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Team USA Basketball: Predicting the Starting Lineup and Bench Rotation

Scott Harris@ScottHarrisMMAMMA Lead WriterAugust 24, 2010

Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty ImagesEthan Miller/Getty Images

No Kobe.  No LeBron.  No D-Wade.  In fact, remember that gold medal run at the 2008 Olympics?  Throw the whole thing out.  As Jerry Colangelo and Mike Krzyzewski assemble the next hoops team that will represent America--building toward the 2012 London Olympics--they are at this point doing so from scratch, with no one returning from the winning squad from Beijing.

So who's on this new team?  The candidates have been winnowed to 13, meaning one more will have to go when the music stops on August 27.  That's the day before the FIBA World Championships kick off in Turkey and final rosters are due.  Here are the USA's 13 finalists:

Chauncey Billups
Tyson Chandler
Stephen Curry
Kevin Durant
Rudy Gay
Eric Gordon
Danny Granger
Andre Iguodala
Kevin Love
Lamar Odom
Rajon Rondo
Derrick Rose
Russell Westbrook

The team has recently played a series of "friendlies," the latest of which came Sunday with a close and rugged win over Spain in Madrid.  If you look at the stats from the Spain game, you'll probably extrapolate that Gordon is the odd man out here. And you'd be right.  He was in something of a dogfight with Stephen Curry for the last spot, and it seems Curry, despite ankle issues, has Coach K's favor. 

Assuming that's the correct assumption, now on to the starters. 

At the one, with two icy free throws on Sunday, Rose seemed to put the frosting on his case for top point guard. 

Meanwhile, to reprise a well-worn theme for international hoops fans, shooting is everything. Accounting for that, and then adding in his demonstrated leadership skills, advantage Billups at the two guard position.  Rondo and Westbrook will spark the action off the bench.

At this point, it should be noted that Rondo, Granger, and Love did not play at all in this game.  Was this a dress rehearsal for Coach K's starting rotation? 

If so, we may have a clear answer at power forward, where Iguodala logged 27 minutes.  (Threes and even large twos tend to translate better to fours at the international level--see Carmelo Anthony.)  Rudy Gay may have made a case here, racking up just as many points in half the minutes, although fewer boards and weaker D as well.  Iguodala's defense is what's needed here, so he'll start and Gay will spell.

At small forward, if there was any doubt before Sunday, Kevin Durant put it to rest.  He led the team with 25 points and added 10 rebounds and some clutch defense against a very game Spanish squad.  It's Durant at the three, and that's that.

Finally, Odom seems to have earned the starting center job.  Lackluster play from Chandler and Love saw to that, as did Odom's superior ability to both take and guard good shots.  Odom played 33 minutes against Spain, while Chandler and Love combined for seven. Oh, and as you might know, he has some championship experience.  As far as I'm concerned, that's game, set, match.

There is still one friendly left--Greece in Athens Wednesday night.  But unless something crazy happens, Rose, Billups, Durant, Iguodala, and Odom are your starting five for Team USA.  

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