentions" in his prediction for Team USA in 2020. Is Brown the C's leading option for a future Olympian? I attempt to rank their seven most likely candidates (a very generous number) below:
7. Al Horford - He's arguably Boston's best player right now, but in 2020 he'll be 34 years old. Carmelo Anthony was the oldest American in Rio, and he's only 32. There might be a few "elder statesman" guiding the U.S. in Tokyo (like a 35-year-old LeBron James?), but Horford isn't going to be one of them--especially since he's from the Dominican Republic and played with their national team in 2012. Oops.
6. Terry Rozier - Following his dominant summer league, Rozier appears to have a solid future in NBA. He's a long shot to ever be an All-Star, let alone an Olympian, but he's made great strides in the past year and will be 26 in 2020, just below the average age (26.8 according to Golliver) of the players in Rio. If Rozier keeps improving, who knows?
Can possibly make a case for:
5. Jae Crowder - Crowder will turn 30 in the summer of 2020. His offense is never going to merit consideration, but there's a chance he could establish himself as one of the most versatile lock-down defenders in the NBA over the next few years. Bruce Bowen made the U.S. roster as a defense-first guy in 2006.
4. Avery Bradley - The rationale for Bradley is similar to Crowder's, but slightly stronger. Avery already has an All-Defensive First Team honor under his belt, and he'll only be 29 for the Tokyo games. He can't guard big guys like Crowder can, but Bradley is a better shooter who can handle the ball in a pinch if necessary.
Might get serious consideration:
3. Isaiah Thomas - Since joining the Celtics, Thomas has elevated his game immensely. If he maintains his status as an All-Star point guard for one of the better teams in the East over the next three years, there's no reason to think he won't be given a serious look for the Olympics at age 31. He'll need some breaks and a few big names to drop out, but that's exactly how Kyle Lowry made it this year.
2. Jaylen Brown - We have no idea yet what Brown will be in the NBA, which is the reason he's able to rank near the top of this list. His potential right now is limitless. By the summer of 2020, Brown could be the next Kawhi Leonard (he'll be just shy of 24 years old). Obviously that's a lot to expect from him, but as a ceiling it's still very much on the table.
1. Marcus Smart - Smart is the Celtics' best candidate by virtue of the fact that nearly all of the arguments used so far apply to him. He'll be 26 years old when the next Olympics roll around, the perfect age for Team USA. Similar to Brown, Smart still has oodles of potential. He's a monster on defense in the mold of Crowder and Bradley, and we've seen him cover players of all sizes. Smart can also play three of five positions on the floor. Most importantly, he's already in the pipeline--Smart has twice been a part of the USA Select Team, the practice squad that the "varsity" trains against.
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