Who will be on the Team USA bench?
Before you know it, the 2012 Summer Olympics from London will be right on top of us. Not much talk has gone into the most talked about sport team that will play in London is the USA Men’s Basketball team. Vinny Ginardi and Greg Kaplan put their basketball knowledge together to formulate what 12 players will represent the USA and play to defend the Redeem Team’s gold medal from 2008.
Once they have a roster set, Vinny and Greg will take this one step further. After reading Bill Simmons at Grantland state that there is a potential for this year’s Olympic team to be better than the original Dream Team, The Waiver Wire will debate which team would win if the two played each other at their peaks.
To see who we think will start, click here.
PG Chris Paul, LAC
GK: Vinny touched on this earlier, but the only player currently on the Team USA bench that has a shot to break into the starting line-up would be CP3. He doesn’t necessarily have the dynamic scoring abilities Derrick Rose does from the point, but what he does have is a superior passing ability.
Paul understood quickly in his basketball career that he doesn’t have to score 25+ points a game in order to be effective. The amount of open looks he creates for his teammates is up there among current NBA point guards like Steve Nash and Tony Parker. If Rose can’t shake the injury bug he’s been dealing with all season, Paul is the easy choice to replace him in the line-up.
VG: I already touched on what makes Chris Paul great so I won’t go much deeper here.But let me just say this. I actually like him off the bench more than I would in the starting role. You look at the starting squad and it’s full of players who can score, but can also create for others. They don’t really need Paul’s ability to facilitate. But when you look at some of the reserves, like Carmelo Anthony and Dwayne Wade, who are ball-dominant players, and you can see that the second unit could use someone who knows how to get it to the hot hand. Nobody does that better than Paul.
SG Dwayne Wade, MIA
GK: You mentioned him in your reasoning for Chris Paul to stick with the second unit, so why not just go ahead and make it official?
Wade is like Kobe-lite. He does everything Kobe can do, without as much bravado. His style of play coming off the bench would benefit Coach K for sure. Its always good to have someone fearless with irrational confidence to throw down 10 points in 8 minutes, which Wade can do in his sleep.
VG: For the 2008 team, Wade was electric off the bench. He scored 10 points or more in every game but one, and in the championship game against Spain, he dropped 27. He also shot an unheard of 67% from the field. Wade was so successful in his role as the spark scorer off the bench that it only seems logical to keep him there. And Greg hit the most important point: You take Kobe out and plug Wade in and what do you lose?
SF Carmelo Anthony, NY
‘Melo has gone through quite a zany season in New York. At one point, Knicks fans were ready to ship off Carmelo completely and salvage whatever they could get in return. Now, coming off that other-worldly performance against the Chicago Bulls, he’s the talk of the town and the clear Alpha-Dog on the squad.
You might not remember this, but Carmelo was the Redeem Team MVP. He was clearly, far and away, the team’s best player. However, I just don’t see a way he starts over Durant. As Vinny mentioned, there was a time that Carmelo Anthony was the league’s best player at creating scoring on his own. Now? That’s Durant. He’s a two-time scoring champ and was the MVP of the World Championship run the USA had in ’10. If Anthony can live with coming off the bench (he can), he, along with Wade, will be the first into the game.
In fact, I can see Coach K going small against some countries and playing a five of Rose and Kobe at guards, ‘Melo and Durant at the forwards and LeBron playing the 5. I don’t think that’s too crazy to imagine.
VG: Carmelo has had an interesting season, Greg. It’s interesting to note that he’s starting to come into his own now that Stoudemire and Lin are out of the lineup. We’ve all known that he’s had the talent to take over games and we’re finally starting to see it in New York.That being said, I love having him off the bench. Along the same mold as Wade, if Melo gets it going, he can carry the team for an entire game. He’s one of the best isolation players in the league and if you have him on the court with other scorers (Durant, Wade, etc.), countries are going to have to pick their poison. That bodes well for Team USA.
PF Kevin Love, MIN
Kevin Love signifies the last reserve spot Vinny and I agreed before hand that was an absolute lock, so everything’s about to get interesting.
As far as the international game is concerned, the value in having a big man who can rebound and shoot the 3 is huge, and Love can do both things extremely well. He’s probably this team’s second best pure rebounder and has the ability to play center in a pinch if Coach K wants to run a small, run-and-gun line-up. He’s like the American Dirk Nowitzki, as in he will bang underneath and draw defenders away from the basket with his ability to shoot the deep jumper.
