With just 26 days remaining before the United States men’s basketball team tips off in London against France, the roster is finally starting to take shape.
Chairman Jerry Colangelo told Chris Tomasson of Fox Sports that nine players will be held over from previous Olympic and World Championship teams. Carmelo Anthony, Kobe Bryant, Tyson Chandler, Kevin Durant, Lebron James, Kevin Love, Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook and Deron Williams will all be guaranteed a spot on the 2012 Olympic roster.
This leaves five players vying for three open spots: Blake Griffin, Eric Gordon, Andre Iguodala, James Harden and Baltimore native Rudy Gay.
Gay, an Archbishop Spalding graduate, may have a difficult time cracking this Olympic roster not based on talent and productivity, but because of the makeup of the current roster.
Because of a number of injuries, the team lacks depth in the frontcourt. Griffin, despite his lack of versatility, will be needed. In order to match up with Spain’s big men -- Marc and Pau Gasol and Serge Ibaka -- Griffin will be used to eat some bench minutes. The only true 4s and 5s in the mix are Chandler, Love, Griffin and No. 1 pick Anthony Davis, who has likely been ruled out because of an ankle sprain. If needed, James, Durant and Anthony can play power forward.
Harden is a strong perimeter shooter who can facilitate an offense littered with superstars and Gordon can do somewhat of the same. Gordon does have international experience, averaging 8.5 points two years ago in Turkey.
Gay averaged seven points and three rebounds at the World Championship two years ago, but his game is very similar to that of Durant, Bryant and Anthony. All three need the ball in their hands to be successful, and there’s only one ball on the court at a time.
Iguodala is a strong defender and versatile athlete, while Gay is more of a natural scorer. Unfortunately for the Memphis Grizzlies star, Team USA figures to have enough scorers on its roster with the NBA’s six leaders in points per game.
Gay's best shot to make the team is if Colangelo opts to slot James, Anthony and/or Durant as a definite power forward, opening up an additional spot at small forward or shooting guard.
Despite lacking some valuable big men like Dwight Howard and Davis because of injury, this team should have no problem setting the pace in any game. It is still the most talented roster in these Olympics and any of the five finalists would contribute.
Here’s my guess at the final roster:
F Carmelo Anthony (New York Knicks)
G Kobe Bryant (Los Angeles Lakers)
C Tyson Chandler (New York Knicks)
F Kevin Durant (Oklahoma City Thunder)
F Lebron James (Miami Heat)
G Chris Paul (Los Angeles Clippers)
F/C Kevin Love (Minnesota Timberwolves)
G Deron Williams (Brooklyn Nets*)
G Russell Westbrook (Oklahoma City Thunder)
G/F Andre Iguodala (Philadelphia 76ers)
G James Harden (Oklahoma City Thunder)
F Blake Griffin (Los Angeles Clippers)