Now that Team USA basketball has finished its quest to earn a gold medal in London, the attention will inevitably turn towards the future composition of the team. On that subject, Tom Ziller wrote this piece for SBNation.com discussing what Team USA will look like by the 2016 Olympics in Rio.
If you read the piece, there's a certain Washington Wizards point guard missing that was named to the Select Team this summer. Yes, John Wall, the centerpiece of the Wizards' rebuilding effort, is not one of Ziller's candidates for the 2016 squad.
That begs the question: what must Wall do to actually work his way into the Team USA hierarchy? Here's the path I suggest.First and foremost, Wall must improve as a player. His absence from Ziller's piece is as much due to his slower-than-expected rise than anything else. If Wall does not have a breakout campaign soon, he will not receive consideration even despite his presence on this year's Select Team. That's pretty obvious.
Even from there, though, Wall's climb up the Team USA hierarchy will be steep. The current roster is pretty deep in guards with Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Russell Westbrook, Kobe Bryant and James Harden already on the roster. Bryant will not be playing in Rio in 2016, but the other four could very well be on that squad. Beyond those four, you also have Derrick Rose, who would have played in London had it not been for his injury, and Eric Gordon, who was a member of the 2010 World Championships team. Then, there's Kyrie Irving, who was much more impressive on the Select Team than Wall, according to almost everything I heard out in Vegas, and all the other young guards rising in this league.
It'll be tough for Wall to break into that group. It's certainly not impossible, though.
For evidence, consider the case of Westbrook. In 2008, two years before the formation of the World Championships squad, Westbrook hadn't even played his rookie season. Even by 2010, when serious consideration for the team in Turkey was given, Westbrook was erratic, having not quite completed his rise to where he is today. But he went to the tryouts and impressed coach Mike Krzyzewski with his commitment to defensive pressure and playing off the ball. Krzyzewski named him to the team, he impressed in a limited role in Turkey, and two years later, he's on the big club for London.
That's probably Wall's best path to making an Olympic team. With Irving such a coach's favorite already, Wall will need to embrace a role where he plays off the ball and contributes more with his energy. He may be duplicating a lot of Westbrook does, but Westbrook won't play on these teams forever. There's always room for good decision-makers that play hard on both ends, so there will be room for Wall if he commits to that style and continues to improve as a pro. The goal should be to get to that point by the 2014 World Championship in Spain.
If Wall can do that, he gives himself the best chance to be on the main team in Rio in 2016. It'll be difficult, but it's not impossible.