We know who already had their tickets punched for London. Nine spots on the Team USA Olympic hoops roster have been secured and you can’t really argue with any of them: LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Love and Tyson Chandler.
That means three spots are left with six players still on the roster: Blake Griffin, Andre Iguodala, Rudy Gay, Eric Gordon, James Harden and Anthony Davis.
“You could build a case for each of the contenders if you will, depending on what you want,” USA Basketball president Jerry Colangelo told the AP. “It’s like a menu: Another shooter, it’s Eric Gordon. You want a scoring guard, it’s Harden. You want a defensive specialist, it’s Iguodala. You want another guy with length who can shoot the ball and run the court, it’s Rudy Gay.”
Coach Mike Krzyzewski and Colangelo said they wanted to spend a couple days looking at guys in practice before they make their decisions, which get announced Saturday night. That’s the prudent thing to do.
We’re not so prudent. Here is who we think should make the team.
First note: Anthony Davis sat out the first day of USA camp Friday with a sprained ankle. He was a reach to make this team anyway, so we’re taking him out of the mix. He’ll get his shot in four years (we hope).
WHO SHOULD BE IN:
Blake Griffin. The United States is going to play a little bit small in the Olympics — lots of Kevin Love at center, LeBron James or Carmelo Anthony at the four. But with all the injuries to this team — Dwight Howard, LaMarcus Aldridge, Chris Bosh are all out — the USA needs some size. Griffin will be that. And in the first game he will some poor French guy the new Frederic Weiss. Clippers fans should be happy, for a guy who wants to win and has the work ethic of Griffin being around this caliber of players will grow him.
Eric Gordon. In international competitions where most of the opponents the USA faces can’t come close to matching up with them athletically, the USA will see a lot of zone played against them. There are a few ways to beat a zone, the best being drives or cuts into the heart of the paint, but the other is to shoot over the top. That’s what Gordon can do, a career 37 percent shooter from three who did this for Team USA in Turkey two years ago. He can spell Kobe at the two and stretch the floor. I leave James Harden off, but it’s close.
Andre Iguodala. The other decision is really Rudy Gay or Iguodala, and I lean Iggy for the reasons Jerry Colangelo mentions above — scoring will not be a problem for this team so I’ll take another wing defender you can bring off the bench. There are good defenders on this team — Kobe, LeBron — but you can never have enough defenders. Sorry Rudy, nothing personal.