Olympic Basketball: Ranking Most Important Team USA Players Thus Far

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistAugust 7, 2012

Olympic Basketball: Ranking Most Important Team USA Players Thus Far

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    The U.S. Olympic basketball team just embarrassed Argentina to wrap up the Pool A competition with a pristine 5-0 record, and while every player on the team is important in one way or another, there are five players who have risen above the rest. 

    The majority of the games Team USA has played thus far have been blowouts, with the glaring exception a five-point win over lowly Lithuania. 

    When it comes to which players had the most pivotal roles in the 5-0 record, it can be hard to narrow down. Sometimes statistics cannot truly emphasize the impact a player had on a game. 

    Regardless of who made the cut for this list, each player is important to the team, but the players on this list are imperative to Team USA's gold medal aspirations. 

    Here are grades and rankings for the most important Team USA members so far.

5. Chris Paul

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    Chris Paul has not been the most dynamic scorer for Team USA, but he has played more minutes than anyone and been a great facilitator of the offense when those around him looked somewhat normal. 

    Paul is averaging 24 minutes per game right now, and has vastly outplayed the other point guards on the roster. He has turned the ball over nine times, but has been everywhere on the defensive side of things, recording 11 steals in five games. 

    CP3's game is perfectly suited for the international level. He does a good job of getting the team involved when the rest would rather sit back at the three-point line and take low percentage jump-shots. 

    It is becoming clear that Paul is more important than the other guards on the roster. If he can maintain his level of play, Team USA should have no issue taking the gold. 

    Grade: B+

4. Kevin Love

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    Tyson Chandler may be the starting center, but there is no big man more important to Team USA than Kevin Love. 

    Love has been a model of efficiency so far, shooting an outstanding .667 percent from the field on 13 points per game. Add in 6.4 rebounds per game and a presence in the paint that consistently alters shots and it is easy to see why Love makes the cut. 

    Not only has Love been efficient, he has been a key cog in the second unit off the bench that has come in and turned games around when the starters decided to take a half off from basketball. 

    Love will need to continue to be a force off the bench when the games start to matter again, especially if the starters look disinterested. 

    Grade: A 

3. Carmelo Anthony

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    Carmelo could very well end up being the MVP for Team USA when all is said and done in London because of the statistics he compiles, but there is much more to a player's worth than statistics. 

    Still, Melo's stats have been ridiculous. He is averaging 17.4 points per game and has connected on 15 of 25 three-point attempts. He is not playing anywhere close to the most minutes, which makes his numbers all the more impressive. 

    Melo has been a key part of Team USA so far, and will undoubtedly continue to be. His production in fewer minutes will be a critical part of Team USA's success against stiffer competition. 

    Grade: A

2. Kevin Durant

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    There is not much to say about Kevin Durant that has not already been said many times over. He very well may be the second-best player on earth, and he is matching that description perfectly so far. 

    Durant is averaging 18.6 points a game and is simply making it look easy against every opponent he has encountered. He is playing the second-most minutes on the team right now and his stat-line still seems an act of fiction. 

    Not only is Durant unstoppable on the offensive side of things, he has been playing outstanding defense as well, and has been doing an excellent job of getting his teammates involved. 

    While Durant has been untouchable, there is still one player more important moving forward for Team USA. 

    Grade: A

1. LeBron James

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    LeBron James is the greatest player on the planet, and has been demonstrating it every time Team USA steps on the court. He is the unquestioned leader of arguably the most talented collection of basketball players to ever assemble. 

    James is shooting a ridiculous .610 from the floor while averaging 11.6 points per game. Defensively, he is as good as ever, routinely frustrating and shutting down anyone who attempts to get around him. James is also getting teammates involved thanks to his elite ability to cut to the basket and then dish to the open man. 

    It was James' clutch performance against Lithuania in the final minuets that allowed Team USA to squeak by and avoid one of the most horrific upsets of all time. For all the criticism James receives about his late-game performances, his performance on a global level so far has eliminated any doubt that he is clutch. 

    Grade: A+