USA vs Brazil: A Test for U.S. Big Men in Preparation for Spain

Josh KipnisCorrespondent IIJuly 16, 2012

LAS VEGAS, NV - JULY 12:  Tyson Chandler #4 of the US Men's Senior National Team smiles as  Jack Martinez #15 of the Dominican Republic looks on during a pre-Olympic exhibition game at Thomas & Mack Center on July 12, 2012 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by David Becker/Getty Images)
David Becker/Getty Images

Would the 2012 U.S Olympic Team beat the “Dream Team” of ’92? It’s a great debate, but I think Jordan and the “Dream Team” come out on top for one reason—big men.

The Dream Team had Patrick Ewing, Karl Malone, David Robinson and Charles Barkley. Compare that to Tyson Chandler, Anthony Davis and Kevin Love, and it’s no longer a competition.

The U.S. basketball team could very well win the gold in this year’s Olympic Games in London, but the one thing that could strip the prized medals from their hands is rebounding. Simply put, the U.S. doesn’t have the dominant big men they are used to having in these games.

They don’t have Dwight Howard. They lost Blake Griffin to injury. And Kevin Love, who averaged over 12 rebounds a game in the NBA last season, is only averaging 4.9 boards for the national team this summer.

Tonight, the U.S. will take on Brazil in their second exhibition (of four) before opening ceremonies, and it will be a great test of their front line's strength. 

Brazil features NBA centers Nene, Anderson Varejao and Tiago Splitter. And while they aren’t the cream of the crop, it is the toughest competition yet for Chandler, Davis and Love.

Sure, the U.S. will win this game by 20 points. But this isn’t the gold medal game. Head coach Mike Krzyzewski has one team in the back of his mind—Spain.

The Spanish national team is really the only team in the same tier of talent as Team USA. They have a solid roster from top to bottom, and their big men could overpower Coach K's bunch.

Built around the seven-foot frames of the Gasol brothers, Spain will also welcome the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Serge Ibaka this summer. Those three trump the American big men any day of the week.

Last week, Ibaka told ESPN reporters that he thinks Spain has just as much talent as the United States.

While Ibaka is crazy to think Ricky Rubio can take on Chris Paul and LeBron James, he does have a point. Maybe the gold won’t come as easily as everyone thinks.

Hopefully, the game against Brazil will provide some answers. 

Can Chandler and Davis shut down Nene’s offensive game? Can they score in the post with Varejao in their faces? Can they extend outside the paint to match Splitter’s versatility?

These are all questions we need answered before Nike starts filming a series of gold-plated commercials. These are the biggest problems that the U.S. team faces, and as cliché as it is, a team is only as strong as its weakest link.

Will Chandler, Davis and Love be the targeted weakness in London? Or will they prove to critics that there was never a reason to doubt? We’ll find out in August, but until then, this exhibition game against Brazil will be crucial in determining Team USA's Olympic fate.