Team USA Basketball: Why Anthony Davis Was a Serious Upgrade over Blake Griffin

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistAugust 3, 2012

LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 31:  Anthony Davis #14 of United States dunks the ball against Tunisia during the Men's Basketball Preliminary Round match on Day 4 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at Basketball Arena on July 31, 2012 in London, England.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Despite Blake Griffin's captivating high-wire athleticism and undeniable marketability, Team USA losing Griffin for the Olympics was a blessing in disguise.

In Griffin's place, Team USA chose 19-year-old Anthony Davis as a replacement and the New Orleans Hornets' No. 1 pick has been nothing short of brilliant so far.

Through three games so far in London, Davis is averaging 8.0 points per game while flashing gobs of the individual brilliance that made him the National Player of the Year at Kentucky.

And while it's impossible to know how Griffin would have performed in these Olympic Games, it's become clear that Davis was a huge upgrade for Team USA's needs.

Here's a look at a few reasons why:


Davis is a Better Post Defender

Coming into the Olympic process, Team USA's most obvious hole was at the center spot.

With Dwight Howard out due to back surgery and Andrew Bynum choosing to forego the Olympics (via ESPN) to undergo the Orthokine (blood platelet spinning) treatment on his knee, Tyson Chandler was left as Team USA's only reliable option in the defensive middle.

Original selections for the London roster Griffin and Kevin Love certainly weren't going to help fill that void.

On the other hand, Davis' main strength is his post defense.

While the team has mostly relied on LeBron James to fill the center void when Chandler is out, Davis provides Team USA with a vastly superior third option.


Davis is a Better Side Story

Ostensibly, Davis replaced Griffin as the United States' 12th man.

With Team USA having a massive talent advantage over every team in London, that means little more than garbage time minutes for either young star.

And with the games in hand, Davis' 19-year-old wet behind the ears status has made for great late-game entertainment fodder.

In Team USA's 156-73 blowout of Nigeria, Davis was about to enter the game until realizing his jersey was nowhere to be found.

While sideline reporter Craig Sager reported that Davis simply didn't want to mess up his jersey during pregame and there has been no admission of chicanery...who are we kidding, here? The "hide the jersey" trick is one of the oldest rookie hazing moves in basketball.

Those fun and games wouldn't have happened with Griffin, as he's already an established NBA star. Subjecting Griffin to the type of chicanery Davis undergoes would be seen as disrespectful.

Davis' youth makes him perfect practical joke fodder and makes Team USA a more likable bunch.


Davis Could Simply Already be the Better Player

It will take far more than an eight-game sample size for anyone to consciously put Davis in the same sentence as Griffin.

But after what we've seen so far from the youngster, it's certainly not out of the realm of possibility.

"The Brow" is a better defensive player already and will be one of the offensive go-to guys on a boundlessly youthful Hornets squad.

And, like Griffin, he's a ready-made superstar coming out of college.

Skeptical? Here are a few choice quotes from reporter Marc Stein's post-game writeup following Davis' 12-point performance against Tunisia.

LeBron James contends that [Davis] already "reminds me of Marcus Camby."

Deron Williams, meanwhile, has been raving about Davis' athleticism, energy level and the ground he covers defensively -- "Those things you can't teach," D-Will says -- since Team USA got to Europe. He has seen enough to refer to him, even at this stage of Davis' development, as a certain "franchise player."

"And he doesn't even really know how to play the game yet. Once he figures out that, he definitely can be a scary player."

And considering Kobe Bryant has taken Davis "under his wing" (via Stein), it's indisputable that this London experience means more for the 19-year-old's game than it would have for Griffin.

It's just lucky for Team USA that he's also the better fit.