2010 FIBA World Championship: Derrick Rose and Team USA's Top Talent
Team USA finished up exhibition play with a resounding 87-59 win over Greece, and is looking strong heading into the FIBA World Championships, despite sporting a roster with limited international experience.
Gone are players like LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh. Those are the players who are at their best right now.
Now, Team USA features a squad that could almost be considered a "futures" team. Five years from now, the players on board in 2010 will likely be some of the main faces of the league.
As for now, players like Kevin Durant and Derrick Rose have gotten some attention for leading dangerous, young, up-and-coming NBA franchises. Chauncey Billups and Lamar Odom, both in their 30s, are NBA champions.
Yet Kevin Love and Eric Gordon have not reached the level of household name, or even All Star.
As the games start to matter, Team USA is going to rely on its best talent to reclaim gold. Following are the five players whose talent will make the most difference.
5. Tyson Chandler
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Anyone who has been following the 2010 U.S. team knows that what it lacks the most is height.
Enter Tyson Chandler. Sure he lost the starting center spot to Lamar Odom, but don't be surprised if that changes, especially against some bigger teams.
Chandler never became a superstar in the NBA after the Chicago Bulls drafted him and shipped Elton Brand to the Los Angeles Clippers.
But he became a shot-blocking and rebounding fiend in New Orleans with Chris Paul, and Mike Kryzewski is going to need him to do the same in the World Championships. You can't coach height and length.
One main concern is his poor free-throw shooting, which could become a liability as the games get closer.
Yet he appears healthy after coming back from injury, and don't be surprised if Chandler regains his form and thrives at center for Team USA.
4. Stephen Curry
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Like Chandler, Stephen Curry is considered a backup.
He is currently behind Billups on the shooting-guard depth chart, but as he becomes more comfortable with the international game, it will become more and more difficult for Coach K to leave this young sharpshooter on the bench.
Billups is definitely not a natural shooting guard, and is really only at the two because he can knock down a three-point shot.
If he struggles with making treys, Curry could get the starting nod sooner rather than later.
From a statistical standpoint, Curry and Billups are nearly identical from the 2009-10 NBA season. Billups averaged 19.5 points and 5.6 assists per game. Curry netted 17.5 points per contest and dished out 5.9 assists.
More importantly though, Curry is 11 years younger than Billups. Players often opt to skip the World Championships to avoid additional wear-and-tear on their bodies. It remains to be seen how much Billups is willing to take for his country.
3. Andre Igoudala
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Andre Igoudala: Team USA's starting power forward.
Let that sink in for a few seconds. Philadelphia's shooting guard/small forward, who has never made an All-Star Team or All-NBA Team, is going to go up against some of the best big men in the world.
Sounds crazy. But if anyone can do it, Igoudala probably can.
He's much stronger than people acknowledge. You can sort of see in the picture how muscular he is, which naturally helps him body up players who are taller and bigger than he is.
He has defensive abilities in the post. But the biggest advantage Igoudala has is that he will be a matchup nightmare for any power forward who guards him.
On offense, he can battle down low, hit a jump shot, and start a fastbreak. Against a particularly big team, he can obviously seemlessly shift to the small forward position when necessary.
Seventeen points and six rebounds per game in 2009-10 does not sound off-the-charts, but Igoudala's freakish athleticism and ability to shift positions should produce dividends for Team USA.
2. Derrick Rose
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Rajon Rondo settled the debate on whether he or Rose has more skills to be Team USA's starting point guard before Kryzewski could do so himself.
The difference between the two is shooting. Rose chose to spend all summer working on his jumper and making it an asset instead of a liability.
Rondo can't say the same.
And it showed against Greece. Rose went 6-for-7 from the field, notched 13 points and finished the contest as Team USA's Most Valuable Player.
Rose already is one of the best driving players in the game today. Who could you place above him when it comes to getting to the rim? James and Wade are really the only two who are much better than Rose is right now.
Adding a three-point shot will make him even more difficult to contain.
The three-point line is closer in the international game, but perhaps that's a good stepping stone for Rose as he prepares for the upcoming NBA season.
Rose has also gotten a leadership and confidence boost out of the experience so far. He is the starting point guard for the U.S. National Team. Not many players have that distinction in their lifetimes.
Rose has it when he's 21 years old.
The Bulls failed to land one of the "Big Three" free agents, but Rose did not seem too upset about that. He made it clear he wants to be "the man" in Chicago.
He's almost "the man" of Team USA.
But there's one player who's clearly the face of this squad.
1. Kevin Durant
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Kevin Durant is the poster child for this 2010 U.S. team.
He's the anti-LeBron. He's everyone's hope for the future of the NBA. He's only 21 and is the defending NBA scoring champion.
Thirty points per game and 7.6 rebounds per contest speaks for itself. Durant is listed as a 6'9'' small forward, but he seems more like 6'11''. His length allows him to play better defense than he probably should considering his lack of prowess on that end of the court, and on offense he can easily shoot over smaller defenders.
Durant will be the main scorer on this 2010 team, and he'll be expected to take the big shots if necessary. Though, as seen against Spain, Rose has shown a willingness to have the ball in his hands in the clutch.
A team led by two 21-year-olds may seem to be at a disadvantage, but both Rose and Durant have had success at all levels of basketball so far in their lives, and their mindsets seem to be that international play will be no different.
Durant poses matchup nightmares in the NBA, and those will be magnified even further in international competition. His height allows him to battle for rebounds, and yet he is arguably the best shooter Team USA has on its roster.
As the World Championships begin for real, expect Durant, Rose, and the other young stars to help the American squad beat its international foes.