US Men's Olympic Basketball: Breaking Down Projected Starting Lineup
With Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh pulling out of contention for the U.S. men's basketball Olympic team, it makes USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo's job of selecting a roster a little easier. However, with the talent at his disposal, it still won't be simple.
To defend its 2008 gold, the Americans will have to fend off bronze-winning Spain and Pau Gasol once again, as well as Manu Ginobli's Argentina.
Click through to see one prediction on who will start for Team USA, as well as which of the players on the list of finalists will join them on the team in London.
Starting Guard: Chris Paul
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This season, Chris Paul averaged almost a double-double per game. He hit 19.8 points per game to go with 9.1 assists per game.
It's his passing and playmaking ability that will pay the most dividends for the U.S. in London, as well as Paul's ability to play nearly the entire game if necessary.
He also scored over 20 points in four of 11 playoff games, showing he can perform when the pressure is on. Finally, Paul was a member of the 2008 team, so he also knows what it takes to win at the Olympics.
Starting Guard: Kobe Bryant
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This one is a no-brainer. Nobody gets quite as excited for international basketball like Kobe Bryant does.
"It's a huge honor to be a part of that," Bryant said to the AP (via Fox Sports West), referring to being a part of the national team.
A major concern with him is the wear and tear of another long NBA season on his 33-year-old body, but Bryant's average minutes actually increased during the playoffs, so he must have withstood the season.
He also averaged nearly two more points per game in the playoffs than in the regular season.
Starting Forward: LeBron James
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After getting his first NBA championship ring, LeBron James is set to claim his second Olympic gold medal with Team USA in London.
U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski has also said that James is going to be on his team, even though the selection has not been officially announced. The AP (via Fox Sports) reported that the coach "said matter-of-factly that 'I know LeBron will play.'"
James' growth over the last few years has been visible, and he now has the mental toughness to go with his insane athletic abilities.
Starting Forward: Blake Griffin
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This one is a little more of an arguable choice, but Blake Griffin needs to start because he will overpower his opponents.
The NBA is known as a big, physical league, and Griffin exemplifies that. He is fairly one-dimensional in his play, but he is also an unstoppable offensive weapon against teams with players who are not used to defending somebody like him.
That's really the only reason to have Griffin in the starting lineup, and that may change depending on the opponent and the situation. Still, Griffin needs to start the first game to send a message that the U.S. won't be messed with this year.
Starting Center: Tyson Chandler
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This one is another no-brainer, simply because Tyson Chandler is the only center on the list of potential U.S. players. However, he's not all that bad on the floor, either.
His defensive abilities will balance out a U.S. team mainly predicated on offensive power. His 9.9 rebounds per game in the 2012 regular season and 1.4 blocks per game don't tell the whole story of Chandler's presence on the defensive end.
Chandler also plays big minutes for the Knicks, rarely sitting more than 10 minutes a game.
On the Bench
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Update, July 2: Lamar Odom has pulled out of contention for a spot on the Olympic team:
Lamar Odom tells ESPNLA he will skip Team USA this summer and work with trainers in L.A. and focus on this season.— Arash Markazi (@ArashMarkazi) July 2, 2012
He has also been traded to the Los Angeles Clippers.
• Carmelo Anthony, F, New York Knicks
• Kevin Durant, F, Oklahoma City Thunder
• Rudy Gay, F, Memphis Grizzlies
• Kevin Love, F, Minnesota Timberwolves
• Lamar Odom, F, Dallas Mavericks
• Russell Westbrook, G, Oklahoma City Thunder
• Deron Williams, G, Brooklyn Nets
The U.S. has a great set of players at its disposal off the bench. If necessary, they could all come into the game and change the dynamic for the U.S., either in reserve or as starters.
That's the biggest thing these players will provide for Team USA—the ability to change the game.
It's no secret that the U.S. should be the deepest team at the Olympics. With a bevy of NBA stars at their disposal, Mike Krzyzewski and Jerry Colangelo could barely go wrong in picking a team.
Of course, the risk is that the team's egos will run rampant and crush the U.S.' gold-medal hopes, but that's where coaching comes in. Krzyzewski is an experienced and capable manager of players, so this team will be just fine.