While the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic has passed, it is certainly not completely over. Earlier in the playoffs, we saw Chris Paul miss the Phoenix Suns' first two games of the Western Conference finals because he was placed in the health and safety protocols. Now, Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal is set to miss out on the Olympics for the same reason.
In a statement released on Thursday, USA Basketball confirmed that Beal will not travel to Tokyo later this month:
USA Basketball Men's National Team point guard Bradley Beal (Washington Wizards), who w as placed under USA Basketball's health and safety protocols Wednesday, will remain in health and safety protocols and will be unable to participate in the July 23-August 8 Tokyo Olympic Games. A roster replacement will be named at a later time.
On top of losing Beal, Team USA is also losing Kevin Love, who is withdrawing from Olympic competition due to a lingering calf injury.
Team USA will be seeking a fourth straight gold medal but has looked vulnerable during their early exhibition games in Las Vegas. They lost in stunning fashion to Nigeria in one of the biggest upsets in the history of international basketball and followed that up with another upset against Australia. While they regrouped to take care of Argentina, there are still some concerns about this squad, which is without some of the best American players such as LeBron James, Steph Curry, James Harden, Kawhi Leonard and Anthony Davis.
Due to the condensed season, another short offseason, injuries and the pandemic, securing commitments for this team was a challenge. Finding someone to replace Beal, who finished second in the league in scoring this season, along with Love would be a challenge under normal circumstances. Doing so on short notice given all the other obstacles will be a major test for Team USA's leadership.
As we await an official decision, here's a look at a few players that could be called up:
When the 12-man roster for Tokyo was announced last month, Team USA CEO Jerry Colangelo said that Knicks forward Julius Randle was "close" to making it and was "one of our considerations, especially when some of the injuries took place and we lost a few players." Given how close he was to making the team originally, it would follow that Randle would be on the list of potential replacements for Beal. He's coming off a career year and would give an undersized Team USA another big man who can score and rebound, especially with Love no longer on the roster.
One name to keep in mind is Harris. Team USA is trying to figure out his availability to join the team, because he is currently on vacation out of the country, according to Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer. If chosen, Harris would give Team USA another big wing who can defend multiple positions and is comfortable playing on and off the ball -- something that's important with the amount of ball-dominant stars on this team.
While it wouldn't be a straight like-for-like swap, Robinson would be another shooting guard option if Team USA wants to go that route. Robinson was in the initial player pool for the team and is one of the most dangerous 3-point threats in the world. His ability to space the floor would give perimeter creators like Kevin Durant and Jayson Tatum room to work, and you can never have too much shooting. For what it's worth, Grant Asfeth of Sports Illustrated reported that Robinson is on the shortlist.
The Rockets big man is "among the players under consideration for a spot," according to Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle. Wood, who is coming off the best season of his career, would give Team USA a much-needed presence around the basket and a big who could step out and space the floor.
The only true point guard on the roster right now is Damian Lillard, and the lack of playmaking has been apparent at points during Team USA's early exhibition games. Adding Young, who emerged as one of the breakout stars of the playoffs, would make sense from a talent and a fit standpoint. However, he tweeted a clip of Isiah Thomas lamenting the fact that he was left off the Dream Team, which may be a signal that he isn't in the running. He is also recovering from a foot injury suffered in the Eastern Conference finals.
Darius Garland (Cleveland Cavaliers), Saddiq Bey (Detroit Pistons), Keldon Johnson (San Antonio Spurs)
We're going to group these three players together because they're all in a similar situation. With Khris Middleton, Jrue Holiday and Devin Booker still participating in the Finals, Garland, Bey and Johnson have been called up from the Team USA Select Team to participate in the exhibition games. They're already in Las Vegas with the team, so availability would not be a problem and they have gained some much-needed continuity. None of them would be likely to play heavy minutes at the Olympics, but this would be the easiest option from a logistical standpoint.