Sorting out the next Olympic Dream Team
By SHAWN MCFARLAND
Earlier this month, the 2010-12 USA Men's Basketball National Team released its 27 candidates for the upcoming FIBA and Olympic games.
The list consists of nine members of the gold medalist 2008 U.S. Olympic Team and a total of 11 Olympians who have captured a combined 15 Olympic medals (nine golds and six bronzes).
Now I know picking 12 players from a group of 27 all of whom for the most part are pretty outstanding basketball players won't be easy for USA Basketball Chairman Jerry Colangelo.
That is why I am here. I am hoping Mr. Colangelo will stumble across my article and take some heed to the words I am about to write.
The list of players reads as such: Returning to the USA National Team for 2010-12 are 2008 Olympic gold medalists Carmelo Anthony (Denver); Carlos Boozer (Utah); Chris Bosh (Toronto); Kobe Bryant (Los Angeles); Dwight Howard (Orlando); LeBron James (Cleveland); Chris Paul (New Orleans); Dwyane Wade (Miami); and Deron Williams (Utah). Rounding out the list of Olympians on the national squad roster are 2004 Olympic bronze medalists Lamar Odom (Los Angeles) and Amar'e Stoudemire (Phoenix).
Completing the list of National Team players are LaMarcus Aldridge (Portland); Chauncey Billups (Denver); Kevin Durant (Oklahoma City); Rudy Gay (Memphis); Eric Gordon (Los Angeles); Danny Granger (Indiana); Andre Iguodala (Philadelphia); Al Jefferson (Minnesota); David Lee (New York); Brook Lopez (New Jersey); Kevin Love (Minnesota); O.J. Mayo (Memphis); Kendrick Perkins (Boston); Derrick Rose (Chicago); Gerald Wallace (Charlotte) and Russell Westbrook (Oklahoma City).
The first 11 are pretty much no-brainers in the sense of getting an invite. While I wouldn't necessarily keep Boozer or Odom for reasons I will touch on later, they do deserve to be there. As for the rest some are no-brainers and some are no-wayers.
How Eric Gordon got an invite over players such as Atlanta's Joe Johnson and Portland's Brandon Roy (just to name two) I have no idea. I have Gordon on my fantasy team so I know how he has been doing. He is young and athletic, but so is everyone else. The USA needs athletic, consistent players … players who are dominant in at least one facet of the game. Gordon is not the latter. He can go for 30 one night and 11 the next.
Gay? Too immature. Love? Inexperienced. Mayo and Westbrook? Good point guards, but too young as well. They will never see the court behind Paul and Williams. Not to mention James and Wade can run the '1' as well.
Let's start by noting who is definitely on the team. From the first group alone I can point out nine. Anthony, Bosh, Bryant, Howard, James, Paul, Wade, Williams and Stoudemire are all in the top-15 in the NBA, so they are in. I really need no explanation for these guys.
That means Boozer and Odom are left out. Boozer barely played in the last Olympics so what's the point. He will be two years older come the Games and will be even more meaningless to the roster. Let someone else cheer their way to a gold medal.
Odom is one of those players that can do everything, but so can James, Wade and Durant (who will end up making it). Plus, I feel the three guys ahead of him are just plain better or more valuable.
For one reason or another, I could go down the "try-out list" and immediately cross out the names: Billups (age), Gay (chuck), Gordon (inconsistent), Granger (lesser Durant), Love (youth), Mayo (youth), Perkins (slow) and Westbrook (youth).
Those left standing would be Aldridge, Durant, Iguodala, Jefferson, Lee, Lopez, Rose and Wallace. What do most of those players have in common? The answer is size. As a basketball coach, I'll be the first to tell you that you can never have enough size. And I am sure that remains true for coaches at every level.
So who did I pick?
Durant, Jefferson and Rose. Durant has become a super-star over night and can fill it up in a heart-beat. He is 6-9, shoots 90-percent from the line, can rebound and block shots. He is now top-10 in the NBA.
Jefferson is a beast in the post. He is having a down year in terms of scoring (17.1, six points lower than last year), but averaged a double-double the previous three seasons. Either way, he is better in the post and on the glass than Aldridge, Love and Perkins. Trust me on this one.
Rose would round out the squad. I was between him, Iggy and Aldridge at the end, but Rose is quick as lightning and you can't teach that. Iggy can do everything as well, so I wouldn't mind if he got the last spot. Even though Rose is mainly a PG, he could play some SG if needed. Regardless, the 12th man won't see much time. He and Jefferson can have the 'Carlos Boozer and Michael Redd' seats.
With these 12 guys, USA should easily bring back another gold medal come August of 2012.