Ranking the Most Important Team USA Players

Peter Emerick@@peteremerickSenior Writer IIJuly 17, 2012

Ranking the Most Important Team USA Players

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    Looking at Team USA's star-studded roster, you'd think that they would just walk into the 2012 Olympics and destroy every other team standing in their way of another gold medal.

    While Team USA is certainly capable of dominating their competition in the 2012 Olympic games, they'll not only have to work together to accomplish that but they'll also need one or two players to step up and lead the team.

    Every member of Team USA's roster has a specific role and purpose, but some of those players, like LeBron James, Andre Iguodala and Deron Williams, are more critical to the team's overall success than others, such as Carmelo Anthony, Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook.

    Ahead is a ranking of the every member of the Team USA's 2012 roster in relation to how important they are to Team USA's overall success.  

12. Anthony Davis, PF

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    2011-'12 Per-Game Stats: 14.2 points. 10.4 rebounds, 4.7 blocks, 1.4 steals, 62.3 FG%, 15.0 3P%, 70.9 FT%

    Anthony Davis kicks off this list ranking players important to Team USA's success in the upcoming 2012 Olympic games.

    After Blake Griffin went down with a torn meniscus, as reported by ESPN.com, Davis stepped up and filled in for him on Team USA's depth chart. It was certainly an interesting choice, replacing an All-Star power forward with one who hasn't even played a single minute of professional basketball yet.

    The Olympic games will be great experience for Davis and it will certainly help his transition into the NBA, but it won't impact Team USA's overall success that much.

    Davis is capable of being a somewhat productive member of USA's roster, but head coach Mike Krzyzewski won't utilize him that much because he has better, more elite players at his disposal.

    While Davis will be riding the bench for the majority of the 2012 Olympic games, it will certainly be interesting to watch him play against professional talent when he does indeed get into games. 

11. Russell Westbrook, PG

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    2011-'12 Per-Game Stats: 23.6 points, 5.5 assists, 4.6 rebounds, 1.7 steals, 45.7 FG%, 31.6 3P%, 82.3 FT %

    Having Russell Westbrook as the third-best option at the point for Team USA goes to show just how deep their roster truly is.

    There are two reasons why Westbrook won't be integral to Team USA's success. The first is because he won't get as many minutes as players like Deron Williams and Chris Paul, who are higher than him on the depth chart.

    The second reason is because, at times, Westbrook can be an extremely inefficient and somewhat reckless player. There are times when Westbrook's confidence and aggressive approach to the game works for him, but that won't be the case during the 2012 Olympic games.

    Having Westbrook coming off the bench will certainly be to Team USA's benefit, but it won't be something that will make or break their pursuit of gold in the 2012 Olympics. 

10. Carmelo Anthony, SF

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    2011-'12 Per-Game Stats: 22.6 points, 6.3 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 1.1 steals, 43.0 FG%, 33.5 3P%, 80.4 FT%

    Carmelo Anthony is without a doubt one of Team USA's purest scorers, but his abilities on the wing aren't as integral to the team's overall success.

    The reason for that is because Melo lacks a level of athletic ability that others players on the roster like Kevin Durant and James have. Melo is a pure scorer and an average defender, but he isn't much more and that's why his play won't make or break Team USA.

    Melo will certainly help USA on the glass, and without depth in their frontcourt, that will be a valuable asset. Playing lockdown defense and being efficient on offense is going to be at the foundation of USA's success, and those two things aren't necessarily what Melo is known for.

    Melo is going to be a solid piece of Team USA's pursuit of a gold medal over the next few weeks, but his production won't be at the foundation of their success.

9. Chris Paul, PG

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    2011-'12 Per-Game Stats: 19.8 points, 9.1 assists, 3.6 rebounds, 2.5 steals, 47.8 FG%, 37.1 3P%, 86.1 FT%

    Chris Paul will certainly share time with Deron Williams as Team USA's starting point guard. What makes Paul such a special player is that at the the foundation of his success is a strong adherence to the defensive fundamentals of the game.

    Paul's main impact in the 2012 Olympic games will be his ability to facilitate offense to the more explosive athletes and offensive players on the team, like LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Andre Iguodala and Kevin Durant.

    The one thing that holds Paul back from being higher on this list is that he's not the most prolific scorer at the point on Team USA's roster. That honor goes to Deron Williams, and that's why Williams is more integral to USA's overall success.

