No Derrick Rose. No Dwight Howard. No Dwyane Wade. No Chris Bosh.
Is USA Basketball in trouble? Hardly.
The talent pool is still very deep and whomever the U.S. sends to London they will be heavily favored to win an Olympic gold medal. The team convenes in Las Vegas on July 5 to start training camp, then has five exhibitions with international teams before opening Olympic play against France on July 29. Team USA head coach Mike Krzyzewski won’t be doing any intense MMA exercise programs in Las Vegas to keep the squad fresh and injury-free after a grueling NBA schedule.
“I feel very confident about our roster going forward. … Adversity gives people opportunity and guess what? It’s going to open up a couple of roster positions,” USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo said.
USA Basketball plans to announce the 12-man Olympic roster on July 7. NBA TV will air the announcement live.
The 16 finalists contending for 12 roster spots include: Carmelo Anthony (New York Knicks); Kobe Bryant (Los Angeles Lakers); Tyson Chandler (New York Knicks); Anthony Davis (New Orleans Hornets); Kevin Durant (Oklahoma City Thunder); Rudy Gay (Memphis Grizzlies); Eric Gordon (New Orleans Hornets); Blake Griffin (Los Angeles Clippers); James Harden (Oklahoma City Thunder); Andre Iguodala (Philadelphia 76ers); LeBron James (Miami Heat); Kevin Love (Minnesota Timberwolves); Lamar Odom (Los Angeles Clippers); Chris Paul (Los Angeles Clippers); Russell Westbrook (Oklahoma City Thunder); and Deron Williams (Brooklyn Nets).
Anthony, Bryant, James, Paul, and Williams are holdovers from the 2008 Beijing Games so they should be locks to make the squad. Durant, Westbrook, and Love were key members of the 2010 U.S. squad that won gold at the world championships so there is a very good chance they’ll be on their way to London. And with Bosh and Howard out, Chandler is the only true center on the team.
Former Kentucky star Anthony Davis, the No. 1 overall selection in the 2012 NBA draft by the New Orleans Hornets, was among the finalists until Saturday when he severely sprained his ankle during a workout with his new team. The Hornets almost assuredly will advise the 6-foot-10 Davis to not participate in the selection process, knocking another big man out of the mix.
That leaves Gordon, Gay, Iguodala, Harden, Odom, and Griffin to battle for the last three spots.
Iguodala, Gay, Odom, and Gordon were on the 2010 U.S. squad that captured the gold medal at the World Championships in Turkey. Gay can play either forward position, which will come in handy because of the lack of big men on the roster. Iguodala is a defensive specialist who doesn’t need to dominate the ball to be effective. It will be very difficult for the coaching staff to leave him out.
Gordon impressed the coaching staff with his physical toughness and ability to consistently knock down 3-point shots. Gordon is built like a running back and can handle the physicality of international play. But Gordon doesn’t defend as well as Iguodala, and because the roster is already loaded with scorers, a specialist or glue guy who can guard multiple positions could be more important than adding a player who can only play shooting guard.
Griffin is new to the international scene, but he is a huge fan favorite. If this was an all-star competition, Griffin would be a lock. His lack of experience (and lack of a jump shot) is a big red flag, but there is going to be a tidal wave of pressure from fans and team officials to put Griffin on the squad strictly from a public relations standpoint.
The same can’t be said about Harden. The Oklahoma City guard is also new to the process, and could be an important player in the future. But he may have to wait his turn.
Odom has plenty of international experience and a reality show to boot. But he recently took his name out of contention for obvious reasons: he’s not ready to play.
Here’s how the 12-man roster should look like when Team USA convenes in London:
Guards: Chris Paul, Kobe Bryant, Deron Williams, Russell Westbrook, Eric Gordon
Forwards: LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, Blake Griffin, Rudy Gay, Kevin Love
Center: Tyson Chandler
Joel Huerto is the editor and publisher of OneManFastBreak.net. Follow him on Twitter @onemanfastbreak.