Matthew Kitchen, NBC Olympics
We were hoping to have this team in place weeks ago, but USA Hoops has been decimated by injuries and bad vibes for the better part of 2012. Of the 22 finalists named only 15 were left standing when the dust cleared from the NBA season. Nine have already been named to the team, but there’s still six guys vying for the final three spots. How good are each of their chances to represent their country in London?
Blake Griffin (Lock)
Not only is Griffin a veritable lock, but we think he’ll be the most popular kid coming home from London. Fans of international basketball rarely get to enjoy dunks the likes Griffin can provide, and Coach K will pair him with his Clippers teammate Chris Paul to make sure the alley-oops come early and often. Griffin’s not all acrobatics, of course, and gives the team big body that can score and rebound as well as anyone. No way they leave him home.
Anthony Davis (3-1)
Davis is only 19 and doesn’t have a whole lot of experience, but the kid can play. At 6-10, he’ll provide much-needed size off the bench. He can also play all five positions and pretty much block anyone on the planet, so there’s that. The only real question with Davis is the severity of his recent ankle injury, but reports are that he’ll be at full strength in a few weeks. Phew. Team USA kind of needs him. Also, that brow.
Andre Iguodala (4-1)
Iggy’s 2012 numbers were less than stellar, but the team needs a wing defender at guard to fill in for Dwyane Wade, so Iguodala is probably the answer. He’s long, quick, and has averaged almost two steals per game his entire career. The Sixers swingman probably won’t see the court much while backing up Kobe Bryant, but Iguodala can line up against the best player on any team and that makes him valuable in London.
Eric Gordon (4-1)
If Coach Krzyzewski thinks he’s short on shooters instead of defenders he’ll go with Gordon, one of the best young scorers in the league. The Hornets guard (or Suns, maybe) can hit shots from anywhere, forcing defenders out of the paint and opening the floor up for guys like LeBron James to basically destroy everyone in his path. Gordon was injured most of the season but came back late and should be fine for the Games.
James Harden (10-1)
The streakiest of the six remaining finalists, but arguably the most exciting, Harden would provide a solid spark off the bench for Team USA. We’re just not entirely sure that’s something this team needs, and a guard heavy roster loaded with the world’s best ones and twos isn’t looking for a body at the end of the bench. Harden is a hard worker and provides team chemistry, but there’s just no room for him.
Rudy Gay (20-1)
Gay was a member of the 2010 world championship team and continues to get better, but the team is already stacked at small forward with James, Kevin Durant, and Carmelo Anthony. Gay lacks the size and versatility to play the power spot, and doesn’t bring in any specialties the team is lacking, but he could sneak onto the team if Coach K thinks he’s too heavy on guards and just needs bigger bodies.
Stay tuned for the announcement Saturday evening from Las Vegas. Or just come back here later.
The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.