2010 FIBA World Championship: What to Expect from a Brand-New Team USA
The 2010 FIBA World Championship in Turkey is fast approaching.
Team USA will be the favorite, as usual, to win gold in the tournament, going up against traditional European powerhouses, particularly Spain, Greece, and Serbia, and up-and-coming nations like China and France.
Having won gold at the Olympics in Beijing just two years ago, there are high hopes for the United States this time around as well.
However, not a single player from that "Redeem Team" is back.
Kobe, LeBron, and Wade aren't walking through that door. Carmelo Anthony, Dwight Howard, and Chris Paul aren't either.
This is a whole new team.
With that in mind, here is what you can expect from an unproven and unconventional group of Americans...
Quite honestly, how sure can you be predicting what to expect from a national team returning no players from the national team before it?
There will be a new leader on the floor (if not more), new contributors off the bench, new scorers, and new personalities. As of now, outside of Kevin Durant and Tyson Chandler, the starting lineup is unknown.
European players representing their country do it for the long haul, usually playing for eight-to-ten years on the senior national team, as well as three or four more on the junior squad as teenagers.
America's best, however, rarely even play in more than one international tournament.
So, how much do we really know about this squad at this point?
Well, let's see...
What you can expect from most American national teams is highlight-reel material. By this, I mean break-away dunks, pin-up blocks on the backboard, and flashy alley-oops.
This squad, however, takes highlights to a whole new level.
Rajon Rondo, Russell Westbrook, Derrick Rose, Rudy Gay, Andre Igoudala, and Kevin Durant are all present and expected to play significant minutes.
Need I say more?
However, do not expect as many of these breath-takers in the later rounds of the tournament. The better teams in the field will look to slow down the Americans by walking the ball up the floor, slowly setting up their offensive sets, and using up fouls to prevent fast-breaks.
But, take advantage of the highlights early on, at least before the game slows down and the defenses tighten up.
Exceptional Perimeter Defense
Highlighted by Andre Igoudala, who has already established himself as the team's lock-down defender, the defensive potential of this group of American perimeter players is special.
There is a multitude of speedy, ball-hawking guards on the roster, most notably Rondo, Westbrook, and Rose, who bring a valuable sort of cocky aggressiveness to the team. Their out-of-this-world quickness is one of the greatest weapons at Coach K's disposal.
That is not all, however.
Bigger perimeter players, like Igoudala, Durant, and Gay, have the ability to slow down and frustrate European wings with their strength and willingness to defend.
Chauncey Billups, a wily defender who can muscle smaller guards, gives Team USA even more defensive versatility.
Unique Team Chemistry
This team is mostly made up of second-tier talent in the NBA, with Kevin Durant being the one exception.
While this means that Team USA will not be as effective scoring the ball as the "Redeem Team" from two years ago, which featured the best the NBA has to offer, the drop in talent does not have only negative consequences.
The lack of superstar talent, which means superstar egos, should result in a more closely-knit, cohesive unit traveling to Turkey. Even Durant, an established superstar, is not the typical egoistic, self-absorbed big-name talent.
In fact, this American national team will be more similar to European national teams, known for possessing unique chemistry and cohesiveness, than in years past.
Now, let's hope that less talent and more chemistry results in more wins...
Alas, the drop in offensive talent from two years ago will come back to hurt Team USA in Turkey.
With only two consistent outside shooters on the roster, Billups and Stephen Curry, it will be difficult for the Americans to spread the floor and execute in the half-court.
While the transition game should not be a problem, considering the athleticism and quickness in the rotation, finding any sort of consistency when the game slows down will ultimately slow down Team USA in the later rounds.
Not only is consistent shooting, so crucial in international play, lacking, but so too is low-post scoring. As the game slows down in the knockout round and opposing defenses improve, having a back-to-the-basket or face-up scoring big man will be at a premium.
Unfortunately, Tyson Chandler and Kevin Love do not quite fit the bill.
Tyson Chandler is definitely not Dwight Howard, Chris Bosh, or even Carlos Boozer when it comes to being a low-post presence who can dominate the glass and score consistently.
When he's not battling foul trouble, which will surely slow him down in the later rounds, Chandler will have to control the paint on his own.
Backed by only Kevin Love and Lamar Odom, who are both undersized when compared to the likes of Marc Gasol, Nenad Krstic, and Ioannis Bourousis, Team USA's starting (and only) center will find this to be quite difficult.
Rebounding on the both ends of the floor will determine how far Team USA goes this time around. Offensive rebounding, especially, will be critical when shots aren't falling and the transition game isn't working.
Now, how good are Kevin Durant and Andre Igoudala at rebounding the ball?
We may just find out in Turkey.
While the American squad has enough athleticism, perimeter talent, defensive ability, and chemistry to reach the gold medal game, the figurative drop in scoring talent and literal drop in size is undeniable.
In the end, a team like Spain, Greece, or Serbia will shock the United States and the world by winning it all in that final match.
One of these European teams will find a way to exploit Team USA's weaknesses.
In my view, there are just too many holes to fill in too short a time, as consistent scoring in the half-court and rebounding together will play the role of Team USA's Achilles' heel in Turkey.
What do you think?