Team USA Basketball: Early Predictions on Who'll Make the 2012 Sqaud

Elliott Pohnl@@ElliottPohnl_BRFeatured ColumnistAugust 27, 2010

Team USA Basketball: Early Predictions on Who'll Make the 2012 Sqaud

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    BEIJING - AUGUST 24:  LeBron James #6 Kobe Bryant #10 and Chris Paul #13 of the United States celebrate after defeating Spain 118-107 in the gold medal game during Day 16 of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games at the Beijing Olympic Basketball Gymnasium on Aug
    Phil Walter/Getty Images

    USA Basketball begins its quest to capture the World Championships Saturday in Turkey with a roster filled with players who could be vying for a spot on the 2012 Olympic team.

    The next Olympic team should have a familiar look, but there will likely be some marquee names from the 2008 squad who decide not to return.

    Here's a very early glimpse of how the 2012 Olympic roster could be a assembled.

No. 12 Designated Shooter: Eric Gordon or Stephen Curry

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    LAS VEGAS - JULY 24:  Eric Gordon #4 of the 2010 USA Basketball Men's National Team brings the ball up the court during a USA Basketball showcase at the Thomas & Mack Center on July 24, 2010 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
    Ethan Miller/Getty Images

    Eric Gordon has been impressive in the exhibition games leading up to the FIBA World Championships and has demonstrated his ability to hit the three-point shot, something that the United States team desperately needs.

    In two years, Gordon could be an All-Star guard and much more of a household name, making him an attractive addition to the London squad.

    Curry is the best pure shooter on the 2010 roster, but still needs to mature physically and carve out a clear role on the roster. Depending on who returns, they might be room for either Gordon or Curry, but not both.

No. 11 Backup Forward/Center: Blake Griffin

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 27:  Blake Griffin #32 of the Los Angeles Clippers watches the season opening game against the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center on October 27, 2009 in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and ag
    Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

    It might seem strange, but the Clippers could easily have two players who make the next Olympic team.

    Assuming Griffin recovers from his knee injury, he figures to be one of the NBA's best rebounders from the moment he steps on the court.

    Team USA could use his athleticism and ability to clean the glass in London. Griffin would essentially fill the role of garbageman on the Olympic team.

No. 10 Backup Guard: Deron Williams

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    BEIJING - AUGUST 10:  Deron Williams #7 of the United States drives past Yao Ming #13 of China during the day 2 preliminary game at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games in the Beijing Olympic Basketball Gymnasium on August 10, 2008 in Beijing, China.  (Photo by
    Phil Walter/Getty Images

    Williams has a put a lot of miles on his body, but if the majority of the 2008 Olympic teams opts to return, he is likely to join in.

    Along with Chris Paul, Williams played well at times during the 2008 games and played some minutes at shooting guard, which he could do again on the 2012 squad.

    Brandon Jennings and Rajon Rondo would likely be the best possibilities to take his roster spot of he declines an invitation.

No. 9 Backup Point Guard: Derrick Rose

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    NEW YORK - AUGUST 15:  Derrick Rose #6 of the United States against France during their exhibition game as part of the World Basketball Festival at Madison Square Garden on August 15, 2010 in New York City.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
    Nick Laham/Getty Images

    Derrick Rose has demonstrated an ability to control the game against international competition as he continues to creep ever closer to joining the ranks of NBA superstars.

    By 2012, Rose should be without question one of the best players in the NBA and a lock to make the London squad.

    His ability to get to the basket and distribute the ball to others makes him a key cog to the team, and his upper-body strength allows him to withstand the physical defense of international play. That would likely give him an edge over Rajon Rondo.

No. 8 Backup Forward: Chris Bosh

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    BEIJING - AUGUST 24:  Chris Bosh #12 of the United States moves against the defense of Alex Mumbru #14 and Marc Gasol #13 of Spain in the gold medal game during Day 16 of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games at the Beijing Olympic Basketball Gymnasium on August
    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    The Heat's threesome could easily opt out of the Olympics, but if one plays, the other two are likely to join in. 

    Chris Bosh has the versatile skills that would make him a perfect fit for the team and was a pleasant surprise in Beijing.  His ability to play power forward or center and be a post-scorer could be valuable on what will be a perimeter-oriented roster.

    Bosh will be a huge key in determining if the United States can defend the Gold in London.

