by Carl Berman
When Team USA was selected everyone understood that this was not the best team that could represent the United States at the FIBA World Championships. LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, Dwight Howard and many other NBA superstars elected not to participate. From the initial reaction of the composition of the team, we thought the USA might have a chance to win the championship but that they would not be the favorites, and that things would have to break right for them to have a chance.
However, Coach Mike Krzyzewski has molded a team, in three short weeks, that has shown the ability to play together and to emphasize the individual strengths of all the players on the roster. We thought that this would primarily be Kevin Durant’s team on the floor and that is still the case. However the entire team is contributing. Derrick Rose has played very solid at the point and has shown that most opposing point guards cannot defend him one-on-one. Chauncey Billings has been solid in a shooting guard role. Eric Gordon has consistently hit the three-pointer and his strength makes him another player that is tough to guard. The USA’s athleticism throughout their lineup gives them the ability to utilize pressure defenses and to try to come up with turnovers to get the offense into transition and get easy baskets.
In the preliminary round, Brazil was the only team that held the USA to primarily a half-court game and kept their turnovers low. That game plan will be necessary for any team capable of defeating the Americans. The USA will not lose in a wide-open type of game. The way the brackets have developed the Americans should make it to the semi-final round without much of a problem. Angola will not have a chance and Russia should not fare much better. The true tests for the Americans will come in the semi-finals in games against Lithuania, Brazil or Argentina and then possibly in the Final against Spain, Serbia or Turkey. All those teams have good enough guard play to protect the ball and limit their turnovers. They also have the big men to exploit the weakness of the Americans which is their lack of size and inside presence. It will be particularly interesting to see a USA-Turkey final in front of an almost all-Turkey crowd support. Another match with Spain will also be a thriller as the Spanairds will likely bring their “A” game to that match.
Through the preliminary round, Kevin Durant has been the Americans leading scorer at 17.8 ppg and second leading rebounder at 6.2 rpg. Eric Gordon has been the teams most effective three-point threat, shooting 45.8% from outside the arc while scoring 10.2 ppg. The rest of the teams scoring has been evenly distributed, mainly a result of the easy victories and limited minutes for the starters. Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook have been equally effective at the point, both shooting over 58% with solid assist/turnover ratios. We thought that Kevin Love would have an expanded role and that has been the case. Love, listed at 6’10 but is really not even 6’8, has a big body and knows how to use it. He’s the best rebounder on the team and gets their offense going with his outlet passes. In limited minutes, Love is the USA’s leading rebounder at 6.6 rpg in only 10.4 minutes per game. Love also has more than twice the offensive rebounds as anyone else on the team. Expect to see more of Love, especially as the Americans advance and play some of the teams with many solid and capable big men. We’ll be very interested to see who the USA winds up playing in the semi-finals and, possibly, the Final. Whichever teams make up the remainder of the last four teams, they will be great battles for the championship, with any of the last four teams having a chance of getting the ultimate victory.
Carl Berman is a Managing Partner of NetScouts Basketball. NetScouts Basketball is the largest International and American collegiate scouting service. Information about NetScouts Basketball and their International Recruiting Service can be found at www.netscoutsbasketball.com.