On Tuesday, Lee Jenkins of Sports Illustrated reported that Clippers point guard Chris Paul has withdrawn his name from consideration for the 2016 USA Basketball men's national team that will play in the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. Paul played for the 2006 FIBA World Championship where he won a bronze medal and was on the 2008 and 2012 Olympic teams that won the Gold Medal.
Paul was the starting point guard on the 2012 Olympic team in London and would likely be the starter for the 2016 team if he decided to stay. With his absence, it practically guarantees that there will be at least one new point guard on the Olympic team this summer.
Since John Wall is a finalist for the Olympics, it's safe to say that his chances of making the team have increased. But how secure is his path to Rio?
Let's take a look at the other point guards Wall is up against and assume that everyone else is onboard to go to Rio de Janeiro if selected.
NBA point guards who are 2016 Team USA finalists
|Stephen Curry||No||2010, 2014|
There are six finalists who are NBA point guards including Wall. All of the point guards here are among the best in the NBA. However, we're talking about FIBA Basketball now, not the NBA.
Let's take a look at why Wall will and will not make the Olympic team.
Why Wall makes Team USA: He fits their need for a floor general and a multi-positional defender
Despite the fact that Wall has no international playing experience in major FIBA or Olympic events, he does have a couple traits in his game that other point guards on this list don't fill as well.
First, Wall is a pass-first, floor general type of point guard while most of the other players on this list are scorers. Paul, like Wall, is also a pass-first, floor general. There will inevitably be situations when Team USA head coach Mike Krzyzewski will need a guard who prefers to set up his teammates instead of gunning for his own points. Paul and Wall are two of the best such players in that role.
Second, Wall is a strong perimeter defender and was on the All-NBA defensive second team last season. Given his 6'4 height and 6'9 wingspan, he will be able to defend both point guards and shooting guards in the FIBA game. Let's also keep in mind that FIBA national team lineups are often shorter because most of the world doesn't have a roster full of NBA-level talent.
On that note, because many of the NBA point guards who are national team finalists are great scorers, it is possible that you will see a combination of Curry, Westbrook, and Irving play at shooting guard more often. If so, then that increases the chances of Wall making the Olympic team because the other guards will primarily play at the two-guard spot instead.
Why Wall doesn't make it: There are still many point guards who already have Olympic and World Cup experience
If USA Basketball plans on bringing three players on this list, based on the USA men's national team's past track record, they will pick players who have already played on past Olympic and/or World Cup teams. Those players are Russell Westbrook (2010 FIBA World Cup and 2012 Olympics), Stephen Curry (2010 and 2014 FIBA World Cup), and Kyrie Irving (2014 FIBA World Cup).
Because there are already three point guards on this list who have already played in major FIBA or Olympic events, Wall will still have a tough time making the final team, assuming that you peg every player on this list to the point guard position.
Also, it's not like the other point guards on this list can't be good floor generals when they have to be. As an example, Westbrook is a good floor general himself, and he averages more assists a game than Wall. Who's to say that he can't fill Paul's shoes for the Olympics which only take place for a couple weeks?
The Verdict? Let's wait and see!
Ultimately, Wall's road to Rio is far from certain. But with Chris Paul no longer in consideration for the Olympic team, he is now a much more viable candidate because Team USA can always use a tall, fast point guard who shares Paul's natural floor-general traits and has a knack for playing great defense.