Olympics 2012: Team USA Shows Its Best Lineup Includes Kevin Durant

Ethan Sherwood StraussNBA Lead WriterJuly 19, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 16: Kevin Durant #5 of the US Men's Senior National Team dribbles against Brazil during a pre-Olympic exhibition basketball game at the Verizon Center on July 16, 2012 in Washington, DC. the US Senior Men's National Team won, 80-69. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) *** Kevin Durant
Patrick Smith/Getty Images

It wasn't surprising that Team USA pummeled poor Great Britain. What was surprising was that Mike Krzyzewski employed a new lineup, one featuring Kevin Durant and Deron Williams. This shocked because Coach K tends toward the conservative side, memorably using Jason Kidd far more than anyone saw fit in the 2008 Olympics. Though Durant is clearly better than Carmelo Anthony, the expectation was that Carmelo would retain starting status due to seniority. 

But, after 'Melo missed a whole host of contested jumpers against Brazil, Krzyzewski switched it up. The results were wonderful, in part because Anthony was playing so well.

Beautiful, right? The competition did not impress, but off-the-bench 'Melo was restrained and perceptive with the rock. Not only did he shoot efficiently on his 19 points, but he moved the ball much better than he had in the past two exhibition games. 

The large lead enabled Coach K to use Anthony Davis some, and the kid responded with a quick 11 points and some highlight plays. It is crucial to give the 19-year-old some burn because Tyson Chandler is America's only shot-blocking presence. Should Chandler get injured or experience foul trouble, they may need to call Davis' number.

It is difficult to know whether Krzyzewski was experimenting with the lineup or making it part of a longer team approach. In my less-than-expert opinion, Team USA's best unit involves some combination of Chris Paul, LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Tyson Chandler.

The shooting-guard position presents quite a few options, and can be flexed, depending on the opponent. Since Russell Westbrook plays something near an off-guard role, and since he's big enough to guard 2's, you could use Russ there. Andre Iguodala is a nice choice when your team needs to shut down an opposing wing, and it's difficult to go wrong with the current starter, Kobe Bryant.

Almost any top lineup should, like today's incarnation, involve Durant. KD is either a top-two or -three player, depending on how you feel about Dwight Howard. While bringing him off the bench yields a scoring boost, Durant does not belong in any glorified sixth-man role.

Despite Durant's youth, he's a proven FIBA force (see: 2010 World Championships). "Starting" may be an arbitrary distinction, but it makes sense for Durant to be among Team USA's top five in minutes played.