Let me start by going straight to the point. I do not believe Team USA will come out of the FIBA World Basketball Championships (August 28 – September 12, Turkey) with the gold. Not even with the silver.
Don’t get me wrong. The 15 players from which the final squad will be selected to represent the US in Turkey present a good mix of bonafide stars, with Kevin Durant clearly leading the pack, some savvy veterans, namely Chauncey Billups and Lamar Odom, and even promising but already established youngsters, such as Rajon Rondo, Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook. One might also point out that some other national sides are also missing stars, namely the absence of Pau Gasol for Spain.
USA’s group B might also be considered as one of the most accessible ones, with Brazil arguably being the strongest foe. Slovenia and Croatia will also be fighting for the top 4 qualifying spots, while Iran and Tunisia might find themselves on the outside looking in.
But see, against the likes of Spain, Argentina, Greece, Serbia, Russia and France, the 2010 incarnation of Team USA just isn’t enough.
We all know the story. From the birth of the formidable Dream Team in 1992 to the decline of successive US national teams, to the eventual comeback to the top of the hill with the ”Redeem Team” in 2008. This squad had 11 All-Star players, a Hall of Fame coach, an NBA MVP and an undeniable desire to hustle, defend, play in an unselfish fashion, while having the urge and pressure to regain lost glory. The commitment was there and so was the talent.
The 2010 version of Team USA promises to have dedication and hard-working players but the level of talent isn’t enough to beat the best of the rest of the basketball world. While the 2008 team had the formidable presences in the middle of Dwight Howard, Carlos Boozer and Chris Bosh, the 2010 squad will have Tyson Chandler (a non-factor on the offensive end), JaVale McGee, Kevin Love and Jeff Green (assuming these 3 make the final squad, as Chandler seems to have a secure spot due to his shot-blocking and board crashing abilities). Clearly not enough to hang with the non-American traditional Centers. Team USA lacks size, pure and simple.
It also lacks top scorers, players who can take over the game at any point and score in bunches. Outside of Kevin Durant the team will not possess any other scoring machines. Guys like Iguodala and Derrick Rose can light up the scoreboards, but not as consistently as Durant. In 2008 the team had Kobe, LeBron, Wade, among others. What if Durant gets into foul trouble? Or if he gets injured?
Like I already mentioned, this team lacks size. And then, on the opposite spectrum, there is too much depth on the backcourt, too many guards. It makes perfect sense that two of the cut players from the final 12-man squad should be guards. Still, it would have been nice to have more talent at PF and C. Athleticism alone won’t carry this team to the final. Good luck coach K.
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