Evaluating Team USA 2010.
With the FIBA World Championships a day away, I wanted to take some time to reflect and be honest with ourselves. This is not the best 12 players in America. It pains me to admit it but it is the down right truth.
It’s no secret that this year’s version of the Men’s National Team is lacking in star power. The message came loud and clear from the entire 2008 Redeem Team roster. Dwight, Mamba, Wade, Melo, CP3 and LeBron all said “see y’all in 2012”. Outside of Kevin Durant and maybe Derrick Rose, the roster is littered with young guns, high profile role players, and Chauncey Billups (more on this later).
Kobe, LeBron, Wade and the rest of the Redeem boys were too busy rehabbing injuries or partying down in South Beach to be bothered to represent their country. To make up to the lack in star power, Colangelo & company tried to recruit other “big” names who weren’t on the 2008 medal team such as Amar’e, Rondo and Josh Smith but it didn’t exactly work out for various reasons. This isn’t the worst USA team in the modern era but it is certainly a far cry from the 2008 and 1992 rosters. Here is who made the final cut: (Name, Position, Age)
Kevin Durant (SF, 21), Chauncey Billups (PG, 33), Tyson Chandler (C, 27), Stephen Curry (SG/PG, 22), Rudy Gay (SF, 24), Eric Gordon (SG, 21), Derrick Rose (PG, 21), Danny Granger (SF, 27), Andre Iguodala (SF*, 26), Kevin Love (C/PF, 21), Lamar Odom (PF*, 30), Russell Westbrook (PG, 21).
*Iguodala might be starting at Power Forward and Lamar Odom might start at Center. Odd, I know.
Kevin Durant: I’m sure Durantula doesn’t need any introduction. He will be the highlight of this team on both ends of the court. Team USA didn’t exactly bring a defensive specialist or any “specialist” for that matter. They’re going to rely on KD to be the superstar, hit threes, and shut down players on the other end. These will be the toughest games KD has ever played.
Tyson Chandler: Tyson would not even make the cut as one of the Top 10 American centers in the NBA. How he can possibly start on Team USA is beyond me. Sure he has defense and length but he has an even longer history of injuries. Hope those ankles don’t swell up on the flight.
Stephen Curry: I love Curry’s game. Absolutely love it. With that said, playing behind Rose, Westbrook, and Billups is going to really cut into his minutes.
Rudy Gay: Rudy is the 8th best American SF in the NBA, at best. Wish Gerald Wallace made the cut.
Eric Gordon: EG can light it up. But it comes in streaks. What makes him fit on this roster is that he is bigger and stronger than Curry and a much better shooter/scorer than Westbrook. However his lack of passing, rebounding, and defending makes him one of the least valuable players on this team. They could have left him home and brought a defensive specialist along such as Arron Afflalo.
Derrick Rose: If you can’t have Chris Paul, Deron Williams or Rajon Rondo as your starter, Rose is a great compromise. I’m serious. He has a ton of potential and if Paul and Williams never want to play international basketball again, Rose is the perfect starter.
Danny Granger: This man will be the 11th or 12th player on this team. Nothing wrong with that and Granger can certainly get buckets but you usually want the 11/12th man to be someone with a specialty skill set not a B or C-list scorer. Anthony Morrow would have been a great pick in this spot.
Andre Iguodala: Six seasons into his career and I’m still not sure what Iggy is good at. I know he is good, but what exactly he excels at is not clear. I would take him on my team any day so picking Dre wasn’t a bad choice.
Kevin Love: Somehow, some way, we have stacked our roster with undersized men at ever position. Kevin Love is not an exception to the rule.
Lamar Odom: I don’t know what looks more odd; LO out of the triangle or that silly headband he has been rocking.
Russell Westbrook: As we mentioned earlier, Russ might have made the cut based solely on who he knows: Kevin Durant. There isn’t a single thing he does better than Rajon Rondo, yet Rondo got sent home decided to go home and Russ is now the backup point.
Chauncey Billups: Here is where that “more on him later” comes up. Billups is a legit talent. One of the best points in the game, he excels at running a team. He has a nasty stroke from deep and isn’t afraid to shoot. They don’t call him Mr. Big Shot for nothing and the 2004 Final MVP has proven it throughout his career. Chauncey is no longer quick and explosive yet he is as smart as he is strong. With a large frame and a great post game, he can drill threes in your eye or post you up down low. Overall, there are no chinks in the armor of this floor general. So what did Team USA do with one of the best point guards in the NBA? They stuck him at shooting guard… Go Figure.
One thing that we have to keep in mind is that the World Games are not the Olympics. We take a lot of pride in winning the big one. These other games don’t carry the same prestige and importance as the Olympics. With that said, it is understandable why we are taking such a young team (7 of the 12 players are under the age of 22). This is dubbed the team of the future because in two and six years, Kobe and crew will be past their prime and these young guns will be entering theirs.
Keeping in mind the age issue, championships-chase mentality, and the injury situations around the NBA I wanted to take a look at where these guys rank in various stats. I didn’t include any of the “older” players. Some of them are explainable such as Billups who brings experience and maturity and Iguodala who is only 27 and a borderline All-Star. Others make no sense with the age or talent factors (Chandler and Granger). Lamar is Lamar and no one can explain why he isn’t one of the best players in the NBA. He is 6’10” and can play all five positions on the court. If you can’t get the most versatile player in the world to come and play (LeBron) you get the second most versatile, LO.
Ranking the Players
The following chart ranks each player based on their 2009-10 stats compared to other American NBA players all of which are under the age of 25. (25 is an arbitrary number based on players being younger than 32 for the 2016 Olympics) In other words, certain players were left off due to recent injuries (Perkins, Brandon Roy, Chris Paul), advanced age (Garnett, Pierce, Allen, I’m looking at you, Boston!) or players from the 2008 team that wanted to stay fresh for the championship chase (basically all of them). I took a look at Points Per Game (PPG), Rebounds Per Game (RPG), Assists Per Game (APG), PER, Effective Field Goal Percentage (eFG%), Win Shares (WS), Defensive Rating (DRtg) and Offensive Rating (ORtg). (All stats via Basketball-Reference.com)
110 players qualified for these rankings and here is where the seven young members of Team USA ranked:
A few things jump right out:
- This team is great at scoring and passing.
- This is not an efficient scoring team.
- Outside of Durant and Westbrook no one else has heard of this thing called defense.
- Kevin Durant is the best player on the team on both ends of the ball.
- Kevin Love is surprisingly decent.
- Curry is really, really, really good on offense.
- Eric Gordon looks really bad on paper.
- If Curry is really 6’3” Durant must be 8’ tall.
- Rudy Gay just stole a truck load of money from Memphis.
Although it is easier said than done, this team should have considered adding a lock down defender, a better post scorer, and a spot up shooter. I would have left Granger and Gordon behind and picked up Morrow and Afflalo. Morrow is a lights out 3-pt shooter that can fill up the box score without having to have the ball in his hands all game. Afflalo is one of the best young defenders in the league. He can also drain the three ball when needed, shooting over 43% last year and 39.9% for his career. That would give you two specialists add size and increase roster flexibility.
I realize there is more to basketball than stats, skills and positions. A team has to act like a TEAM. Chemistry plays a big role in championship teams. They have to vibe and play on the same page. I just don’t know if that is what was happening here, especially when you realize all the redundancies in the point guard and small forward position and then see the blaring holes in the shooting guard and post/center positions.
Don’t get me wrong, I still expect this team to win it all. I just feel that we aren’t putting our best product out there and that is just un-American.