As you watch the latest version of USA Basketball's gold-medal-or-bust squad during this years' Olympics you probably won't find yourself doubting the credentials of any of the players. Lebron James, Kobe Bryant, Carmelo Anthony and company have proven their abilities in the NBA—the best league in the world—and deserve their place on the team.
However, if you stick around and watch garbage time in any of their upcoming blow-outs, you'll probably see a player that will make you scratch your head.
By now, everyone knows that rookie Anthony Davis was added to the team when Blake Griffin was injured and forced to withdraw. Davis was presumably added to provide the same thing Christian Laettner provided to the original Dream Team: absolutely nothing.
Nothing against Davis, he's a great prospect and a potential superstar, but right now he's a waste of a roster spot. Hitting a three pointer and getting fouled in the last minutes of a blow-out against the Dominican Republic doesn't rationalize the selection either.
There are an infinite number of players more worthy than Davis in the NBA that could have actually provided depth to that roster though.
Several of those players are on the USA Select team—the team used primarily to train with and scrimmage Team USA.
DeMarcus Cousins is the name usually mentioned, and who many thought would be added to the Olympic roster when Griffin went down. He was not the best fit though, Greg Monroe was.
Statistically, Cousins had a slightly better season than Monroe. He averaged more points and rebounds per game. That doesn't make him a better fit though. Monroe's offensive game would have been a better pairing with Tyson Chandler, the defensive-minded starting center for the Olympic squad.
Yet that snub wasn't the first time USA Basketball disrespected Monroe this summer. Leaving him off the USA Select Team was a bigger slight.
With big men like Dejuan Blair and Derrick Favors selected to that roster, it begs the question, "Who put this team together and were they looking for competition for Team USA or a Washington Generals-type of opponent."
Monroe is one of the best young PF/C in the NBA right now. He just finished his second season and will undoubtedly get better in the years to come. By all indications, he will be in consideration for the next Olympics and having him on the Select Team would have given him a great start in that direction.
He certainly didn't let the slight go unnoticed. He told Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press, "I don’t forget anything. Anything. I remember what people said from high school so I don’t forget anything. It always motivates me.”
That should be music to the Detroit Pistons ears. They've assembled their strongest team in years and they're taking significant strides toward respectability. The upcoming season, although a long way off, is shaping up to be a a positive one.
Monroe's season is the key. His continued improvement will be one of the biggest factors in his team's overall improvement. The oversight by USA Basketball could be the push that he needed to raise his game to a new level.
Monroe is already an all-around great player. His offensive game is dominant and he's as good a passer as you'll find in an NBA big man. His defensive game is his only weakness. That is perhaps what ultimately kept him out of consideration for Team USA.
Whether Monroe needs to simply get stronger, work on technique or both, he now has extra motivation to do it. If his quote in the Free Press is any indication, he'll have plenty of reasons to work on his game and he should focus on defense to prove that he truly belongs among the best players in the world.
If that happens, the Pistons could find themselves with one of the best defensive front courts in the league.
Rookie Andre Drummond is a project but his defensive is already strong—particularly his shot blocking ability. If Monroe ups his defensive game opposing centers will find it exceedingly difficult to park themselves in the paint for easy points as they did last season.
This is the biggest area the Pistons needed to improve upon. While perimeter scoring was a weakness last year as well, Joe Dumars addressed it by adding Cory Maggette via trade and Kim English via the draft. Both players will add a scoring punch that Detroit lacked last year.
A stronger interior defense is clearly their biggest need and Monroe could solve that problem himself if he focuses his efforts wisely.
Pistons fans would have loved to see Monroe involved in Team USA basketball in some capacity, and he certainly would have like to be there as well. However, if a more defensive-minded Monroe is the result, being snubbed by USA Basketball might turn out to be the best thing that could've happened to him and the Pistons.
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