Over the weekend, USA Basketball announced the final roster for the National Team that will be heading to Rio to play in the Olympics. While the roster is lead by A-listers: Kevin Durant, Paul George and two-time Olympic gold medalist Carmelo Anthony, there was still a lot of disappointment surrounding the roster. That was due to a handful of past Olympic greats and current NBA superstars decided to skip this year's tournament. Some of those no-shows include: LeBron James, Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook, Kawhi Leonard and Chris Paul. While it'll be fun to watch the team in August, there's going to be some disappointment watching Harrison Barnes or DeMar DeRozan when you could've had LeBron James or Stephen Curry.
While there's some disappointment surrounding the USA's National Team, there's a plethora of excitement and hope surrounding their U-17 squad. That feeling is due to the U-17 roster featuring some of the best young talent that the amateur scene has to offer. On the 12-man roster, you have seven of ESPN's top-30 2017 prospects and four of their top-20 2018 prospects. Among that crop, 2017 prospects Wendell Carter (#2 ranked), Kevin Knox (#7 ranked and Gary Trent Jr. (#9 ranked) stand as some of the biggest names.
That top-notch talent has led the squad to dominate in their early matchups. Going 3-0 in the group stage, Team USA won by an average margin of 46 points, which included a 119-45 blow out of Chinese Taipei in their early match-ups. Besides going over each individual game, let's take a look at the five best players from Team USA"s opening slate of games.
Wendell Carter - 11.3 PPG, 9 RPG, 1.3 BPG
Pace Academy's Wendell Carter used these opening games to show the world why he's arguably the best 2017 prospect. The 17-year-old Carter looks like an NBA veteran with the poise and great basketball IQ that he shows on both ends of the court. Defensively, the 6'10 Carter is a huge threat with how he combines a bulky 254 pound frame with being very quick and mobile. He consistently does a nice job of hedging on pick-and-rolls and is willing to close out on any shooter. He's more impressive on the offensive end, as Carter has a versatile offensive game. Over the course of the first few games, Carter's displayed range that spreads out to beyond the FIBA 3-point line, while also scrapping inside on post-ups or put-backs. Both his aggression on the offensive glass and solid perimeter stroke is evident on the clip below.
Markus Howard - 13.7 PPG, 3 RPG, 4 APG on 50% from field, 53% from 3
One of the biggest surprises of the FIBA U17 tournament has been Markus Howard. Howard, the incoming Marquette freshman that graduated early and reclassified to the 2016 class, has perhaps stood out as the best guard on the roster. That acclaim is due to Howard having both great court vision (averaging a team-high 4 assists per game) with a silky smooth perimeter touch (53% from beyond the arc). Howard had displayed a unique ability to both lead in the half-court or work as an off-ball threat. That second example is shown in the play below, as Howard hits the open catch-and-shoot 3 off the nice dish from Javonte Smart.
Collin Sexton - 16.5 points, 3 APG on 58% shooting
Going into the U17 tournament, there probably wasn't a hotter high school player than Collin Sexton. With Southern Stampede of the EYBL, Sexton led the entire league with 31.7 points per game on 46% from the field. That awesome performance has carried into this tournament, as he's been one of team USA's leading offensive weapons. A lot of that was due to Sexton just being an unstoppable threat in the open floor as the 6'2 guard combines blazing speed with solid handles. Alongside that, Sexton has been a pretty unselfish player, as he's more than willing to dish it off to a teammate.
Cart'Are Gordon - 11 points, 4 rebounds on 72% shooting
Despite being one of the youngest players on the roster (just turned 16 in March), Car'Are Gordon has been a terrific part of Team USA. A lot of that impact is evident by how solid he is with working the offensive glass, as he's averaging 2.7 offensive boards per game. Alongside that, the 6'8 Gordon has displayed a solid mid-range touch, which should allow him to become a more prominent prospect as he starts his junior season.
Troy Brown - 11 points, 6.3 rebounds, 3 assists on 40% shooting
The 6'6 Troy Brown has filled nicely as Team USA's "swiss army knife" in his ability to contribute in a variety of ways: cutting, working the offensive glass, facilitating and defense. For that last example, Brown has been the squad's resident ball-hawk, as he's averaging a tournament-high 2.7 steals per game. That defensive aggression is especially great for Brown, as he's continued to impress with awesome rim-rocking slams.
With those handful of great players, combined with a plethora of talent that we haven't covered (yet), there's no doubt that Team USA stands as the favorite to win the U17 tournament. They'll look to achieve that goal starting with a round of 16 match-up against Argentina, a game that starts at 1:30 PM Central Time.