Anthony Davis Named a Finalist for USA Olympic Team: Should He Make It?Posted by EJacoby on May 3rd, 2012
Evan Jacoby is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him @evanjacoby on Twitter.
As international basketball continues to gain steam, so does widespread intrigue in the Summer Olympic Games. The upcoming 2012 London Olympics will include some tremendous competition for the heavily favored United States, such as a Spanish team that can boast a monster front line of Pau Gasol, Marc Gasol, and Serge Ibaka. To counter that front line, and as a side effect of several unfortunate injuries, the Americans are in need of some serious size of their own. As a result, college basketball’s reigning National Player of the Year and projected No. 1 NBA draft pick Anthony Davis has already been named as one of the 20 finalists for Team USA this summer. Would Davis be a good fit for this team, and could “The Unibrow” possibly make the cut? Historical precedent says it could happen, and a roster breakdown shows that Davis might just be the big man inside that Team USA is missing.
The USA Basketball Committee, led by chairman Jerry Colangelo and head coach Mike Krzyzewski, already selected the 20 finalists for the team back in January but several significant injuries has left Team USA in need of more bodies to compete for the final 12-man roster by the June 18 deadline. Specifically, there is a glaring lack of healthy size on the roster given injury troubles to Dwight Howard (back) and LaMarcus Aldridge (hip). The only true center currently on the roster is Tyson Chandler, with power forwards Blake Griffin, Kevin Love, Chris Bosh, and Lamar Odom in the fold as well. But there are issues with all of these forwards — Odom was released by the Dallas Mavericks after a terrible season, Griffin brings more ‘flash’ than production as an interior player, and Love and Bosh both thrive offensively on the perimeter. There is an absolute need for an interior presence to back up Chandler.
Who fits the mold as ‘reserve, interior force and rim protector’ better than Kentucky’s recent Player of the Year, Anthony Davis? Davis will be the top pick in June’s NBA Draft as a 6’10” forward with a 7’4” wingspan who averaged 4.7 blocks per game for the National Champions. He alters opposing shots all over the floor, completely changing games on that end without requiring offensive touches. He was very efficient with those touches in college, compiling a strong offensive rating for his productivity at the rim on lobs, putbacks, and short two-point shots. He could be a perfect fit as a 10-15 minute per game contributor patrolling the paint in the Olympics.
There’s also historical precedent for non-professional players to play on the USA Olympic team. Until the Dream Team’s advent in 1992, every USA men’s basketball team was comprised of collegians. It was the Americans’ bronze medal finish in 1988 — only the second non-gold medal in Olympic history — that led to the addition of professionals such as Michael Jordan, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson on to Team USA. Christian Laettner was selected as a reserve for that team, having just completed his senior year at Duke where he was the NPOY and a two-time national champion. The next and last college player to ever make the Olympic squad was Connecticut’s Emeka Okafor in 2004. Davis’ inclusion this summer in London could be quite comparable to Okafor in 2004, a NPOY/national champion who made the cut for his defensive prowess as a reserve center.
The question will be whether or not Coach K and the Olympic Committee feel that Davis is physically and mentally ready to compete at the international level. Unlike Laettner and Okafor, who were upperclassmen in their tryouts, Davis is just one year removed from high school. He’s a 19-year-old with a skinny frame that still has much to develop with his game and his body — besides needing to put on weight, Davis is learning how to score in the post. Against international squads that have experienced NBA and international centers, Davis will find a tremendous challenge dealing with those elite players. Then again, the ‘Brow played against and dominated upperclassmen during his single year at UK, so his basketball intelligence and patience at the defensive end could translate effectively even against bigger and more refined players.
We’ll have to wait and see what happens with Davis’ tryout for Team USA, but he should have a very good chance to make the squad. The locks to make the team — LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, Dwyane Wade, to name a few — all fill similar roles as world-class scorers and playmakers on both ends. But as we know, a truly great basketball team needs those glue guys, hustle players and, most importantly, defensive stalwarts to support the stars. Dwight Howard’s recovery from back surgery will leave a gaping hole at center, so Anthony Davis will have a chance to compete with Chris Bosh, Greg Monroe, and an ailing LaMarcus Aldridge for that twelfth roster spot on June 18. It says here that he gives them a run for their money.