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Thursday, August 7th, 2008 at 11:32 am  |  43 responses

Team USA Exhibition Tour Report Card

Dishing out grades after five pre-Olympic matches.

by David Friedman

Team USA went 5-0 on its pre-Olympic exhibition tour, outscoring their opponents by an average of 106-75 while shooting .616 from the field, .413 from three point range and .700 from the free throw line. Team USA enjoyed a 1.4 rpg advantage and a 6.4 differential in turnovers per game. Overall, Team USA did well, but the final two games – especially a contest with Australia that was competitive deep into the second half –undoubtedly provided some hope to the other medal contenders that it is possible to beat this squad.

Here are individual grades for each Team USA player, listed in order of minutes played (a statistic which, as I noted in a similar post about last year’s FIBA Americas tournament, provides a glimpse into Coach Mike Krzyzewski’s evaluation):

LeBron James (25.8 mpg, 15.3 ppg, 4.0 apg, 4.5 rpg, 12 steals, three blocked shots): James led the team in steals, ranked third in scoring, third in rebounding and third in assists while shooting .667 from the field. He missed the first game of the tour due to a sprained ankle but has shown no ill effects from that injury. The only blemishes on his performance are a team-high tying 10 turnovers and his 6-11 (.545) free throw shooting, though the small number of free throw attempts (sixth on the team) suggest that perhaps he should be attacking the basket more frequently. James is one of four players for whom I tracked the team’s net scoring when he was in the game; Team USA outscored the opposition by an average of 14 ppg when James was on the court.

Grade: James deserves an “A” for his great all-around numbers.

Kobe Bryant (23.0 mpg, 13.4 ppg, 3.6 apg, 2.2 rpg, 11 steals, one blocked shot): Bryant ranked fourth on the team in scoring, fourth in assists, second in three pointers made and tied for second in steals. He accepted the challenge of leading the charge defensively by guarding the toughest perimeter player on the opposing team; the disruption that he caused created transition scoring opportunities that are vitally important because Team USA is still not great at half court execution in FIBA play. Team USA could possibly have lost to Russia and very likely would have lost to Australia without his defense at crucial moments when the outcome of those games hung in the balance, while the other three games were blowouts in no small part due to the way Bryant took out whoever he was guarding, thereby wrecking the opposing team’s offense. Team USA outscored the opposition by 17 ppg when Bryant was on the court, easily the best figure among the four players whose numbers I tracked in this category.

Grade: Bryant deserves an “A” for his defense alone and all of his other contributions are gravy.

Chris Paul (21.8 mpg, 7.4 ppg, 5.4 apg, 2.4 rpg, three steals, zero blocked shots): Paul led the team in assists despite not starting a single game. He was very sharp offensively but he frequently struggled on defense. He padded his assist totals in the first three blowout victories (7.0 apg) and was noticeably less productive in the final two games against tougher opposition (3.0 apg).

Grade: “B”

Carmelo Anthony (21.0 mpg, 15.4 ppg, 1.8 apg, 5.2 rpg, three steals, two blocked shots): Anthony ranked second on the team in scoring, tied for first in rebounding and easily led the way in free throws made (21) and free throw percentage (.955). Anthony is a pure scorer who is capable of making his presence felt on the glass but he forced shots, did not pass the ball very well and attempted the third most three pointers but shot just .250 from long distance. Then, of course, there is his defense–point blank, it is not very good: Anthony loses sight of his man far too frequently, does not rotate when or where he should and generally seems much more interested and engaged at the offensive end of the court–particularly when he has a chance to score–than at the defensive end of the court. Team USA outscored the opposition by 12.2 ppg when Anthony was on the court–and on several occasions the team made game changing/game deciding runs when he was on the bench.

Grade: A lot of people rave about Anthony as a FIBA player but they are just looking at his scoring; he deserves no more than a “B-/C+.”

