If I Were Jerry Colangelo Picking Team USA a Few Weeks Ago

Chris ChanCorrespondent IJuly 11, 2008

I know this article is a bit late, but better now than never. 

First of all, let me say that every member considered for the 2008 Olympic team is an amazing player and has mastered many types of skills that would be valuable in the USA’s quest for a gold medal.  Every player I mention is excellent in what they do, they just may not fit what I think would be the most successful in Beijing.

Team USA needs to carry on the success it had at its last tournament, the tournament of Americas.  As mentioned in many of the documentaries and reporters, there was a sense of pride and teamwork involved that brought the victories.  This was a drastic change from the other years where picking the best NBA players produced the gold medal.  For this reason, Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James, and Kobe Bryant should be picked.  They have all matured and played like teammates using their athleticism and individual talent.

While this aspect of teamwork is important, team USA needs to be able to compete in the international game.  In previous years, team USA has had great difficulties with defense, specifically guarding the high pick and roll at the top of the key.  International power forwards and centers can hit the three point shot, which is a contrast to many of the NBA centers who don’t shoot beyond the free throw line.  This means that the defender guarding the man setting the pick has to either be quick enough to stop the drive or have really long arms.  It is also important to note that China will have a few 7 footers and Spain has the Gasol brothers.  So we don’t necessarily want the lankiest centers either.  For these reasons, I would pick Chris Bosh and Amare Stoudemire.  The most dominant center in the NBA right now is Dwight Howard, so of course he gets picked to rebound, defend, and score in the paint.  If Stoudemire is a no go, then Tyson Chandler should be picked up.

Offensively, team USA scored many of its points off of fast breaks.  The lesson: speed kills.  Apart from the high flying dunks, the person who starts the fast break needs to take care of the basketball and distribute it to the right hands.  The person has to have a high basketball IQ and be able to think quickly.  For these reasons, I would pick Chris Paul.  He showed his inexperience in 2006, which is why Jason Kidd serves as a leader and player-coach at this position.  Dwayne Wade also fits the category, but needs to limit the turnovers.

International teams can play zone defense, especially with their long wing spans.  The best way to break down a zone is by moving the ball around quickly and finding the open shooter.  The zone breakers need to be able to release the ball quickly from their shot and be accurate.  Michael Redd has continually proven he has one of the nicest touches in the world.  Joe Johnson gets the nod here because of his shooting ability, size and defensive capability.

The final spot can go to a number of deserving candidates.  USA basketball committee has picked Carlos Boozer, Tayshaun Prince and Deron Williams.  I think Mike Miller should also be considered because of his size and outside shooting touch.  Boozer can grab rebounds, defend, and has played for head coach Mike Krzyzewski during his college days at Duke.  Prince has a 7 foot wingspan and is arguably the best perimeter defender.  Williams has been named the second coming of Jason Kidd because of their similarity in size and ability to put the ball where it is supposed to be.

I would have no problem with choosing any of the last four candidates, but if it were up to me, I would pick Tayshaun Prince.  The team already has enough offensive firepower, which narrows the final four choices down to Boozer and Prince.  Team USA needs to be able to stop the pick and roll.  The roster has enough muscle and size inside to grab the short rebounds.  Prince wins out because he can guard either player running the pick and roll.

Starting five would be Kidd at the one, Bryant at the two, James at the three, Anthony at the four, and Howard at the five.  The rest of the team’s rotation would be based on who the opponent is. 

To summarize...My roster: Kidd, Bryant, James, Anthony, Howard, Bosh, Stoudemire/Chandler, Wade, Paul, Redd, Prince.

If there were more spots they would go to you: Boozer, Williams, Miller

Best of luck to the current team USA.  We are cheering you on from home.  Bring back the gold.