2012 Olympic Basketball: Will Kevin Love Live Up to Challenge Against Spain?
The 2012 U.S. Olympic team is monstrous at four out of five positions. However, there are still doubts that the team is sufficiently manned at the center position to defeat their most formidable rival, Spain.
The U.S. Olympic team's roster, announced yesterday afternoon, can be found here (via www.NBA.com). They will compete for an Olympic gold in the 2012 London Games this summer.
As it stands, the U.S. squad's only true center is defensive specialist Tyson Chandler. They will rely on power forward Kevin Love at the center position often, perhaps even as a starter.
Love averaged 26.0 PPG and 13.3 RPG in the 2011-12 season, though this was mostly at the power forward position.
The 6'10" Love is a strong post-up scorer, though this is against forwards over whom he has considerable size and strength advantages.
If the U.S. were to play Spain in the medal elimination rounds, Love would be pitted up against 7'1" center Marc Gasol.
Gasol had a standout 2011-12 NBA season for the Memphis Grizzlies where he averaged 14.6 PPG, 8.9 RPG and two blocked shots a game.
An excellent shot blocker and defensive rebounder, Gasol will give Love difficulties at the center position.
Love's natural position at forward gives him latitude to move away from the post. Twenty five percent of his shots last year were from beyond the three-point arc. However, Gasol and the Spanish front-court will limit Love's maneuverability in London.
Spain's impressive front line also includes Pau Gasol (Marc's older brother) and Serge Ibaka. Pau Gasol is a two time NBA champion with the Los Angeles Lakers.
A 7'0" power forward, Pau Gasol is a terrific jump shooter along the baseline; he will force Love to guess where to defend between the low post and further outside the paint .
Serge Ibaka (Oklahoma City Thunder) is an elite defender and the best shot blocker in the NBA. Between Ibaka and Gasol, Love may find himself on the wrong end of a Spanish block party.
Granted, with the likes of LeBon James, Kevin Durant, and Kobe Bryant, the U.S. Olympic team should be favored over Spain. However, if the Spanish squad can create a grinding pace and force the U.S. to depend heavily on front court scoring, it could mean trouble for the U.S.
There was some speculation before the team's roster announcement that they would add DeMarcus Cousins at center. Cousins averaged 18 PPG and 11 RPG in 2011-12 and is more accustomed to playing center than Love.
The U.S. team instead opted to further load its perimeter with guard James Harden and small forward Andre Iguodala.
Cousins most likely minimized his chances from roster consideration because he has exhibited controversial behavior as an NBA professional thus far.
Odds are that Kevin Love will play effectively against Spain this summer. However, if the United States does lose to Spain, it will most likely be due to U.S. weaknesses in the center position.
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