Team USA demolished Nigeria in their third preliminary game on Thursday, absolutely embarrassing Nigeria by a score of 156-73. The bench alone, which consisted of seven Americans, accounted for 111 of those points.
After Thursday’s 83-point victory and record-breaking performance by Carmelo Anthony (37 points on 10 of 12 shooting from three-point land), a question snuck into my head: With such depth on Team USA’s roster, which players would I start to give the United States the best chance to win?
And then I drew up this starting roster, consisting of two guards and three forwards:
Although Deron Williams may be outproducing Chris Paul on the stat sheet, the Los Angeles Clippers point guard is the best general and leader on the team when the ball is in his hands. Paul really hasn’t had to do anything special to help his team win, but once the United States starts playing opponents that will pose a serious challenge, we will see Paul start to take over. By take over I don’t mean that Paul will put up a lot of points, but that he will be the premier distributor on Team USA. Paul is quick and crafty with the ball, so when he has athletic teammates like LeBron James on his side we will start to see an even larger increase in the speed of their games.
SG — Kobe Bryant
The veteran leader on this year’s American squad, Bryant is still one of the best shooters in the game. But not being the only star on the team, which is something that Kobe has been used to for his whole career, has caused Bryant to make some adjustments in his game. He is averaging 6.3 shot attempts, down 16.7 shots from the 2011-12 regular season. He is willing to sacrifice taking shots for the greater good of the team, knowing that every player on Team USA has the goal of gold. Kobe is the by far the best two guard on the American roster at age 33, making him the most experienced on the roster.
Let’s be honest. LeBron can play any position on the roster sheet, even including center. He may be the leader of this team once the 2016 games roll along. James has shown that he is ready to be the most mature player on the court. He can be the floor general (averaged 5.7 assists), can cause turnovers on defense (averaged 1.3 assists) and can shoot the ball at over 50 percent from the field (shooting 60 percent through three games). He is doing this all with having limited playing time due to early blowouts of opponents. LeBron is the best basketball player in the world right now, so it only makes sense that he would be a starter on Team USA.
SF — Kevin Durant
Durant is the best player on this roster when it comes to scoring points, so not putting him in the starting lineup would be a huge mistake on any coaches’ part. He is the only starter to have scored in double digits in all three games, averaging 16.3 points. This is his first shot at playing for Team USA, so he is determined to make an impact and show his country that he will settle for nothing less than gold.
3F — Carmelo Anthony
This is where a lot of people would disagree with me. Taking center and only true big man Tyson Chandler out of the starting lineup is a huge risk, especially against teams like Spain and Brazil who thrive on their inner-game dominance. But Carmelo has proven that he is the most accurate shooter on this team, and he can bury teams fast off the bench. Anthony may be Team USA’s best weapon whenever he comes off the bench, but I feel like going with a speed-first starting lineup will wear down teams with true big men. No other team in the Olympics can match the speed and athleticism that the Americans display every game, so going with a quick starting lineup of Paul, Bryant, James, Durant and Anthony will help to put away teams early in the game.