Dwyane Wade (20.2 mpg, 18.0 ppg, 2.4 apg, 3.0 rpg, 11 steals, one blocked shot): Wade led the team in scoring, tied for second in steals, posted the best three point shooting percentage among players who attempted at least five three pointers (5-7, .714) and ranked third in field goal percentage (.723), trailing only two bigs (Dwight Howard and Chris Bosh) who scored most of their points on room service dunks. Wade started the first game when James sat out and then Wade provided instant offense off of the bench in the next four games.

Grade: Wade deserves an “A” for doing everything that has been asked of him.

Deron Williams (20.2 mpg, 6.4 ppg, 5.0 apg, 2.0 rpg, seven steals, one blocked shot): Williams ranked second on the team in assists. He did an excellent job of breaking down zone defenses with dribble penetration, using his strength and ballhandling skills to create passing angles. His defense was solid and he committed fewer than half as many fouls as Paul in virtually the same amount of playing time.

Grade: Williams deserves a “B” and would grade out even higher were it not for his poor three point shooting (1-6, .167) and free throw shooting (5-10, .500).

Dwight Howard (20.0 mpg, 10.0 ppg, .4 apg, 5.2 rpg, eight steals, five blocked shots): Howard ranked fifth on the team in scoring, tied for first in rebounding, led the team in blocked shots and ranked a surprising fourth in steals. He shot .759 from the field, with the vast majority of his makes coming on dunks and layups. Howard provided a presence in the paint at both ends of the court while playing exactly the number of minutes that I expected him to receive; the only negative aspect of his performance was abysmal free throw shooting (6-18, .333).

Grade: “B+”

Chris Bosh (13.0 mpg, 7.6 ppg, .4 apg, 2.4 rpg, two steals, two blocked shots): Bosh led the team in field goal percentage (.800) but ranked just ninth in field goal attempts, which either means he should be shooting more often or this is too small of a sample size to be meaningful. Bosh was the first big off of the bench and his defensive versatility proved to be valuable in several situations; Howard is best suited to guard back to the basket post players—a rarity in FIBA play—while Bosh can guard post up bigs, face up bigs and even some wing players.

Grade: “B+”

Michael Redd (12.8 mpg, 9.6 ppg, .3 apg, 1.6 rpg, one steal, zero blocked shots): Redd led the team in three pointers made (12) and attempted (24), numbers that are inflated by his 6-8 performance in the blowout win over Canada. His one and only job on this team is to make open three pointers.

Grade: He deserves a “B” and will not merit a higher grade unless/until a greater percentage of his production takes place when the outcome of the game is in doubt.

Jason Kidd (12.8 mpg, 1.0 ppg, 1.4 apg, 2.0 rpg, five steals, one blocked shots): Kidd started every game but has spent most of the time watching Paul and Williams be groomed to take over in future FIBA events. Team USA outscored the opposition by 9.2 ppg when he was on the court, which is actually fairly impressive considering his limited minutes.

Grade: Kidd is getting killed by a lot of commentators right now but I expect that his playing time and production will both increase in the games that count and for that reason I give him an “I” (incomplete) for now.

Tayshaun Prince (8.8 mpg, 2.2 ppg, .4 apg, 1.4 rpg, one steal, two blocked shots): Prince is a spare part on this team; in a 40 minute FIBA game it is simply impossible to play 12 players.

Grade: The only fair grade for him is “I.”

Carlos Boozer (7.5 mpg, 3.5 ppg, 0 apg, 2.0 rpg, one steal, two blocked shots): I expected he and Bosh to evenly split the 20 mpg when Howard is out of the game but Bosh has moved ahead of Boozer in the rotation.

Grade: No grade other than “I” is realistic.

Note:
——-

Last year, Team USA won the FIBA Americas tournament with a slightly different roster: this time around, Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul, Chris Bosh and Carlos Boozer have replaced Amare Stoudemire, Chauncey Billups, Mike Miller and Tyson Chandler.

