Real Fantasy Basketball: U.S. Olympic Men's Basketball Team Taking Shape

Paul Augustin, Jr.Senior Analyst IJune 19, 2008

NBA and Olympic sources acknowledged today that a quintet of players have made the U.S. Men's Basketball team.  Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade, Dwight Howard, Tayshaun Prince and Michael Redd will be part of the 12-man Olympic roster.

While the roster will not be officially announced until Monday, it appears likely that Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Carlos Boozer, Chris Bosh, Jason Kidd and Deron Williams will complete the team. 

After dominating the Olympics from 1992-2000 with the emergence of the Dream Team, the 2004 team fell short of expectations in Athens with a bronze medal finish.  One reason for the USA struggles is because international players have gotten better.  International style of basketball is more physical than the NBA.  Most international teams exclusively play zone defense; something which is seen in the NBA but not extensively. 

Expectations are high again for this team which seems to have a good mix of veteran leadership and young, athletic studs.

Unlike the 2004 roster, the 2008 team has the makings of, well, a team.  The roster will include a mix at the point.  Jason Kidd is the old, grizzled veteran who is undefeated in international competition.  Deron Williams is a big, physical point guard who is a perfect fit to handle the bigger, international back courts.  Perhaps the best overall point guard in the NBA, Chris Paul, gives USA Basketball a dimension of quickness, ball handling and peskiness.  Paul led the NBA this past season in steals and assists and was third in assist to turnover ratio.

Every basketball team needs a few scorers, and this team has them.  James, Bryant and Anthony were first, second and fourth, respectfully, in scoring average this past season, while Wade has proven in seasons past he can get the job done.  Carmelo Anthony, in particular, seems to excel in international competition, while Kobe Bryant will surely be looking to get the NBA Finals taste out of his mouth.

Remember that zone defense I mentioned, this team has a remedy for that.  It's called Michael Redd.  Redd, a career 38 percent three-point shooter, will prove invaluable when defenses slow down the tempo and pack in the lane.

USA Basketball will also have a number of big players who will be counted on to grab rebounds and play solid defense.  Carlos Boozer is physical enough to bang around with anyone.  Tayshaun Prince and Chris Bosh have the wingspan of small airplanes and can disrupt the passing lane and grab rebounds.  And then there's Superman, I mean, Dwight Howard.  He's such a freak athletically that no one will be able to handle him in the paint.

While this may not be a perfect roster-it could use another pure shooter, and there may be questions surrounding Dwyane Wade's health-it seems likely that they are prepared to make a run at the gold medal in Beijing.