Team USA Basketball 2012: Why LeBron James Isn't USA's Most Important Player

Daniel O'BrienFeatured ColumnistJuly 25, 2012

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - JULY 19:  USA player Lebron James  in action during the Men's Exhibition Game between USA and Team GB at Manchester Arena on July 19, 2012 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
Stu Forster/Getty Images

It would be easy to assume that multi-talented megastar LeBron James, the best basketball player in the world, is the most important player on Team USA's 2012 London Olympic hoops squad.

But he's not.

In fact, you could make an argument that multiple players on Mike Krzyzewski's roster are more crucial than LeBron.

King James is certainly the most versatile player on the team, and he brings a unique combination of size, skill and athleticism to the table. However, the current makeup of Team USA and the international style of play make a couple other players more important.

The 2012 American group is extremely deep on the wing and at the small forward position. If LeBron went down with injury, they wouldn't desperately miss his scoring, passing or rebounding skills.

Coach K would survive with the "ragtag" group of Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony and Kobe Bryant.

Even James' defensive presence isn't indispensable, because the squad has stoppers like Bryant, Andre Iguodala and Tyson Chandler, who all are top-tier defenders.

This team is simply too deep at the 2, 3 and 4 spots for LeBron to be considered the most important piece.

So who is more important to Team USA than LeBron, and why?

Seven-foot center Tyson Chandler will be indispensable during the tournament because he is the only true center on the team. He played just eight minutes against Spain (due to questionable foul calls), and the team fared well without him, but things will be different when the Olympics commence.

A prime example of Chandler's importance: He helped keep Brazil's Nene and Tiago Splitter to single-digit scoring last week, which was critical for Team USA to secure its 11-point win. Chandler will also come in handy once Marc Gasol gets healthy and Spain's front line is back to full strength.

Team USA can't always count on shooting the lights out, and that's when the value of Chandler's defense will be appreciated.

Another star who is more critical to the team than King James is Carmelo Anthony. 'Melo thrives in the international game, with the ability to score on the perimeter and in the paint with equal ease.

Of the four prolific scorers on Team USA (Anthony, James, Kevin Durant and Kobe Bryant), Anthony is the best interior scorer. James and Durant don't quite have the combination of footwork and post skills that Anthony possesses, and 'Melo is the only 3 who can excel at the 4 spot offensively.

When Anthony's inside game is effective and his outside shot gets in a groove, Team USA reaches a different level.

This isn't meant to be a slight to LeBron. He's an incredible all-around talent. But Tyson Chandler's irreplaceable defense and Carmelo Anthony's unique scoring prowess make them more important to Team USA.


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