Olympic Basketball 2012: Who Is Team USA's Most Important Player?

Daniel Kock@@dannykockContributor IIIJuly 27, 2012

BARCELONA, SPAIN - JULY 22: Kobe Bryant #10 of the US Men's Senior National Team in action during a Pre-Olympic Men's Exhibition Game between USA and Argentina at Palau Sant Jordi, on July 22, 2012 in Barcelona, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
David Ramos/Getty Images

The USA basketball team is looking for nothing but a gold medal at the 2012 Olympics, and the guy they need to lean on the most is Kobe Bryant.

LeBron James will be the most talented player on the floor in every game he plays, but Bryant needs to be the leader of the team.

This will just be the second Olympic games for Bryant, but at 33 years old, he's easily the veteran presence on this team.

He's played on numerous big stages and will not be affected by struggles in this tournament.

Team USA will not have a cakewalk through this tournament. They will be challenged. When this happens, it will be up to Bryant to focus the squad. They will listen to Bryant.

His will to win is unlike any player in the NBA since Michael Jordan. He will not settle for anything other than gold and will expect nothing less from his teammates.

His scoring abilities will also play a huge role in how smooth Team USA's offense looks.

The strategy for Team USA will be to play in transition mode as much as possible. They will be unbeatable in a full-court game.

Therefore, their opponents will look to slow the game down, and in the half court, teams will pack the lane and force Team USA to make outside shots.

Bryant still has one of the best mid-range games in the NBA and can knock down the three-point shot.

Team USA does not have a three-point specialist, and that puts added pressure on guys like Bryant, Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony to make jump shots consistently.

Bryant finished in the top five in the NBA in scoring this year and clearly still has the skill set to score from multiple spots on the floor.

Team USA does not want to rely heavily on their half-court offense, however.

For Team USA to play the type of full-court game they want to play, it will all start on the defensive side of the ball.

Bryant plays a little defense as well. He's made 12 NBA All-Defense teams, which is good for second most all time behind just Tim Duncan.

Team USA got off to a sluggish start in the exhibition game against Brazil.

It was the defense that got USA going, and Bryant was the major reason for that.

His intensity picked up on that end of the court as he began trapping, forcing deflections and steals which led to easy buckets. The game was over after that burst in the second quarter.

If Team USA plays that kind of defense in London, they will be unbeatable.

There is talent everywhere on the roster. That's obvious and won't be the issue for Team USA.

The issue will be staying focused, disciplined, playing tough defense and hitting open jump shots. And that all starts with the play and leadership of Kobe Bryant.