What Olympic let down? NBA players usually improve after Games

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Certainly, NBA players can get injured playing for Team USA. No doubt, smart coaches rest them a little more then next season, particularly during training camp and the first part of the campaign.

However, the idea that NBA players get worn down playing extra ball for Team USA in the summer and have down NBA season is wrong. In fact the opposite is true. Neil Paine broke it down at fivethirtyeight.com.

According to the numbers, however, there’s not really any reason to worry about Dream Teamers coming home from Rio in a weakened state. If anything, playing for Team USA at a big international tournament seems to be associated with a boost in performance the next season.

My colleague Jim Pagels came to that conclusion in 2014 when comparing Team USA members’ per-minute production with what would be predicted by Basketball-Reference’s Simple Projection System, finding that players produced better NBA Player Efficiency Ratings and Win Shares per 48 minutes than expected after donning the Stars and Stripes. My own research backs this up; U.S. players tend to exceed their projected Box Plus/Minus (BPM) by about 0.4 points per 100 possessions the year after playing a major tournament1 for the United States, and they beat projections by nearly 0.7 points/100 possessions after playing in the Olympics specifically.

Or look at another stat they dug up, the season after the Olympics 65 percent of NBA players had an improved “Wins over Replacement” number than the season before, 35 percent saw a regression.

One could tinker with the numbers a variety of ways, and clearly nothing applies universally, but the majority of players come back from the Olympics playing better basketball. A lot of them will talk about this — being around other elite players and pushing themselves in practices (and games) against them improve their talents.

Which should bode well for teams — particularly Golden State, with three players on the team (Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green). Like that team needed another boost.