Originally posted on Taking Bad Schotz  |  Last updated 7/23/12

Through their first few exhibition games, Team USA has looked far from perfect. No one should be particularly alarmed, as these world-class athletes have only been practicing together for three weeks, and were expected to take some time to gel while adapting to the international game. While some members of Team USA may take time to acclimate to new goaltending rules and a shortened three-point line, their real adjustment will need to take place in the form of how they play within the team, and the role which they must fill. Every team has a varied set of roles that need to be filled. Some roles are occupied conjunctively by a handful of individuals, and some demand only one. How the members of Team USA adapt to their new roles, and likewise adapt to their new teammates, will determine whether or not the Gold Medal returns to the United States.

THE MAINSTAYS

LeBron James and Kevin Durant

Arguably the two best players in the world, LeBron and KD are going to be the stars of the team. Durant, in particular, should be able to feast on the shortened three-point game and average more than twenty points a game, much like the World Championships from two years ago. Over these first exhibitions, KD showed how quickly he can get on fire and put points on the board. LeBron, on the other hand, showed his playmaking ability with the ball in his hands. I assume he will be on the floor for most of every game (provided the score is close) and will play point-forward at times, and play center at others. The offense should be run through Durant and James, even during the extended periods that it appears Team USA will play small ball, and use them as joint backup centers.

Playing Time: 30+ minutes per game.

THE DEFENSIVE ANCHOR

Tyson Chandler

As the only seven-footer on the roster, Chandler plays an instrumental role as an interior defender and rebounder. His presence on defense will need to be a staple of Team USA. And while most international teams do not have anyone of Chandler’s size, Spain has a pair of seven-footers – the Gasol brothers. Come the inevitable Gold Medal game between these rivals, Tyson Chandler’s play will be vitally important.

Playing Time: 20 minutes per game.

THE COACH ON THE FLOOR

Chris Paul

CP3 has been splitting time at the point guard position with Deron Williams, and they bring very different skills to the table. Chris Paul will need to pay attention to the flow of the offense and make sure everyone gets some touches. Furthermore, CP3 will need to keep Team USA playing at the right pace. The incredible athleticism of this team will lead to instances of repeated fast-breaking and intense speed, however, this may not always be the most efficient playing style.

Playing Time: 20 minutes per game.

THE BREAK-GLASS-IN-CASE-OF-EMERGENCY CLOSER

Kobe Bryant

Obviously, Kobe is going to start every game and put up numbers, but that is not his primary role for Team USA. His main job will be as a perimeter defender and, probably at some point, the team’s closer. In the Gold Medal game of four years ago, Team USA began to collapse and lose their offensive flow. Spain was able to trim the lead to single digits in the final minutes of the game before Kobe said, “This is my time” and proceeded to take over. Even more importantly, when the time came for someone on Team USA to step up, everyone stepped out of Kobe’s way. Chances are that a similar situation will arise during these Olympic Games, and when it does, the Black Mamba will be there to close the game and do what he does best.

Playing Time: 25-30 minutes per game.

THE SPARKPLUGS

Deron Williams and Carmelo Anthony

While both have started during these exhibitions, it is likely that both will end up playing the first-off-the-bench role. D-Will and ‘Melo can both heat up in a second, and will be devastating floor spreaders for Team USA. Williams is not as good as CP3 in the defensive trap game, but he makes up for it in his offensive skills. Carmelo, during his time on the court, will have to play down low and help out in the rebounding game, which is not his strength. Team USA has been outrebounded during their exhibitions and it will be up to the perpetual non-rebounders like Carmelo, Durant, and Kobe to have an intensified focus on the boards.

Playing Time: 20 minutes per game.

THE WILD CARD

Russell Westbrook

As Kobe stated a few days ago, Westbrook is the best athlete on a team full of amazing athletes. Normally a point guard, he will not have to worry about handling the ball as often as usual with CP3 and Deron Williams taking those responsibilities. This leaves Westbrook free to focus on other parts of the game, and use his athleticism to Team USA’s advantage. Notably, Westbrook will be free to expel his energy on defense. Coach K has, in the past few weeks, taught Westbrook how to pressure the ball with intensity. Additionally, when Team USA plays its full court trap defense, Westbrook will be the recipient of many a fast-break opportunity.

Playing Time: 20 minutes per game.

THE GLUE GUYS

Andre Iguodala and Kevin Love

Iguodala’s defensive skills will be very handy for the second unit. Also, he is a good rebounder for his size and knows how to run the fast break. AI can have an impact on the game without touching the ball, which is a skill that is very valuable. Kevin Love, who was expected to be the team’s backup center, has disappointed somewhat so far. Nonetheless, he is an excellent rebounder and will be an important role player for Team USA.

Playing Time: 15 minutes per game.

THE BENCHWARMERS

James Harden and Anthony Davis

Harden is superfluous on a team with so many wing players. Davis needs only to keep himself healthy in case Chandler were to go down with an injury. Otherwise, its merely garbage time and experience for the ‘Brow.

Playing Time: 5 minutes per game (if they’re lucky).

Team USA can play a variety of styles, but from what I have seen so far in these exhibitions, they are at their most dangerous when playing small ball. The full-court pressure applied by CP3, Kobe, Williams, and Westbrook, has been merciless. They have been able to force consistent turnovers that have led to easy baskets. Only when they relent on their ball pressure has Team USA seemed at all vulnerable. Their best lineup is Chris Paul, Kobe Bryant, Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James, and Kevin Durant. If I were Coach K, this is the lineup I would end the game with, except against Spain, where Tyson Chandler’s size on defense will have increased importance. Team USA is by far the most talented in the world, and if its members can adapt to playing alongside other players of such a high caliber, then victory is inevitable. I can’t wait for their first official game on July 28th. Let’s stay Golden.

-Bouziane

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