Dwyane Wade: Potential Replacements for Team USA Olympic Roster

Avi Wolfman-ArentCorrespondent IIJune 28, 2012

Dwyane Wade: Potential Replacements for Team USA Olympic Roster

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    The just-announced news that Dwyane Wade will miss the London 2012 Olympics after opting to undergo knee surgery doesn't remove Team USA from the ranks of pre-tournament favorite.

    At the same time, we shouldn't discount Wade's contributions to this team four years ago.

    In Beijing, Wade led the Americans in two major statistical categories: points scored and free throws attempted. He was also second in steals, second in offensive rebounds and third in two-point field-goal percentage (among players with more than five shots attempted).

    Let's take a look at the players on Team USA's 17-man preliminary roster capable of shouldering the load in Wade's absence.

Russell Westbrook

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    Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook bears the "point guard" label, but his game has always better resembled that of a slasher-scorer 2-guard.

    Like Wade, Westbrook attacks the rim and does an excellent job getting to the line. Among NBA guards this year, only two players shot free throws with greater frequency than Westbrook (Dwyane Wade was fifth).

    And another striking similarity: Westbrook and Wade finished tied for fifth among guards with 1.5 rebounds per game during the NBA season.

    In more ways than one, their statistical profiles are near facsimiles.

    Westbrook was already a fairly safe bet to make this team in light of injuries to Derrick Rose and Chauncey Billups, but now I'd consider him a near lock. His athleticism and aggressiveness mirror much of what Wade brings to the offensive side of the ball.

James Harden

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    James Harden also contributes in many of the same ways that Dwyane Wade does.

    In fact, he is even better than Wade and teammate Russell Westbrook at getting to the free-throw line when you measure his attempts as a function of minutes played.

    But the process by which Harden achieves those outcomes doesn't resemble Wade or Westbrook.

    Lacking the pure athletic explosion of the aforementioned duo, Harden is a savvy offensive player who has become a master at roping his opponents into vulnerable defensive postures. Once vulnerable, he exploits angles to create driving lanes and draw fouls.

    The question is: Will that game work against international competition?

    It's hard to know, really. Team USA's M.O. in these games has generally been power and speed, not guile and precision.

    It's fair to wonder what advantages might get lost in the transition to a slower-paced style of play. Also working against Harden: He hasn't appeared in a major tournament as a member of the senior national team.

Eric Gordon

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    From the perspective of making the final Olympic roster, Eric Gordon benefits the most from Wade's withdrawal.

    Gordon has senior national team experience (he played on the 2010 FIBA World Cup Team), fresh legs after an injury-shortened season and a game that is markedly Wade-esque.

    Gordon, like Westbrook and Harden, makes his money at the free-throw line. During 2010-11, his last reasonably healthy campaign, Gordon ranked eighth among guards in free throws per game.

    And judging purely by aesthetic, Gordon might be the player that most resembles Wade. He is athletic, broad-shouldered and has a nose for the rim.

    Westbrook is the better player—both on offense, on the glass and as a defensive menace—but if Westbrook steps into Wade's role, then Gordon seems like his most likely backup.

    And as an added bonus, Gordon is a better marksman than Wade or Westbrook. He doesn't need the ball to get points and is able to spot up beyond the three-point line.

    We should also note, with all the proper disclaimers about sample size, that Gordon largely outplayed Westbrook at the 2010 FIBA World Championships. He was a more efficient scorer and turned the ball over less during Team USA's nine-game run to the gold medal.