    Another way that Paul will impact the Olympic games is with his opportunistic defensive skills and his ability to put pressure on point guards out on the perimeter. International point guards are going to have their hands full with Paul's defense; there's no doubt about that. 

8. Kevin Durant, SF

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    2011-'12 Per-Game Stats: 28.0 points, 8.0 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.3 steals, 49.6 FG%, 38.7 3P%, 86.0 FT%

    Kevin Durant and his pure stroke will certainly be important to Team USA's success, but his lack of defensive focus at times will also be a liability. That's why he's only No. 8 on this list.

    Durant is undoubtedly one of the purest scorers in the game, and Team USA will utilize his scoring on the wing. But there are a number of players on their roster who can flat-out score. The main focus for USA is finding players who both score the ball and also make legitimate contributions on the defensive side of the ball.

    Defense wins championships, and Durant knows that better than most players on Team USA, after his OKC Thunder were dominated by the defensive powerhouse known as the Miami Heat in the 2012 NBA Finals.

    Durant's main focus during the 2012 Olympic games needs to be on his defensive production, because if he doesn't step up his defensive intensity, he could become a liability for Team USA. If he does that, he will see his minutes reduced in favor of players like Andre Igudola, who can put players on lock-down on the perimeter.  

7. Deron Williams, PG

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    2011-'12 Per-Game Stats: 21.0 points, 8.7 assists, 3.3 rebounds, 1.2 steals, 40.7 FG%, 33.6 3P%, 84.3 FT%

    Team USA will need an experienced leader controlling the offense, and while they have Chris Paul, Deron Williams is the man for that job.

    Williams was a member of the 2008 gold-medal winning USA team, and that experience will help him be a very valuable piece of the 2012 Team USA roster.

    In addition to his defensive prowess, Williams will also bring an impressive level of offensive production to the point guard position for Team USA. Williams will need to control the pace of the game and also keep every member of his team involved in the offense. Luckily, that's at the foundation of what makes Williams such a successful player in the NBA.

    Team USA can't win Olympic gold this year if they don't have an efficient point guard controlling their offense. Fortunately, they have Deron Williams for that job.

    The Olympics is the perfect stage for Williams to prove that he's deserving of being one of the most highly-paid point guards in the NBA. 

6. Kobe Bryant, SG

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    2011-'12 Per-Game Stats: 27.9 points, 5.4 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 1.2 steals, 43.0 FG%, 30.3 3P%, 84.5 FG%

    Kobe Bryant made a very bold statement when he said the he though the 2012 USA Team could not only hang with the 1992 Dream Team, but also beat them.

    While Kobe and his 2012 squad will never have a chance to actually beat the Dream Team, he will have a chance to show just how dominant he can be against the current field of Olympic teams. 

    Not only does Kobe have to back up his bold statement, the way he plays will also be integral to the success of his team. Without Dwyane Wade on the team, Kobe will have to amp up his production at the shooting guard position and solidify Team USA's production on the wing.

    Kobe and his smooth stroke will be at the foundation of Team USA's success, but luckily, if he fails to produce at a consistent level, there are other players who can make up for him.

    But let's be honest, when has Kobe ever failed to show up? 

5. James Harden, SG

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    2011-'12 Per-Game Stats: 16.8 points, 4.1 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 1.0 steals, 49.1 FG%, 39.0 3P%, 84.6 FT%

    Without Dwyane Wade to bolster Team USA's depth at the shooting guard position, that responsibility falls squarely on the shoulders of James Harden.

    After an atrocious performance in the 2012 NBA Finals, Harden has a lot to prove during the 2012 Olympics, and not just for himself.

    While Harden will be looking to solidify himself as one of the elite players in the NBA, he will also be integral to Team USA's success. While a majority of international teams lack the amount of true star power that Team USA has on it's roster, they all have one thing in common and that is depth coming off their bench.

    Harden will be the leader of Team USA's second unit, and that's an incredibly important role. It's one that he is definitely capable of excelling at. Harden must use his physicality to overpower his competition by getting into the paint and finishing at the rim like he does so well with the OKC Thunder.

