1. LeBron James
LeBron is a manifestation of everything we tend to value in basketball — he can score, pass, rebound, defend, dunk, play every conceivable position included some that probably don’t exist — and yet he won’t be one to stick out to the casual basketball fan in London. Durant will be the guy who will garner the lion share of credit as he’ll be the guy who is almost a guarantee to score 20 points every game. But it will be James who will exert the most control on the enterprise, even though his control might not be nearly as noticeable.
2. Kevin Durant
Durant isn’t on the same platform of dominance as LeBron but that isn’t a knock on his game; it’s merely a testament to the quality of basketball we are witnessing from James. KD isn’t one to deliver ridiculous 50-foot bounce passes on a dime nor is he strong enough to bang against opposing 5s; instead he’s one that will score, he’s good for 20 points when he steps on the floor while playing multiple positions at a high level.
3. Kobe Bryant
In somewhat of a preemptive strike against Father Time, Bryant has diminished his offensive workload for the sake of defense, a facet where he can still make an impact even at his advanced age. An omnipresent threat in the passing lanes and perimeter and a threat offensively if he needs to, Bryant’s newly revitalized game will benefit the United States in more ways than one.
4. Tyson Chandler
There’s a bunch of tangible evidence that asserts that the Americans aren’t just slightly better but remarkably so with Chandler on the floor opposed to when he’s on the sidelines. While Team USA has the luxury of playing without Chandler, the prospect of defending without an elite center like Chandler isn’t something that is necessarily desired. Their flexibility shouldn’t be their only dimension, rather an effective way to throw the opposition off guard before they unleash a deadly pick-and-roll threat. Not the other way around.
5. Carmelo Anthony
Anthony will always be prone to the rigors of good shot selection but it won’t be as damaging within the confines of the uber-talented United States. With LeBron James as the building block and Durant taxed with scoring often, Anthony is allowed to settle into a niche best suited for his skills, especially when he’s at the 4 against slower competition.
6. Chris Paul
While the need for an all encompassing point guard is always important, the presence of James makes it less imperative. Regardless, Paul is still expected to control the game from the onset.
7. Andre Iguodala
I understand that Iguodala’s ranking seems a bit high given the talent that follows him. But from a basketball standpoint, the minutes that Iguodala gives the team are almost always productive because he causes so much havoc defensively. As a result his limited offensive game, compared to everyone else on the squad, isn’t as pronounced. That skill set also differentiates himself from his peers, namely James Harden, with similar skill sets but without the defensive acumen.
8. Deron Williams
See Paul, Chris.
9. Kevin Love
I can see Love vaulting up this list because his game translates to the international game quite well; as he’s an excellent rebounder that routinely carves up space in the paint and he can stretch the defense. He’s also taller than the majority of the roster and there will be valuable minutes that belong to him out of necessity.
10. Russell Westbrook
Mike Krzyzewski isn’t utilizing Westbrook well. He’s an incredibly unique player with a propensity for a lot of mistakes and a lot of excellence. The key to minimizing the former and maximizing the latter is to allow him to play in the confines of his game — which actually have no confines or boundaries. His mistakes need to be reprimanded, yes, but he shouldn’t suffer as a result of them.
11. James Harden
Personally, I don’t think Harden provides anything that isn’t already well accounted for from the rest of the roster. He’s an excellent scorer and creator but, at this point, his repertoire is redundant on his team. I think Team USA would’ve been better suited with sacrificing some talent — Harden’s talent does belong on the roster — and adding in a player with a defined skill, preferably with a defensive background.
12. Anthony Davis
There are more unlikely scenarios than Davis making an impact on this team. Like Tunisia winning a gold medal. I guess.