Team USA Olympics Report CardAfter Team USA went 5-0 during the pre-Olympic exhibition tour, I wrote a report card for SlamOnline. Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade were the three "A" students. Not surprisingly, they also finished at the top of the class on my Olympics report card as well.
Players are listed in order of minutes played because that statistic provides a hint about Coach Mike Krzyzewski's evaluation. Wade, James, Bryant and Anthony were Team USA's four leading scorers, so I also included their box score statistics in the one and done medal round play (the final three games). It should go without saying--but I'll say it anyway--that it is not meaningful to compare a player's numbers in 40 minute games played under FIBA rules with his numbers in 48 minute games played under NBA rules. A better yardstick is to consider how the top players from the 1992 Dream Team performed. Charles Barkley led the 1992 Dream Team in scoring (18.0 ppg) while shooting .711 from the field. He averaged 4.1 rpg (tied with David Robinson for third on the team) and 2.4 apg. Michael Jordan ranked second in scoring (14.9 ppg), second in assists (4.8 apg), led the team in steals (37) and averaged 2.4 rpg. Jordan shot .451 from the field--worse than any player other than little used Christian Laettner--and just 4-19 (.211) from three point range. Karl Malone ranked third in scoring (13.0 ppg) and tied with Patrick Ewing for the team lead in rebounding (5.3 rpg). Chris Mullin (12.9 ppg) and Clyde Drexler (10.5 ppg) were the other double figure scorers. Scottie Pippen (9.0 ppg) led the team in assists (5.9 apg) and ranked second in steals (23).
The grades listed below represent how well a particular player filled his respective role on the team; obviously, some players had bigger roles than others, so a bench player's "B" does not mean the same thing as a starter's "B." Production when games were close is given a heavier weight than production that took place after the victories were already well in hand.
I recorded on court/off court data throughout the Olympics for five players: Bryant, James, Wade, Carmelo Anthony and Jason Kidd. These numbers simply indicate how many points Team USA scored and how many points Team USA's opponents scored when a given player was in the game; this data provides a very rudimentary indication of a player's impact but it does not include "game state" information such as which other players were on the court at the same time or how close the score of the game was: production is more significant when it takes place against the toughest opponents in close games, as opposed to statistics that are accumulated against reserves at the end of blowouts.
LeBron James (24.8 mpg, 15.5 ppg, 3.8 apg, 5.3 rpg, 19 steals, eight blocked shots overall; 26.7 mpg, 15 ppg, 2.7 apg, 6.7 rpg, 7 steals, one blocked shot in medal round play)
James led Team USA in steals and blocked shots, ranked second in scoring and assists and shot .602 from the field, including .464 from three point range. The only negatives on his ledger were free throw shooting (.458) and turnovers (a team-high 17). James put up the best overall box score numbers of any player on the team. As Doug Collins noted during several of the telecasts, James played terrific help defense on the back line, blocking shots and getting steals. Not surprisingly, James' minutes went up during medal round play and he continued to post excellent box score numbers.
Team USA outscored the opposition by 154 points overall when James was on the court and they outscored the opposition by 50 points when James was on the court during the medal round games.
Kobe Bryant (23.5 mpg, 15.0 ppg, 2.1 apg, 2.8 rpg, nine steals, four blocked shots overall; 28 mpg, 19 ppg, 2.7 apg, 3.3 rpg, three steals, three blocked shots in medal round play)
Bryant ranked third on Team USA in scoring, fourth in assists and steals and first in three pointers made. He finished right behind James in turnovers (15) and, like James, did not shoot very well from the free throw line (.583). Bryant shot .462 from the field and .321 from three point range but after his much celebrated 1-15 start from behind the arc in the first two games he shot 16-38 (.421) the rest of the way.
As soon as Bryant joined the team he immediately asked to be assigned the task of guarding the best perimeter player on each opposing team. That was Bryant's primary responsibility for Team USA and he did an excellent job in this regard. He often took a back seat offensively but when the chips were down in the medal round Bryant averaged a team-high 19 ppg while shooting .500 from the field and .375 from three point range. He dominated the fourth quarter of the 118-107 win over Spain in the gold medal game, scoring 13 points and adding two assists in that final stanza.