These moves are unquestionably a significant upgrade: Stoudemire put up solid numbers but Billups and Miller were notably unproductive, while Chandler only played in garbage time situations. In contrast, Wade is an important member of this squad, Paul finished second in last season’s MVP voting and the combined production of Bosh and Boozer will outweigh what Stoudemire and Chandler offered.

To read more of David Friedman’s basketball articles, just take a 20 Second Timeout.His general sports commentary can be found at BestEverSportsTalk.

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  • http://www.alllooksame.com Tarzan Cooper

    miller was notably unproductive? did you watch any of the games last year? amare should have been on this team

  • http://www.alllooksame.com Tarzan Cooper

    also, lebron and kobe have got to stop being ball-stoppers. pass the ball and cut!

  • http://www.another48minutes.blogspot.com Gerard Himself

    I wouldn’t have minded seeing Chandler on this year’s roster. I really think he could’ve helped them.

  • http://talkaboutsport.blogspot.com TalkAboutSport

    Um I don’t agree that Anthony should deserve a C+… in the Australia game him and D-Wade led the team back… How could you have given Deron Williams a better grade than Anthony.. haha wow.

    VISIT MY BLOG AT: talkaboutsport.blogspot.com

  • Captain America

    Grateful for their sacrifice in participating on Team USA. Other than Kobe (ultimate defender) and Wade as stand outs, the rest is based on effective team play (versus auditioning for European and Asian-Pac contracts).

  • Jackie Moon

    @TalkAboutSport – Carmelo Anthony’s defense has been atrocious. He’s doesn’t rotate well, he gambles on steals, and leaves the rest of the team in the lurch on the defensive end of the floor. While his offensive contributions are significant, they are almost totally negated by his defensive deficiencies … Deron Williams has been the most effective point guard against the international zone defenses. He is able to dribble penetrate the zones and break down the heart of the defense. He has also been an excellent on-ball defender of the opposing team’s point guard, due to his strength and quickness.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Ryan Jones

    Captain America: Seriously, you’re not real, right?

  • http://theghostofroyhobbs.blogspot.com Mo Charlo

    Serious Melo hate. You should bump up his grade because of 1) passing 2) he converts to a 4 when he’s on the court for USA 3) he grabs as many boards as our biggest dude.

  • http://www.ballerblogger.com Brandon Hoffman

    Good stuff David. Wade has been fantastic off the bench. His production is aided by the fact that he’s the go-to-guy with the second unit and he’s playing with two point guards. Whereas Kobe, LeBron, and Carmelo have done a fantastic job of spreading the wealth between them.

  • B. Long

    I agree with everthing in this article except that Wade deserves an A+. Flash and Melo came into these games as the two players with the most to prove and I would say so far Flash is proving all the doubters wrong (including myself at one point) and Melo is pretty much confirming what we already knew about him from this past season. Offense Only.

  • http://20secondtimeout.blogspot.com/ David Friedman

    Tarzan:

    I was referring to Miller’s productivity strictly as a member of Team USA. Miller had the second lowest field goal percentage on the team (.439); Billups had the worst (.378).

    I believe that Amare decided not to play to rest his knee.

    You are right that Kobe and LeBron have been ball stoppers but they are not the only ones. I don’t think that Team USA will ever execute as well in the FIBA halfcourt as the FIBA teams do.

  • http://20secondtimeout.blogspot.com/ David Friedman

    Gerard:

    Chandler was the human victory cigar in the FIBA Americas tournament; he has no faceup game and is not ideally suited for the FIBA game.

  • http://20secondtimeout.blogspot.com/ David Friedman

    TalkAboutSports:

    I gave Deron a (slightly) better grade than Melo because Deron has made fewer mistakes. Melo has scored more points but he also has given up a lot at the defensive end. The third quarter of the Russia game was a battle between Kobe’s offense (11 points) and Melo’s horrid defense on AK-47.

  • http://20secondtimeout.blogspot.com/ David Friedman

    Mo Charlo:

    Melo had nine assists in 105 minutes in five exhibition games. Let’s just say that passing has not been his strong suit so far.

