The 2012 London Summer Olympics begin in 48 days, but the final roster deadline for the U.S. basketball team is June 18th. In 2008, the “Redeem Team” was able to make amends for the disappointing bronze medal in 2004 by defeating Spain 118-107. The roster pool for this year’s team is very strong even given the loss of Dwight Howard and Derrick Rose to injury, and selecting 12 players will be a difficult task for the committee. This year’s remaining player pool currently has 18 players, you can find the full list here.
The weakest position is center where the loss of Howard leaves Tyson Chandler as the only true center in the pool beyond soon-to-be rookie Anthony Davis. On the whole, there are very few quality American centers in the league beyond Howard and Chandler, the others being Andrew Bynum, Greg Monroe, and Al Jefferson.
The point guard position has undergone a renaissance in the past few seasons with a bevy of amazing players: Rajon Rondo, Deron Williams, Chris Paul, Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook, and beyond that, up and comers like Ty Lawson, John Wall, and Kyrie Irving. From this list the pool features Paul, Williams, and Westbrook. Given the injury to Rose, it’s likely that they will take all three point guards.
Since the 1992 Dream Team, only the 2004 bronze medal squad featured less than three point guards, where they selected only Allen Iverson and Stephon Marbury. I don’t see them repeating this mistake and had Rose been healthy, I’m not sure how they would’ve chosen between those four candidates.
This is another thin position around the league. Both Kobe Bryant and Dwayne Wade are locks, and likely the two men to fill the position. Eric Gordon may be considered for his three-point shooting, but taking three shooting guards limits them at the forward positions.
James Harden was recently added to the player pool as well, and he is a strong candidate as well, but the committee might be reluctant to take two Thunder players knowing that the NBA Finals will end shortly before the team begins practicing. Though, the one weakness facing the U.S. squad is the lack of three-point shooters, which might force the committee to take a long look at either Gordon or Harden.
The possible candidates are LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Rudy Gay, and Andre Igoudala, and I see all but Gay being selected. One of the roles the selection committee emphasizes is wing players that can guard multiple positions. Anthony and James are locks, but both Gay and Igoudala were members of the 2010 FIBA World Championship team, making the decision difficult. Given that the team is filled with such adept scorers, the selection of these two is focused more on their ability to defend.
Both Gay and Igoudala are lengthy players that excel at both forcing turnovers and pestering the opposition. They are both experienced at the international level, something the selection committee values in trying to create some cohesion and consistency within the squad. I think Igoudala is the pick because he is the superior defender, which was on full display while he guarded Paul Pierce in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
The five possible candidates are Kevin Durant, Kevin Love, Blake Griffin, and Lamar Odom, and Chris Bosh. Durant is a lock and Kevin Love is likely as well. Between Griffin, Odom, and Bosh, I see only Bosh being selected. Odom is a veteran on the international teams, but he had a terrible 2011-2012 season, and whereas his veteran presence was needed on the young FIBA squad, the Olympic team does not lack leaders.
Griffin is a difficult call because he is such an explosive player and talented rebounder, but with Chandler, Love, and Durant, rebounding will be a strength. Also, his terrible foul shooting does not help his selection. Given his young age, he will certainly be featured down the road, but for now the selection committee will pass.
Chris Bosh is also a veteran of the olympic teams, and he excels in pick-and-roll situations. The problem he faces is similar to that of James Harden, in that potentially playing in the NBA Finals, he may face fatigue issues as well as injury concerns. Bosh’s ability to consistently hit mid-range jumpers though is something the team needs, and his experience is a plus.
The weakness of the center position was discussed above, and it seems very likely that only Chandler will be selected. Anthony Davis may develop into one of the best centers in the league, and like Griffin, will likely feature on future rosters, but for now Chandler seems like the likely pick. The size and athleticism of James, Durant, Love, and James allows the U.S. team to mitigate the absence of a center.
PGs: Williams, Paul, Westbrook
SGs: Wade, Bryant
SFs: James, Anthony, Igoudala
PFs: Durant, Love, Bosh
Looking at the player pool, it’s easy to see how strong this U.S. team will be even missing two injured former MVPs. Anything less than the gold meal would be extremely surprising and disappointing. The hardest selections will likely be between Gay, Harden, and Bosh as currently constructed, the team lacks proficient three-point shooting.