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Preliminary Team USA Roster

LaMarcus Aldridge
Carmelo Anthony
Chauncey Billups
Chris Bosh
Kobe Bryant
Tyson Chandler
Kevin Durant
Eric Gordon
Blake Griffin
Dwight Howard
Andre Iguodala
LeBron James
Kevin Love
Lamar Odom
Chris Paul
Derrick Rose
Dwyane Wade
Russell Westbrook
Deron Williams

According to Chris Sheridan, those are the 19 names on the preliminary Team USA roster, from which the London Olympic team will be chosen. Sheridan is not my favorite basketball writer, but he does do one thing much better than most, and that is cover the international scene.

The final roster of 12 players to compete in London isn't due until June, so presumably these 19 will participate in a training camp (to the extent that time allows it, given that the NBA Finals will also last until June), and seven more will be cut along the way. Given the current vogue for playing for your country, coach Mike Krzyzewski and Jerry Colangelo are going to have a very difficult task of trimming down this list. Already, just to arrive at the 19, there were presumably some tough calls. Look at it this way - no player from the 2008 Olympic Gold Medal team participated on the 2010 World Championship team. So with two twelve man rosters, you're starting from a pool of 24 players, presumably all very good, all of whom have already made a commitment to the program, all of whom brought home the Gold. And then there are the players who WEREN'T on either of those teams: youngsters like Blake Griffin and John Wall, All NBA players like LaMarcus Aldridge. According to Sheridan, both Griffin and Aldridge made the 19 man cut - so that means that of the original 24, only 17 were selected. So who got left off?

From the 2008 team, four players are NOT among the 19 on the preliminary roster:

Jason Kidd
Michael Redd
Tayshaun Prince
Carlos Boozer

From the 2010 team, three names are omitted:

Stephen Curry
Rudy Gay
Danny Granger

Kidd and Redd are not difficult to explain. Kidd actually UN-retired from international play to join the 2008 team, and will be 39 by the time of the London Games. He has no doubt removed himself from consideration. Redd is 32 and has barely played since the last Olympics because of numerous injuries.

Prince will turn 32 next month, and was a role player on the 2008 team, so it's perhaps not surprising that his name has been omitted. But still - he did his job in 2008, and if he wanted to be there, it's pretty hard not to include him, right?

As for Boozer, Curry, Gay and Granger, well, it kind of sucks for them. They're all still young - Boozer is barely 30 and the others are all under 30, with Curry and Gay theoretically entering their prime. Gay was a key reserve on the World Championship team along with Gordon and Westbrook (both of whom were invited), and it's hard to figure what he did to NOT be invited. Curry was clearly beaten out by Gordon as the designated shooter on the 2010 team (largely based on Gordon's superior defense) so it's understandable to have Gordon on the list ahead of him, but by the same token, if there's going to be a designated shooter on the 2012 team, I think I'd want to see Curry competing for it, especially in the absence of Redd. Boozer and Granger? Well, they played little and not particularly well in their Team USA experience, so I guess it's understandable to leave them off. Still, if they kept their noses clean, I'd at least expect them to get a camp invite.

Back to the 19, if you had to handicap the final 12 man roster, I think you'd probably start with the eight holdovers from 2008. Those just happen to be a collection of mega stars named Howard, James, Wade, Bosh, Bryant, Paul, Williams and Anthony. And they get the benefit of having been their first - 2008 Beijing just takes precedent over 2010 Turkey. Still, when you get right down to it, I think you can make a strong argument against three or four of those guys:

  • LeBron James was, by many accounts, a complete prima donna in 2008, and given that Team USA can easily win a Gold Medal without him, I'm not sure why you would want to put up with him. Oh no, wait, I do know - Nike is a major Olympic Sponsor.
  • Chris Bosh is a less than exhilarating choice on many levels, and there are just better power forward options available (such as Griffin and Aldridge). Of course, Coach K seems to adore playing perimeter basketball in international play, so Bosh as a finesse five seems to fit his style. (I don't really get that obsession with going small, fyi.)
  • Kobe Bryant, if we're worried about the age of a Tayshaun Prince or a Michael Redd, is after all 33. He also had a pretty sporadic record of answering the call when Team USA needed him prior to 2008 (if by sporadic you mean he didn't). Still, he was a beast in Beijing, played tough defense and shared the ball, so if he wants to play, he plays.
  • Carmelo Anthony - well, I don't like Carmelo, but his game is pretty much perfect for what Krzyzewski wants to do, especially if he's going to commit to defense as he did in Beijing.

At any rate, for now you reserve eight spots for those eight guys - because honestly, how do you cut any of them? That leaves four open spots.

Durant gets one of them. Once again, he's perfect for international ball, he can play the four, he can score at will, and he carried you to Gold in 2010. He's in.

Griffin is probably in as well. He's the new poster boy for the NBA, and USA Basketball will want him on the team for the marketing if nothing else. Team USA has basically abandoned any sort of post game in recent years, completely marginalizing Howard in 2008, so Griffin isn't a great fit from that regard. BUT, Team USA also wants to push the pace and fast break, and there isn't a big in the world better at finishing a break than Griffin. Imagine Griffin as the five on a team that forces a bunch of steals? Yikes.

That leaves two spots. One obvious choice would seem to be Derrick Rose, the 2011 NBA MVP and the second best player on the 2010 World Championships team. But look at all those point guards! We've already reserved spots for 2008 Olympians Paul and Williams, and then Westbrook and Billups are also in camp. Still, Rose will make the cut, because, along with Durant and Griffin, he's the future of the NBA.

So we're down to one spot. You can eliminate Westbrook and Billups because of the point guard glut. You can eliminate Odom and Chandler and Love and Aldridge because Coach K won't play bigs anyway, and he's already got Howard and Griffin and Bosh, while he wants to play Anthony and James and Durant at the four.

That leaves Iguodala and Gordon. And with Curry and Redd not even in camp, I ask you, who is the designated shooter on this team? Given the 19 they are inviting to camp, I can definitely see Eric Gordon claiming that final spot.

Of course, the team will likely be different than this. For one thing, when you're dealing with a dozen names, one or more will no doubt be injured in June precluding their inclusion. Others could drop out for personal or contractual reasons - it happens every summer. But if all these players are healthy and available, that's my predicted team.

P.S. Would you have ever in your wildest dreams have believed that there would be three current Clippers and one former Clipper on the list of 19 players from which USA Basketball is going to choose the Olympic team?