USA Men's Basketball: Deciding the 2012 Olympic Team
This could've been a really easy article to write. But instead, there has to be a lockout, which will probably last all year, and I'm writing this article assuming that it does. So now, all I have to go on is the 2010-2011 season and tryouts. I can't make predictions based on how players might change for next season. If somebody improves, they'll have to prove it during tryouts (like if Rondo learned how to shoot, but keep dreaming).
On the other hand, it'll give people with injuries (Kobe, Chris Paul) more time to heal. While it nearly rules out the youngest candidates (besides Blake Griffin, obviously), the lockout will help the older ones rest. So what I'm going on is this past season, possible development over the next year and possibly past international experiences. I'm just saying who I think should make the team, not who I think will, but who I think should. I can't say this will be too much different than the article I wrote about the who would, although that was if the Olympics were this summer, but anyway, starting at point guard...
What's needed most: A willing passer, a solid leader and a good team defender.
I'm not going to take anything away from Derrick Rose's MVP campaign, but most experts agree that the best point guard in the league is still Chris Paul. Yes, he was recovering from a huge injury, and yes Derrick Rose became a true superstar, but the only key stat of his personally that was better than Paul's was PPG. While Derrick Rose is a better, or at least more prolific scorer, Chris Paul is the better distributor, leader and defender, and even most Rose fanatics know that. In the opinion of mine and many others, Chris Paul is a more complete player and a better passer, and that's what is needed for international play. Plus, he has done better in international play than D-Rose. So I am not alone when I say that Chris Paul would start over D-Rose. However, I still see Rose making the team.
As for the others, Russell Westbrook blew his chance by nearly ruining his team during the last playoffs. Rajon Rondo is arguably the best distributor, rebounder and defender out there, but somebody I talked to made an excellent, excellent point in that his lack of shooting would allow other teams to shut the U.S.A. down with a zone. That leaves Deron Williams. He also has an excellent, complete game, but he had a rough season, and I don't think he'd be considered for starting. But when you throw in his past successes, he could make the team. And I think he should. I think Chris Paul should start, with Derrick Rose and Deron Williams coming off the bench as backup PGs, not to mention possible SGs.
What's needed most: Scoring.
This one is pretty obvious. In 2008, when America won gold, Dwyane Wade won MVP of the tournament. Off the bench! Kobe started. And if all goes well, I don't see any reason to do it differently.
Will anyone else make it? Definitely not. With three other guards making the team, and no obvious candidates, why would America want another shooting guard. Maybe that's just me, but unless Andre Iguodala counts as a shooting guard, and yes, he does have some outside chance, it's just Flash and the Black Mamba.
What's needed most: Scoring.
I don't like him like I did a year and and two months ago, and he choked, again, but LeBron James is the best player in the NBA. And yes, I do think he fits to start, despite what Kevin Durant did last summer. It's that simple.
So that leaves Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony and potentially Andre Iguodala. There is room for two more, if needed. Well, I can see this being tough to other people. Kevin Durant dominated last summer, he has a great attitude and he plays solid defense. He's the best out of the three. Carmelo Anthony has done well in international ball, and he's the most versatile scorer out of the three. But I'm not quite sure he's needed to help score. Andre Iguodala had a solid campaign a year ago, too, and he can score, despite having an off-year. But he'd be brought in as a defensive specialist. Yet again, is that needed, knowing LeBron? And for that matter, who is even a threat at small forward to hurt America? Danillo Gallinari? I'm not worried. So it's LeBron and Kevin Durant here.
What's needed most: Decent rebounding, at least some inside threat, a stopper (mostly for Pau Gasol).
This one might potentially stir up the most controversy. In my opinion, and according to the All-NBA Teams, the best American power forward is, after everything, LaMarcus Aldridge. Aldridge is a very good rebounder, a very capable defender and an unbelievable post scorer. While I wouldn't label him as a defensive stopper, the only name I can throw out is Kevin Garnett. I'm not sure if he even would want to play, for the sake of his knees, and in a year's time, well, will he even be walking? Aldridge is a better defender than Blake Griffin (who you were probably thinking of), Zach Randolph, Kevin Love and certainly Carlos Boozer and Chris Bosh. While he isn't as prolific a rebounder as a few of those guys, he is likely considered a better, or at least more selfless post scorer. So in my opinion, he starts.
Out of those names, I think you can scrap Carlos Boozer because of his defense, as with Chris Bosh. Zach Randolph's scoring and rebounding are great, but he can't guard those Europeans (you know how they are), and he can be a bit of a ball hog, too. Blake Griffin and Kevin Love are left. Love is a better shooter and rebounder, but his defense isn't always there and he doesn't have a traditional post game. I think Blake Griffin would thrive as a role player. I mean, his post game isn't really enough yet to bring down the house. If his game could be utilized without depending on that, he might excel even more. So I think he could be used as a backup post player.
This is the weirdest part. I still can't believe I'm saying this, but I think the 11th man down low for Team U.S.A should be Lamar Odom. Odom did an excellent job last year as the team's garbageman. He embraces such a role with open arms, and his versatility could come in handy, as he is capable of both guarding seven-footers and taking wings to the rim. Whoever it is won't get much time anyway, so I think Lamar Odom should be the team's third power forward.
What's needed: Common sense.
I refuse to explain to basketball fans why Dwight Howard should start. If you are reading this and you are new to basketball, Dwight Howard of the Orlando Magic (for now) is the most dominant post player in the league by an absolute landslide. He'll play almost as much as possible. Now, he's the only American star at center in the NBA, and everybody else is really rather average. This is exactly why Amar'e Stoudemire shouldn't start at power forward. Some consider him a center, and he can bring time and variety to the center position at a higher level than anybody in the NBA besides the man who he's backing up. While Dwight Howard is physical, Amar'e Stoudemire is extremely skilled and can walk all over a lot of the guys he would face. It would be quite a tag team.
PG: Chris Paul, Derrick Rose, Deron Williams
SG: Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade
SF: LeBron James, Kevin Durant
PF: LaMarcus Aldridge, Blake Griffin, Lamar Odom
C: Dwight Howard, Amar'e Stoudemire
Look me in the eyes and tell me they wouldn't win gold. Regardless, leave me your thoughts and whatnot. Thanks for reading!