The US and A will roll out a monster Olympic basketball team this summer in London. I made the mistake of Googling our twenty finalists for the team and was immediately sidetracked into choosing my own twelve man roster.
This 2012 group will be potent enough to draw legitimate comparisons to the 1992 Dream Team led by Christian Laettner. (That's how it's taught at Duke and in many home-schooled environments).
Posterity has rendered the Dream Team invincible. For good reason. They were a perfectly built basketball machine. Even if Larry Bird was a shell of himself, Magic played limited minutes with his HIV setback, and international basketball two decades past was much weaker than it is today.
Still, there was nothing like seeing Charles Barkley at his peak, power-mounting Euro big men like a runaway rhino (Team MVP, shot 71% from the field over 8 games), Chris Mullin draining threes while yawning, Scottie Pippen and Michael Jordan running a two man full court press like greyhounds coursing after rabbits.
Our challenge? Let's see if we can throw together a roster to beat immortals...and bring back gold from Ol Blighty.
Our roster finalists, as picked by USA basketball:
We can only take 12.
My guiding principles:
- I'm building a basketball team, not an And 1 crew or an All-Star squad. Stephon Marbury, Vince Carter, and Allen Iverson can't be your core. (That was our primary backcourt in 2004 when we lost three Olympic games. The same Olympics where Shawn Marion took as many shots as Tim Duncan in his prime). I hated that team. So much
- The international game rewards versatility on both ends of the court. Can you guard and score at multiple positions?
- Have tall shooters. Be able to guard tall shooters
- Experience matters
- Bench players 10-12 need to provide specific tools against a specific medal opponent (hi, Spain!) or be a versatile Swiss Army knife. Mostly they need to shut up and accept limited minutes graciously
- Avoid cancers, malcontents, and knuckleheads
I accept no arguments against Howard, KD, Lebron, or Wade. Kobe is a veteran leader, will focus the team when it's time to get serious, and will die on the court to win. If you argue against Chris Paul, you don't understand basketball. If you argue against Kevin Love, you don't understand international basketball. Or you don't get Timberwolves games. That's a blessing, actually.
2 EASY DISCARDS
Lamar doesn't have the good judgment to seek an attractive Kardashian sister - my rankings: Kim, Klamydia, Korpulent- maybe I'm getting some of the alliterative names wrong - so how can we trust him not to mail every inbounds pass to a Balkan? Ask Mavericks fan about the state of his game right now.
When Chauncey Billups fought Rocky Marciano, he was one hunnert' thirty seven years old.
Now, we're left with 11 players to fill 5 spots.
Bigs (choose 1-2)
Chandler won't complain about minutes, provides size and defense, and knows his role. LaMarcus can play both 4 and 5 and has range on his jump shot out to 20 feet. Zero international experience though. Chris Bosh has played a lot of international ball and has a similar skill set to Aldridge, but he's just...too Chris Boshy. We all want Blake Griffin because of the highlight reel possibilities but his offensive game is built around transition and rebounding, he doesn't really defend, and has no international experience. I'll take Chandler and flip a coin on Bosh/Aldridge.
Eric Gordon is an underrated fit because of his strength and perimeter shooting, but he's coming off of a knee injury. Andre Iguodala can do a little bit of everything - perimeter shooting, lock down defense, running point, playing three positions - and he won't cry about shots. Want him. Rudy Gay is a good perimeter defender who can score, but he's not as versatile as Iguodala or as gifted as Anthony.
The degree to which I'm down on Carmelo Anthony and his tedious Knick bullshit is evidenced by the fact that he's not on my Must Have list. That written, Carmelo has a wealth of international experience and his history when teamed with elite players is that he'll defend and play unselfishly.
Point Guards (1-2)
Tough choices here. Rose and Westbrook have similar skill sets, but Westbrook is a lockdown defender and Rose isn't. Rose is also currently injured. Deron Williams is the biggest of the three, the best passer, and consistently underrated, but where's his head right now? It's easy to dismiss Westbrook as selfish, but he's playing within a specific construct in OKC where he must score and though he's not a great spot up shooter, his pull up jumper out to 20 feet is deadly and a big reason he's shooting at a career high in field goal percentage this year. He also slightly outplayed Rose in the 2010 FIBA World Championships in Turkey.
Coach K will probably take Derrick Rose, but I'll go Westbrook. And I'm letting Chris Paul guide my crunch time offense.
So these are my guys:
C - Dwight Howard
F - Kevin Durant
F - Lebron James
G - Kobe Bryant
G - Chris Paul
C/F - LaMarcus Aldridge
F - Kevin Love
F- Carmelo Anthony
G - Dwyane Wade
G - Russell Westbrook
C - Tyson Chandler
F/G - Andre Iguodala
Don't sweat who starts. Minutes go to the deserving, but I suspect Howard, Paul, Durant, Lebron get the most.
Love and Wade are probably my first two off of the bench.
When I want to break down a team defensively and get out in transition, I can extend pressure with Wade, Iguodala, Lebron, Westbrook et al with Howard standing in the lane. Ridiculous. When I want shooters: Paul, Durant, Anthony, and Love will be sharing court time. You want to zone that? This team can go big, small, is incredibly experienced, will own transition, and every player has multiple ways of hurting you offensively.
I can understand the argument for carrying three point guards, but I have tremendous secondary ball-handling in Wade, Lebron, and Iguodala. I'd prefer to use that spot carrying an additional big man in anticipation of our medal round match-up against Spain and the Gasol brothers (with Serge Ibaka coming off the bench).
So, let's talk Olympic hoops. Pick apart my team. Are my omissions of Rose and Griffin unforgivable? Which NBA players benefit most from international rules?
And, finally -
could they take 'em?