Bradley Beal is officially out of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. After news broke yesterday that the Washington Wizards guard was entering health and safety protocols, USA Basketball announced on Thursday Beal would not be coming with the team to Japan.
This is obviously a huge bummer for Beal and for us viewers, but it provides Team USA with an opportunity. Much was made about the team's two losses to Nigeria and Australia in the exhibition matchups, games Team USA usually wins by an inconceivable number. The squad rebounded with a comfortable win over Argentina earlier this week, but questions remain about the team's construction and how it will fare against international competition that will provide much stiffer competition this year than any previously thanks to the talent pool outside the states being at what feels like an all-time high.
Team USA still has some of the best scorers in the world, led by Kevin Durant. Many flaws on this team can and will be covered up by the overwhelming point production that this squad can put up in bunches. But there are two key flaws on this roster that could use fixing, and that Beal's replacement could help with: Rim protection and a true point guard.
Who can they pick up to replace Beal to help compensate for those weaknesses? Here are some ideas.
The Americans feature two good rim protectors in Bam Adebayo and Draymond Green as it stands. But those two are more valuable for their versatility than anything else. That's great for the NBA game, but in FIBA, there's no three-second rule. Therefore, having someone big and tall who can leap to block anybody's shot is crucial. Allen is American, available, and can do just that at a very high level. Team USA already has a bevy of long perimeter defenders/creators, like KD, Jayson Tatum, Khris Middleton, and Jrue Holiday (assuming the latter pair will join up after the Finals, as is currently planned). They don't need a positional replacement for Beal. They need someone with a different skillset than any other player on the roster. Allen offers that.
Right now, the only two point guards on Team USA's roster are Holiday and Damian Lillard. One of those two will be coming off a grueling NBA Finals run and neither is a true point guard. Holiday is a great defender who can score, and Lillard is lightning in a bottle on one end and average defensively on another. Neither is particularly adept at setting the table for others.
Fox isn't exactly that, but he did average more assists per game in 2021 than either of the other guards. Plus, Fox's blazing speed would automatically make him the most dangerous transition player on the team, which is a key part of FIBA basketball given that defenses can park their center under the rim for entire possessions after they get set up. It's actually confusing why Fox wasn't on this team to begin with, given his availability with no playoffs to deal with and his relatively clean bill of health. Then again, Fox did withdraw his name from the FIBA World Cup at the last second in 2019 with no explanation given, so there might be something going on behind the scenes here. Even if there is, the only thing that now matters is winning gold, and Fox would be very helpful on that front.
Another Kings guard! Haliburton is not the best player Team USA can find to replace Beal. But he is on Team USA's Select Team, made up of a bunch of youngsters presumably being molded for future Olympic contention. The program is comfortable with Haliburton and he may not need to go through the same quarantine protocols as players coming in off the street, as it were. That may prove to be the biggest advantage, but since we don't know a lot about the protocols, we'll focus on Haliburton's role and what he would bring.
The No. 9 overall pick of the 2020 draft, Haliburton is closer to a true point guard than Lillard or Holiday, even if he isn't anywhere near their level of overall play yet. He averaged 5.3 assists per game with only 1.6 turnovers, an extremely impressive mark for a rookie. Haliburton is also a lengthy and bothersome defender who would fit into what appears to be Team USA's vision for their defense. It's not a splashy addition, but one that makes sense when considering all the factors at play.
Yes, yes, I know what you're thinking. Anthony's hey-day, even in the international game, is long gone. But along with the on-court issues, this roster is missing a key ingredient: experience. KD, Kevin Love, and Draymond are the only three guys who have played on the Olympic team before. International rules are different. It's going to be a difficult transition on and off the court for everyone involved. Adding Anthony and his oodles of Olympic competition accolades would be a great locker-room positive and provides additional shooting at the absolute worst. At best, Anthony turns into Olympic Melo and we all forget about the outcries of worry from this week.