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U.S. Olympic Men's Basketball Team Roster Preview

Avi Wolfman-ArentCorrespondent IIApril 2, 2012

U.S. Olympic Men's Basketball Team Roster Preview

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    Tasked with restoring America's claim to hoops hegemony and erasing the shame of 2004's bronze-medal performance, the 2008 U.S.Men's Olympic basketball team did not disappoint.

    See above for visual confirmation.

    With gold medal secured and pedestal reclaimed, the 2012 version seeks continuity rather than redemption. To borrow a term from popular parlance, it's time to watch the throne.

    Coach Mike Krzyzewski is back, as is chairman Jerry Colangelo. Upon announcing the 20 finalists for the 2012 squad, Colangelo told USA Today that the London team, "In all probability, (it) will be a composition of the Beijing Olympic team and the (2010) world championship team."

    Again, continuity.

    Expect familiar faces among the twelve players selected to trek east. Up against an international pool that gets tougher by the year, it appears national team brass will put a premium on experience during the team's training camp/tryout in early July.

    For a look at the 20 stars vying for the final roster and breakdown of each player's Olympic prognosis, click ahead.

LaMarcus Aldridge, F/C

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    Age: 26

    International Experience: None.

    Breakdown: LaMarcus Aldridge is one of just two players among the final 20 with no prior national team experience. Though that bodes ill for his roster chances, Aldridge made it this far because the U.S. team lacks it usual size. The 6'11" Texas product has taken a small step back from his breakout 2010 in terms of points and rebounds per game, but he's still one of the game's best post players.

    Outlook: As one of just three players in camp who could be justifiably classified as a center, Aldridge will get every chance to make this team. Lack of experience works against him, but positional inadequacies give him a shot.

Carmelo Anthony, F

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    Age: 27

    International Experience: FIBA Americas U18 Championship (2002), FIBA World Championship (2006), FIBA Americas Championship (2007), Olympic Games (2004, 2008)*

    Breakdown: Even through a trying professional season, Carmelo Anthony remains one of the world's best scorers. Those who think his isolation game doesn't work well at the international level need only look at the results. At the 2006 FIBA championships he set a single-game national record with 35 points. At the Beijing games he averaged 11.5 a contest, including 13 in the gold medal game against Spain.

    Outlook: Anthony is a less appealing public figure than he was at this time four years ago, but his international bonafides are second to none. It'd be a major surprise if he didn't make this team and play an important role.

    *Source: www.usabasketball.com

Chauncey Billups, PG

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    Age: 35

    International Experience: FIBA Americas Championship (2007), FIBA World Championship (2010)

    Breakdown: It's been a roller coaster international career for Chauncey Billups. He was instrumental in helping the U.S. team qualify for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, but withdrew from competition for a final roster spot citing personal reasons. Billups reappeared at the 2010 FIBA World Championships, but now looks like a long-shot for the 2012 team after injuring his Achilles tendon.

    Outlook: At 35, Billups wasn't likely to make the team before his injury with the Clippers. Now it's a near lock he won't participate.

Chris Bosh, F

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    Age: 28

    International Experience: FIBA Americas U18 Championship (2002), FIBA World Championship (2006), Olympic Games (2008)

    Breakdown: Chris Bosh's NBA numbers are down, but that's the product of his star alliance with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade rather than a noticeable drop in performance. Bosh is a versatile big that can spread the floor on offense and guard the type of stretch fours found in abundance on the world stage.

    Outlook: Bosh played well as Dwight Howard's primary backup in Beijing and looks slated for that role once more in 2012. He's familiar with the international game and a favorite of coach Mike Krzyzewski.

Kobe Bryant, G

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    Age: 33

    International Experience: FIBA Americas Championship (2007), Olympic Games (2008)

    Breakdown: In the early 2000s, Kobe Bryant was a symbol for the malaise that had washed over U.S. men's basketball. A combination of indifference, injury and personal controversy kept him from playing in Sydney and Athens.

    How could the U.S. maintain its dominance if the best players wouldn't or couldn't play?

    Bryant finally answered the call in 2007, and the men's team has captured gold in both of the tournaments he's played in since.

    Outlook: Even at 33, Bryant is the game's premier shooting guard. He committed to the 2012 games back in 2010, and as long as he maintains that commitment he should be in Mike Krzyzewski's starting five.

Tyson Chandler, C

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    Age: 29

    International Experience: FIBA Americas Championship (2007), FIBA World Championship (2010)

    Breakdown: Tyson Chandler very nearly made the 2008 team because of his striking defensive presence and has seen his star rise in the years since. He was a centerpiece in Dallas' surprising title run and continues to develop his high-efficiency offensive game as a member of the New York Knicks. He is one of just two true centers among the final 20.

