It’s time for Team USA to get serious. Saturday at noon, ET, they open their assault on the rest of the basketball world.
After all the hyping of the talents of Kevin Durant and how he is a better player than Dwyane Wade and possibly LeBron James, we get to see if those praises are warranted. After all the statements of Derrick Rose possibly now being the best point guard in the NBA, some how leaping past Chris Paul and Deron Williams, we get to see what’s the real deal.
Team USA is set to open the FIBA World Championship against a Croatia team that finished last in this year's Eurobasket games. Keep in mind that they didn’t have two of their better players, Bojan Bogdanovic and Marko Tomas.
Fans of Team USA might want to keep an eye on Bogdanovic because he has aspirations of joining the NBA and is considered a future draft prospect.
Tomas is the most skilled of the Croatian players and is the focal point of their attack. Look for him to be aggressive after missing out on international play last season.
Croatia also has players with NBA backgrounds.
Zoran Planinic was a former guard of the New Jersey Nets from 2003 to 2006. The Nets selected him with the 22nd pick in the 2003 NBA draft. The 26-year-old guard is a long-ball specialist.
Another player with NBA experience is Roko Ukic. He played for the Milwaukee Bucks last season and Toronto Raptors the year before. He’s a big point guard at 6’5" and is considered one of the better guards in European play.
USA Must Control Tomic and Tomas
However, the biggest problem of concern for the USA may lie in 7’2” center Ante Tomic.
Tomic is a second-round draft pick from 2008 by the Utah Jazz. His height is misleading because he doesn't play with a lot of power, even though he weighs around 260 lbs. He’s a finesse player in every sense of the word. But don’t let that mislead you.
The young man is extremely agile on the block. He’s is able to finish with either hand around the rim and loves to spin off, through, and away from his man to get a shot off. Lamar Odom and Tyson Chandler will have their work cut out for them.
Aside from him, the USA team will have to concern themselves with the scoring prowess of Tomas. Tomas will be matched up with Kevin Durant most likely, but expect Andre Iguodala to get the bulk of trying to contain him.
The 6’8”and 220lb forward-guard isn’t much of a threat to stop Kevin Durant on the defensive end. However, he’s an extremely talented shooter that will command that Team USA devote a ton of attention to him. He is a player that thrives on the big stages of European play, as he has won the Spanish League and ULEB Cup championships while a member of Real Madrid.
While playing in 28 games in the Adriatic League this past season, he averaged a little over 15 points in 31 minutes per game.
USA Should Prevail With Limited Resistance
Other than their overall size (six players 6’11” or taller), Croatia doesn’t have much to throw at team USA and shouldn’t be considered to be much a threat to the American. However, history has taught us that a lot of foreign players perform at a totally different level than they do on our NBA floors. So with that said, Team USA must stay sharp and focused.
Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, Chris Paul, Deron Williams, and the rest of the 2008 Olympic Team did their job to get the USA back on track. Now it’s time for Kevin Durant, Derrick Rose, and the rest of their 2010 cast to carry on that momentum.
It will be vital that Durant and Rose get going early. They will be defended by the worst two defenders of the Croatian starting five. So the USA team will have no excuses for losing this game, as they already have a foot up on the Croatians.
If Durant and Rose start off slowly, look for Chauncey Billups, Russell Westbrook, Rudy Gay, and Eric Gordon to carry the offensive load. They have been consistent through out the summer. Also key is Lamar Odom, he has a speed and quickness advantage versus Tomic should he elect to show up.
Look for the USA team to get hit on the boards hard. They will need to run early and often to neutralize the size advantage of the Croatians. Should they do this, they should win by a margin of 15 points or better.
With that said, see you guys at game time for an open chat on how our team does...go TEAM USA!!!