Team USA came up short in the three previous major FIBA competitions (2004 Olympics, 2006 and 2002 FIBA World Championship) primarily because of a lack of on court leadership, poor defense and the inability or unwillingness of anyone to step up in crucial moments in medal round games. James and Wade each had superb tournaments in the 2008 Olympics--very similar to their performances in the 2006 FIBA World Championship--but the difference this time around was that Bryant provided precisely what Team USA had been missing in the three areas mentioned above.
Team USA outscored the opposition by 134 points overall when Bryant was on the court and they outscored the opposition by 52 points when he was on the court during the medal round games.
Chris Paul (21.9 mpg, 8.0 ppg, 4.1 apg, 3.6 rpg, 18 steals, 0 blocked shots overall)
Paul led Team USA in assists and free throw percentage (.917), tied for second in steals and he easily had the best assist/turnover ratio (3.67/1). Paul forced a lot of turnovers with his ball pressure but on occasions he let his man get by him off of the dribble, resulting in defensive breakdowns. He padded some of his numbers in the fourth quarters of blowouts but in several games he also provided a nice spark off of the bench to help Team USA build large leads.
Carmelo Anthony (19.1 mpg, 11.5 ppg, .4 apg, 4.3 rpg, eight steals, two blocked shots overall; 22 mpg, 16.3 ppg, .3 apg, 3.3 rpg, two steals, one blocked shot in medal round play)
Anthony ranked fourth on Team USA in scoring and rebounding. He tied for the team lead in fouls committed. Only three players had fewer assists (Bosh, Boozer and Prince). Anthony led Team USA in scoring during the 2007 FIBA Americas tournament and the 2006 FIBA World Championship, so his scoring output in the Olympics has to be considered a major disappointment, particularly in light of his dismal field goal percentage (.422, lower than every other player except Redd). Anthony's .481 two point field goal percentage was also the second lowest on the team and he was the only player among the top seven scorers who did not shoot at least .600 on two point shots. Before the Olympics, Anthony vowed to average 10 rpg and to break the Team USA single game Olympic rebounding record but he never came close to doing either of those things. The main positive for Anthony is that he shot .828 from the free throw line, the one area where Bryant, James and Wade struggled.
Anthony increased his scoring to 16.3 ppg in medal round play but that number is deceptive: he shot .382 from the field in those three games and even though he led Team USA in scoring versus Argentina (21 points) he shot 3-14 from the field in that contest.
Team USA outscored the opposition by 86 points overall when Anthony was on the court and they outscored the opposition by just 25 points when Anthony was on the court during medal round play. Among the five players I tracked, Anthony is the only one who had a negative on court rating for an entire game--and this happened twice: Angola outscored Team USA 46-42 when Anthony was on the court and in the gold medal game Spain outscored Team USA 49-38 when Anthony was on the court. It is no coincidence that Anthony was not in the game for the last eight minutes of the fourth quarter of the gold medal game; throughout the Olympics, Anthony was often on the bench when Team USA made its best runs and when he was in games during such runs it was generally James, Wade and/or Bryant who shouldered most of the load.
Deron Williams (19.0 mpg, 8.0 ppg, 2.8 apg, 2.3 rpg, six steals, 0 blocked shots overall)
Williams ranked second on Team USA in free throw percentage (.900) and third in assists. He did a good job of using his size and strength to penetrate opposing defenses. He made a few bad gambles defensively and was sometimes careless with his ballhandling but overall he did a very solid job.
Dwyane Wade (18.8 mpg, 16.0 ppg, 1.9 apg, 4.0 rpg, 18 steals, one blocked shot overall; 19.3 mpg, 15.7 ppg, 1.7 apg, 4.7 rpg, six steals, 0 blocked shots in medal round play)
Wade led Team USA in scoring, tied for second in steals and he ranked second in three point shooting percentage (.471) among players who attempted more than two three pointers. Wade shot a blistering .671 from the field overall, trailing only Howard and Bosh among players who attempted at least one shot a game (Kidd shot 6-7 from the field). Wade struggled a bit from the free throw line (.634) and at times made some risky defensive gambles but his overall play was superb. He clearly has healed completely from his injuries and regained--if not increased--his previous athletic ability and explosiveness.
