By Chris Sheridan
And the first pertinent sub-question on that topic: Who will the big guys be? As in big and tall.
Dwight Howard is the first name on that list, because like most of the 2008 Redeem Team, he has earned the right to defend the gold medal he won in Beijing.
Ditto Chris Bosh.
The same goes for Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Kobe Bryant, and maybe to a slightly lesser degree to Chris Paul and Deron Williams.
You can also set aside a spot for Blake Griffin, who has been described to SheridanHoops.com by people in the know as a shoo-in for the London 2012 roster.
And another will go to Kevin Durant, the MVP of the 2010 World Championship team. The spot is his for the taking if he wants it.
That right there gives you 10 guys, leaving only two spots up for grabs from the current 35-man roster listed on USA Basketball’s Website from which Griffin is conspicuously absent.
And that brings us back to the big man question, because the Americans are going to need one or two more to effectively defend the front line of Spain, which won EuroBasket on Sunday night with a roster that includes Pau and Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka. (Also, the Spanish team is expected to add another big for next summer. He is Nikola Mirotic, who was selected 23rd in last June’s draft by the Houston Rockets, and whose rights were subsequently dealt to Minnesota and then Chicago. Mirotic is a 6-foot-10 power forward from Montenegro but is a naturalized Spanish citizen who plays professionally for Real Madrid. Last year, he won the Euroleague’s rising star award, then averaged over 27 points per game in July to win the MVP award at the FIBA Under-20 European championship.)
Team USA coach was able to get away with using James and Anthony as his power forwards in Beijing when Team USA defeated Spain 118-107 in the gold medal game.
But the new and improved Spanish team, as much as they prefer to play up-tempo, could choose to slow the pace against the Americans in London to take advantage of their one distinct advantage — offensive talent in the low post. If they continually pound the ball inside to the Gasols, and if Howard and/or Bosh get into foul trouble (remember, FIBA only allows five fouls, not six like the NBA), there needs to be a second line of defense.
So let’s find at least two bigs for the Americans.
In my book, one of them has to be Kevin Love, who was the most productive American player on a per-minute basis on the 2010 team aside from Durant. To me, he is a no-brainer pick. But to coach Mike Krzyzewski, he might not be. Krzyzewski used Love quite sparingly in Istanbul, choosing instead to attack each opponent with speed and athleticism (his key rotation players were Durant, Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook, Andre Iguodala, Lamar Odom Rudy Gay and Eric Gordon.)
Odom played center in Istanbul ahead of Tyson Chandler, and was a key factor — so much of a key that he probably should be listed with Love as candidates 1 and 1A for two of those last two spots on the 2012 team.
Would Howard, Bosh, Love and Odom be enough? Against every other team, the answer is probably yes.
Against Spain, it is debatable.
Assuming Love or Odom goes, that brings us to the 12th spot.
If you want to take an extra big, the candidates would have to include Chandler, LaMarcus Aldridge and Kendrick Perkins. (You must excise Amare Stoudemire from consideration because the New York Knicks would probably not allow him to play. In 2010, they pulled him off the roster on the night before camp began).
If you want to take an extra shooter, Eric Gordon and Stephen Curry definitely have earned the right to be atop the list because of what they brought to the team in Turkey in 2010.
If you want a third point guard, 2010 Team USA members Russell Westbrook and Derrick Rose are your guys (in fact, it’ll be interesting to see whether either of them can beat out Paul and/or Williams at training camp next summer in Las Vegas).
There probably will not be room for the type of glue guy (someone akin to what Jason Kidd was in Beijing and what Chauncey Billups was in Istanbul) Krzyzewski has liked to have around since taking over as the national team coach in 2005, although Odom somewhat fits that profile.
So, who should Team USA take to London? At this point, my best guess is that the roster looks like this:
C – Howard, Bosh, Odom.
PF – Anthony, Griffin, Love.
SF – Durant, James.
SG – Bryant, Wade.
PG – Williams, Paul.
Enough to defeat Spain? Remember, only five of those guys can be on the court at the same time.
Your comments are welcome.