He’s never played a minute in the NBA, but Anthony Davis just might be the difference between USA winning gold or silver in this year’s Olympics.
Several teams serve as potential obstacles, like Brazil, Argentina, France or Lithuania. However, there’s only one team that Team USA should be really concerned about. That would be the Spaniards.
Spain is ranked second in the world to only the USA. The team faced off with the Redeem team in the gold medal match of the 2008 Olympics and gave Team USA all it could handle. Spain only trailed 108-104 late in the game before Kobe Bryant carried USA to the finish. The final score showed 118-107.
Two years before that, Spain cruised to a FIBA World Championship title after USA was upset by Greece in the semifinals.
This year, Spain is as strong as ever, led by the two Gasol brothers, Pau of the Los Angeles Lakers and Marc or the Memphis Grizzlies, and rising star Serge Ibaka of the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Those three have all been starters for playoff winning teams, two of them have been to the NBA Finals and one has two championship rings.
The three of them average 237 pounds and just below seven feet tall.
Usually international basketball is dominated by smaller, athletic teams that can run-and-gun up and down the court all game. Team USA has assembled a team perfectly fit for that game with multi-talented and athletic stars such as LeBron James, Russell Westbrook and Andre Iguodala, and sharp shooters like Kevin Durant and Kobe Bryant.
If and when they face Spain in the gold medal match, however, the Americans will have to be able to at least neutralize the three-headed monster of the Gasols and Ibaka.
Enter Anthony Davis. In Mike Krzyzewski’s normal ten-man rotation, the only real big men are Tyson Chandler and Kevin Love. Chandler’s defense and Love’s rebounding are good compliments to each other, but are they might not be enough go all the way.
The Americans have some bigger forwards that are capable of playing center in the international game, such as James or Carmelo Anthony, but they still maintain serious height disadvantages to Spain’s bigs.
Davis isn’t playing a ton of minutes because of his inexperience, but he should be brought in specifically for Spain. He stands at 6’10” and possesses a wicked wingspan that allows him to excel at defense and rebounding. Davis played four minutes in the end of Tuesday’s 100-78 win over Spain, and he immediately provided defense and toughness down low.
Not only would Davis be instrumental in guarding the Gasols and Ibaka, but he would also be another body to take some fouls that would have went to other USA players. In Tuesday’s game, Spain repeatedly banged their big guys inside, which eventually drew three fouls on James, Durant, Love and Bryant, four on Anthony and five on Chandler, which, under international rules, fouled him out of the contest.
And all of those fouls came with Marc sitting on the bench for the entire match. Once the games begin in London, all three of Spain’s giants will be on the floor ready to go. They will post up on the opposition constantly, wearing down the defense and drawing tons of fouls.
Of course, on the opposite side of the spectrum, Spain’s biggest question will be whether or not they can keep up with the athletic Americans. Ibaka certainly can, who is an athletic freak. The Gasol brothers are not quite as athletic, leaving the question still wide open.
It appears that USA’s athleticism is superior to Spain’s size after Tuesday’s matchup, even though it was only an exhibition in which probably neither team was going all out, and Marc didn’t even play.
Still, Team USA needs to keep at least one true big man on the floor at all times to take out any strength Spain might pose. Through their first four exhibition games, the Americans were outscored by their opponents 116-115 in the 58 minutes in which Chandler, Love and Davis all sat on the bench.
Inserting Davis for about 10 minutes against Spain would go a long ways. He would play excellent defense against the Gasols and Ibaka, grab a good amount of rebounds, and allow Team USA to take on a few extra fouls. As a result, Love and Chandler would get a little more rest, allowing them to exert that much more energy while on the court.
Plus, Davis is the more athletic than Love and Chandler, which would fit into USA’s overall theme much better.
He doesn’t have to play a major role in the game. He wouldn’t even have to score one basket. But just a little bit of Anthony Davis could answer all of Team USA’s Spain-related questions.