USA Basketball

While there is plenty of NBA Playoff action to keep us hoopheads busy right now, I nonetheless find myself consumed by the the thought exercise that is our upcoming USA Basketball team.  I know that most of the other countries in the world care way more about the FIBA World Championships (even though we still smoked all of them with our B-team), but here in America (aka the only country that matters), we have something of an unhealthy obsession with the Olympics, so the world can be damn sure that it is about to see our 'A' squad unleashed. 

The final roster of the team became significantly more "interesting" (for lack of a better word) in the last week or so due to the injuries sustained by two guys who would have been shoo-ins to make the team, Derrick Rose and Dwight Howard (more thoughts on him another time).  Due to these injuries among others (Chauncey Billups and LaMarcus Aldridge will both also likely be unavailable for the tournament), USA Basketball announced that they will add additional finalists to the roster, most notably the #1 pick in the upcoming NBA Draft and potential franchise savior Anthony "the 'Brow" Davis.  It's being reported that DeMarcus Cousins, Greg Monroe, and Al Jefferson are also now in the running, but I don't feel that any of them will make the final cut, particularly since USA Basketball tends to go lighter on bigs and heavier on wing players when given the option.

Outside of the guys mentioned above, the existing, non-injured roster of USA Basketball is as follows: Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, Kobe Bryant, Tyson Chandler, Kevin Durant, Rudy Gay, Blake Griffin, Eric Gordon, Andre Iguodala, LeBron James, Kevin Love, Lamar Odom, Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade, Russell Westbrook, and Deron Williams.  Of these names, I think the following players will absolutely be in London, barring additional serious injury:

PGs: Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook
SGs: Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade
SFs: LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony
PF: Kevin Love
C: Tyson Chandler

That leaves 3 spots to fill.  Despite the fact that either Bron or Melo will fill the PF spot most of the time, the team needs at least one more legitimate big.  Lamar's reality show/headcase routine from this season will probably put him out of the running, which leaves us with Bosh and Griffin (we'll get to the 'Brow in a bit).  Blake's main value in FIBA ball would be his athleticism on the break, but with Bron, D-Wade, Westbrook, and Durant already in tow, there isn't exactly a dearth of athleticism and run-out ability on this team. 

That leaves Bosh.  He is a guy who has taken a lot of crap since last summer about going to Miami and the role that he has inherited, some of it deserved.  He often blends in a bit too much around such all-world talents, and his confidence at times appears shaky at best.  (Here it comes.)


I watched every game of the 2008 Olympics in painstaking detail, and I'm here to tell you that Chris Bosh was the best big on that team, which most definitely includes Dwight Howard.  His game is perfectly tailored to the FIBA game.  He spaces the floor, can finish around the rim, and possibly because of more limited minutes, in Olympic ball he played with a fantastic energy that I've yet to ever really see at any other point in his career.  If Coach K can get him to blend in (a positive in this context rather than the negative that it's perceived as in Miami) and play with that same energy, it seems like he's a no-brainer over Griffin. 

OK, two spots left.  I think you need another PG.  LeBron and Westbrook can both run the point, but that doesn't seem like the best use of either guy in FIBA ball (they should be finishers more so than facilitators).  The only "true" PG left in the group is Deron Williams, so rather than over-analyze and pick his game apart, let's just go with it.  He can run an offense (as long he isn't stuck passing to the miscreants on the BK Nets) and he can hit 3's at a high rate, so he certainly fits the bill.  Now that Rose is officially out, you might think that Colangelo would consider Rondo for the spot, but his poor shooting is too much of a negative in FIBA ball.  International teams have scouting reports too, and they sure as hell know that Rondo sucks at shooting.  So we'll go with Williams and not worry about it too much.

Last spot.  There are plenty of fantastic wings left (Iggy, Gay, and Gordon), as well as Davis.  All of those wings are terrific, but I don't see anything that those guys add that you aren't already getting from the super-duperstars you have at those spots.  I know that USA usually goes for a wing in these spots, but why not go big and take The 'Brow?  What's the downside?  You give yourself another defensive-minded body that can fill in if someone gets in foul trouble, but more than that, you are essentially ensuring the future stardom of Davis in the NBA in the process.  He gets to practice every day against the very best players in the world before he goes off to join whatever dysfunctional NBA franchise gets the random blessing of a ping pong ball.  He will likely improve more in his time with USA Basketball than he will in his whole first year in the league, and ultimately, I just want to see how good the guy can be, so why not?  He's way better than Christian Laettner, that's for sure.

So here's my 12, with starters and bench:

PG: Chris Paul
SG: Kobe Bryant
SF: Kevin Durant
PF: LeBron James
C: Tyson Chandler

G: Dwyane Wade
F: Kevin Love
G: Russell Westbrook
F: Carmelo Anthony
G: Deron Williams
F: Chris Bosh
C: Anthony Davis

Is it better than the Dream Team?  No.  The loss of Howard and Rose basically made that an impossibility.  Is it the best US team other than that '92 squad?  Absolutely.  This team can play every possible way: it can hit 3's, it can run (holy hell, can it run), and it will defend the shit out of the paint.  And when all else fails, you have Kobe, CP3, and D-Wade to make something happen in crunch time.  Spain just won't be able to match that kind of incredible clutch performance. 

I couldn't be more excited for something that's still 3 months away.  Let's do this thing.  Let's go USA.  Show the world once again why this is OUR sport.