The U.S. men’s basketball team never has a shortage of talented players available for international competition. Ahead of the 2021 Tokyo Olympics, their roster is looking stacked once again.
That said, one of the team’s player selections surprised many. Cavaliers forward Kevin Love made the 12-man squad despite struggling over the last few seasons.
Love has dealt with a plethora of injuries — including foot, toe and calf issues — that have limited him to just 103 games in the last three seasons combined. He averaged just 12.2 points per game during the 2020-21 season, his lowest mark since his rookie season in 2008-09.
Nonetheless, Team USA’s managing director Jerry Colangelo defended the decision to include Love on the 2021 Olympic roster. He cited two reasons for his choice, per Marc Berman of the New York Post: Love’s Olympic experience and the team’s need for role players.
The best reason to say why Kevin Love as an extra big was because of his international experience. Yes it’s true he hasn’t played much of anything the last couple of years, but the skills he brings to the table and commitment he’s made to physical conditioning, he’s a versatile guy up front who can rebound and hit shots. Who’s to say how many minutes a guy will play? You’re not playing all 12 players. It was a matter of filling out the roster with role players.
Love’s experience will certainly be valuable to Team USA. He is one of three players on the roster that has previously participated in the Olympics. The other two are Kevin Durant and Draymond Green.
Love also has shot 37 percent from 3-point range while averaging 18 points and 11 rebounds during his career. Colangelo likely envisions him as a stretch big to pair with Bam Adebayo, a traditional big man who has made just seven career 3-point shots, and Green, an undersized big who has shot 27.9 percent on 3-point shots the last three years.
Could a guy like Julius Randle have made sense for the team? After all, he made the All-NBA second team last season while averaging 24.1 points, 10.2 rebounds and 6 assists per game and shooting 41.1 percent from beyond the arc.
Colangelo acknowledged Randle was considered for a spot, but ultimately, Love’s experience gave him the edge.
“Regardless of who you select, there’s always a few names that come up regarding why they aren’t there,’’ Colangelo said. “Randle was right there. He was one of our considerations. Especially when some of the injuries took place and we lost a few players.’’
Perhaps Randle will be added to the team if any players back out ahead of the Olympics. For now though, Love is on the roster, and Colangelo seems comfortable with his decision to bring the 32-year-old to Tokyo.