4. Kevin Love, PF/C

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    2011-'12 Per-Game Stats: 26.0 points, 13.3 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 0.9 steals, 44.8 FG%, 37.2 3P%, 82.4 FT%

    With Blake Griffin missing the Olympics with a torn meniscus, as reported by USA Today, and his replacement, Anthony Davis, having no professional experience under his belt, Kevin Love is going to have to bolster Team USA's frontcourt.

    While Love is great at spreading the floor and hitting shots from beyond the arc, Team USA is going to need him to be more of a post player, especially on the defensive side of the ball.

    International teams aren't going to beat Team USA on the perimeter; they are going to beat them in the paint because of Team USA's lack of frontcourt depth, and that's why Love's game is going to be so important.

    On offense, Love will be comfortable finding open space and hitting shots off of drives by players like Williams, Westbrook and LeBron James. On defense, Love will have to up his intensity on the paint, because if he doesn't, Team USA's competition will focus on the lack of frontcourt depth USA has. 

    If Team USA is going to win gold, they are going to need Love to get nasty in the paint. 

3. Andre Iguodala, SF

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    2011-'12 Per-Game Stats: 12.4 points, 6.1 rebounds, 5.5 assists, 1.7 steals, 45.4 FG%, 39.4 3P%, 61.7 FT%

    It's crazy to think that Andre Iguodala is in the top three of Team USA's most important players, but what he brings to the court is certainly integral to USA's success over the next few weeks.

    Iguodala brings a complete level of production and insane athletic abilities to the court, and that's something USA will certainly need coming off the bench.

    In addition to the way that Iguodala absolutely flies out on the wing, his versatility is something that Team USA will rely on when players like James, Williams, Westbrook and Chris Paul are on the bench.

    Iguodala is also one of the best perimeter defenders in the world. His presence on the defensive side of the ball will be something that Team USA relies on, and it's something that will also be at the foundation of their success in the 2012 Olympics.

    Iguodala will be playing in his first Olympic games, but that's not going to keep him from being one of the most important players on Team USA's roster. 

2. Tyson Chandler, C

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    2011-'12 Per-Game Stats: 11.3 points, 9.9 rebounds, 1.4 blocks, 0.9 steals, 67.9 FG%, 68.9 FT%

    The one thing Team USA doesn't have is legitimate depth in the frontcourt. While that might not matter against teams like the Dominican Republic, it's certainly going to have a bigger impact against the better international teams.

    The one player USA has who can dominate the paint on the defensive side of the ball is the 2012 NBA Defensive Player of the Year, Tyson Chandler.

    If USA wants to beat teams like Argentina, Spain, Lithuania and Australia, they will absolutely have to lock down the painted area, and that's why Chandler is such an integral piece to their 2012 Olympic success.

    Chandler's impact on the offensive side of the ball will be minimal, but Team USA will need his seven-foot frame to alter shots in the paint and have an impact on every defensive possession when he's on the court.

    Defense wins championships, and that's also true when it comes to winning gold medals in the Olympics. That's why Chandler's presence is so important for Team USA. Worst case scenario, USA could just hang up a poster of Chandler's ESPN the Magazine, Body Issue cover behind the basket. I'm sure that would scare opponents away. 

1. LeBron James, SF

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    2011-'12 Per-Game State: 27.1 points, 7.9 rebounds, 6.2 assists, 1.9 steals, 53.1 FG%, 36.2 3P%, 77.1 FT%

    LeBron James put together one of the most complete seasons in NBA history, and he capped it off by winning his first NBA Championship and his first NBA Finals MVP. What better way to cap off a historical season than by dominating in the Olympics on the way to winning gold?

    There's no doubt that LeBron is capable of absolutely destroying the international competition in the Olympics, and he'll do just that.

    There are no players in the international game that bring what LeBron brings to the court. He's the most physically gifted and freakishly athletic player in the NBA, and even at 6'8'' and 250 pounds, he's one of the most agile players on the court.

    LeBron will have to utilize those skills to ensure that Team USA wins gold in 2012. If he fails to dominate like he did in the NBA this season, USA could struggle. Team USA needs a player who will lead with his production, and that's exactly who LeBron will be.

    It's time for LeBron to prove once and for all that he's the absolute best player in the entire world, and there's no better stage for that than the 2012 Olympics. 

    It's a shame that there isn't an Olympics MVP trophy, because the way LeBron is poised to play, he will be the player who ends up being Team USA's most valuable player.