    Outlook: Chandler's commitment to the program and stellar defense will make him a tough cut. There aren't many elite post players in the international game, but Spain, America's biggest rival and most serious threat, just happens to have two in Marc and Pau Gasol. If Chandler makes the team, it will be with that duo in mind.

Kevin Durant, F

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    Age: 23

    International Experience: FIBA World Championship (2010)

    Breakdown: When established Olympic stars like LeBron James and Dwyane Wade opted out of the 2010 FIBA World Championship, Kevin Durant took over. In his debut international tournament Durant averaged 22.8 points per game and set USA team records for points scored in a single tournament (205) and a single game (38). As his Thunder team continues to run roughshod on the NBA, Durant is emerging as a key figure in Team U.S.A.'s title defense.

    Outlook: USA captured the 2010 FIBA World Championship with surprising ease and Durant was a big reason why. Durant was good enough to make the 2008 team, but lack of experience left him short. Now he has the tournament credentials to go along with his world-class game.

Rudy Gay, F

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    Age: 25

    International Experience: FIBA World Championship (2010)

    Breakdown: Rudy Gay got his first taste of international competition at the FIBA World Championship in 2010 and responded with solid play. His 121 minutes were eighth on the team and he finished with commendable seven points per game. After a season-ending injury with the Grizzlies during the 2010-11 season, Gay has proven he's healthy with another All-Star-level NBA campaign.

    Outlook: Team USA has a glut at forward and it'll be difficult for Gay to break through. He's a good all-around player, but he doesn't have that one standout skill that separates him from the pack.

Eric Gordon, G

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    Age: 23

    International Experience: FIBA World Championship (2010)

    Breakdown: Eric Gordon turned heads at the 2010 FIBA World Championship, logging 17.5 minutes per game and displaying the sort of scoring acumen that made him such an attractive trade chip this past offseason. Gordon's inclusion on that roster surprised some, but he showed he belonged and now gets a chance to compete with the best for a shot at Olympic glory.

    Outlook: Gordon's persistent injury woes cloud his future with this team. His play at Worlds is a boon, but it might not be enough to overshadow a bum knee and the fact that he's still viewed as an emerging star by the NBA cognoscenti rather than an established one.

Blake Griffin, F

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    Age: 23

    International Experience: None

    Breakdown: Like LaMarcus Aldridge, Blake Griffin made the cut based on his size. The U.S. team lacks bigs and Griffin has averaged a double-double in each of his two NBA seasons. He has the athleticism to overwhelm less talented teams, but challengers like Brazil and Spain won't be in awe.

    Outlook: Despite his celebrity cache, Griffin is no lock to make the team. He has no history with team USA and isn't a complete player on either the offensive or defensive end. He'll have to prove he's more than razzle-dazzle to impress national team brass.

Dwight Howard, C

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    Age: 26

    International Experience: FIBA World Championship (2006), FIBA Americas Championship (2007), Olympic Games (2008)

    Breakdown: The will-he-won't-he trade imbroglio has no bearing on Dwight Howard's team U.S.A. status. He's the world's premier center and no amount of controversy can change that. Howard performed well during past stints with the team, proving that his low-post game plays just fine at the international level.

    Outlook: Howard is the only two-way center on the American roster. Assuming he wants to play, he will. Expect starter minutes for the game's best big.

Andre Iguodala, F

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    Age: 28

    International Experience: FIBA Americas U18 Championship (2002), FIBA World Championship (2010)

    Breakdown: Andre Iguodala was perhaps the surprise player of the 2010 FIBA World Championship, at least from the American perspective. He played 169 minutes, sixth most on the team, and shot an astounding 58.8 percent from the field. Even more impressive, he became the team's top wing defender. That reputation has carried over to the professional ranks where Iguodala made NBA All-Defensive Second team in 2011 and notched his first All-Star appearance this year.

    Outlook: His isn't the sexiest name on the list, but don't discount Iguodala's chances of making the team. Even at a deep position like forward, Iguodala's 2010 success make him a strong contender. And unlike fellow forward Rudy Gay, Iguodala's exemplary defense allow him to potentially carve out a place as a specialist.

LeBron James, F

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    Age: 27

    International Experience: FIBA World Championship (2006), FIBA Americas Championship (2007), Olympic Games (2004, 2008)

    Breakdown: Say what you will about his professional career, but LeBron James' commitment to U.S.A. basketball has been steadfast and his impact profound. He stepped into a leadership role at the Beijing games and led the American resurgence during a pressure-packed tournament run. One would hope those contributions don't get clouded by his perceived villainy or any of the kerfuffle surrounding his late-game play.

    Outlook: James is one of the world's best players. Not much more needs to be said.

