USA vs. Argentina: 5 Bold Predictions for LeBron and Company's Olympics Tune-Up
Team USA hasn't faced many challenges in its exhibition games thus far, but that could change against 2004 Gold Medal-winning Argentina.
The two icons of global hoops will face off Sunday in what will be a precursor to the August 6 preliminary round matchup between the two countries.
The feisty Argentinian team packs some NBA punch of its own, including the San Antonio Spurs' Manu Ginobili and new Phoenix Sun Luis Scola. Though the club doesn't compare to the United States' depth of talent on paper, it makes up for it in chemistry and determination to at least some degree.
Coming off a 118-78 victory over Great Britain, Team USA will be looking to maintain its momentum against the tougher opponent.
The dust-up promises to be a test for both sides, but what should we expect to see?
Manu Ginobili Will Have a Big Game
The ageless Manu Ginobili has never had an athletic edge against the NBA's elite guards, but that hasn't stopped him from making a significant impact in the NBA and Olympic Games alike.
He's a wily veteran, and he's seemed that way since he came into the league. His ability to go left and utilize a combination of unconventional moves and perfect footwork make him difficult for the NBA's very best to contain.
Sure, Team USA will have some long bodies to throw at him, but he'll still find a way to impact the game. Whether he's taking step-back jumpers or creating plays for others, Ginobili's game is diverse and adaptable.
Expect Argentina to ride his talent as far as it will go.
Deron Williams Will Still Have the Hot Hand
Deron Williams made four of his five three-pointers in a third quarter that helped create the insurmountable distance between the U.S. and Great Britain.
He scored 19 points overall to go along with five assists, all in just 20 minutes of action.
Williams can fill it up when he finds a rhythm, and Argentina should expect to see more of the same. There isn't a guard on the roster with the quickness, strength and defensive chops to put Williams to the test.
There aren't even many in the NBA with those kind of credentials.
Expect Williams to have another dominant game and perhaps cause a few NBA fans to question whether Chris Paul is really the best point guard in the league.
There's a reason the Brooklyn Nets have built their future around this guy, and we'll probably continue to see why against Argentina.
Luis Scola Won't Be as Much a Problem as You Might Think
Conventional wisdom might suggest that an NBA power forward like Luis Scola could have a big game against Team USA given its relative lack of size.
Not so fast, though.
While it's true the United States had to leave many of its best big men at home, there are a few problems with the notion that opposing bigs can exploit that. After all, LeBron James may be a small forward at heart, but he's done an exceptional job guarding 4's and bodying up against bigger players.
Additionally, Scola isn't that much bigger. He's 6'9" and likes to do a lot of his damage from mid-range anyway.
That's nothing James and company can't handle.
For that matter, the big guys Team USA did bring along know how to play some defense. Tyson Chandler and Anthony Davis will make life difficult for anyone who attempts to get the ball in the paint.
Carmelo Anthony and Russell Westbrook Will Continue to Make the Difference
There are more than a few reasons other countries simply can't compete with Team USA's depth, but Carmelo Anthony and Russell Westbrook top the list of those reasons.
Against Great Britain, the two combined for 34 points and 13 assists in just 37 minutes, shooting 13-19 from the field to get there.
Both came off the bench in the game despite the fact that Anthony had started the previous two tune-ups.
It didn't matter.
These guys are phenomenal scorers by NBA standards, and their skill sets suit them perfectly for international play. Neither is afraid to take some shots, and they'll make the most of their supreme scoring ability in the open court and half-court alike.
Westbrook is simply too quick and explosive for opposing guards to handle, and Anthony is as good at taking guys one-on-one as just about anyone the U.S.A. has to offer.
In short, they exploit matchups, and that's a problem for teams that have no one even remotely qualified to guard them.
LeBron James Will Have His Best Game Yet
LeBron James is leading Team USA in scoring with 17.7 points per contest through his first three games, and he's filling up the rest of the stat sheet as per his usual jack-of-all-trades greatness.
It's not as if he hasn't already made his mark on the games, and there's no question he'll continue to do so in the ones that actually count for something.
Nevertheless, James has become pretty adept at sending messages, and this would be a good time to send one.
Argentina is one of the few countries that could actually pose a challenge to Team USA, and now is a golden opportunity to quash any patriotic fervor that might otherwise build some momentum and confidence in these underdogs.
James' talent and athleticism can't be matched, and that makes him a tough guy to guard.
Don't be surprised if he dominates this game on both ends of the floor and lets Argentina know what to expect come the preliminary round.