Team USA Basketball: Evaluating Final 12-Man Roster

Robin LalisseCorrespondent IJuly 8, 2012

Team USA Basketball: Evaluating Final 12-Man Roster

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    According to ESPN, the final three spots on the U.S. Olympic Basketball team roster were given to James Harden, Blake Griffin and Andre Iguodala over the trio of Anthony Davis, Rudy Gay and Eric Gordon. 

    USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo had some tough decisions to make on the final roster.

    With All-Star big men like Dwight Howard and LaMarcus Aldridge out due to injury, there are a total of six forwards, five guards and one true center. 

    Versatility is the name of the U.S.'s game in the 2012 Olympics. Each player brings a unique set of skills that will make him a nightmare for international players. 

    Here is a look at each of the selections.

Chris Paul

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    Despite playing with his own ailments and having little versatility on his team, Chris Paul was still able to lead the Clippers to a playoff series win in 2012. 

    Now, he will have all the most diverse talents in the NBA to work with as he will likely be the starting point guard for the U.S. Olympic team.

    Paul can run in transition with the best athletes in the world.

    He has also played with the U.S.'s only center in Tyson Chandler, and is teammates with Blake Griffin. That's great experience with the best alley-oop threats on the team. 

    Grade for Selection: A+

Deron Williams

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    There may be those who argue that if Derrick Rose doesn't tear his ACL, it would be difficult to keep Deron Williams on the Olympic roster.

    After two difficult seasons with the New Jersey Nets, Williams' place among the great floor generals in basketball has taken a hit because of playing with underwhelming talent on his team and injury issues of his own. 

    Like Dwyane Wade in 2008, D-Will looks to re-assert himself as a superstar, beginning with helping to lead the most talented team in basketball to a gold medal in London this summer. 

    Williams' shooting ability and defensive intensity gives the U.S. the ability to play him at both point and shooting guard. His strength allows him to absorb contact as well as any player on the roster. 

    Look for Williams to prove his elite status in this summer's Olympics on the way to a career-rejuvenating NBA season in 2012-13.

    Grade of Selection: A-

Russell Westbrook

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    Russell Westbrook is arguably the fourth-most athletic specimen in basketball behind LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Derrick Rose. 

    He is also an All-Star point guard who has the ability to play shooting guard like Deron Williams. At 23, he and the rest of his Oklahoma City teammates can learn a lot from this experience with NBA champions like James, Kobe Bryant and Tyson Chandler. 

    Though he is over-criticized for taking a lot of shots away from Kevin Durant, the fact remains that he needs to learn to share the ball with his talented teammates in order to maximize Oklahoma City's offensive potential.

    With a ton of talented All-Stars alongside him on a team-oriented squad, there is no better place for Westbrook to learn how to consistently make the best decision when distributing the ball.

    Grade of Selection: B+

Kobe Bryant

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    The Black Mamba is now the wise old man on a very young U.S. Olympic team. Turning 34 in August, Bryant has seemingly come to terms with his limitations athletically.

    That said, he will still be the clutch shot-taker for this team. His five-time championship experience will help the team stay focused, as no player in basketball has more laser-eye focus than Kobe. 

    With his length, he can play at both shooting guard and small forward in the international game. His performance in the gold medal game vs. Spain in 2008 has over one million views on YouTube. 

    He may have been arguably the least-talked-about superstar of the past year considering the many young stars emerging in the NBA last season.

    Make no mistake about it, Bryant's performance will be the difference between barely winning the gold or dominating the tourney from the get-go. 

    Grade of Selection: A+

James Harden

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    Though he may not be Dwyane Wade (and while many people think Eric Gordon would have been a better choice because of his three-point shooting in the 2010 World Championships), James Harden deserves to be on this team.

    His versatility affects the team on multiple fronts. He can play small forward in a three-guard lineup, the offense can run through him with his passing and ball-handling skills and he is a nasty perimeter defender.

    His toughness and ability to finish forces people to pack the paint when they see him with the ball, giving him the ability to make the right play and even make open perimeter shots. 

    His relationship with Durant and Westbrook and the reputation he has built as a winner would be enough to supplant Gordon on its own. His entire repertoire makes his selection an easy decision.

    That said, if Wade were on the team, Harden probably would just miss the squad.

    Grade of Selection: B

LeBron James

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    If LeBron James wins a gold medal, he will join Michael Jordan in elite company. 

    In 1992, Jordan won the regular-season MVP, led his Bulls to an NBA Championship, won Finals MVP and helped the United States win gold in Barcelona. 

    If James wins his second gold, he will become the second to accomplish those four goals in one year, according to Pro Basketball Talk.

    James has played anywhere from small forward to center in international basketball for the U.S. His versatility only increased with his newfound post game.