    He is a very effective power forward offensively in FIBA play but he gives up a ton defensively.

    I mentioned Melo’s rebounding and I would have graded him even lower without his board work.

  • http://www.lkz.ch/basket Darksaber

    Carmelo’s defence? D! Coach K’s subs? C-! Dwight getting the rock more than 7 times a game? Not happening! Bosh unable to create in the post? yep, that’s happening! Wade, Deron, Lebron being the glue guys? Sure thing. CP3 kinda taking things slow? Not cool. Kobe calling giving himself YET ANOTHER nickname during the summer? Lame. Stick to Mambiatch, Kobs.

  • http://www.ravingblacklunatic.blogspot.com Allenp

    You gave Deron a better grade because you watched the damn games. Everything you said about Melo is true. And Deron Williams is the best point guard in the world.

  • http://slamonline.com/ Ryne Nelson

    @Allenp: I’m one of Deron’s biggest supporters, but even I can’t say he’s the best point guard in the game. Just sayin’, though….

  • B. Long

    @Ryne: Imagine Deron in a Suns uniform with Mike still coaching. With the way CP3 has been slightly underachieveing in these games, I gotta agree with Allenp on this one.

  • http://www.alloutblitz.com Cordeazy

    this is where JJ redick and Adam Morrison should always play. they are made for this! If only they were decent NBA players…maybe. Or if the United States starts a year round Fiba franchise

  • http://www.lkz.ch/basket Darksaber

    Don’t worry Cordeazy, the masterplan has now being initiated with Josh Childress’s “defection” to greece, and Earl moving to Bologna. Soon as Bron – Bron signs that 500 Million euro contract in 2010, FIBA – NBA should be in full effect.

  • http://sdfjkl.com Jukai

    Disagree with a lot of this. Bosh’s grade should have been lower, he constantly was bullied out on the defense and forced shots in the post instead of passing it back out with plenty of time left. Deron should recieve a higher grade than Paul just because he has completely outplayed Paul. Shooting woes aside, he scored WHEN the US needed it and broke down the zone when they did or didn’t… so either bump Deron to a B+ or drop Paul to a C+. Prince should have been given a B because he has been fairly productive in his limited minutes, while Boozer should have gotten an F. The team was mostly outscored when Redd was in the game so his grade should probably drop too.

  • http://sdfjkl.com Jukai

    Also there’s pretty much no doubt in my mind that Miller and Chandler would be superior to Redd and Boozer

  • http://sdfjkl.com Jukai

    The reason for this is the game that they played in the American Qualifiers is different from this game. There were no big men and little zone, so Chandler wasn’t needed nearly as much, not to mention they had Amare who could grab rebounds. Also, to say Boozer has played better than Chandler is laughable. Chandler’s stats were far better, and they both only play in garbage time.
    Miller’s low percentage was mostly because in garbage time minutes, Prince or Chandler or Williams would toss it out when the shot clock was running down and Miller would have to take the shot. I think Miller’s a better spot-up shooter then Redd, a bigger player (which the US needed) and a better passer. Much better suited as a ‘zone buster.’ Redd simply has not impressed me.

  • B. Long

    @Jukai: Chandler would def. be an upgrade over Boozer.

  • http://20secondtimeout.blogspot.com/ David Friedman

    Jukai:

    On the contrary, Bosh has played well defensively and he has also been able to guard multiple positions.

    In my comments preceding the grades I elaborated about what DWill and CP3 did well and did poorly but perhaps I should have lowered CP3 to a C+ in order to give Dwill the slight edge.

    Prince accumulated 11 points, seven rebounds, two assists, two blocked shots and one steal in five games. I suppose that this could be termed “fairly productive” for 44 minutes of work but the bottom line is he is the 11th or 12th man and had very little impact on the outcome of any of the games, which is why I gave him an “I.”

