Mike Krzyzewski — head coach of Team USA — has some brutal choices ahead of him next summer.
Team USA is in the 2012 London Olympics and will come in the heavy favorite, but there are some other very good teams out there that could push the USA — Spain and Argentina come to mind, veteran squads with plenty of NBA-level talent.
So who will make up the 12 man USA roster for London?
First, there are the guys who won gold in 2008 and should be given spots now: Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Dwight Howard and Chris Bosh. (I know a bunch of you just shook your head at Bosh, but there are few bigs as skilled as him and his more finesse game works well in international ball).
That’s eight of the 12 spots.
Kevin Durant, after leading Team USA to the gold at the FIBA World Championships gets a spot for sure. So just three seats left.
Chris Sheridan (former AP and ESPN writer) makes an interesting point at his site.
You can also set aside a spot for Blake Griffin, who has been described to SheridanHoops.com by people in the know as a shoo-in for the London 2012 roster.
That’s 10 of the 12. And for you counting at home, there are two point guards, two shooting guards, three small forwards, two power forwards and one center on the list (although it is more flexible than that, someone like LeBron or Durant can play the two, three or four spot depending on the lineup, and LeBron and ‘Melo were often used at the four in 2008).
Sheridan makes another good point — the USA needs to bring a bigger team to London than they did Beijing. The reason is Spain, the USA’s most serious competition for the gold, which has gotten bigger and better since 2008. Spain still has Pau Gasol, but his brother Marc had not even played in the NBA in 2008 but now is both improved and makes a fantastic high-low combination with his brother. Spain also now brings Serge Ibaka off the bench for help and they may have recent Rockets draft pick s Nikola Mirotic, who is 6’10”. They have size.
Sheridan says based on their play at the World Championships, Lamar Odom and Kevin Love have to be the candidates for another big spot. Love brings rebounding, outlet passes and can stretch the floor with his shooting, but his defense has been an issue. Odom can do just about anything, his game is very versatile.
So you pick one of them. That’s 11.
Now for the 12th spot do you go with another big — maybe Tyson Chandler, but Amar’e Stoudemire and LaMarcus Aldridge are considerations — or do you go with speed and Derrick Rose? It’s hard to leave Rose off the team, but do you put him on in place of Deron Williams to so you can go with size or do you bring three quality point guards and try to run teams into the ground? If you are going to go with speed, Russell Westbrook has to be considered as well.
There are no easy choices for Mike Krzyzewski next summer. There is plenty of talent to choose from, but what really matters is fit. That has to be the key.