Five Celtics Make U.S. Olympic Team Finalists List
Feb 9, 2020; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA; Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum (0) celebrates after scoring against the Oklahoma City Thunder during the second half at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Boston won 112-111. Mandatory Credit: Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports
On Monday, USA Basketball announced the 44 finalists for the 2020 U.S. Olympic basketball team. Some of the selections were no-doubters, including LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, Anthony Davis, and James Harden.
However, a few surprising players were selected as well such as JaVale McGee, Mason Plumlee, and Harrison Barnes. Despite being sidelined by major injuries Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, and Klay Thompson have also been named to the roster.
The Boston Celtics have five players selected for the shortlist. This is more than any other team in the NBA. Kemba Walker, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Marcus Smart all have opportunities to rejoin the American national team following their failure at the 2019 FIBA World Cup. Gordon Hayward also has the chance to play for the American national team at a major tournament for the first time. Here is a brief rundown of the Celtics who we could see representing the United States this summer.
Out of all of the Celtics, Walker probably has the best chance to make the Olympic squad. In his first year in Boston, the point guard has averaged 22 points, five assists, and four rebounds per game, while shooting 43.6 percent from the floor and 39.1 percent from three. Walker is a top-five point guard in the league this year and has fit in well with the Celtics. His unselfishness, strong leadership ability, and well-rounded play make him a likely candidate for the final twelve.
Many NBA pundits actually have Tatum as an early MVP candidate this year. That is how good he has been. Tatum, who was selected as an All-Star for the first time in his young career, is averaging 22.2 points, 6.9 rebounds, and 2.9 assists per game, while shooting 44.1 percent from the floor and 38.7 percent from three. He has developed into a premier scoring option and a clutch player. Tatum can make the final team with a strong end of the year performance.
Brown has bounced back from an awful season last year to become a productive player with All-NBA-caliber defensive prowess. The young wing narrowly missed out on an All-Star berth but is averaging 20.2 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 2.2 assists per game, while shooting 49.4 percent from the field and 37.7 percent from long range. Brown has vastly improved the consistency of his jump shot and his basketball IQ. His progression gives him a decent chance to crack the final roster.
Hayward was the only Celtic on this list that did not play on the FIBA World Cup team last summer. After his gruesome injury in 2017, he hasn’t returned to his former All-Star self. However, he is improving steadily, averaging 17.1 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 4 assists per game, while shooting 51.2 percent from the floor and 38.7 percent from deep. Hayward most likely won’t make the final team, but his experience and versatility will get him a good look.
Let’s be honest. Smart is a huge long shot to make the team. His numbers aren’t eye-popping, as he is averaging 12.2 points, 4.8 assists, and 3.5 rebounds per game while shooting 37.9 percent from the field and 35 percent from beyond the arc. However, Smart is a hard-worker and was actually the captain of the World Cup team last year. If coach Gregg Popovich wants to bring in a grinder who will put the team before himself in every circumstance, Smart is his guy.
Obviously, all five Celtics will not make the U.S. Olympic Team this year. However, it is possible to see one or two of them representing the United States in Tokyo in the summer.