USA Basketball vs. Nigeria: Will Carmelo Anthony Finish as the Tournament's MVP?

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USA Basketball vs. Nigeria: Will Carmelo Anthony Finish as the Tournament's MVP?
Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

It looks like the 2012 Team USA basketball roster is starting to shed at least a glimmer of light on their self-proclaimed 1992 Dream Team comparisons after another lopsided win against Nigeria today.

And while the tournament has no official MVP award, one player has emerged as the clear front-runner for the figurehead trophy, and his name is not LeBron, Kobe or Durant. In fact, Carmelo Anthony hasn’t even cracked the starting lineup for Team USA through three games in London.

Perhaps his most recent performance of 37 points against the Nigerians will have head coach Mike Krzyzewski think twice about leaving the New York Knicks All-Star to a reserve role in Team USA's upcoming game against international rival Argentina on Saturday.

Anthony, who shot a lethal 10-for-12 from three-point range in his 37-point outing (the most individually for any Olympic player ever) appears to finally be form fitting into Team USA assistant (and former Knicks head coach) Mike D’Antoni's seven-seconds-or-less offense, which flows through the point guard and is predicated on off-ball movement and screens. 

Though it might be a few months late (since D’Antoni was axed by the nix at the trade deadline in March), it’s been a formula for success in London and an absolute joy for basketball fans at home to witness.

Though Anthony is widely regarded as a pure scorer who excels in isolation scenarios, his size and jump shot make him an ideal candidate for international ball and D’Antoni’s offense. Combined with strong backcourt play by Deron Williams, Chris Paul and at times, LeBron James (functioning as a point forward), Anthony finds himself in an ideal situation to put up big point totals with his meticulous three-point and mid-range jumpers.

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It also helps Carmelo’s point totals that the three-point line in international ball is about a foot shorter than in the NBA.

While LeBron, Kobe and Durant’s extensive NBA resumes set them apart from Anthony stateside, Carmelo has proven that he is the best fit for Team USA in the Olympic Games. LeBron’s NBA success usually derives from him using his physicality to penetrate the lane and draw sliding defenders inside, a moot playing style internationally due to the finesse style of play and FIBA’s lane rules, which allow players to remain in the key for as long as they wish.

Kobe’s isolation/triple-threat tendencies are impeded by FIBA’s up-tempo game due to a constantly running shot clock, and Durant, while ideally a strong international player due to his ability to catch and shoot off screens, simply hasn’t shot well enough in the Olympic Games so far (or at least not as improbably accurately as Anthony through three games).

Case in point: Anthony looks comfortable on the floor and is playing in an offense that is (somewhat) familiar to him. It’s still early, but if Anthony can keep his pace on somewhat the same level (another 37-point night is unlikely, especially as the competition gets tougher), we could see him steal the spotlight from his co-cast of superstars, becoming the talk of the Games and the basketball world as a whole.

With all the questions surrounding the New York Knicks after their second straight year of struggling to make the playoffs, a strong Olympic showcase might be exactly what the doctor ordered for Carmelo Anthony.

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