USA Olympic basketball starting lineup projection: Why Jrue Holiday is best option with Stephen Curry, LeBron James | Sporting News

USA Olympic basketball starting lineup projection: Why Jrue Holiday is best option with Stephen Curry, LeBron James | Sporting News

Team USA has an embarrassment of riches on its roster in its quest for a gold medal in the 2024 Olympics.

All 12 members have made an All-Star team, four have won an MVP and they’ve already won a combined 10 Olympic gold medals. Picking out a starting five is a tough but important task.

Pure talent isn’t enough to win international competitions anymore. The rest of the world has closed the gap on America. Look no further than last summer’s FIBA World Cup, where Team USA finished in fourth place despite bringing All-Stars like Anthony Edwards, Tyrese Haliburton and Jalen Brunson.

Finding the group that fits the best together will determine how far Team USA goes in this tournament. Here is their best starting five. 

MORE: Why Kawhi Leonard is withdrawing from Team USA for the Olympics

USA Olympic basketball starting lineup projection

Guards

  • Picks: Stephen Curry, Jrue Holiday
  • Other options: Devin Booker, Anthony Edwards, Tyrese Haliburton, Derrick White

Curry should be one of the first guys who makes it into the starting lineup. This is his first chance at playing for an Olympic gold, but there shouldn’t be much of an adjustment period for him. He’s the best shooter in the world, and that will translate to any level of basketball. He’s also very familiar with the sets that coach Steve Kerr will install. 

Holiday isn’t the second-best guard on the team, but he’s the best fit next to Curry. He can take on tougher defensive assignments that are necessary in the more physical style of international basketball. He embraced that role during the Tokyo Olympics, closing out games for Team USA to help win gold. 

Holiday’s offense is perfect for this team as well. The starting lineup doesn’t need shot creators. Rather, it needs a few role players who can cut well and shoot from 3.

Holiday is one of the best corner 3-point shooters in the NBA, hitting an astounding 60 percent of his looks last season, per Cleaning the Glass. And his off-ball movement was the key in helping the Celtics win a championship. 

MORE: Ranking all 12 players on USA Olympics basketball roster

Kyle Terada/USA TODAY NETWORK

Forwards

  • Picks: LeBron James, Kevin Durant
  • Other option: Jayson Tatum

Durant has been one of the best players for Team USA in its history. He’s won three gold medals and is first all-time with 435 points. We already know that his game translates well to the Olympics. He’s been one of the most clutch players in the world in those settings, helping to close out tight games several times. 

James has a ton of experience himself, winning two golds and one bronze. He’s first all-time with 88 assists and is coming off an NBA season in which he made Third Team All-NBA. 

Having LeBron and KD as the forwards provides a very important advantage for Team USA. Scoring has not been a problem. They have lost previous international tournaments because of a lack of size and rebounding.

Offensive rebounds are a much bigger part of international play. LeBron and KD are big and strong enough to keep other forwards off the glass, and they even offer great weak-side rim protection. 

MORE: Tyrese Haliburton ready to meet gold standard set by USA Basketball at Olympics

Center

  • Pick: Joel Embiid
  • Other options: Bam Adebayo, Anthony Davis

Embiid is the easy option to start for Team USA. He’s the most talented center of the group, the best shooter, has the most size and is also an elite shot blocker. 

That size will be even more valuable in the Olympics, which plays without a defensive three-second rule. Embiid can stay parked right under the rim on defense, where he is incredibly valuable at deterring layups. 

America lost in the World Cup last year in large part due to the ineffectiveness of its centers. Jaren Jackson Jr. couldn’t grab a rebound to save his life. That won’t be a problem for Embiid, who averaged 11.0 rebounds per game in 2023-24.

Embiid gives this starting lineup five good-to-great shooters, allowing Kerr to play a five-out offensive style and lean into how unstoppable all of his players can be with good spacing. That gives Team USA not only its best lineup but one of the best that it’s ever had for any Olympics. 

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