Myles Turner’s life must seem like a dream come true. The 6-foot-11, 243-pound center starred at Euless Trinity High School, played one season for the Texas Longhorns and was drafted 11th overall by the Indiana Pacers last June at the tender age of 19.
In the second half of the NBA season, Turner really started to shine and ended up starting 30 games, averaging 10.3 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.4 blocks. Then last week he got the great news that he has been selected for the USA Select Team, a group of young NBA up-and-comers who will work and scrimmage against the NBA stars who make up the USA National Team as they prepare for the Rio de Janeiro Olympics later this summer.
Turner will join his select-team teammates in about a month for four straight days of workouts. He’ll get the extra benefit of being coached by Gregg Popovich. The five-time NBA championship coach of the San Antonio Spurs will guide the select squad in preparation for taking over as the national team head coach in 2017 and through the 2020 Olympics.
It’s an awesome opportunity to impress the best coach in the league, who also holds the keys to the Olympic dream in four years.
Yet, if I had my way, Turner’s time to go for Olympic glory would be now — not four years from now.
The single-minded focus to reconquer the basketball world following the USA’s 2004 bronze-medal finish in Athens — a mission superbly led by USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo and national team coach Mike Krzyzewski — has been fun to watch. But eight years and two gold medals later, it has run its course.
Maybe you’re interested in watching Carmelo Anthony become the first American man to play in four Olympics. LeBron James can do the same if he decides to play. The great Chris Paul would make it No. 3. Nine players who won gold in London in 2012, and still one-fourth of the 2008 team that regained American dominance in Beijing remain candidates for the 12 spots on the 2016 team.
Yes, our beloved Team USA went through a malaise during a window in which the rest of the world greatly improved, but we have since successfully reasserted our power.
So now it’s time to shake things up and make Olympic basketball interesting again. To do that, Team USA should be a 24-and-under squad.
What would a roster of 24-and-under NBA players look like? Here are 12 names that quickly come to mind:
Guards: Kyrie Irving, Bradley Beal, Victor Oladipo, Brandon Knight, C.J. McCollum
Forwards: Turner, Anthony Davis, Kawhi Leonard, Harrison Barnes, Karl-Anthony Towns
Centers: Andrew Drummond, Jahlil Okafor
And there are plenty of others to consider like Dallas’ Julius Randle, Jabari Parker, Tobias Harris, Derrick Favors, Texas A&M’s Khris Middleton, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Nerlens Noel, D’Angelo Russell and more.
NBA owners like Mark Cuban, who has long railed against NBA players in the Olympics because of the financial risk should a superstar (i.e. Paul George) get hurt, should prefer this, too. Many younger players haven’t signed the mega-contracts of established stars, so the risk for owners — and for the fans of teams with participating players — isn’t as great.
No doubt, Turner is going to have a tremendous four days in Vegas playing everyday with and against the best players in the NBA and the world.
Turner would not be a lock to make a 12-man, 24-and-under Olympic squad. There’s a ton of talent there.
But the process, and the Olympic tournament, would be much more interesting if Turner and the rest of the young guys were wearing USA jerseys in Rio instead of mostly the same old vets.