Despite a chorus of haters and internet commenters’ concerns, the U.S. men’s basketball team won gold with a convincing blowout against Serbia. Carmelo Anthony got his third gold, Coach K got the tidy ending to his USA Basketball tenure, and we got a few glimpses of our Kevin Durant-to-Klay Thompson future. But not all of the players will leave Rio inspiring confidence in their NBA teams. Here’s a check on whose stock rose or fell over the last month.
Carmelo Anthony: Up
Chris Ryan: You can’t always get what you want, but sometimes you get the athletes you need. At the end of a 12-year, three-gold, one-catastrophe journey with USA Basketball, Carmelo Anthony announced his exit from the program, leaving on the highest of highs, even cracking a joke about LeBron James coming back for the 2020 games in Tokyo (“He can have it.”). Anthony leaves as the elder statesman of the team and a true ambassador for the United States.
Anthony’s NBA career has often been treated as a garbage can for all of our trash sports takes: If you don’t win a championship, you failed. If you don’t win a championship the right way, you failed. If you ask for a trade, you’re selfish. If you don’t ask for a trade, you’re selfish. If you prefer to live in New York, you’re selfish.
At the end of a long, bad summer, Anthony showed us just how limited our perception of him really is. Overcome with emotion, he used his commitment to USA Basketball, despite the failure of 2004, as a metaphor for nothing less than his belief in the American project. “Despite everything that’s going on in our country, we gotta be united. … I’m glad I did what I did. I stepped up to the challenge. But this is what’s it’s about; representing our country on the biggest stage. … America will be great again. I believe that. We’ve got a lot of work to do. But it’s one step at a time”
Carmelo Anthony will probably never win a NBA championship. I dare you to say he’s not a champion.
The Warriors Trio: Net-Positive
Kevin O’Connor: The Olympics served as a reminder that the Warriors, an all-time great 73-win team last season, replaced Olympic pine-minder Harrison Barnes, with Kevin Durant, Team USA’s best player, and scorer of 30 points in his second Olympic gold-medal game. It’s outrageous that Stephen Curry, right now, is the second-best player on the Warriors (this could change, of course).
But stock is down for Durant’s new teammates Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. They both stood at the podium with gold medals hanging around their necks, and they’ll likely hoist the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy again next June. But the Olympics showed it won’t be a seamless transition for them to find their footing on a super team.
Thompson may think he’s “not sacrificing shit,” but Klay and Dray are now the third- and fourth-best players on the Warriors, so their roles will be diminished. Thompson never found his footing in five of eight Olympics games. Over the course of the season, how will he adapt when there are long stretches where he doesn’t get force-fed the ball? Thompson had only four games over the last two seasons where he’s taken fewer than 10 shots, but there will be a lot more of them this year, because he sure as hell won’t average 17 tries per game.
Green’s role change will be even more interesting, since he’s not the off-ball shooter that Thompson is. Green’s dick pic got more attention than his Olympics play, as he barely got on the court, logging just 9.9 minutes per game. When he did play, he never got into a rhythm. Could that happen with the Warriors if he’s not playing his normal role?
Durant is elite at everything Green does well. Green scored 0.85 points per possession as a pick-and-roll ball handler last season, per Synergy. But Durant scored 0.93 PPP. Green scored a paltry 0.88 PPP in transition. Durant scored an astounding 1.32 PPP. It’s not news that Durant is better — he’s arguably the best. But Durant will take the ball out of Green’s hands, diminishing Dray’s role as a distributor, which is what he’s best at. How Green performs when his role and workload isn’t as clearly defined will be something to watch for.
Ultimately, it might not matter because stock is collectively up for the Warriors as a franchise. But for a team expected to shatter records and win the title, the Olympics performances of Thompson and Green may only mark the beginning of a storyline where they don’t coexist as well as expected.
Harrison Barnes: Enron
Jason Concepcion: This is weird to say about guy who just signed a four-year, $94.4 million contract, but it’s been a bruising few months for Harrison Barnes. His NBA Finals shooting drought was so excruciating to watch that it took me an hour to work up the mental fortitude to look up his stats (65 total points, 25-for-71 from the floor, 35 percent shooting, a minus-32) .There’s probably no worse way to brick a contract year that doesn’t involve criminal proceedings, and it took place on the biggest stage in the sport.
Luckily for Barnes, Mark Cuban’s Mavericks struck out on free agency plans A-through-D (Chandler Parsons, Mike Conley Jr., Hassan Whiteside, Nic Batum) and had a small mountain of television cash to burn. Here’s where Harrison lost me forever though:
Name me one decent-to-great NBA player who ever let themselves be handcuffed for a team photo op. You can’t.
