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Will Caitlin Clark make the Team USA Olympic roster? Our choice for the 12 places



Will Caitlin Clark make the Team USA Olympic roster?  Our choice for the 12 places

The Olympics start in 80 days and Team USA’s women’s basketball roster has not yet been announced. The final training camp before the roster announcement was held in Cleveland during the Final Four in April, and there are whispers that the final roster could emerge in early June.

Given the great talent in the US, the selection committee has the challenging task of putting together the best twelve people team – not just the top 12 players – because this is about Team USA winning its eighth consecutive gold medal and tenth overall. Chemistry and fulfilling specific needs are central.

The committee tends to book rosters with veterans, who may not play as much as they did a cycle or two earlier, and one or two young players, who probably won’t contribute much either but are seen as the future. of the program.

In between are ‘locks’, the players who are the best in the world. Then there is the pool of players who fill a need on the roster and who have also delivered consistent performances throughout the year at the training camps that Team USA hosts.

As simple as that seems, there is no exact science for the committee. One of Team USA’s biggest challenges is that their depth changes training camp rosters from camp to camp. Elsewhere, countries have more of the same workforce year on year, meaning some of the countries competing in the Paris Games have had the same core for years – growing up together, playing together. For Team USA, finding a good workforce is particularly important because there won’t be a long runway for the final 12 to meet expectations.

When I started making my projection, I looked at past rosters and my eyes were particularly drawn to the 2016 Olympic team. At the time, the Minnesota Lynx were dominant, in the midst of their run of four titles in seven seasons. The 2016 Olympic roster consisted of one-third Lynx members: Maya Moore, Seimone Augustus, Lindsay Whalen and Sylvia Fowles. Those were certainly four of the best players in the country, but that group specifically had a chemistry that brought players together on and off the floor. Given the player pool and the current state of the WNBA, I think the 2024 roster will have 2016 flavors, with only the Las Vegas Aces being replaced by the Lynx.

Eleven weeks after the 2024 Olympic Games, this is my prediction for the selection.

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The vets

Diana Taurasi: Taurasi will be 42 at the start of the Games and will be competing in her sixth Olympic Games. She has been a consistent member of Team USA training camps, not only during this most recent Olympic cycle, but also for the past two decades. At the Olympic qualifying tournament in February, only Ariel Atkins and Jackie Young averaged fewer minutes than Taurasi, but right now her value as a leader is unparalleled, and the only way she’s not on this roster is if she declines a match. invite (and that’s hard to imagine).

Brittney Griner: In April 2023, after Griner returned home from her 10-month detention in Russia, she said the only time she would play abroad again was in the Olympics. The 33-year-old Griner will likely get that opportunity this summer, as she remains one of the best centers in the game.

The locks

A’ja Wilson: At 27 years old, Wilson is currently the best player in the world. (The best counter argument is the next player on this list.) Her ability to grab a bucket at will, beat anyone even if there is a size difference, and defend at an elite level makes her a no-brainer. In her second Olympics, she will be expected to be even more of a leader and cultivate team chemistry. If Wilson can help bring some of the solidarity, camaraderie and joy to Team USA in the same way she has for the Aces, that could be the key.

Breanna Stewart: Outside of Taurasi, no one on this year’s roster will have more international Team USA experience than Stewart. The 29-year-old has two Olympic gold medals, three World Cup gold medals and a rare silver medal from the 2015 Pan American Games. Additionally, she has off-season overseas experience in China, Russia and Turkey, which helps her in international competition . Stewart’s versatility as an offensive threat is undeniable, and she is a rangy defender who can guard any position. Another obvious selection.

Chelsea grey: As the WNBA’s Point Gawd, Gray, 31, is the likely starting PG. She did not travel for the Olympic qualifying tournament because she was still not cleared for five-on-five while recovering from a foot injury suffered in the 2023 WNBA Finals. She was good to go for the Cleveland camp to go, so if Gray is healthy, she should be on this roster as the lead general.