    James is the best player in the NBA right now by a wide margin. His ability to play and defend multiple positions will make this roster a nightmare to predict on a lineup-to-lineup basis.

    Grade of Selection: A+ 

Kevin Durant

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    While LeBron James is the best player in the NBA by a wide margin, Durant is clearly the second-best. 

    KD's role on this team has yet to be defined due to the depth on the roster, but he won't start ahead of Kobe or LeBron. 

    Durant played a lot of power forward in the World Championships in 2010 and was the leading scorer on that team.

    Whatever role Durant can play on this team, Coach K will certainly find it.

    Durant could easily find a way to lead the team in scoring without starting a game and could be motivated a lot by not being a starter.

    With KD, LeBron and Melo afterward, the U.S. could have a three-small-forward frontcourt that would dominate every team but the interior-loaded Spanish team that received the silver medal in 2008. 

    Grade of Selection: A+

Carmelo Anthony

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    Carmelo Anthony is the best third-string small forward on any team ever assembled. But he will aid in many other aspects. 

    His strength and ability to finish will allow him to play power forward and possibly center.

    Because of his short memory and willingness to shoot, Melo will arguably be the most ready to score no matter who else is on the court. 

    Anthony should take this opportunity to learn how to be the No. 1 guy from likes of Durant, LeBron and Kobe.

    Entering his prime, Anthony will make the most of his minutes here, taking what he learns back to the NBA with him.

    Grade of Selection: A+

Andre Iguodala

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    Iguodala may be the least-liked No.1 option in basketball for what he does on the court, which isn't a lot of scoring. 

    That being said, he brings a great skill that USA chairman Jerry Colangelo believes is necessary, according to Pro Basketball Talk:

    “He’s a stopper,” Colangelo said of Iguodala. “You take his character, you take his talents and what he can contribute in a team concept, then being the stopper that he is, he deserved to be on this team.”

    Iguodala can play and defend every position from shooting guard to power forward on this team, and his long arms will create confusion and steals. 

    He plays within himself and the team concept, something that works perfectly for international basketball. 

    Rudy Gay may have provided more scoring, but Iguodala is much better in all other areas, including rebounding, defense and athleticism. 

    In the end, Iguodala's presence as a bench swingman will be so much so that the other teams in the Olympics don't exactly breathe a sigh of relief when he comes on to the floor.

    Grade of Selection: A-

Kevin Love

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    Kevin Love may be the hardest-working and most underrated player in the NBA.

    But on the world's biggest stage, Love's versatility to play both interior positions, and be the trailer in transition opportunities to take wide-open threes, will reveal his talents to some who haven't seen it yet due to him playing in small-market Minnesota.

    Love is the best rebounder in basketball outside of Dwight Howard, but his lack of athleticism and pure strength could hurt him against the Spain interior trio of the Gasol brothers and Serge Ibaka. 

    That being said, Love is the perfect power forward in today's NBA, as he is both a stretch 4 and tenacious rebounder who isn't afraid to play in the paint.

    Despite the least athletic player on the U.S. roster, Love could easily become the biggest riser in terms of fanfare on the U.S. Olympic Basketball team. 

    Grade of Selection: A

Blake Griffin

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    Though he gets criticized for being a one-dimensional player, it is easy to forget that Blake Griffin has only played two full years in the league, and has arguably yet to have a full offseason. 

    With Chris Paul as his teammate, look for the duo to gain valuable experience and teaching from fellow NBA greats to make themselves one of the best one-two punches in basketball when they return to Clipper land.

    Griffin needs to become a better free-throw shooter and shooter overall, but he has the ability to play center in an up-tempo lineup, and with Lamar Odom coming back to L.A., he should use this time to play some minutes at the 5 in order to prepare to do it next season. 

    If Dwight Howard or LaMarcus Aldridge were healthy, it would be debatable as to whether Blake were guaranteed a roster spot.

    That being said, he is the type of athlete at the power forward position that LeBron James is at the small forward position, and he may develop the other parts of his game like LeBron did when he sees how he works. 

    Grade of Selection: B+

Tyson Chandler

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    Tyson Chandler has re-emerged the past couple of seasons from injury-plagued big man to arguably the best post defender in basketball. 

    His intensity and knowledge of the game defensively helped the New York Knicks not only actually play defense, but do it at a high level.

    With other defensive stoppers with high basketball IQ on this Olympic squad, don't be surprised if the guards and forwards try to make a lot of plays on the ball to get steals knowing that they have Chandler back to swat away shot attempts.

    Though there could be a case made that Dwight Howard would be a better starter at this position, the respect Chandler has earned around the league over the past two seasons beg me to differ.

    If he goes down with an injury as the only true center on the team, it may effect the hopes of a gold medal more than any other injury could. 

    Grade of Selection: A+