Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Is the U.S. National Team capable of Olympic Gold?

USA men's basketball has announced its roster for the upcoming 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China. Here's the roster, listed by their usual NBA position:
1 (point guard) - Jason Kidd, Deron Williams, Chris Paul
2 (shooting guard) Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, Michael Redd
3 (small forward) LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Tayshaun Prince
4 (power forward) Chris Bosh, Carlos Boozer
5 (center) Dwight Howard

Not bad, eh? One thing: look at the breakdown by position. Is it just me, or does the team seem to be a little thin in the post? Only three big men? Granted, 'Melo is projected as the starting power forward, and LeBron may even see time at the 4 spot, allowing Boozer to get playing time at center, but don't we need more than 3 true post players?'s Chris Sheridan pointed out the same thing here and here. What if one of the bigs gets injured? What about foul trouble? Will this doom the American side?

On the other hand, there probably isn't a team in the tournament that does not have a major issue confronting them. The following nine teams have already booked their tickets for Beijing: Angola, Argentina, Australia, China, Iran, Lithuania, Russia, Spain and USA.

The latter four teams and Argentina could be in contention for medals. However, the Argentines may not even have their usual complement of stars at the Games; Manu Ginobili's presence is questionable because of an ongoing ankle problem. Pepe Sanchez, the team's starting point guard in several tournaments, and Walter Herrmann, a valuable reserve on the gold-medal winning 2004 Olympic squad, are reportedly retiring from the national team.

Spain, the 2006 World Champion, might have injury concerns as well. Starting power forward Jorge Garbajosa may be unable to play because of a leg injury. Lithuanian center Zydrunas Ilgauskas was denied permission by his NBA team, the Cleveland Cavaliers, to play in the Olympics. The Cavs cited injury risk and insurance policy issues as reasons for the denial.

Three more teams will emerge from a qualifying tourney held in Greece, rounding out the Olympic field of 12 teams. The tournament features the following pairings for group play:

Group A: Brazil, Greece and Lebanon
Group B: Cape Verde, Germany and New Zealand
Group C: Canada, Korea and Slovenia
Group D: Cameroon, Croatia and Puerto Rico

Assuming they qualify for the Olympics, Greece could be another contender for a medal. They hauled in the silver medal from the 2006 World Championships.

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