Wade did not start one game; he usually came off of the bench midway through the first quarter to replace Anthony, though sometimes foul trouble altered that rotation. Wade's on court numbers (not his own stats per se, but rather Team USA's scoring margin when he was in the game) benefited from not sharing minutes with Anthony, while Bryant and James' numbers were dragged down a bit in this regard. As a sixth man who played limited minutes, Wade had the advantage of being fresh and from playing against either reserve players or tired starters; after just two minutes of play in the second quarter of Team USA's 92-69 win over Greece, Wade asked to come out of the game because he was totally gassed. None of this diminishes how well Wade played but it goes a long way toward explaining why Wade came off of the bench instead of starting, why he did not play as many minutes as Bryant or James and why people should not be quick to assume that this performance means that Wade will be on the All-NBA First Team this season; in order for Wade to resume being an elite level NBA player he will have to be able to stay healthy and productive while playing 35-plus mpg over the course of an 82 game season.
Team USA outscored the opposition by 161 points overall when Wade was on the court and they outscored the opposition by 48 points when Wade was on the court during the medal round games.
Chris Bosh (17.3 mpg, 9.1 ppg, .3 apg, 6.1 rpg, two steals, six blocked shots overall)
Bosh led Team USA in rebounding and field goal percentage (.774) and he ranked second in free throw percentage (.862). He was perhaps the most pleasant surprise; Wade's performance was more a matter of him getting healthy than anything else, but Bosh supplanted Howard as Team USA's most effective big. Bosh not only played very well in the paint at both ends of the court but he also did a great job of helping to defend on the perimeter against screen/roll plays. His emergence relegated Boozer to mop up duty and further reinforced a theme that I emphasized all along, namely that Team USA did not need another big on the roster; USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo was right to bolster the team's size and defensive flexibility on the perimeter, fully realizing that Team USA would only play one traditional big at a time. In terms of FIBA play, Bosh proved to be a better big than Amare Stoudemire, who played in the 2007 FIBA Americas tournament but decided to rest his knees this summer.
Dwight Howard (16.1 mpg, 10.9 ppg, .5 apg, 5.8 rpg, five steals, seven blocked shots overall)
Howard ranked second on Team USA in rebounding, blocked shots and field goal percentage (.745) and fifth in scoring. He was not quite as dominant or effective as he was in the 2007 FIBA Americas tournament in terms of field goal percentage and blocked shots but Team USA faced tougher opposition in this event. Howard sometimes got caught up in retaliating against opposing players and he seemed to get into Coach Krzyzewski's dog house a couple times. Nevertheless, he started every game at center, scored in double figures and was a physical presence in the paint at both ends of the court. His screen/roll defense was not nearly as good as Bosh's.
Jason Kidd (13.5 mpg, 1.6 ppg, 2.0 apg, 2.6 rpg, five steals, two blocked shots overall)
Despite his limited minutes, Kidd ranked fourth on Team USA in assists. He famously did not shoot frequently but he made his attempts count by converting six of his seven shots. The only downside for Kidd is that he forced a few passes, resulting in 12 turnovers. During the Olympics, Kidd somehow turned into the player that fan bloggers loved to hate. Yes, his boxscore numbers will not blow anyone away but he was USA Basketball's Player of the Year in 2007 after he put up similar numbers in the FIBA Americas tournament: 15.8 mpg, 1.8 ppg, 4.6 apg, 3.3 rpg, 13 steals, five blocked shots). The way that Kidd and Team USA played in that event paved the way for this year's Olympics triumph. Although Kidd is a triple double king in the NBA, in FIBA play his value is not captured by numbers alone. Team USA struggled defensively in recent years, particularly in the backcourt, but the addition of Bryant and Kidd to the starting lineup not only fixed that problem but resulted in the rest of the players stepping up their defense as well. Kidd is a winner. I don't like to mix NBA or NCAA stats with FIBA stats but it is worth mentioning that there is a consistent pattern throughout Kidd's career that teams he joins increase their winning percentage and that teams he leaves experience a decline in winning percentage.
From a minutes standpoint, Kidd took a backseat to youngsters Paul and Williams, though it should be noted that Paul and Williams played almost all of the garbage time minutes; the minutes when games were up for grabs were pretty evenly split among that trio.
