2008 Olympian Dwight Howard drives to the basket against 2010 World Champion Kevin Love
Well, the continental qualifiers are over, and Spain, France, Argentina, Brazil, Australia and Tunisia are in, joining the United States and Britain in London next year. Keeping that in mind, I think it's time we looked at who the United States should place on their squad. The best choice takes players from a combination of the Redeem Team, B Team, and even a player on neither who would do the best for the U.S.
Since being omitted from the 2008 Redeem Team, Kevin Durant has twice lead the league in scoring, led the "B Team" to victory at the 2010 Worlds and goes into the season as a top fantasy commodity. He has to be a lock to be on the team, either at small forward or international power forward.
Though his ability to win a championship remains in doubt, his performance in the 2008 Olympics, his league leading player efficiency rating (PER), win shares last season, his continual appearance on All-NBA teams and scoring leaderboards should guarantee LeBron James a place on the 2012 Dream Team.
That is, if he's not too busy selling shoes and being the villian.
Though he tapered off a bit last season amid trade rumors that eventually materialized, 2008 holdover Carmelo Anthony remains one of the better scorers and pure small forwards in the NBA (LeBron and Durant are cornermen, and either can easily play PF in the international game). He is also one of the league's best men in clutch situations, surprisingly.
If you want a power forward who can score and has a fairly good field goal percentage, look no further than Amare Stoudemire. He hasn't played internationally since the 2004 Olympics, but Amare's resume which includes his name on the All-NBA First or Second Team each of the last five years could be very helpful for the U.S. Still a tad undersized to play NBA center in my opinion, Amare could easily play it on the international level, in addition to playing power forward when one of the cornermen are benched or at small forward.
I know that Amare is often considered one of the most overrated players in the league, but the fact remains that he has proven that he can score at will with a variety of offensives, including with a playmaking point guard like Steve Nash or some of the players you'll see later in the show.
To balance out the potent offenses we have from our other forwards, let's add Kevin Love, who made his presence known as a reserve at the 2010 Worlds, then came back and led the league in rebounding.
Love is no slouch at scoring. He's a guy that can give you 26 points for every 48 minutes he plays. Sorry, Aldridge and Griffin fans, but Love is both a better player and has more international experience. Love also gets the nod over Chris Bosh because he had a better year. Love got more win shares than Bosh despite playing fewer minutes on a team with 30 percent of the Heat's win total. He also bested Bosh in points and offensive rating.
The Timberwolves star puts in the effort to continually improve year after year. If he's not a top tier player now, he may very easily be one by the time the Olympics roll around. Love can do more in 12-15 minutes (about what he'd be asked to play) than most players can do in the entire game.
There is no question that Dwight Howard is the most dominant center in the world. Clearly, his numbers show it. He finished first or second in rebounds the last six consecutive years. After four straight All-NBA First Teams, three straight Defensive Player of the Year awards and being runner-up in MVP voting in 2011, Howard should be able to reprise his 2008 appearance if he so chooses.
After Howard, the center market gets murky. Love and Stoudemire are undersized for the NBA, but either could play center at the international level. The best centers in the NBA are either undersized like the formers (or Bosh, Aldridge, or Griffin), or, like Al Horford and Marc Gasol, not American.
So my pick at the No. 2 center slot is "B Team" holdover, 2011 NBA Champion and 2nd Team All-Defense Tyson Chandler. He'll get you blocks, boards and defensive win shares. Chandler was fifth in win shares per 48 in 2010-11, ahead of all centers but Howard and Pau Gasol. Chandler is also sabermetric gold in terms of offensive rating, finishing third in the league last year, meaning that he maximized the limited number of touches he got.
Note that if Coach K and Jerry Colangelo opt for a six-guard roster, as they did in 2008, Chandler would probably not be included in favor of someone smaller, like Monta Ellis. But I would go with more bigs, as the road to a gold medal goes through the size of teams like Brazil (Nene, Tiago Splitter, Anderson Varejeo) and Spain (the Gasol brothers).
U.S. basketball teams have been most successful when they've had good big men. Plus, when you see the two shooting guards I've got on this team, you'll understand why a third is just superfluous.
Think of it as the Christian Laettner pick, if you will.
Kobe Bryant has talked of being the Mariano Rivera of the 2012 Dream Team, and there's really no reason why the two-time scoring champ, nine-time first team All-NBA and four-time All-Star Game MVP shouldn't be. Yeah, he'll have played 16 seasons by the time the Olympics run around, but Coach K has proven that USA Basketball needs veteran talent to succeed. What better to exemplify veteran talent than the career points leader among active players?
Joining Kobe in the backcourt ought to be Dwyane Wade, who consistently is near the top of leaderboards in points, All-NBA Teams, and usage percentage (In fact, he is the most used of any active player).
Oh, and he's a veteran of the Redeem Team.
Finishing in the top 10 in points and assists, winning the 2011 NBA MVP and being one of the standout "B-Team" players ought to get you a spot on the 2012 Olympic squad. Rose has established himself as being one of the league's top-tier (if not best) point guards.
Assuming Chris Paul stays healthy, and that's a big if, he is rated as one of the top fantasy commodities. He is also a holder from 2008 (when he was the runner-up in MVP voting), has averaged nine or more assists a game for the past for seasons, and adds to that two and a half steals and double-digit points.
Another 2008 holdover, another player who's able to run the point while averaging 20 and 10.
The selection of Williams means two things for this list. One, it means I left out a wily veteran point guard. Chauncey Billups and Jason Kidd are really, really old (I personally have doubts if they'll even play in the NBA past 2012) and aren't particularly good anymore.
It also means I left Russell Westbrook in the states. Sorry, but Westbrook is a showboater, not a team player. Showboaters are locker room poison, even worse than Williams and his supposed feud with Jerry Sloan that led to both of them leaving Utah.