Olympic Basketball 2012: Predicting the Final 3 Roster Spots
According to Sports Illustrated's Ian Thomsen, nine of the 12 U.S. Olympic basketball spots have been decided. The near-locks for the team look like this:
Guards: Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Russell Westbrook and Kobe Bryant
Forwards: LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Kevin Love and Carmelo Anthony
Center: Tyson Chandler
With these roster positions cemented, there are three remaining spots available among the following six players:
Forwards: Blake Griffin, Anthony Davis and Rudy Gay
Guards: Eric Gordon, Andre Iguodala* and James Harden*
*Can also play forward.
It truly is a coach's dream to have to decide between two 2012 All-Stars (Griffin and Iguodala), the NBA's Sixth Man of the Year (Harden), two players that helped the U.S. win the 2010 FIBA Championship (Gay and Gordon)** and this past NBA Draft's first overall pick (Davis).
Alas, this is the struggle of being Team USA Head Coach Mike Krzyzewski.
While Davis would bring height to the U.S. roster, I would be hard pressed to think he would receive a spot on the team. Even though he was the consensus best player in the draft class, it would be surprising to see a player with only college experience be brought onto the squad ahead of seasoned NBA players.
Additionally, at this point in his development, Davis' forte is his defense. On the U.S. roster he would be stuck behind NBA Defensive Player of the Year Tyson Chandler. While this would be a great learning opportunity for Davis, he wouldn't bring anything new to the team.
The main argument for Davis would be that he adds depth to the center position in the event that Chandler gets hurt. Kevin Love, who is already on the roster, can always slide over and play the 5 if Chandler needs a break.
There may simply just not be space for Gordon on the roster. With Chris Paul, Deron Williams and Russell Westbrook already on the roster, there isn't room for another small guard, even with Chris Paul's thumb injury.
Gordon will likely find himself one of the odd men out because Harden and Iguodala can both play the 2 and the 3, and create more mismatches with their size. While he may be the best pure scorer of the group, with LeBron, Durant and Kobe already on the court, that doesn't hold much weight.
The big issue facing Gay is that he is likely competing with Blake Griffin for a roster spot. With LeBron and Kevin Love already on the roster, this roster spot doesn't necessarily need to go to a scorer, but rather someone who offers rebounding and intangibles.
In addition to being the Mayor of Lob City, Griffin is bigger, stronger, quicker and frankly a more exciting player than Gay.
Harden on the Team USA roster seems like a no-brainer. His versatility allows him to play guard or forward, a key attribute to look for when filling out any roster.
More importantly, Harden's personality makes him a great fit for what is essentially an All-Star squad. As his title Sixth Man of the Year might imply, Harden is accustomed to playing fewer minutes than some of his Thunder teammates. Bringing in a player with his mentality, Coach K can expect him to slide comfortably into a key bench contributor role.
Lastly, Harden's teammates Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, with whom he has great on-court chemistry, are already on the team USA roster.
Like Harden, Iguodala's flexibility makes him an asset to the squad. At 6'6", he can easily bolster the shooting guard position and add depth to the team's group of small forwards.
In his analysis, Thomsen likens Iguodala's defensive versatility to that of Scottie Pippen's in his role on the original Dream Team.
On athleticism alone Griffin probably earns this spot. It's a tough choice between him and Rudy Gay. Both offer length, but Griffin is a better rebounder, pulling down 10.8 boards per game versus Gay's 6.4 over the 2012 season.
Hard stats aside, Griffin's game is exciting and he is a fan favorite. Putting Griffin, the highlight-reel-machine, on the world stage would help the game continue to grow abroad. While this might not be a consideration for head coach Mike Krzyzewski, it might be in the back of the mind of USA Basketball Chairman Jerry Colangelo.
**Andre Iguodala was also on the U.S. 2010 FIBA Championship team.
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