Kevin Love, F

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    Age: 23

    International Experience: FIBA World Championship (2010)

    Breakdown: Kevin Love was merely a bit player during the national team's gold-medal run at the 2010 FIBA World Championship. Based on that tournament alone, his presence on the 2012 team does not feel inevitable. It's his play in the NBA, however, that make him a favorite for the twelve-man roster. Love is averaging a career-high 26.5 points per game this year for the Timberwolves, displaying an unmatched inside-out game that should give coach Mike Krzyzewski great matchup possibilities.

    Outlook: Love's play in the association has been simply too stellar to ignore. He's one of the world's best rebounders and his ability to connect from deep is almost unrivaled at the power forward position.

Lamar Odom, F

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    Age: 32

    International Experience: Olympic Games (2004), FIBA World Championship (2010)

    Breakdown: After a six-year hiatus from the international scene, Lamar Odom proved valuable at the 2010 FIBA World Championship. He led the team in rebounding and registered double-doubles in both the semi-final and championship rounds. He's a favorite of team chairman Jerry Colangelo and lends the team much-needed size.

    All of that will have to be measured against Odom's baffling play in the NBA this year. The Rhode Island product is averaging career lows across the board, hardly looking like a rotation player much less an Olympian.

    Outlook: Odom's performance in camp is key. If he shows up in shape and focused, he can convince coach Krzyzewksi that his poor play was the product of a bad fit. Otherwise, team decision makers will have to assume he's in phase one of a rapid decline.

Chris Paul, G

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    Age: 26

    International Experience: FIBA Americas U20 Championship (2004), FIBA World Championship (2006), Olympic Games (2008)

    Breakdown: Without getting into the muck of whether Chris Paul is the game's best point guard, let's agree: Chris Paul is very, very, very good. Although Jason Kidd was the national team's nominal starter in 2008, Paul was their most effective and prominent floor general. His continued All-Star play in the NBA further validates his place as one of the world's elite.

    Outlook: The question here is whether or not Paul starts, not whether or not Paul makes the team. He's good, experienced and a true fit at point guard.

Derrick Rose, G

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    Age: 23

    International Experience: FIBA World Championship (2010)

    Breakdown: Derrick Rose was a key contributor on the 2010 world championship team, and that was before he became the youngest player in NBA history to win league MVP.

    Rose's star is on the rise, and the only question is his health. After battling injuries throughout the current NBA season, one has to wonder how he'll feel after what should be a long playoff run. The fiery competitor in Rose figures to push him toward participation, but we'll see how the body responds.

    Outlook: Rose was a freshman at Memphis last time the U.S. assembled an Olympic team. Four years later he's one of the game's best and a lock to make the final 12.

Dwyane Wade, G

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    Age: 30

    International Experience: FIBA World Championship (2006), Olympic Games (2004, 2008)

    Breakdown: Gunning for his third consecutive Olympic appearance, Dywane Wade's experience gives him an inside edge for a roster spot. At 30 his legs aren't as fresh as, say, Russell Westbrook's, but chairman Jerry Colangelo values veteran presence.

    Plus, it's hard to argue with Wade's performance in the last Olympics. He led Team U.S.A. in scoring and added 27 points in the final against Spain. His open-court athleticism kills international competition, and if he's healthy he still has enough in the tank for one more run.

    Outlook: Wade was a key player during the Redeem Team's run to gold and that performance should earn him a spot in the final twelve. Just don't expect him to get the feature role he had in Beijing. Younger players like Kevin Durant will get some of those shots.

Russell Westbrook, G

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    Age: 23

    International Experience: FIBA World Championship (2010)

    Breakdown: Based on his international experience and performance, you'd have to put his Russell Westbrook behind fellow point guards Chris Paul, Deron Williams and Derrick Rose. His sole senior team appearance in the 2010 FIBA World Championship was solid, but not so exemplary it pushed him past any of the aforementioned three. He provided nice spark off the bench and showed considerably scoring spark, but his 1.4 assist-to-turnover ratio was the worst among the team's point guards.

    But based on his budding professional resume, one can at least begin to talk about Westbrook in the same breath as that trio. His scoring is up, his team is winning and his abundant athleticism is being put to good use.

    Outlook: Point guard is deep and it's hard to see Westbrook sneaking past a more established international player. He could shift to shooting guard, and that might represent his best chance of making this team. That all depends on whether coach Mike Krzyzewski can envision him in a new role and whether Westbrook responds favorably.

Deron Williams, G

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    Age: 27

    International Experience: FIBA Americas U18 Championship (2002), FIBA Americas Championship (2007), Olympic Games (2008)

    Breakdown: Though his Nets team hasn't won much, Deron Williams' stock remains high. Williams is averaging a career high in points per game and rates above career levels in player efficiency.

    Add that atop his considerable international resume, and you've got yourself an Olympian.

    Outlook: It'd be a major surprise if Williams didn't make the team. Though he's out of the limelight in New Jersey, his play is still elite.

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