On Thursday, USA Basketball announced its 57 finalists for the men’s national team in the 2020 Olympics. The list is long, but Bradley Beal and Russell Westbrook from the Washington Wizards are on the list.
Beal and Westbrook are the Wizards’ top two contributors and have consistently been part of the finalist lists for the Olympic or FIBA World Cup teams in the last several years. Westbrook has also been part of the Olympics himself when he was on the 2012 Olympic team that won the gold medal in London, United Kingdom.
In a normal NBA season, Beal and Westbrook would probably not get serious consideration for the final squad. Beal has turned down invitations to play in the past including in 2016 for the actual Olympic team. And though he has been on the Olympic team before, Westbrook is in the latter half of his career and doesn’t have the three-point shooting game that is more common, especially among FIBA Europe countries.
However, the 2021 NBA Finals will end in July, just days before the Olympics begin on July 25. Therefore, Americans on the teams in the Finals may be less inclined to play. And that will help players like Beal and Westbrook get a shot on the Olympic team this summer since the Wizards are probably not making the playoffs this summer. So it wouldn’t shock me to see Beal and/or Westbrook on the Olympic roster.
The USA is coming off a 7th place finish in the 2019 FIBA World Cup in China, their worst finish on the world stage since the 2002 World Championship where they finished sixth. The Americans still qualified for the Olympics from the World Cup because they had the second-highest finish among FIBA Americas countries.
If the USA can get at least some of their top players to play in the Olympics. they will be favorites to win the Gold Medal. However, if the men’s national team resembles their World Cup one, don’t be surprised to see the Americans fail to win a medal for the first time where they actually competed. The USA did not compete in 1980 due to a boycott.
The USA will play in Group A of the Olympic tournament with France, Iran and the winner of a summer tournament of six countries: Greece, the Czech Republic, Canada, Turkey, China and Uruguay.