After yesterday’s 156-73 drubbing of Nigeria, Team USA reiterated just how dominant they can be. Through three games, the 2012 squad is averaging 120 points per game with an average margin of victory of 52.3, compared to 110 points per game and 48 point margin of victory for the 1992 squad. While these numbers are obviously skewed after yesterday’s 83 point victory, it would still be surprising to see this team lose a game.
Given their dominance and the watered down international competition due to injuries and players backing out of the Olympics, we’re going to take a look at how Team USA would matchup against a team comprised of players from the rest of the world. We will use the current construction of Team USA for these purposes.
Point guard: Steve Nash, Tony Parker
Shooting guard: Manu Ginobli, Thabo Sefolosha
Small forward: Luol Deng, Nicolas Batum, Danilo Gallinari
Power forward: Dirk Nowitzki, Serge Ibaka
Centers: Marc Gasol, Pau Gasol, Andrea Bargnani
Potential other players: Al Horford, Anderson Varejao, Luis Scola, Nene Hilario, Andrew Bogut, Marcin Gortat, Chris Kaman, Jose Calderon, Andrei Kirilenko, Ersan Ilyasova
Looking at the bevy of international talent in the NBA, most of the talent is in big men. There are handful of centers that aren’t on the roster that could make it, but a roster limit of 12 restricts the choices.
Nash and Parker both are very talented point guards and bring a different style of play to the game. While Nash’s scoring has declined, he still is one of the premier passing point guards in the league, and in the wide open play of international competition, his ability to get his teammates open shots will be at a premium. Parker had arguably the best season of his career last year, and has become exceedingly adept at running the pick and roll. The problem Parker and Nash will run into is neither of them is considered a great defender, and staying in front of the three-headed Team USA point guard monster, will prove problematic. The best bet these two have is to keep putting pressure on the offensive end.
The international pool of players is extremely shallow at shooting guard, so beyond Ginobli, there was no real clear choice. Going with Sefolosha at least provides the team with one of the premier perimeter defenders in the league, which will allow the team to at least mitigate some of the damage done by the Team USA guards. Ginobli is one of the best sixth men in the league, but he is forced to start in international play. While he isn’t as consistent as the scoring threats on Team USA, working with Nash and Parker, he will be able put up some points.
Small forward features three talented players who each bring a different facet to the game. Deng will likely start on this squad, and like Sefolosha, he is one of the better perimeter defenders in the league, but also can provide some scoring. He has steadily rounded out his game during his time in the NBA, and will help the World squad on both ends of the floor. Batum is very good in catch and shoot situations, and his length will help bother some of the Team USA players. He is very good at finishing near the rim and will provide some three-point shooting. European players generally are labeled as soft, but Gallinari actually plays tough, draws fouls, and will provide some scoring off the bench.
Power forward features arguably the greatest international player of all time in Dirk Nowitzki. Dirk is getting up in age, but he still has one of the best mid-range games in the NBA, featuring his unblockable fadeaway. While he is not too much of a factor on defense, Dirk rarely wastes possessions and rarely turns the ball over. He will often draw an opposing team’s best defensive player as well as force team’s to double team him, freeing up his teammates. Ibaka has played both center and power forward in the league, but given the depth at center, his talents are better served at power forward. He is an amazing shot blocker as well as rebounder, and his role on the team will be to protect the rim.
The Gasol brothers are both extremely talented, and some of the best passing big men in the league. While Pau is a more accomplished scorer, Marc has really rounded out his game. Neither of them is exceptionally quick by any means, which hinders the ability of the World team to run up and down the court, but when running offensive sets, both players can have the offense run through them. Choosing Bargnani over Horford, Kaman, Gortat, and Bogut, was just a matter of expanding the skill set as those players largely are redundant of the Gasol’s talents. Bargnani truly lives up to the soft-Euro label, but he can stretch the floor and is a deadly outside shooter.
World Team Starting Five:
PG: Tony Parker
SG: Manu Ginobli
SF: Luol Deng
PF: Dirk Nowitzki
C: Pau Gasol
Team USA Starting Five:
PG: Chris Paul
SG: Kobe Bryant
SF: LeBron James
PF: Kevin Durant
C: Tyson Chandler
Team USA would still likely win the majority of games against this team, but the World Team features a lot of talented players, and would definitely play competitively in the international style of play. What has been the benchmark of this Team USA has been their defensive pressure. They frequently force turnovers as well as wasted possessions, but as seen against Brazil with point guard Marcelo Huertas, Team USA can have some trouble with adept passing guards that can take advantage of their aggressiveness on defense. Overall, it would be interesting to see a matchup of this construction, similar to the Ryder Cup in Golf broadened to include more than Europe. It would certainly make for interesting basketball, but also demonstrates just how far international talent in the NBA has come in the 20 years since the Dream Team.