When the U.S. finally heads over to other side of the Atlantic to battle the worldâ€™s best for the gold, it will be banking on an impressive collection of players in the frontcourt to do the heavy lifting. The forward position features the most star power (by far) and is easily the deepest position on the team. Because of that depth, some of these mega-talented players will be asked to sacrifice both their games and shots in order for Team USA to function like a cohesive unit.
The question that remains: how will they do it? Weâ€™ll take a look at what roles the six forwards on the U.S. roster may take on in London.
As James showcased during his brilliant NBA campaign last season, he has essentially become a Swiss Army knife of destruction. This flexibility will serve Coach K well as he can mold James into whatever role his team needs most throughout the tournament.
James will still find plenty of opportunities to do his thing with the ball in his hands, but will likely be asked to do more things off it. His flourishing post game will certainly be utilized against teams that donâ€™t try to zone Team USA for extended stretches. James will also see much more time as a screener on the ball.
His biggest asset, however, will be his defensive versatility. As with the Heat, James will be asked to guard all five positions on the floor. His unparalleled strength and quickness make him a suffocating defender regardless of who he is asked to mark. With the lack of big man depth on the roster, donâ€™t be shocked to see James battling centers in the post for short stretches either.
Even with James, Carmelo Anthony and Kobe Bryant inhabiting the same roster, donâ€™t be surprised if Durant emerges as Team USAâ€™s primary option. With less space in the international game and more opponents looking to play zone or simply pack the paint in man, Durantâ€™s unlimited range allows him to remain an extremely dangerous threat at all times. Donâ€™t be surprised to see games where the Thunder star has double-digit 3-point attempts because of it.
His chances to emerge as the tournament's leading scorer will only increase if he ends up playing the power forward position more than not. That spot likely gives him a speed and quickness advantage over any opposing international defender. Most international bigs are somewhat used to dealing with guarding opposing posts that play on the perimeter, but none theyâ€™ve faced will match Durantâ€™s athletic ability, handle and hair-trigger release.
In 2008, Anthony was a key cog in the USâ€™ bid to recapture the gold. This summer, thanks to the emergence of Durant (and Kevin Love), Anthony might find himself the odd-man out before the end of the tournament as his high-volume, isolation scoring ways wonâ€™t be easy to feature alongside so many other talented, more efficient scorers. Heâ€™ll still be a viable pick-and-pop threat, but it will be interesting to see how often he is utilized in the manner he is accustomed to in the NBA.
One stark contrast to his days stateside will be his defensive intensity. Team USA seems to bring out the best in Melo in that regard. Expect to see an invigorated Anthony on that end of the floor.
Love has rather quietly turned himself into one of the NBAâ€™s premier big men. Lots has been made of his fit for the international style of play and it is certainly justified. Love will see time at the power forward and center spots in London while performing his usual routine of sniping from behind the arc and tussling on the boards.
The one concern with Love is his fit within Team USAâ€™s preferred style of play. In the exhibition games, the US has showcased their desire to smother teams using their athletic advantage and intense defensive pressure. Love, for all his positives, doesnâ€™t have the attributes to help in that regard. Itâ€™s worth keeping an eye on as it could affect his playing time during the latter phases of the tournament.
While he hardly shares the same limelight as his teammates on this list, make no mistake about it, Iguodala is a big addition to this roster. Like James, he has the ability to defend multiple positions on the floor and lock those players down with length and athleticism.
He is also a willing ball mover on offense and a much improved spot up shooter from behind the arc. Itâ€™s going to be easy to gloss over his addition to the squad, but donâ€™t be surprised if Iguodala makes some big contributions to Team USA.
With Blake Griffin forced out due to a knee injury, Davis finds himself in the position to add valuable big man depth to a thin frontline. The question with Davis, as weâ€™ve already outlined, is whether or not he is capable of filling that role.
He certainly has the length and shot-blocking prowess to make an impact against less physical opponents, but it remains in doubt if heâ€™s capable of battling players like the Gasol brothers in vital stretches.
Itâ€™s certainly easy to be excited about a player with his potential being on the roster, but donâ€™t be too shocked if Davis is a non-factor for most of the tournament.