By JAMES SARGENT
Team USA is now set in stone, and unless injuries occur, the team below will be representing us at the 2012 London Olympics.
Injuries have played a major role in making this team not as stacked as teams in the past; however, the current roster is still very deadly. Dwight Howard, Derrick Rose, Chris Bosh, and Dwyane Wade have all been on the team in previous years, but due to injuries they have suffered, they will not be competing. Rudy Gay, Eric Gordon, and Anthony Davis were also cut from the team when they held tryouts in Las Vegas.
Tyson Chandler is also the only true center, which means small ball is going to be key. Look for a lot of versatility in this team, with small forwards playing power forward at times, and multiple point guards on the floor together.
This team is relatively young and will be very exciting to watch. Anything less than the gold, in my opinion, would be a disappointment, even though Spain looks to be a close second in roster talent.
Let’s take a look at the current roster and breakdown each position.
Point Guards: Chris Paul (Los Angeles Clippers), Russell Westbrook (Oklahoma City Thunder), Deron Williams (Brooklyn Nets)
Chris Paul will likely start at point and serve as the main floor general for Team USA. Paul is a great leader on and off the court, and his speed and quickness will be unstoppable against other guards. Paul also has experience, as he was on the 2008 Olympic team.
Russell Westbrook has no Olympic experience, but if the way he played in the playoffs can translate to international play he should be just fine. Westbrook is by far the most athletic point guard on the team, however, with Paul and Williams in front of him, who knows how often he will see the court. Westbrook is a scorer though, and could find himself playing the 2 from time to time.
Deron Williams should serve as Paul’s backup. His deadly crossover, size, and strength will also leave guards from other countries in the dust. Williams was also on the 2008 team with Paul and his experience will greatly help him out.
Shooting Guards: Kobe Bryant (Los Angeles Lakers), James Harden (Oklahoma City Thunder), Andre Iguodala (Philadelphia 76ers)
Look for Kobe Bryant to nab the starting shooting guard spot. He will serve as the veteran and oldest player on the squad. If the team is in a funk offensively, look for them to go to Kobe, but if the offense is flowing just right, Kobe could take a behind-the-scenes role. Kobe’s knees are starting to decline and he will be looking towards the NBA season and another championship, especially with the addition of Steve Nash. Kobe is very competitive though, so maybe he will just go all out.
James Harden probably played the worst basketball of his career in the NBA Finals against the Heat, but don’t expect a repeat of that in these Olympic games. Harden is developing into an elite player and has helped OKC get to where they are today. His three-point shooting and ability to get to the rim will be vital as he serves as Kobe’s backup. He will also have the best beard in the Olympics, no doubt.
Andre Iguodala made the team for his versatility to play both the 2 and the 3, and he is also very defensive-minded. Iguodala can score the ball quite well, but he won’t be asked to do that in London. He is definitely going to see playtime just for his defense alone. Iguodala won’t get to shine like his teammates, but he will surely be an unsung hero.
Small Forwards: Carmelo Anthony (New York Knicks), Kevin Durant (Oklahoma City Thunder), LeBron James (Miami Heat)
The small forward position is stacked, and the great thing about all of them is that they can also play the 4. Carmelo Anthony loves playing for his country, and man, he can score the ball at will. In the NBA, he can act selfishly at times, but during Olympic play, he seems to leave the ball-hogging style of offense at home. Look for ‘Melo to be one of the top two or three scorers for this team.
After coming off a heartbreaking defeat to the Miami Heat in the Finals, Kevin Durant will be looking to get that gold medal. He was also left off the 2008 Olympic team, and uses that as motivation for these Olympics. Durant is going to be a huge mismatch for whoever guards him, and I think he will be the leading scorer for Team USA.
LeBron James is arguably the best player in the world, and now has a championship to show. I wouldn’t be surprised if James lines up at the power forward position quite a bit, especially with only three big men on this team. His facilitating and uncanny ability to score the ball is going to be huge. We’ll have to wait and see what LeBron shows up. Will he look to score at will or pass off and let his teammates shine?
Power Forwards: Blake Griffin (Los Angeles Clippers), Kevin Love (Minnesota Timberwolves)
If you didn’t get enough of Blake Griffin and his dunks during the NBA season, make sure to tune in to the Olympics because he surely will put on a show. Griffin will need to step up immensely on the defensive end and look to rebound everything that comes in his direction. His physical presence on the court will be greatly appreciated, and he and Kevin Love will battle hard for the starting spot.
Kevin Love has the edge over Griffin in the rebounding department, and he easily can out shoot him as well. Again, defense is not Love’s forte just like Griffin, but as long as he can stretch the floor, rebound, and hit the open three, he will surely see plenty of floor time.
Centers: Tyson Chandler (New York Knicks)
Tyson Chandler is the lone center on Team USA and the best defensive big man as well. He is going to be relied on very heavily and must try to stay out of foul trouble. He will be instrumental in the Spain game as he goes up against the Gasol brothers (Marc and Pau), and just like Iguodala, he most surely will be another unsung hero. Even though Chandler has no Olympic experience, I think he will perform just fine.