The final roster for Team USA's Men's Basketball entrant into the 2012 Olympics in London has been announced. The team is not only rife with stars, but star-level role players with significant talents that should make the squad (as coached by Duke head man Mike Krzyzewski) the odds-on favorite to defend the gold medal it won during the 2008 Beijing games.
For the full roster, as listed alphabetically, and a breakdown of each player's strengths and potential mitigating factors, click the jump …
Carmelo Anthony, forward for the New York Knicks
Anthony is at a low ebb right now, because though his play late last season as a power forward with the undersized New York Knicks helped secure their playoff berth, the lasting image most have of Anthony is of the star that was unable (despite dropping nearly 28 a game, though on 42 percent shooting) to get in the way of the Miami Heat's dominant five-game series win over the Knicks. With a shortened three-point line in international hoops and his ability to aid in defensive rebounding, Anthony still remains a fit so as long as he can remember to keep his head on a swivel defensively. Backdoor plays caught Anthony off guard numerous times during the 2006 World Championships, and 2008 Beijing Olympics, though strangely Coach K failed to notice — especially in Team USA's 2006 loss.
Kobe Bryant, guard for the Los Angeles Lakers
With over 51,000 combined regular season and playoff minutes to his name, and a 2008 gold medal in his study, Kobe Bryant doesn't need this team. Hell, he doesn't really need a "study" — not when he has that helipad.
[ Photos: Photos: 2012 USA Basketball Men's National Team ]
Bryant's presence, though, with Dwyane Wade out? Team USA needs a guy to get to the line, to bait the refs, to bait the opponents, and to use those 51,000 minutes to his advantage. And, as it is with his time playing in Los Angeles, the team needs him to be more "savvy" and less "jump-shooty." Even with Steve Nash coming to Los Angeles, this still might be Bryant's best chance to stand at the top of the heap after a long tournament, so it'll be interesting to see if he comes out firing. Cannot … freakin' … wait.
Tyson Chandler, center for the New York Knicks
The 2012 NBA Defensive Player of the Year is better suited for international play than most past winners of this award, because Chandler does his dirty work in ways that don't often show up in the rebounding or blocks per game ledger. He's a chaser, one that had his problems even into his mid-20s with overplaying guards away from the hoop, but Tyson currently acts as one that can hang with curls and penetration with the best of them.
He won't send back a ton of shots, but he'll change twice as many as a result, and he's a desperately needed helper on a team that could go with a small lineup for most of its crunch time play.
Kevin Durant, forward for the Oklahoma City Thunder
Durant's seemingly effortless touch from long range will have to be on point during this tournament, because Team USA will rely on him as their go-to gunner while playing against either matchup or man-to-man defenses. And because Durant's work off the ball is still a work in progress, he'll be asked to do most of his damage a good step or two behind the shorter international three-point line, only able to collect and rise for the shot because of his significant 6-11-ish frame.
Durant's ticked, though, just a few weeks removed from watching as his Thunder lost four straight to end their title hopes, and we're intrigued as to how this influences his play.
The Los Angeles Clippers jumper will be feast or famine in international play. He still hasn't learned to go all the way around on a jump hook, his jumper is a work in progress, and he could fall victim to a few 1-6 nights from the free throw line. And Blake's help-side defense? Pitiful. Absolutely terrible.
Have you seen Blake Griffin play basketball, though? Reinforce those rims, London. He's going to be brilliant, and the punters will be well-chuffed. Adding Griffin was a no-brainer, and we can't wait to see him suit up again.
James Harden, guard for the Oklahoma City Thunder
The Oklahoma City Thunder's sixth man could also act as this team's sixth man during the various exhibition and tournament play, a nod to just how deep the Thunder are, and how Harden's scoring gifts are so coveted.
[ Photos: NBA pros who withdrew from Olympic consideration ]
Notice that we said "scorer," and not "shooter;" because though James hit 39 percent of his three-pointers last year (a career high, in his third season), he is at his best keeping opponents on their heels with crafty drives and trips to the free throw line. With the shortened arc and less willingness from the referees to send players to the line six times in a quarter, Harden's long-range stroke has to be white hot during this turn.
Andre Iguodala, forward for the Philadelphia 76ers
Rudy Gay can score off of broken plays, an underrated element that would have worked quite well on a Team USA searching for high-end role players, but Andre Iguodala's all-around talents were too formidable to ignore. AI can handle in a pinch, when an opponent's zone takes the ball out of a dribbly point guard's mitts, and also run a transition break well just as long as he's not calling his own number for a long three-pointer. And Iguodala's defensive versatility is nearly without NBA peer.
LeBron James, forward for the Miami Heat
LeBron James has been considered the undisputed best player in basketball for years, though it took him a while to consistently act like the best player in basketball given the context of his surroundings. His current context means that he'll be asked to play the all-around defensive demon and precision passer in this team, not unlike Scottie Pippen's Team USA appearance in 1992 (Pippen was injured and a little lacking in 1996).
James will see time guarding centers, and he'll hopefully be asked to replay the sort of perimeter defense on opposing guards that shut down Derrick Rose at times during the 2011 playoffs. He might go the entire run without leading Team USA in scoring, and he'll still be their best player by a full stride.
Kevin Love, forward for the Minnesota Timberwolves
The Minnesota forward's defense did improve in 2011-12, don't let them tell you differently, but he's still a function of that man-to-man NBA as he often leaves his guy to go chase down caroms. He's also a significant athlete, though, that can adapt on the fly and fit in to whatever his team needs as a designated rebounder — be it in the midst of a zone or sticking to his charge. Love could have an absolute field day on the glass during the Olympics, and the fact that this big man has combined to shoot 39 percent from behind the arc over his last two NBA seasons doesn't hurt, either.
Chris Paul, guard for the Los Angeles Clippers
There is significant worry that Chris Paul is a function of the NBA's rules. That he's allowed to worm his way through NBA-styled man-to-man defenses and take advantage of stationary defenders worried about jamming up the paint and being called for what's left of the league's illegal defense rule. On top of that, Paul routinely gets to the line because of the NBA's strident hand check calls.
[ Related: US guard Chris Paul has sprained right thumb ]
Name another American, though, that you would trust to make the perfect pass with the expert amount of precision needed to find a teammate when things aren't going smoothly. Name another point guard you want with the ball in his hands, dribbling inside out, and rising for that floater. Paul's that guy. The best point guard in the NBA will be running the show in London.
Russell Westbrook, guard for the Oklahoma City Thunder
The international community has never seen anyone like Russell Westbrook, which can swing both ways. Yes he'll make the occasional odd decision, but he'll also turn a defensive rebound grabbed at the free throw into a lay-in on the other end before the international scorer even has time to reset the shot clock. And though flopping is prevalent in international play, the emphasis on taking advantage of annoying NBA rules and sliding in under driving defenders is not. Free from potential charge calls, Westbrook could go wild.
Deron Williams, guard for the Brooklyn Nets
Williams might be the team's most pivotal player. Unlike Durant — the NBA's leading scorer that still someone who needs to be set up — or any of the other slashers on the squad that can handle the ball, Williams' mixture of ballhandling ability and potential lights-out shooting from the outside could give the squad the spark it needs for runs to put teams away.
Williams has fallen off since shooting 37 percent from long range over his first three NBA seasons, but his stroke's fundamentals are good and you wonder if the shortened line could lead to a series of Steve Nash-styled pull-up jumpers that turn seven-point leads into 17-point leads.
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