Thursday, July 26, 2012

Preview of the U.S. Men's Basketball Team

The exhibition season went swimmingly for the Americans, going 5-0 and never really being challenged. The strength of this team is in its turnover-creating defense, efficiency in the transition game, athleticism, and the number of exquisite passers it possesses.

A lack of size is often considered this squad's weakness, but that's a little misleading. Kevin Durant, LeBron James, and Carmelo Anthony are all tall enough; the problem is they don't specialize in post defense or rebounding. Only Tyson Chandler, Kevin Love, and Anthony Davis (who has seldom played) are big men who fit that bill.

A big key will be whether Chandler and Love can stay out of foul trouble. FIBA officiating can often be inconsistent. And if they can't, will Davis be ready? If not, the U.S. will struggle to rebound and defend the interior.

Another weakness is outside shooting. The team actually has several players who can get hot from outside, but none are perimeter-shooting specialists. Kobe Bryant, James, Anthony, Chris Paul, James Harden, and Deron Williams all have the capability to nail a bunch of threes, but all can go stone cold as well. Durant might be the one player who is a three-point sharpshooter if his play in the exhibitions is any indication. But a bigger problem is the U.S.'s propensity to shoot a ton of three-pointers early in the shot clock. That might be the biggest weakness of this team.

Durant came off the bench during the first two games of the exhibition season, but started the final three. As he did during the 2010 World Championships, Durant was one of the primary scorers. James will be the best all around player again as he was in 2008. Bryant can score, defend, and- during the exhibition schedule- has shown the ability to defer when necessary. Anthony and James can post up and also score from the outside. Both will need to rebound well during the Olympics.

With all their great passers, the U.S. will need to be unselfish. If not, the offense will likely stall and if the U.S. can't force turnovers, it could spell doom. Russell Westbrook, who showed great defensive intensity during the training period, will need to see his teammates in the halfcourt. Hopefully, Paul, Williams, and James will control most of the point guard duties and Westbrook will play off the ball on offense, so he can concentrate on scoring. Andre Iguodala is another unselfish player, good rebounder, and nice defender.

All in all, barring bouts of jacking up threes and over-dribbling, this team should win the gold. France, Argentina, and Spain pose the biggest problems. France is strong inside and the U.S. won't be able to force turnovers if Tony Parker has the ball. Argentina also has veteran guards, good cohesiveness, but lacks size. Spain has size, but not much depth at the guard position. But these three all could potentially pose problems for the U.S. But this U.S. team is well-constructed and I predict a first place, unblemished finish. We shall see.

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