During the last decade, International basketball has seen tremendous growth. Currently, the International presence in the NBA looks like an All-Star team, including Dirk Nowitzki, Pau Gasol, Marc Gasol, Serge Ibaka, Ricky Rubio, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili.
The USA Basketball program has seen a lot of growth as well. There are so many stars and talented players who want to represent the United States in International competition.
DeMarcus Cousins even had a few words on how bad he wants to make the USA Basketball team. Cousins had this to say during an interview with the Sacramento Bee:
I would be crushed. Everyone knows how much I want to do this. This is my third year here (two with Select Team), and I don’t run from any challenge. I would be crushed, but I’m not a quitter. I would come back and try again.
USA Basketball is in high demand for athletes within the NBA. It gives players the ability to compete against top-notch competition for a month and the opportunity to travel abroad to represent their country.
There are cons though. Athletes that participate generally have to work the entire offseason, which contributes to fatigue.
Kevin Durant had to withdraw this summer due to those exact fatigue issues.
Durant released a statement to USA Basketball saying this:
After going through training camp with USAB, I realized I could not fulfill my responsibilities to the team from both a time and energy standpoint. I need to take a step back and take some time away, both mentally and physically in order to prepare for the upcoming NBA season.
Since 2010, Durant has played the second most minutes in the NBA (playoffs included) other than LeBron James. James is also not playing in the 2014 World Cup this summer.
In order to support a roster of competitive nature and not keep players fatigued from a long-winded commitment, what could be the solution?
Put an age limit on each Olympic event
In the Olympics, the NBA could institute a minimum age limit for the more seasoned and polished NBA superstars.
Implement a policy that players have to be 26 and older.
Because older players might fatigue quicker than most, it would grant the elder statesmen in the NBA a summer of competition. Athletes would not have to compete for multiple summers playing in different FIBA competitions.
It would help the veterans in the NBA maintain their body for the upcoming season without burning them out. It also gives players and fans alike the opportunity to have the 12 best basketball players in the NBA play together during the primes of their careers.
Can you spell dream team? Rosters would be so strong, it would potentially feature 12 Hall of Famers.
For example, during the 2004 Summer Olympics in Greece, the United States had a roster that featured eight players that were under 26 years of age. LeBron James (19), Carmelo Anthony (20), Carlos Boozer (22), Richard Jefferson (24), Lamar Odom (24), Emeka Okafor (21), Amar’e Stoudamire (21), and Dwyane Wade (22).
They often times were looking for leadership and made mistakes in crucial moments in games because they were young and inexperienced. That 2004 United States Basketball team finished with a bronze medal.
Contrast that to the 2012 United States Basketball roster. In 2012, there were only five players who were younger than 26: Anthony Davis (19), Kevin Durant (23), Kevin Love (23), Russell Westbrook (23), and James Harden (23).
With the roster structure, it allowed the veterans of the United States to do what they do best during the most difficult times in games — lead.
Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul were able to navigate and lead during times of adversity. That leadership is a skill acquired through being tested in the fire. Having a group of men that have all been in similar experiences would benefit to a winning culture.
What to do with the youth of the NBA then?
This alludes to what the former NBA Commissioner David Stern had in mind, having an under-23 age limit.
However, instead of allowing the Olympic roster having players 23 years and younger, that premise could be set for the World Cup roster. This roster would introduce not only NBA fans, but the world to the bright young stars of the NBA. Instead of the USA Select Team, this will be a pool of younger players who will have the opportunity to represent the world on a grand stage.
Having an age cap on the roster would have the best young players in the NBA compete for a month and allow them to get better together. During this process of growing their games together, it also continues to create continuity within the USA Basketball pipeline.
A lot of NBA players have competed in the FIBA pipeline while they were in high school and college. When these youth are eligible for the Olympic roster, they can simply move up the ranks and compete for an Olympic roster spot.
Not only does it motivate the younger generation of the NBA to want to make the Olympic roster, it also allows them to go through tests and difficult situations as a learning experience playing overseas.
In addition, it also gives the veterans of the league a break. They would not be eligible to compete every summer in FIBA competitions. With a process such as this, the fatigue factor will be drastically eliminated.
Subsequently, the age limit would also give opportunities to a lot more players. Certain players would not be age qualified to compete for the Olympics even after finishing in the World Cup. Their roster spot would be given another more than qualified NBA All-Star. Thus granting equality within the NBA realm since all the capable athletes will not make each roster (World Cup, Olympics).
A player could say that in one way shape or form they represented their country on a grand stage, since the World Cup is a big competition globally throughout the world.
Every four years the World Cup roster will showcase the incredible young talent the NBA has to offer. If it were to happen this year, there would be are All-Stars, Rookies of the Year, and a Finals MVP.
Some of the players that would qualify today would be:
Anthony Davis, Kyrie Irving, DeMarcus Cousins, Kawhi Leonard, Bradley Beal, Andre Drummond, Michael Carter-Williams, Lance Stephenson, John Wall, Trey Burke, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Brandon Knight, John Henson, Greg Monroe, Jabari Parker, Nerlens Noel, Julius Randle….
On each level of competition (World Cup, Olympics) the best players would be represented. More players would have the opportunity to represent their countries. Stars would not be fatigued playing each summer (also decreasing the wear and tear) and we still have more than enough talent to win.
Everyone wins and we get to see great basketball with incredible athletes.