Jerry Colangelo says that while the injuries the U.S. team has sustained are unfortunate, the pool of talent is sufficient to overcome it. As a matter of fact - and we probably agree with this - the Select Team might be able to win as well.
Consider the talent on that group: Kyrie Irving, Ryan Anderson, DeJuan Blair, DeMarcus Cousins, DeMar DeRozan, Derrick Favors,Â Paul George, Taj Gibson, Gordon Hayward, Kawhi Leonard, Jeremy Lin, Klay Thompson and John Wall.
We'd be thrilled to have Irving and Wall run with Cousins, Blair and Leonard, for instance.
And even if you just look at the Select Team as a second bench, how many benches do you ever see with talents like Irving and Cousins? The guy is emotionally erratic, but no one questions his ability.
Those are the backup singers to the main group: LaMarcus Aldridge, Carmelo Anthony, Chauncey Billups, Chris Bosh, Kobe Bryant, Tyson Chandler, Anthony Davis, Kevin Durant, Rudy Gay, Eric Gordon, Blake Griffin, James Harden, Andre Iguodala, LeBron James, Kevin Love, Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade, Russell Westbrook and Deron Williams.
Remember last time, when there was such criticism over a supposed lack of big men? Dwight Howard, who will be out, was the main focus, but versatile sidekicks like Bosh made up the difference.
This time, the U.S. will have some very different options, including perhaps most importantly Kevin Durant and Blake Griffin.
Durant may be the player most like Jordan since Jordan left the game in the sense that he has a Jordanesque passion to perfect his game.
He also has a talent which isn't necessarily obvious but which is tremendously important: he's made the Thunder as tight as any professional team in memory. The ability to bring people together like that is rare. We're pretty sure the coaching staff is paying attention. It's leadership of course, but it's more than that.
That's not Griffin. During this season, he's taken a lot of criticism for perceived weaknesses in his game, and it's safe to say that he's not as polished as is Durant.
But he's a huge force down low. We're pretty sure that there's not a player like him in the international game. How could there be? There's really only one on our side of things.
His offensive value is obvious: the guy can be an absolute bull around the basket.
Yet it could be that his biggest contribution is as a rebounder. We're not saying absolutely, but given his energy, if you ask him to pound the boards, to focus mainly on that and defense, he could find a huge role.
The core of the team, in K tradition, is likely to be versatile, flexible players. Think James, Wade, Iguodala and Kobe, who will have to things going for him after the Lakers were eliminated Monday night: rest and a burning desire for redemption and legacy.
But despite the absence of Howard, the U.S. has a chance to build the inside game around two superb defenders: Tyson Chandler and Anthony Davis.
Played together, they shut down the interior. But let's say that you go with Anthony and surround him with Durant, James, Wade and Paul. There's no inside game and you can really push the three pointers all the way to Ipswich.
When he wears down or gets pushed around by some 35 year old Bulgarian, then you can turn to Chandler or Griffin to deal with the bully boy.
We're not saying that they won't miss Howard; of course they will. But there is another path.
The other thing that Coach K realized fairly early on in his tenure (49-1 to date, incidentally), was that you had to have bigger guards in the international game.
Not having Rose will hurt. He's a monster talent and we couldn't feel worse for him after his devastating injury. But again the U.S. has alternatives.
Bryant, Wade, Gordon and Williams are all guys who fit the bill. And while he's smaller, Paul will be ready and rested as well.
Finally, given his overall skills, we could certainly see James being used at the backcourt at times. Imagine this lineup: Davis, Griffin, Iguodala, James and Williams.
There are a lot of guys we haven't even mentioned, not least of all Kevin Love.
Who knows? There are a lot of tempting possibilities with this group. As always with a Krzyzewski-coached team, versatility and defense are key, and a willingness to accept a role is key, as Bryant demonstrated last time out.
|DBR Is On Twitter!(DBRTweetz)|