In 2011 there was a lot said about the effect playing for Team USA in the 2010 World Championships had on NBA stars who experienced breakout seasons the next year. In 2010/11, Derrick Rose won the MVP, Kevin Love grabbed the rebounding title, and Tyson Chandler became the defensive anchor of the title-winning Mavericks, among other Team USA alums who lifted their games. So, it might be reasonable to expect the same from members of the 2012 Olympic team, which begins its quest for the gold in London this weekend.
Yet there's evidence to suggest playing for Team USA is not always a catapult to success. We've broken down the year-to-year PER changes for each member of the last three Team USA squads, encompassing the tenure of Mike Krzyzewski as coach. Obviously, this is a limited data set, and doesn't take a broader look at players from other countries, but it at least establishes that a spot on the national team is not guarantee of success going forward.
While eight of the 12 players on the 2010 roster had a better PER in 2010/11 than 2009/10, only 13 of the 24 Team USA players from 2006 and 2008 improved their PER in the following season. The combined PER for the '06 and '08 squads was down slightly in the seasons immediately following the events, while the PER for the 2010 team jumped by 26.2 points in 2010/11.
The performance of players from this year's Team USA may go a long way toward determining whether top NBA stars will continue to play in the Olympics. Commissioner David Stern indicated he's in no rush to push for a decision on a proposed 23-and-under rule from FIBA, and if many of the 2012 Olympians carry over their success to the coming season the way their 2010 counterparts did, there might be little appetite for change. If the players show fatigue, sustain a high rate of injuries, or if there are just as many who play worse next season instead of better, the World Championships may become the only stage for the kind of star-studded Team USA that will play the next two weeks in London.