The United States’ roster is incredibly talented from top-to-bottom. The incongruous nature of the roster — as there is only one legitimate interior big, Tyson Chandler, on the roster — appears to be the only legitimate deterrent to their pursuit of a gold medal. (I covered their size problem last week.)
The Spanish team, in particular, will trot out two bonafide big men in Marc and Pau Gasol in addition to the indefatigable Serge Ibaka. That kind of girth could be the impetus behind an upset victory over Team USA.
Size is paramount in basketball. Size acts a metaphorical crutch and, without size, winning becomes considerably more difficult. Instead of reinforcing weakness, size highlights strength. Plus, you can get away with poor defense if you have an imposing interior defender to clean up for brief moments of defensive ineptitude.
The only inestimable quality that is more preferable than size? Talent. Talent is an intricate quality of any team. If you are blessed with a confluence of talent then that can mitigate any potential weakness. Their surplus talent makes the conundrum nearly irrelevant.
Exhibit A: Spain has the Gasol brothers to alleviate stretches of inefficiency. Meanwhile the United States had the luxury of bringing Kevin Durant off the bench in their 54-point route over the Dominican Republic yesterday.
Other than lacking ideal length, the United States roster has a paucity of weaknesses. They have a litany of perimeter scorers, rebounders and passers. LeBron and Durant can easily slide to the power forward and center positions interchangeably, giving Team USA another mismatch without detracting defensively. Not having sufficient resources isn’t their problem.
Head coach Mike Krzyzewski hasn’t gave the lack of length too much thought. Instead, he’s highlighted the United State’s inherent competitive advantage: they are the only team in the field with a roster composed entirely of NBA talent.
“The way we’re playing is exactly the way we should play, I think, with this group of athletes and with the depth that we have,” Krzyzewski said, adding that Durant would remain a reserve for at least the next game. “We have good depth, especially on the perimeter.”
There comes a point when size and quickness can best their taller brethren. The margin for error is higher, sure, but defeating a taller team can be done. Precision, pace, positonal flexibility and athleticism are all important equalizers for the United States. And no team belongs in their stratosphere in either of the aforementioned categories.
So yeah. Size is impossible to teach.
But beating the United States, a team on the precipice of greatness, could be even more difficult.