Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Can Team USA Win Without Many Bigs?

Team USA has left the states and is continuing their preparations for the World Championships. As the roster is being to slimmed down to 12, JaVale McGee, who appeared to be a center who could stick, was cut. Many questioned this choice, myself included. How can we fight in the paint with little to no big bodies?

This FIBA tournament is unique in answering that question. Many top seven footers of the world aren't playing. Pau Gasol and Yao Ming, two of the most skilled big men in the game, are out for this. Another factor that is often an after thought: versatile threes in the NBA can play the four internationally. That means that KD will see time at the four spot, which adds another dimension to the team's depth.

The scary thought is dealing with a bulky center. A team that could pose a problem for the US is Puerto Rico. In watching them play China last weekend, an asset to their squad was two seven footers. Peter John Ramos and Daniel Santiago are decent players that bring size and overall skill to the post. When NBA TV called the game, at one point they thought the two seven footers were brought on the floor together. While that wasn't the case, the thought of Puerto Rico using them together against the US (assuming they get out of group play), could certainly expose the weakness of our roster.

A counter attack that the US can use against this threat would be to downsize, since matching up with another team often admits defeat. If Coach K is faced with tough centers, he could use the weakness of size to his advantage. By playing a small lineup against a bigger one, the edge in quickness and outside shooting ability could potentially outweigh the beating the US could take on defense.

I'm not suggesting we go Don Nelson on the world. Downsizing is just an option that could make that strategy disappear quickly. Defense is going to be a strong point for this team, but that will shine more on the perimeter than the inside.

Lastly, let's not forget how strong the guard play on this team will be. We have seen maybe a quarter of the fluidity on offense that I expect to see in the tournament. Turnovers have been plentiful but that won't happen once this team buckles down. Consequently, the guards look much better. It will allow the team to execute the offense much more, leading to stronger defense, too.

Team USA is moving in a winning direction. They have shown basically nothing so far in the friendlies they've played in, but the potential is strong. With a smart strategy to cope with a slight lack in size, they will eliminate that pitfall from digging itself. Team USA is my pick to win. Only a talented, defensive-minded and seasoned team has a chance to threaten their chances.