Coming into the gold-medal game, Harrison Barnes had appeared in three out of a possible seven Olympic games, playing a total of 26 minutes. This — it goes without saying, but I’m going to say it — is the fewest minutes on the team. He scored 17 total points this Olympics, which, leaving aside pure-point guard situations like Jason Kidd in 2008 (13 total points), is tied for the third-lowest point total of the post–Dream Team era behind Emeka Okafor’s epic zero points (not) scored during the U.S.’s shameful 2004 Olympic campaign and Draymond’s 15 points in this year’s games. Christian Laettner, the Dream Team’s human victory cigar, scored 38 total points and played in every game.
The 2016 men’s basketball team struggled with defense and a lack of consistent 3-point shooting. Yet Barnes, former member of the Lineup of Death, champion, member of a team that won 73 regular season games, could not get on the floor. That is bad times.
Late in the fourth quarter of the gold-medal game, with Team USA up by approximately a million, Coach K finally put Barnes in. After DeRozan. And Draymond.
If you asked Coach K which is worse — going to UNC or putting a picture of your penis on the internet — he would need to think about it.
All of which is to say: Harrison Barnes (HBQX) is trading at historic lows and can’t possibly go lower! Buy now!
DeMarcus Cousins: Down
Jonathan Tjarks: A dominant gold-medal game only highlighted how disappointing the rest of Boogie’s time in Rio was. Cousins earned a starting spot thanks to his strong play in the World Championships in 2014, but he couldn’t maintain that momentum in 2016. Team USA played better defense without him on the floor, and he was shredded in the pick-and-roll. He forced the action on offense, turning the ball over and drawing offensive fouls that kept him in foul trouble for most of the Olympics. The only player in the world who can really slow down DeMarcus Cousins is DeMarcus Cousins, and he did a fine job of it in Rio.
Kyrie Irving: Up
Shea Serrano: Nobody showed up in Rio with less to lose than Kyrie Irving, which, if we’re measuring it precisely, was nothing to lose. That’s what happens when you’re the person who hits the shot that wins your haunted and beleaguered franchise the most improbable championship in NBA history.
He could’ve gone 0-for-40 in the gold-medal game. He could’ve actively and openly tried to help teams beat USA. He could’ve picked up the ball in the middle of the Olympics opening ceremony, punted it into the stands, shouted, “We came back from 1–3, bitches,” and it would’ve been fine. It would’ve been better than fine, even. It would’ve been fun. His stock would’ve only gone up, because it could’ve only gone up.
I hope that Kyrie spent the entirety of the Olympics pestering Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. I hope he had a great big laugh when Klay said he was going to approach the gold-medal game like it was a Game 7. I hope that when Draymond sent that dick pic, Kyrie made a comment like, “I hope the girl you sent that to stopped watching the Finals after Game 4.” I hope, after their last game together, Harrison Barnes thanked Kyrie for not picking on him like he did Klay and Draymond and Kyrie responded, “Wait. You played in the Finals?”
DeAndre Jordan: Up
Tjarks: Team USA’s defensive resurgence in the medal rounds coincided with DeAndre’s insertion into the starting lineup. It was a perfect fit. DeAndre covered up some of the defensive flaws in the starting five, and the unit’s spacing opened room for him to roll to the rim. He played in more space than he usually does with the Clippers, where he shares the frontcourt with Blake Griffin, another non-3-point shooting big man.
This alternate version of DeAndre we saw in Rio could be a way forward for the Clippers, as they enter a do-or-die season with a core group who has never been able to reach the Western Conference finals.
DeMar DeRozan: Rock Bottom
Danny Chau: DeMar wanted this moment. He wanted it so bad. His run of theatrics during the pre-tournament exhibition games hinted at some sort of breakthrough. Instead, he proved to be one of the most consistent and reliable players on Team USA’s roster — so consistently demure with his defensive assignments and so reliably allergic to anything but midrange jumpers.
He was an embodiment of Team USA’s core struggles during group play. The FIBA 3-point line is more than a foot shorter than the NBA’s when measured from the top of the arc, yet in seven games, DeRozan only attempted two 3-pointers. He missed them both.
International basketball generally gives NBA players a chance to flash other aspects of his game, to moonlight as a specialist when most nights in the league call for them to be Mr. Everything. Sometimes, it lights a new career path, as it did for Andre Iguodala after the 2010 World Championships. DeRozan is who he is. There isn’t necessarily anything wrong with that, but the Olympics offer a chance to reinvent yourself for a few weeks. He wasted his opportunity.