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Tonight, the USA Basketball committee will announce the finalized roster for the United States in the 2012 London Olympics. This season is an odd one for the selection committee, as superstars such as Derrick Rose, Dwight Howard, Chris Bosh, and Dwayne Wade not being able to play due to injury, and USA Basketball veteran Lamar Odom opting not to try out, the door has opened for some candidates who seemed like long shots to make the team a year ago.
For the Clippers, star point guard Chris Paul is essentially a lock for the squad, and star power forward Blake Griffin seems safe considering the lack of bigs on the roster.
The final 15 players in consideration are:
PG: Deron Williams, Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook
SG: James Harden, Eric Gordon, Kobe Bryant
SF: LeBron James, Andre Iguodala, Rudy Gay, Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony
PF: Blake Griffin, Kevin Love, Anthony Davis
C: Tyson Chandler
So, the task that the selection committee faces is choosing three of the above players to cut. The first choice is fairly obvious- cut Davis, the unproven rookie. Since Davis has a hurt ankle, he should be able to save himself a trip to London.
Remember in international ball, lineups are typically smaller than in the NBA. In 2008, team USA typically started LeBron at PF and Anthony at SF. In this Olympics, we can assume that they will do the same. Still, five small forwards is too many to have on the roster, and an obvious place for a cut. I think that Rudy Gay will be the cut from that spot (I like Iggy's defensive tools better), but that's purely speculation.
The next cut can be made by looking at the two worst players on this roster, Eric Gordon and James Harden. Not to say that they aren't tremendous NBA players, or even All-Star caliber players, but you have to be the very best to make team USA. You can't save Gay and cut both of them, because then you're short on guards. So cut Gay, and then choose: Gordon or Harden?
I had a hard time deciding this one. Of course Gordon is better- I know that. But do I know that? I've seen Harden play, what, a dozen times? Mostly while rooting against him. I rooted for Gordon every time I've seen him play. Am I biased? Of course I'm biased.
The best, fairest choice I can make is to cut EJ and keep Harden. Gordon is in the midst of a huge ordeal with the Hornets lowballing him and "his heart is in Phoenix" but New Orleans is going to match etc., etc.. So, leave that baggage in the states, and take the more versatile Harden with you.
The real argument for Gordon is that he is a shooting specialist. But with the short three point line, basically the whole roster (sans Griffin and Chandler) is composed of shooting specialists.
Tune in to NBATV Saturday night at 7PM eastern (4PM pacific) to see the official announcements- and check back on how accurate my predictions were.