He will thrive in an international atmosphere, and I expect him to be the team’s biggest surprise this summer.
VG: When the finalists were first announced this winter, I didn’t look at Kevin Love as a lock to make the team. In fact, I thought there was a good chance he wouldn’t given the USA’s depth at the four.But this season, Love has taken the title as best power forward in the league. As Greg mentioned, Love is a great shooter who can rebound with the best of them. His most underrated skill is his ability to make long, accurate outlet passes (his ability to do this in college was a main focus of his great fundamentals). Can you imagine the fast-breaks Team USA will have? We’ve already seen how lethal the Lebron-Wade duo are on the break, and Love’s ability to rebound and get the ball up the court in a hurry will only make this team that much more deadly.
PG/SG Deron Williams, NJ
We’ll break down these final 3 roster spots from who we feel better about being on this team and who we can debate about for weeks.
In order for Deron Williams to make this team, he’s going to have to beat out Russell Westbrook. But, I think he can do it. When you compare Williams to Westbrook, I believe 7 out of 10 people would prefer to have Westbrook, and I can’t really blame them.
However, I’m not worried about who is the better player. At this point in the process, it doesn’t matter who has more talent. This is the crucial combo-guard spot. Someone who has the ability to either play the point and distribute or play the two and score in a flash. While Westbrook can score with the best of them, I don’t have the confidence in his ability to put aside his ego and distribute. Deron Williams doesn’t need to score to be effective, like Chris Paul. In fact, Coach K probably won’t want Williams being a leading scorer or a big shot taker. Instead, he wants the defense and passing abilities. For those reasons, Williams will make this team over Westbrook, and I don’t think it’ll be all that close in camp.
VG: Right now, Russell Westbrook’s stock is higher than Deron Williams. Westbrook is the point guard on the best team in the West while Williams is the point guard for one of the bottom feeders in the east. So why is the pick Williams and not Westbrook? Westbrook is explosive and knows how to get to the rim, there is no doubting that. But there are doubts about whether or not he makes his teammates better. Despite Oklahoma City scoring the second most points per game in the league, they rank 28th in assists. The main reason for that is because Westbrook often looks to score before he looks to distribute. There’s nothing wrong with that for the Thunder, but Team USA will need someone who is a bit more pass-oriented. Deron Williams has averaged at least 8.7 assists per game each of the last six years, making him a more appropriate fit for Team USA.
SG/SF Andre Iguodala, PHI
Iggy Doo is competing with the likes of Rudy Gay and Eric Gordon for this spot on the roster. Gordon has battled an injury all year, and with Deron Williams’ ability to play the two making the roster already, he becomes less valuable in the larger scheme of things by the day.
That leaves this down to Gay and Iguodala. The reason to take Iguodala over Gay is because of what Coach K will need from this spot on the roster: perimeter defense. Igoudala is a likely candidate for All-Defense first team, and also has the ability to explode on the fast break. While Rudy Gay is no scrub on the defensive end of the ball, he doesn’t have the one-on-one talents Igoudala possesses.
Also, I feel Andre Iguodala would better understand his role on the team. He would know that he’s making it for his defense and wouldn’t try to take touches away from the other stars on the offense. He’ll guard his man, grab a rebound and set picks. He won’t need to score to be effective.
VG: Iguodala, in my eyes, is a must have for this team.As we saw in the 2010 FIBA tournament, Iguodala knows and embraces his role. He knows he won’t need to score to make an impact. Instead, Iguodala will be a defensive specialist who will bother the opposing team’s best perimeter player. He can rebound beyond his size and, if needed, he knows how to score. Iguodala will do all that dirty work that won’t make the highlight reels but is imperative to the team’s success. In essence, he is taking the role that Tayshaun Prince held for the 2008 squad. Gay and Gordon are both rising stars, but once again, Team USA doesn’t need more players who can score the ball.
C Tyson Chandler, NY
GK: This is our last roster spot, and Vinny and I went after each other on this one for a long while in our preparation for this piece. I thought Chandler was a no-brainer, Vinny didn’t. So, I’ll let Vinny explain his side first.
