USA Basketball: Kyrie Irving and the Best Players Left Out of London Olympics
Kyrie Irving, depending on how much he's improving by the minute, might already deserve a Team USA roster spot at the 2012 Summer Olympics. His handle is possibly the league's best, though Chris Paul has a strong argument. He shot 40 percent on three-pointers, which bodes well for his ability to thrive in a drive-and-kick International game.
But Kyrie is too young, too "unproven" for Team USA. Though you could make a statistical argument for his superiority to, say, Deron Williams, Williams has more experience, and Coach K doesn't want to take a chance.
This is how good, young players miss the Team USA cut: We don't have enough information to know just how good they are. Anthony Davis was going to be left off the current squad, and he still might be. But since Blake Griffin suffered a knee injury (via Yahoo!'s Adrian Wojnarowski), Davis is being summoned by the metaphorical Team USA bat signal.
Davis may have missed the original cut due to his own ankle injury, but it just as easily could have been youth. The shot-blocking savant is only 19 years old and thin as a violin string. But given the team's needs, it's hard to see how they don't need Anthony Davis.
Tyson Chandler is all that stands between the Americans and an utter interior defensive void. Remember, you get five fouls in FIBA hoops. It's not difficult to envision a scenario in which Chandler finds foul trouble, and the U.S. is stuck manning the middle with Kevin Love.
While "LeBron can handle any position" sounds comforting, I'd hate to test out that theory. James is huge for his skill set, but he's shorter than 6'8" in socks. Do you really want LeBron guarding Marc Gasol? Also, where is the shot-blocking going to come from?
If Team USA cut Davis on account of his youth and not his ankle injury, this was a mistake. I also agree with The Painted Area that Taj Gibson would have been a preferable selection to some of the guards taken. It's not that Gibson is better than some of Team USA's perimeter threats; it's that he actually plays defense.
Right now, Coach K's guys suffer from a defensive deficit, and they're more than duplicating certain scoring positions.
Why, for instance, is Carmelo Anthony on this team? Despite all the mythology regarding his FIBA play, Anthony shot a mere 42 percent in the last Olympics. That figure sounds merely mediocre, but it's actually terrible compared to what some of his teammates shot. Chris Bosh managed over 70 percent, while LeBron James and Dwyane Wade claimed over 60 percent on far more attempts.
Right now, Anthony's best skill is that he can make difficult shots—shots he shouldn't be taking when sharing a court with otherworldly talents. Perhaps Anthony remains due to his seniority (with the team since 2002).
Whatever the reason, I find no justification in dragging Melo along when you already have LeBron James and Kevin Durant.
Seniority counts, but so does a lack of injury. This is likely why James Harden beat out Eric Gordon in another roster decision with which I don't agree.
This is no slight to Harden, who I like quite a bit; this goes back to the discussion about duplicating skill sets. Harden must dominate the ball in order to be successful. He also benefits from a rather stringent NBA interpretation of what constitutes legal contact.
At the international level, I expect Harden to either not be needed (other players can and should dominate the rock) or not excel. Harden's not getting those touch fouls he absorbs like a well-placed sponge; FIBA's not having it.
Gordon, on the other hand, plays off the ball quite capably and doesn't depend so much on whistles. But he's also coming off a knee injury and is embroiled in a slightly embarrassing contract dispute. Perhaps Coach K and company worried about the drama and decided it wasn't worth it.
Like many Team USA roster cuts, Gordon's was one I disagree with, but understand.
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