One of the most fascinating discussions around basketball in the 2024 Paris Olympics is which country Joel Embiid will play for. The two options the current NBA MVP can choose from are France and the USA, as he has dual citizenship and the recruiting pitches are heating up.
The biggest weakness Team USA faces as the game continues to become globalized is the lack of a true big-body center that can battle in the post. Most American big men these days are stretch players who play outside-in instead of inside-out (i.e. Anthony Davis, Karl-Anthony Towns). International big men, as seen in the FIBA World Cup, and in Giannis Antetokounmpo and Nikola Jokic, can bang down low and dominate the current Team USA centers. The importance of having Embiid on Team USA to counter this threat from the other international teams cannot be overstated.
Embiid’s decision could determine the 2024 Olympic Gold Medal winner.
If Embiid joins France, the winners of the last five NBA MVP awards would be playing for different teams, which is more proof that the rest of the world is catching up to the United States in basketball. The US team will undoubtedly be the favorite entering the 2024 Olympic Games, but the hosting country, France, could have something to say.
France consistently has a competitive international team and is currently fifth in the FIBA World rankings. The roster already has 3-time Defensive Player of the Year, Rudy Gobert, on it, and uber-hyped rookie Victor Wembanyama will be lacing up for France as well. Can you fathom a lineup featuring Gobert and Embiid in the frontcourt with Wembanyama running the offense? Gobert and Embiid both excel in the post and would expose Team USA’s size weakness even more.
The FIBA World Cup disappointment by Team USA is not something to overreact about as the majority of those players will not be on the roster or not play meaningful minutes at the Paris Olympics. However, the alarm bells should be raised that we can no longer just show up to the arena and be guaranteed a win. The 2024 Olympics basketball competition will be the most competitive in years and I cannot wait to see if any Sixers players have an impact.