VG: It’s not that I don’t think that Chandler would be a great addition to this team, because I do. Outside of Howard, this team lacks a defensive presence in the middle. In Chandler, you have one of the better defensive centers in the league, and someone who in back-to-back years, changed the entire defensive attitude of two notoriously bad defensive teams. His addition would be invaluable. But here is why I don’t think he is a no-brainer: there are so many different options. I think if Blake Griffin isn’t selected, there will be an outcry on ESPN for weeks. Should he make the team? No, his game is too limited. But the media knows he makes highlights.I also think Chris Bosh needs to be considered. He was a valuable member to the 2008 team (playing big minutes over Howard, in some situations) but his stock has taken a HUGE hit since he went to Miami. And it’s not because he got worse, because he didn’t. It’s just that his numbers have gone down because he takes less shots and is a on team that has two of the best rebounders at their positions in Wade and James. I won’t have a problem if he made the team, but others will because his numbers don’t show his talent anymore.And that brings us to LaMarcus Aldridge, who is probably Chandler’s biggest competitor for the last spot. Aldridge isn’t the defensive force around the basket that Chandler is, but he’s not a defensive liability either. And his offensive game is much, much better. He can spot up for a mid-range jumper and he can play with his back to the basket. Chandler’s offensive abilities are limited, and Aldridge would be the only true power forward on the team outside of Love, and is big enough to play the five when Howard needs rest.Really, I wouldn’t complain if Chandler or Aldridge is selected. In fact, the better pick is probably Chandler because of the front court depth that Spain has. If Howard gets into foul trouble against Spain, it would be good to know that Team USA wouldn’t lose much defensively by bringing in Chandler. I just don’t think it’s a no-brainer.
Here’s where I will vehemently disagree with Vinny’s assessment of the Team USA bench.
If you were a fly on the wall for the mini board meeting Vinny and I had, you would’ve found out that Tyson Chandler was listed ahead of even Kevin Love on my list for players making this team as locks. When Vinny challenged my nomination of Chander to the team, I asked him to name a more accomplished center that could back-up Howard on this team.
I understand why Vinny would want LaMarcus Aldridge on this team (if you keep reading, he’s my first man left off the roster). But, if Chandler is left off of this team, there wouldn’t be another true center on the roster besides Dwight, and while that may be fine a lot of the competition at the Olympics, it won’t be when this team, or if this team, plays Spain.
Spain is going to have the Gasol brothers, arguably the most deadly inside combination any team could offer to throw at USA. If Dwight Howard gets in foul trouble against Spain, which is a realistic scenario, you cannot throw a combination of LaMarcus Aldridge and Kevin Love at Pau and Marc Gasol. There is no position where depth is more crucial than at center for this team.
There is nothing left for Tyson Chandler to prove. He was the rock underneath the rim for the USA World Champion team in 2010. He shut down the Miami Heat in last year’s NBA Finals. He’s putting together his best offensive season of his career in New York this year. On this roster, Tyson would fully embrace his role as a defensive enforcer under the rim. He won’t ask for the ball. Hell, he may just stare at the rim the entire time waiting for an offensive rebound. And that’s perfectly fine. He’s going to be Coach K’s security blanket if anything were to happen to Dwight. He’s proven to be very good in that role.
13th Man – LaMarcus Aldridge, POR
Do I think he should be on the team ahead of Tyson Chandler? Clearly not. But, is he the better option than Blake Griffin to be the first person called into action if there’s an injury? Yes.
Griffin is the human highlight reel. Everything he does on the court generates a lot of buzz from social media and ESPN. However, you don’t win basketball games with the number of highlights you make. Aldridge, right now, is a more complete player. He has a stronger inside game that doesn’t involve dunks, and plays a much stronger defense.
Can Aldridge play the 5? In a pinch. But, does he have a chance to be exposed if he is there for an extended period? Yes. That’s why Chandler is the more valuable piece for the team. But, Aldridge has a chance to break camp with the squad. He’s talented. People just don’t know that because he plays his basketball in the forgotten land of Portland.
VG: I already discussed why he would be a great addition to the team, so I will keep this short here. When Brandon Roy went down last season, Aldridge carried Portland to the postseason. Would his leap have happened without the Roy injury? Probably, but we wouldn’t have noticed it as much. He’s got great touch around the rim and is shooting above 51% from the field. I think he gets edged out by Chandler though because he’s not the defensive force that Chandler is, and despite being 6’11, has never averaged nine rebounds a game for an entire season.
Part III of our USA Basketball preview will come tomorrow with the Dream Team vs. This Team