05 August 2008

USA Olympic basketball

I must admit, I'm underwhelmed by the current edition of the U.S. Olympic basketball squad.

Sure, the mantra from everyone involved has been "This time, we've got it right!" After the embarrassment that was 2004, we've been waiting for the chance to reclaim what we believe is rightfully ours.

But you know what?

Things have changed since 1992.

Other national teams have gotten better. Specifically, they've gotten better at the international game, which is much different from the NBA.

The international game is all about good ball rotation and outside shooting. In the four exhibition games I've watched so far, none of the teams have even really attempted to establish a low-post game. Big men from other countries are spot-up, mid-range shooters (Okur, Nowitski, Yao).

Essentially, other teams are built around one or two big guys who can pass and shoot jumpers, a couple facilitators (point guards, usually) and a ton of shooters.

Meanwhile, the current makeup of the U.S. Olympic basketball team is as follows:

1. LeBron: dunker extraordinaire, not so good at the outside shot. Sure, he's come a long ways, but he's far from automatic.

2. Wade: Getting-to-the-hoop-guy extraordinaire. Not a consistent outside shooter.

3. Carmelo Anthony: More consistent with his jump shot, but not out to the 3-point line.

4. Kobe: Threat from anywhere on the court.

5. Jason Kidd: Can't shoot to save his life.

6. Chris Paul: Great from 10 feet, not a shooter otherwise.

7. Deron: Threat from anywhere on the court.

8. Dwight Howard: post-up guy, can't hit a jumper worth beans.

9. Bosh: Decent mid-range shot.

10. Boozer: great shooter until April of last year.

11. Prince: Decent shooter, but not great from the 3.

12. Redd: Great outside shooter. Excellent addition to the team.

See the problem? This team, the team that was supposed to be built for the Olympics, is built like an NBA All-Star team. Sure, at least this year's team has legitimate point guards (sorry, Marbury, sorry A.I.), but we're short on great outside shooters.

If I were in charge of making the roster, I'd get rid of Dwight, Kidd and Boozer and replace them with Kyle Korver, Raja Bell and Jason Kapono.

That would be a team ready for the international game. Imagine the wide-open looks the shooters (six now, instead of three) would consistently get from Deron, Paul, Kidd, LeBron, etc. And once these zone-busters started raining 3-pointers, opposing defenses wouldn't be able to play zone and clog the lane. LeBron, Wade, Paul, etc. would have a clear path to the hoop.

As it stands, Redd and Kobe are the only real threats to hit from deep at the shooting guard position. Deron can bomb it, but more often than not he's running the offense. And lately Kobe has been jacking terrible 25-footers instead of taking shots within the offense, so that means Redd is the only threat, which means defenses can key in on him, limiting his effectiveness.

So we'll have to see how our guys do in Beijing. The squad squeaked past a Bogut-less Australia this morning, 87-76. Why was it so close? Because Team USA went 3-for-18 from the 3-point line. Live by the three, die by the three. That's the international game. Australia packed the lane with a zone defense that the US couldn't break, as drives by Wade, LeBron, etc. led to turnover after turnover. It was a perfect blueprint on how to slow down the Americans.

You think other nations were paying attention?


Filbert Karo said...

Dwight? I thought you loved him.

Brandon said...

I do, but he's terrible for the international game. Can't hit free throws, can't hit jumpers. Dunks are nice, but I'd rather have a long-range bomber.

Josh said...

uh.... Dwight is a beast. I don't care if he can't shoot. He can post up and school anybody

Seth said...

Hey, what if they add Lee Cummard?
He's a stud. And an awesome shooter.
Led BYU in 3 point percentage. Doesn't rush things. Brilliant team player. And can play stellar 'D'.
What do ya say?

LaPaube said...

Excellent points, B. Really, you'd have to grab every American shooter in the NBA so that you could have at least a couple get hot every game. I really think you'd be in business with that team you outlined. But I still think this team was far better designed parts-wise than previous ones.

Brandon said...

Seth: Not a bad thought. But they'd never take a college kid these days.

G: I agree that this team is better designed than 2004 and 2000, but nevertheless, it's far from ideal.

Filbert Karo said...

Hey Seth, they wouldn't add him. He needs a taste of being a pro first.

LaPaube said...

Tayshaun would look great too if he played in the MWC. Pretty much any NBA player could do what Cummard did against that competition.

Filbert Karo said...

Yeah if Tayshaun played in the MWC, he would be a legend. He would be too good because he played in the NBA and was a great player on a great team.

Graham said...

You emphasize the importance of ball rotation in the international game (which is true) and then want to get rid of a great ball mover in Kidd. Are you kidding? The man plays the point exactly how it should be played. Run the floor and then move the ball to the best positioned player. You don't want the point shooting all the time, you want him passing it and running the offense.

And Dwight Howard was not brought in to play the offensive side of the ball. The man is (in the words of Eric Weddle) the DEFENSE. He is to post up the other big men in the international game, such as Yao Ming and Luis Scola.

Brandon said...

Kidd, in his prime was perfect for the international game.

Kidd today, not so much. Note his performance this morning against China: O points, 0 assists, 3 turnovers. Dude's just old. If you can't get a single assist in 13 minutes while playing with LeBron, Kobe, Wade, etc., AND can't shoot worth beans, you do not fit on the Redeem Team.

I'll agree that Howard's defense is excellent (for someone so young), but his lack of ability to contribute in any other way in the international game means he's the odd man out. Bosh can man up down low just as well.

Besides, it's not like other teams have a plethora of big men we need to defend. The fact you had to resort to using Scola as an example of one of the big guys that Team USA will face proves that. :)

LaPaube said...

I move to censor the words "Eric" and "Weddle."

Anonymous said...

If there is one person that is missing from the US team, it is Ray Allen. He would light up the FIBA 3-point line.

I was really disappointed that he is not on the team. I don't know if he was asked or not.

Filbert Karo said...

Ray Allen and Gilbert Arenas, that is anonymous