No. 7 Backup Guard: Kobe Bryant

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    BEIJING - AUGUST 24: Kobe Bryant #10 and Carmelo Anthony #15 of the United States embrace after defeating Spain 118-107 in the gold medal game during Day 16 of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games at the Beijing Olympic Basketball Gymnasium on August 24, 2008 i
    Phil Walter/Getty Images

    Will Kobe Bryant decide to play in the Olympics at age 34?

    It's very difficult to say at this point, but given his track record of staying healthy and his love of the game, forecasting him to play isn't a huge risk.

    Kobe isn't likely to demand a starting spot and could play limited minutes off the bench, especially if mainstays Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony return to the team.

    If Kobe opts out, either Andre Iguodala and Rudy Gay would have a very good chance of making the Olympics roster.

No. 6 Backup Forward: Carmelo Anthony

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    BEIJING - AUGUST 24:  Carmelo Anthony #15 of the United States salutes as his countries National Anthem is played during the medal ceremony after defeating Spain 118-107 in the gold medal game during Day 16 of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games at the Beijing
    Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

    Anthony is the sixth man and will be on the team to score, pure and simple.

    His offensive skills and ability to hit the international three-pointer with ease made him a valuable member of the Beijing team. The presence of Kevin Durant on the London team likely means 'Melo is headed to the bench.

No. 5 Starting Center: Dwight Howard

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    BEIJING - AUGUST 24:  Dwight Howard #11 of the United States looks on from the bench in the gold medal game against Spain during Day 16 of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games at the Beijing Olympic Basketball Gymnasium on August 24, 2008 in Beijing, China.  (P
    Phil Walter/Getty Images

    Howard had his moments in Beijing, but he was often frustrated by opponents and somewhat of a liability on the offensive end.

    In two years, his offensive game should be much improved, and his tendency to pick up foolish fouls won't be as big of a problem.

    Howard is likely to be the only true center to make the 2010 Olympic team.

No. 4 Starting Point Guard: Chris Paul

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    BEIJING - AUGUST 24:  Chris Paul #13 of the United States signals to teammates during the gold medal game against Spain during Day 16 of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games at the Beijing Olympic Basketball Gymnasium on August 24, 2008 in Beijing, China.  (Pho
    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    Like many players projected to make the team, Paul could decide to opt-out.  But if he decides to play in the Olympics, he is likely to be the starter.

    Paul's ability to control a game and contend with physical defenses gives the United States another capable lead guard.

    His unselfish play and leadership was a key factor in the Beijing capturing the Gold Medal.

No. 3 Starting Shooting Guard: Dwyane Wade

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    BEIJING - AUGUST 24:  Dwyane Wade #9 of the United States celebrates on the podium after defeating Spain 118-107 in the gold medal game during Day 16 of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games at the Beijing Olympic Basketball Gymnasium on August 24, 2008 in Beiji
    Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

    Dwyane Wade has taken an absolute pounding during his NBA career and could be compelled to skip the 2012 Olympics.

    But if LeBron James plays, so too will Wade and Bosh.

    Wade was a clutch performer in Beijing and thrived while being surrounded by capable point guards for a change. He would likely get the nod for a starting spot over the aging Kobe Bryant.

No. 2 Starting Small Forward: Kevin Durant

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    NEW YORK CITY, NY - AUGUST 12:  Kevin Durant #5 looks on during the World Basketball Festival USAB Showcase at Radio City Music Hall on August 12, 2010 in New York City. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images for Nike)
    Chris Trotman/Getty Images

    At 21, Kevin Durant finds himself as the face of the 2010 World Championship team.  The go-to scorer on this year's team, he figures to occupy that role again in 2012.

    Durant has struggled a bit in exhibition play leading up to the World's, but his continued physical maturation and a serious upgrade of the pieces around him should make for a dominant performance in London.

No. 1 Starting Power Forward: LeBron James

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    BEIJING - AUGUST 24:  (L-R)  Deron Williams #6 and LeBron James of the United States wait to receive the gold medal after defeating Spain in the men's basketball final during Day 16 of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games at the Beijing Olympic Basketball Gymna
    Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

    In many ways, LeBron could shape landscape of the Olympic team with his decision to either play in London or sit out and enjoy some time off.

    At the moment, it appears that he is still committed to playing, which means others will likely follow.

    LeBron's all-around talents and size make him ideally suited to playing power forward for the United States team, where he can help run the team and create mismatches while being perfectly capable of rebounding and defending the paint.

    For the moment at least, LeBron James is the brightest star likely to play on the 2012 Olympic team.

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