If Team USA hopes to be considered elite, they will need a strong post game in their initial showing in London 2012.
For a team of the best basketball players in the world, the most compelling storyline for the Team USA basketball team is not about which star will handle the scoring attack. Winning his first title, LeBron James, along with Dwyane Wade, proved that the alpha male argument is irrelevant. Instead, the question is whether or not Team USA will be able to recover from the size issue that they visibly suffer from.
With Dwight Howard, Blake Griffin and Chris Bosh all out with injuries, Team USA is left with a glaring hole of inexperience and lack of identifiable extreme talent at the big men positions.
The fact of the matter is that for the 2012 Olympics, Team USA has one weak spot (inside production), and the arguably next best team, Spain, has their most depth at that exact position.
A simple walk-through of Team USA’s roster provides thorough evidence as to what the crux of the issue is here. Game 1 will be a huge test for Team USA, and these players will need to provide serviceable play in the frontcourt for the national team to be considered favorites to win gold in this tournament.
Tyson Chandler, the only center on the team, is a huge defensive presence for the national team. Chandler, however, lacks much of an attacking game worth discussing, which prevents Team USA from establishing a dominant rhythm both on the boards and in the paint. Chandler has won the Defensive Player of the Year Award for the NBA in recent years and has experience in big-game settings after winning the NBA Championship with Dallas in 2011. Because he acts as the sole center, however, he will need to avoid foul trouble at all costs.
In five exhibition games, Chandler averaged only 2.4 PPG and 3.4 RPG.
At the forward position, former Kentucky sensation Anthony Davis will also be an extraordinarily valuable asset who will be tested when the team takes the floor against the French. His shot-blocking will need to serve as well in the international game as it did in the college game for Team USA to see the success that they’d like in this summer tournament.
Davis is not expected to earn much playing time.
Also at the forward position is an undersized forward who has a tendency to play like a dominant yet oversized shooting guard in Kevin Love. At 6’10”, he is the third largest player on the roster but is much more suited to reel in countless board after board than provide the necessary stops on the defensive end for a gold medal-type environment.
The last time that the French played in the Olympics tournament for basketball was in 2000. The French lost in the finals to the US by a score of 85-75. In the 2011 European Championship, however, the French finished in second place behind only Spain.
Of the 39 players in the NBA competing in this tournament, six play for the French team. This includes Tony Parker (point guard), Nicolas Batum (shooting guard), Mickael Gelabale (small forward), Boris Diaw (power forward) and Ronny Turiaf (center). Wizards big man Kevin Seraphin comes off of the bench for the squad.
Fortunately for the USA, Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah was unable to play for France due to an injury. Noah would have provided a stellar improvement to an already explosive offense.
Without Noah, Team USA can rest easy that the star power of France will not run in the inside game but in Tony Parker.
While Parker will garner much attention, it will be a potentially unguarded Boris Diaw who may cause the national team concern.
"Boris is important on any team he plays on," Kobe Bryant told Jeff Zillgitt of the USA Today. "He can make very sound decisions out there, even under duress."
To beat France, it will not be impossible to stop Ronny Turiaf. But they need to humiliate him and turn this into a statement.
Not only will we win this game, the team should be thinking, but we should win this game because of our big men and prove to the world that we are indeed strong even at our weakest position.
Chandler needs to dominate the paint. Love needs to pull in every board that comes his way. Davis needs to feel like he’s been here before. Most importantly, Diaw needs to be contained so he does not expose any of our previously speculated weaknesses.
If the offense is able to outscore France by 30 as well, that’s fantastic. Outscoring a speedy offense like the French would be quite the achievement for the American national team.
But the important part is if they can contain an inside attack. We all already know that LeBron James and Kobe Bryant know how to score.