Culture of Hoops

What Is Wrong With USA Basketball?

Screen capture courtesy of USA Basketball/YouTube.

[dropcap]A[/dropcap]fter some close calls during the opening week of the Olympic games, just what is wrong with Team USA’s Men’s Basketball Team? Nothing. This is just who they are. A group of celebrity NBAers expecting to win and looking for a good time. Too rich to stay in the Olympic Village, they are currently residing on a private cruise ship. Is that wrong? Maybe. But the fact is they are still undefeated this summer. Does that mean that they will remain perfect and go home champions? Most likely. They are still the clear favorite to take home Gold. But are they the greatest team of all time? Not even close. They were never supposed to be.

However, they are still the best team in the world with the best players in the world. The only players on earth that are better are sitting at home. Those players, who would make one hell of a roster themselves, being LeBron James, Stephen Curry, Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade, Kawhi Leonard, Anthony Davis, James Harden, Russell Westbrook, Blake Griffin, LaMarcus Aldridge, Andre Drummond, Kevin Love, Damian Lillard, John Wall and even Kobe Bryant, to name a few. That’s a lot of talent, but would they make a huge difference?

Obviously they miss LeBron the most, every team would no matter the situation, but Carmelo Anthony is the country’s all-time Olympic scoring leader and has been Team USA’s best player thus far at the same position that LeBron would be playing. What Managing Director Jerry Colangelo’s and Head Coach Mike Krzyzewski’s questionably constructed team is missing the most is a true point guard that is willing to run the offense and sacrifice his own: Stephen Curry and/or Chris Paul.

Kyrie Irving is having himself a great summer after winning a title and hitting some big shots so far in the Olympics, but isolation ball isn’t a winning formula in World play and Team USA has skated by so far. That’s not to say that the team’s slump is only his fault – because it surely isn’t.

Kevin Durant and Carmelo are the kings of “hero ball” and playing them together alongside a more confident than ever point guard in Irving who just hit the game winner in Game 7 of the NBA Finals isn’t exactly going to get the offense flowing.

Screen capture courtesy of USA Basketball/YouTube.

Screen capture courtesy of USA Basketball/YouTube.

Klay Thompson thrives off of the extra screens and passes and has been struggling to find a great offensive rhythm more often than not but finally broke out and dropped 30 on Sunday night against France. And you know what contributed to that? Irving dishing out 12 assists while only attempting six shots and turning the ball over zero times. That is exactly what the team needs him to do.

A lack of passing bigs has also hurt Team USA. DeMarcus Cousins, who leads the team in turnovers with 10, isn’t used to passing out of the double team because he has never had anyone worth passing to on Sacramento; playing alongside other talented players appears to be new to DMC. The lack of success in Sacramento has also displayed his lack of defense in World play. While not terrible, he hasn’t been great and has coincidentally been getting beat by bigs who can pass like Australia’s Andrew Bogut, who seemingly always gets under Boogie’s skin, and France’s Boris Diaw, who had seven assists on Sunday.

On the other hand, Cousin’s fellow big man DeAndre Jordan is used to having the best passing point guard in the league in Chris Paul feeding him easy lobs and has never had the offense running through him. He’s strictly an alley-oop and offensive putback machine and a tremendous defensive anchor.

Depth wise, with a second unit mix and match of Jordan, Draymond Green, Jimmy Butler, Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan and Paul George, USA’s defense clearly improves, but their offense takes a huge dip.

Coach K should seriously consider shaking up his lineup by bringing Durant, who has been struggling with the first unit anyway, off the bench. Adding either Green or George to the starting lineup would give the first unit some much needed defensive intensity and Durant would be a spark for the second unit’s ice-cold offense that saw no one reach double figures on Sunday.

All of these close games have allowed for Coach K, Tom Thibodeau, and the rest of the staff to figure out what adjustments need to be made. The most glaring adjustment needs to be the shortening of their rotation. Harrison Barnes isn’t the only one who deserves a DNP. Luckily for Team USA their quest for Gold lasts longer than just one race and a few seconds. Think of their time in Rio more like a marathon rather than a sprint; there is still a lot of race ahead of them. And, after all, they are still undefeated. A few close games early on are much better than a single close one in the Gold Medal Game when they haven’t faced any adversity and have no idea how to respond.

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  1. Pingback: Team USA Proves the World Right, Prevails - The BMF

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