Kidd had a game-high seven assists in Team USA's 101-81 semifinal victory over Argentina. The semifinal round was the graveyard for Team USA in the 2006 FIBA World Championship and the 2004 Olympics but this time around Kidd made sure that this would not happen; early in the second half he did an excellent job of setting down Team USA's halfcourt offense, making sure that Howard got the ball in the paint.
Team USA outscored the opposition by 69 points overall when Kidd was on the court and they outscored the opposition by 31 points when he was on the court during medal round play.
Tayshaun Prince (11.0 mpg, 4.3 ppg, .3 apg, 1.9 rpg, three steals, one blocked shot overall)
Prince, Redd and Boozer were clearly the last men on the bench for this team but Prince received more non-garbage time minutes than Redd and Boozer did. Prince led Team USA in three point field goal percentage (6-11, .545), though he obviously did not shoot nearly as many three pointers as Wade, James and several others. Prince shot .591 from the field overall but his real value is that he is a long armed defender who can guard multiple positions; that makes him a more valuable FIBA player for Team USA than a one dimensional shooter like Redd.
I gave Prince an "I" (incomplete) in my previous report card but since his non-garbage time minutes increased during the Olympics he showed enough to get a regular grade this time.
Michael Redd (9.1 mpg, 3.1 ppg, .5 apg, 1.1 rpg, two steals, 0 blocked shots overall)
Redd was the darling of many so-called experts, the player whose outside marksmanship would supposedly be vital for Team USA to win the gold medal. Last year, I did a post titled Team USA Needs Bruce Bowen More Than it Needs Michael Redd and I have consistently and repeatedly stated that Redd--who is a very good NBA player--would be nothing more than a spare part on this squad for the following reasons: Team USA's primary focus has to be defense, Team USA has several players who are better perimeter defenders than Redd who can also make the shorter FIBA three point shot and it is much more important for Team USA to defend opposing three point shooters than it is for Team USA to make three pointers.
Redd shot .323 from the field in the Olympics, including .278 from three point range. He rarely appeared on the court before the victory was completely secured; in the gold medal game he did not check in until the final seconds.
Considering that Redd is a pure shooter who had by far the worst shooting percentage on the team it is tempting to give him an "F" but that would not really be fair considering his limited playing time. However, can we please stop hearing about how Team USA needs pure shooters like Redd, Mike Miller and (I hope no one is serious about this) J.J. Redick?
Carlos Boozer (6.0 mpg, 3.3 ppg, .3 apg, 1.9 rpg, two steals, 0 blocked shots overall)
I thought that Howard would play about 20 mpg and that Boozer and Bosh would average roughly 10 mpg each but Bosh played so well that he grabbed some minutes from both Howard and Boozer. Contrary to the dire predictions that Team USA did not have enough size up front, the reality proved to be exactly what I predicted: Team USA's versatile perimeter defenders wreaked havoc, James and Anthony took turns playing power forward and Team USA only needed one true NBA big on the court at a time; sometimes Team USA went with a small lineup with no true NBA bigs.
Boozer was a spare part for this team and any other big (Tyson Chandler is the name that came up most often) that people wanted to add either in his place or instead of one of the perimeter players would also have been a spare part.
Anthony (19.9 ppg), Wade (19.3 ppg) and James (13.9 ppg) were the three leading scorers on the 2006 version of Team USA that settled for the bronze medal in the FIBA World Championship. Howard and Elton Brand split the starting duties at center, while Bosh came off of the bench. Chris Paul started six of nine games at point guard and led the team in assists.
Anthony played much worse in this year's Olympics than he did for Team USA in 2006, while Wade and James performed comparably offensively and better defensively this time around. Bosh received more minutes in 2008 and played better defensively. However, if you compare the rosters, the statistics and the visual evidence, the obvious difference between this version of Team USA and the previous versions came at the defensive end of the court. In 2006, Team USA opponents shot .462 from the field and .349 from three point range; in 2008, Team USA opponents shot .403 from the field and .299 from three point range. The defensive improvement began when Colangelo added Bryant and Kidd to the roster: Colangelo says that, Krzyzewksi says that, the team's scouts say that and the players say that.
posted by David Friedman @ 7:40 PM