I'm as big of an Anthony Davis fan as anyone. He'll be a franchise player within five years. That doesn't change the fact that he's nowhere near ready to play in the Olympics.
Being a member of Team USA essentially means that you are among the 12 best American basketball players in the world right now. Considering injuries and a few snubs, let's bring that number up to 20. Does anyone honestly believe that Davis, only a year removed from high school, is in that group?
That essentially means he's a borderline All-Star. Considering Davis doesn't even have a single consistent low-post move yet, I'd say he won't challenge for an All-Star spot this year.
Let's ignore his undeveloped offense for a minute. Davis was ostensibly picked for his defense. My question is why?
Team USA's starting center is Tyson Chandler, the Defensive Player of the Year. Chandler is known for roaming the paint and protecting the rim; exactly the qualities that make Davis so good. Why choose two players who are so similar? Davis may be a better shot blocker, but that's not as important in the Olympics, where fewer shots are taken close to the rim.
The obvious choices for Team USA's third big man spot would be Kevin Garnett or Tim Duncan. The team could use an extra veteran, and they're the best two around. Even if they would have said no, shouldn't they have gotten a call after Dwight Howard, Chris Bosh and Blake Griffin got hurt?
Considering his health and age, Garnett probably turns down the chance, but isn't it at least possible that Duncan says yes? Remember, injuries kept him off of the 2000 team, and his only other Olympic experience was the 2004 disaster. Is it so crazy to think that he'd be interested in playing limited minutes and cruising to a gold medal?
But just for argument's sake, let's say Duncan says no and Coach K really wants another big man.
Wouldn't Andrew Bynum be the logical choice? Kobe Bryant would keep him in line, and he's already an NBA All-Star.
But let's say Bynum is off of the table, why not go for a legitimate scorer in the paint? That would allow Kevin Love to focus on stretching the floor (a must in Euro ball) and Chandler to focus on defense.
Brook Lopez could have filled that role if healthy. If Coach K trusts his leaders, Zach Randolph could have as well. I could list about a half dozen more big men who could have done it better than Davis.
But enough about who should have made it over Davis. Let's talk about why Davis shouldn't be on the team.
The question that needs to be asked about every Team USA big man is how does he help us contain the Gasols? In the end, it's going to come down to a gold medal game against Spain.
I don't know about you, but the idea of Davis playing his first game against NBA talent on a huge stage against two of the best big men in the world doesn't really appeal to me. The Gasols are not only skilled, but strong and physical.
Davis a great defender, but not a particularly muscular one. That is the result of a massive growth spurt in high school. While he can block shots, his defensive weakness (if he has one; think of it as his smallest defensive strength) is getting backed down by stronger big men who have legitimate post moves.
That's a big reason Cody Zeller was able to go 9-of-14 from the field against Kentucky in the NCAA tournament. While Davis will eventually get to a point where this doesn't cause him issues, he won't be there by the time he's dealing with the Gasols. Jumping from admittedly mediocre SEC talent to a brother duo of stars should scare Team USA.
This is only compounded by Davis' tendency to get into foul trouble against better competition. He only played 24 minutes against Indiana in their first matchup because of four personal fouls. If the gold medal game is close, do we really want to put Spain on the free-throw line?
Davis' main defense strength is shot-blocking, but that doesn't make a very big difference against Spain because they don't rely on drives to the basket. They run an inside-out based attack that relies on the Gasols drawing defenders away from the three-point line.
On offense, Davis is raw. He scores with athleticism and not much else. That works in the SEC, but not as much in the Olympics.
Even if it did, he doesn't do it as well as Russell Westbrook, LeBron James and about half of the team. Simply adding another athlete to the roster doesn't do anything for the American offense. Ideally they'd want a low-post scorer or another shooter. Davis doesn't bring either of those things.
Finally, there is Davis' health to consider. While we don't know quite how severe Davis' ankle injury is, it doesn't seem wise to put a rookie into the Olympics when he isn't at 100 percent.
Remember, this isn't the Christian Laettner memorial wasted roster spot (my guess for this year: James Harden). Coach K is going to expect Davis to play. They'll need his size.
If they really needed a big man, there were plenty other Americans to choose from. Even if they aren't all better than Davis, they're at least more proven. Davis isn't ready for the Olympics yet. Ask me again in 2016.
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