Adjustments USA Basketball Program Must Make to Stay on Top

Ethan Sherwood StraussNBA Lead WriterAugust 3, 2012

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 02:  Carmelo Anthony #15 of United States shoots during the Men's Basketball Preliminary Round match against Nigeria on Day 6 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at Basketball Arena on August 2, 2012 in London, England.  (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Poor Nigeria. Poor, poor Nigeria. Team USA beat the Nigerians 156-73, a real score that looks very much like a typo. And they did it in 10 minute quarters.

For Team USA, the game was more impressive than it was any kind of test. Nigeria seemed wholly uninterested in playing defense and allowed Team USA to hit 81 percent of their shots inside the three point line.

Outside the arc? It was even more of an onslaught, with America nailing a record 29 three-pointers. 

The game was fun and it certainly spoke to America's status as favorites. But it should be noted that this wasn't basketball and that Team USA will play real teams in the future. 

In that not-so-distant future, Team USA should not be launching quite so many threes. America is averaging 32 three-point attempts per game, which is fine for now, as the competition has been so weak.

It's also fine for now, since the shots have been going in (Team USA is shooting 49% on treys). Carmelo Anthony was especially deadly from deep, racking up 37 points in 14 minutes and going 10-of-12 from range. 

But, as efficient a shot as a three-pointer is, it's also a high-risk, high-reward attempt. Shooting many threes is a recipe for volatility—a superior team can easily lose to an inferior team if both are slinging treys. All it takes is for the inferior team to have a lucky run of triples and for the superior team to go cold. As the superior team in the remaining Olympic contests, this should be a concern for America.

I am not suggesting that Team USA should stop shooting from beyond the arc. I am merely suggesting that cutting back from 32 attempts might be the right idea. Somewhere in the vicinity of 20 threes would certainly do, especially since America has been so crushingly efficient from below the arc. 

America is shooting roughly 67 percent from two, which is less productive than 49 percent from three. But the goal in shooting more twos isn't necessarily to boost productivity from the level Team USA's been at. The goal is to reduce risk. 

For America to win gold, they must either remain torrid from outside or become less reliant on the shot. I would bet on their success, either way.