Team USA may have to promote a member of the San Antonio Spurs to the Tokyo Olympic team. Despite many warnings from scientific experts that the Olympic Games probably shouldn't happen, they're still set to go on.
Predictably, some athletes have and will have to withdraw from the competition due to health and safety protocols. Team USA Basketball star Bradley Beal is now the first in what may be more to come.
If Beal has tested positive, of course, I hope he faces no serious symptoms and makes a speedy recovery. However, the question of who will replace him has to be addressed.
Beal is a shooting guard and one of the best in the NBA. But he is also incredibly ball-dominant and Team USA has no shortage of superstars to score. The best option to replace him is very clear. USA Select Team member and Spur Keldon Johnson is the no-brainer option.
If Beal returns in time for the Tokyo Games, Johnson could just fill in for the remaining exhibition games. If worst comes to worst and Beal is forced to stay in the States, then Johnson should travel to Tokyo.
This is no knock against Beal, but Team USA simply has no role players and has an influx of egos that need to be balanced. There is also no hunger. Damian Lillard, Kevin Durant, Bradley Beal, and basically the rest of the roster are all proven superstars. Many have already won NBA Finals and are locks for the Hall of Fame.
Meanwhile, Johnson is barely the fourth option on his own team. DeMar DeRozan, Dejounte Murray, Derrick White, and Lonnie Walker IV could all be ranked ahead of him at this stage. It's already clear that Big Body is a very good young talent, and the international stage in front of Coach Popovich could be the perfect place to prove that he could be “the guy” moving forward.
Aside from my own Spurs-related greed, Johnson actually makes sense for Team USA as a whole. As already mentioned, he is not a complicated ego to manage and would understand his role. He can rebound and score when needed and plays excellent defense. He fits in with Pop and would not have an awkward transition phase.
Keldon's physicality makes him a no-brainer replacement for Team USA
Keldon didn’t earn the moniker “Big Body” for nothing. FIBA basketball is notoriously more physical than the NBA, and some players have had a tough time with the transition. Johnson would not have that problem.
Having Johnson in Tokyo would be good for San Antonio and good for a struggling USA team. Need I say more? It would be an utter embarrassment for USA Basketball and Popovich if they finish anywhere short of gold, and Keldon “Big Gold Medal” Johnson could grow on me.