5 Team USA Basketball Stars Who Need More Minutes
You might think United States head coach Mike Krzyzewski has a relatively easy coach. Coaching the most talented roster in the world against opposition that hardly measures up is a dream job if there ever was one.
Of course, winning games is only part of Coach K's gig.
The hard part is spreading minutes around to stars who aren't used to playing second fiddle. Sure, those stars know what they signed up for. They understand this tournament has more to do with winning a gold medal for their country than it does any kind of personal aggrandizement.
At times, however, Team USA's rotation appears to be divvy up minutes like a middle school club weary of leaving anyone out.
The distribution of playing time has been egalitarian to a fault. If the United States is to close the deal in elimination rounds and do what we all expect them to do, a few guys will need to see more minutes.
Carmelo Anthony played just over 12 minutes in Team USA's 126-97 victory over Argentina, and you can't blame the shot to the goods he took in the second half. Anthony was an afterthought in the first half, long before there was any excuse to keep him out.
Despite averaging over 20 points per contest through the United States' first four games, Coach K inexplicably forgot about Anthony during a tight second quarter.
Ordinarily, that would have been the top-shelf scorer's time to shine. He seemed like the perfect solution for Team USA to create some distance against a team that relentlessly kept pace on account of its three-point accuracy.
For whatever reason, it wasn't to be.
Expect to see a lot more of 'Melo in the elimination rounds, especially at the power forward position where he can spread the floor with a perimeter shot that's been virtually automatic of late.
Though starting point guard Chris Paul outplayed his backup against Argentina, that hasn't been the norm thus far in Olympic competition.
Despite playing 28 fewer minutes than Paul over the course of five games, Deron Williams is scoring more and distributing the ball at a better rate. Granted, his scoring has been less efficient, but the numbers are somewhat distorted by the fact that Paul went 6-of-7 from the floor against Argentina.
You could also make the argument that Paul's defense is the more important consideration.
He's racked up 11 steals to Williams' four.
The problem is that Paul just isn't pushing the tempo as aggressively as Williams, nor is he looking for his own shot enough. With LeBron James so often playing the role of facilitator in the starting lineup, Paul should be doing what Williams is doing.
And yet, he hasn't gotten to the free-throw line a single time in five games. Williams' more aggressive approach creates a needed change of pace for the United States, and he's one of the reasons this team seems to break games wide open when the second unit comes in.
Even if there were no sound basketball reasons for giving Russell Westbrook more playing time, his penchant for creating unforgettable highlights is reason enough to do so.
He has an absolutely fearless approach when taking it to the basket, and anyone standing between him and the rim is more likely to become a victim than a source of meaningful resistance.
Of course, there are indeed a few practical reasons to give him minutes as well. His energetic defense is locking down perimeter scorers and contagiously infusing the second unit with a mentality the starters rarely display.
He's also scoring over 10 points a game and looking for his shot without disrupting the club's ball movement.
For all that, though, he's playing just a hair over 16 minutes per game. That's more than Kobe Bryant, but it's still not enough. If James Harden takes any minutes away from Westbrook in a close elimination game, there's a problem.
What does this kid have to do to get some time on the floor?
He's averaged just over 11 minutes through four preliminary games, and he's been missing in action during all but the most superfluous moments.
We all know there are pecking orders in life, and Davis clearly comes in near the bottom of Team USA's. Given that he's yet to play a single NBA game, perhaps that's somewhat understandable. Unfortunately, it also sends the wrong message.
Seniority should count for something, but that something should have more to do with who gets the best locker than it does who plays.
Davis has proven he deserves the chance to play when it counts. He's done nothing but work his tail off, rebound and defend. In short, he's been everything he was advertised to be.
Kevin Love is scoring 13 points a game for Team USA, good for third best on the squad.
He's doing so while averaging just a hair over 16 minutes. When you're making nearly 67 percent of your field-goal attempts, these kind of things happen.
Where Love's extra minutes are going to come from is anyone's guess. Perhaps Andre Iguodala could see less time and LeBron James can play a few extra minutes at small forward. Either way though, this guy should have some increased opportunities.
In this instance, it's not even about being fair.
It's about doing what's best for this team. Love has consistently spread the floor, and the opposition isn't figuring it out.