Napheesa Collier: As one of the youngest players on the 2021 Olympic roster, Collier was brought along to gain international experience with the senior team. She played less than four minutes per game in Tokyo but is expected to play a much bigger role in her second Olympic appearance. Collier, 27, has established himself as one of the most dominant players in the WNBA and as the focal point for Cheryl Reeve’s Lynx. She was one of the top performers in the Olympic qualifying tournament, playing over 23 minutes per match (second to Stewart).

Alyssa Thomas: The 32-year-old could make her first Olympic appearance and I am confident she will be on the final roster. Reeve brought Thomas back into the Team USA fold after years out of the pool. Thomas brings a unique skill set and a decade of WNBA and overseas experience. She is universally respected throughout the league for being a grinder and student of the game. While she wouldn’t be a veteran in the sense of her international experience at the Olympics or Team USA, she would bring a veteran presence alongside Taurasi and Griner.

Breanna Stewart and A'ja Wilson

Breanna Stewart and A’ja Wilson will lead the U.S. women’s basketball team to Paris in search of an eighth straight Olympic gold medal. (Mike Lawrie/Getty Images)

In the fold

Jewel Lloyd: Loyd, 30, made her Olympic debut in Tokyo, but her involvement with Team USA goes back more than a decade. She was part of the youth national team that won gold at the U17 World Cup in 2010 and later two gold medals with the senior team (2018, 2022) and a gold medal with the 3×3 team (2014 World Cup). She is a dynamic and efficient scorer. Of the players who participated in all three matches during the Olympic qualifying tournament, she was the second top scorer, despite playing the fourth fewest minutes of all players.

Kelsey plum: At 29, Plum is playing the best basketball of her career, and that has been on full display during this Olympic cycle. She won gold with the Team USA 3×3 team in Tokyo and used that as a launching pad for two WNBA All-Star seasons. In Belgium, she led the team at the Olympic qualifying tournament with 4.7 assists per game.

Jackie Young: The core of the Aces for Team USA is completed by Young. Like Plum, she is a reigning 3×3 gold medalist who got a taste of the Tokyo Olympics. Young, 26, is another three-point threat (45 percent from range in the WNBA last season) who hits the boards well, sets up teammates and could be a nasty perimeter defender. With the size of the roster and strong presence among the veterans and locks, Team USA could prioritize perimeter players in these spots.

The youth

Aliyah Boston: Since 2004, Olympic rosters have included either that summer’s WNBA Rookie of the Year or the previous season’s WNBA Rookie of the Year. (We’re counting Collier’s 2019 ROY toward the 2021 roster.) This summer it could be either. Boston, 22, is the reigning WNBA Rookie of the Year who was also named an All-Star. With such a large front line in front of them, Boston probably won’t get many minutes in France, but that’s not really the point. Gaining Olympic experience sets the table for Boston to be the key point guard behind Griner, Wilson and Stewart when they leave the team.

Caitlin Clark: There’s no doubt that whether or not Clark makes the roster will make headlines. Putting Clark on the roster could be a polarizing decision for the committee because she hasn’t been to a senior team camp yet, and that goes against the ideal of “pay your dues with Team USA.” Roasting Clark can also be seen as a bold move, especially given the previous shocking criticism we’ve seen (Candace Parker in 2016, Nneka Ogwumike in 2021). While Ariel Atkins not making it to her second Olympics, or Kahleah Copper or Sabrina Ionescu not making it to their first, might not reach Parker-Ogwumike’s level, this would still be a pretty interesting decision.

Clark hasn’t played in a WNBA regular-season game yet, but it should give the committee some comfort that her Indiana Fever team seems to be clicking exceptionally well so far. Plus, it would help that her fellow young player on the Team USA roster would be Boston, a Fever teammate. Clark would undoubtedly draw attention to Team USA, just as she did at the college game and to the WNBA – that’s something the committee needs to know. She could also be a useful player at key positions for Team USA as a switch-up point guard and 3-point specialist.

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(Top photos of Caitlin Clark, A’ja Wilson and Brittney Griner: Gregory Shamus, Ethan Miller, Mike Lawrie / Getty Images)