The final roster for the 2012 USA Olympic basketball team was announced on July 7th, and the decision from chairman Jerry Colangelo added James Harden, Andre Igoudala, and Blake Griffin to the mainstays of the international roster.
The trio got the call over the likes of Rudy Gay, Eric Gordon and Anthony Davis, who were also competing for the right to round out the USA roster this summer in London.
Though invaluable to their teams in NBA play, Harden, Iguodala, and Griffin will be relegated to supporting roles at the Games. Still, their inclusion demonstrates the direction Mike Krzyzewski will take this team once this team begins their familiar role as international favorites.
While the selections of LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, and Deron Williams could be seen as no-brainers, USA will also round out their team with the likes of Kevin Love, Russell Westbrook and Tyson Chandler, perhaps providing a glimpse into the style of play the team will employ in London.
The roster selections certainly indicate the value Team USA has placed upon experience and versatility, as only Harden and Griffin will be making their debut for their country in an Olympics or World Championship.
A number of players also have the ability to defend and play multiple positions, a strategy used to combat the lack of frontcourt depth in light of the absence of USA mainstays Dwight Howard and Chris Bosh.
The inclusion of only one true center (Chandler) indicates that Krzyzewski may play a smaller lineup in key moments during the Games, relying on athleticism and quickness rather than a size advantage. This will allow the Americans to closely mirror the lineups of their opponent, most of whom will not be led by a dominant big man.
With the likes of James, Durant, and Anthony on the wings and Paul at the point, Team USA will certainly hope to use their athleticism to get baskets in transition. But Plan B will depend on a halfcourt set in which almost any player can create their own shot, and Paul will inevitably be key with his ability to break defenses down off the dribble.
Although there are concerns that his drive-and-kick game will be less effective without the NBA’s stringent hand-checking rules, Paul should be able to get wherever he wants on the court and exhibit spectacular court vision against less than NBA-caliber defenders.
The team also lacks a three-point shooting specialist to stretch the floor and create space to operate, a role that may be filled by Bryant on this star-studded team. It’s one he’s unfamiliar with, however, as Bryant is used to dominating the ball as the alpha-dog for the Los Angeles Lakers.
Either way, the USA shouldn’t have trouble scoring in London with their wealth of offensive talent and pedigree. Instead their main challenge will likely be handling the familiarity and continuity their challengers bring to the table.
This will likely give them the most trouble defensively, as the international game is predicated more on motion offense rather than pick and roll play, which dominates the NBA game. It will be a challenge for the American stars to remain aware of the challenge this presents, especially in the form of back cuts and hustle plays that have fallen out of favor in the NBA.
Irrevocably the favorite in any level of international basketball competition, all eyes will be on Team USA this summer in London. Let’s hope their eyes are more fixated on the opponent than their own hype machine.
It’s the only thing that can stop them.