    Boozer has slightly more points (14) and rebounds (8) than Prince in fewer minutes (30) and Boozer shot a better percentage, so I don’t see how you can give Prince a “B” and Boozer an “F.”

    The only difference between the FIBA Americas tournament and the exhibition games is that the competition was tougher in the exhibition games. In general, FIBA teams do not look to post up a lot (China being an obvious exception with Yao Ming). Chandler’s game is ill suited to FIBA play. Chandler played far fewer minutes in the FIBA Americas tournament than anyone else on the roster and he only got on the court when Team USA was up by 20 or so, meaning that all of his stats were garbage time production.

    I agree that Miller is bigger than Redd :)

    Other than that, I would take Redd over Miller, particularly in the context of FIBA play. That said, I agree with you that Redd has not had a huge impact; prior to the FIBA Americas tournament I disagreed with most analysts who considered Redd to be a vital addition to the team. The most important thing for Team USA to focus on to avoid repeating recent failures is defense and Redd is not going to have an impact there at all. It is a nice luxury to have Redd to stretch out the defense but if/when games are close the lineup will consist of Howard (or maybe Bosh) plus Kobe/LeBron/Melo and the pg who is playing the best at that time; Redd will not be on the court in that scenario unless Kobe, LeBron or Melo are hurt or in foul trouble.

  • Teddy-the-Bear

    @ Tarzan: Of course Miller was unproductive. If you are building a gold-medal worthy team, what the hell would you be doing with Mike Miller on your roster? @ Jukai: Your kidding, right?

  • Yunki

    Nice report David, totally agree about Reddick. Shoulda given him a spot.

  • Yunki

    The reddick comment was to Cordeazy

  • Jackie Moon

    Unless the team intends on getting career commitments from the players, Team USA will never run a half-court “system”, which would require continuity on the roster and years of playing together. Their best bet will be to spread the floor like they are doing, or some variation of the dribble drive offense that Memphis and all the high school teams are running.

  • WhaHuh

    Carmelo led the team in rebounds. He is worth more than C+ and the USA have a BIG rebounding problem!

  • http://www.talkaboutposrt.blogspot.com TalkAboutSport

    Alright..Jackie Moon yes Carmelo has lacked on the defensive end BUT he has had an offensive game second to none. Also, he has been one of the top rebounders for Team USA – and right now he is supporting the team on the boards. I saw some clips of his defense – yes he need improvement, but it should not overshadow his impressive offensive explosions. I say B/B-.

    And about D-Will…I’m sorry I was so one-sided about him..he’s a great player but I was just so shocked about Melo’s grade. Anyways, Will and CP3 have played at an equal level in fact i think D-Will’s defense is just better than Paul’s. But B’s are accurate grades for both of them.

  • Danny

    I’d like to see this starting five: Paul, Wade, Bryant, Lebron, Howard. Deron and Redd should spell Paul/Wade, thus balancing the penetration and outside shooting. Redd should be played more simply because he will create space for the other players. Carmelo can spell both Bryant and Lebron while Bosh backs up the PF and C spots.
    Wade, Bryant and Lebron need to play at least 30 minutes per game and Coach K will have to give one of the PGs 60-70% of the minutes. Trying too hard to balance the minutes can actually hurt the team with no one really settling down.

  • http://sdfjkl.com Jukai

    Interesting about Boozer David, I must have missed a game or something where he did well cause I honestly don’t remember him scoring terribly well… so I’ll give you that one. However, I think you’re looking at the Chandler/Miller scenario wrong. You’re saying, “as a player, who is better suited for FIBA play” and not “as a team, who would be better for the team to compete against FIBA basketball teams.” The US is being vastly outrebounded and all Chandler has to do is grab the ball over players that are mostly FAR shorter than 7’1. We have players like Kobe and Lebron and Wade, we have the zone busters in Deron and (arguably) Redd. Tyson does not need to be effective against a zone, nor does he have to guard against anyone posting up. He simply has to clog the lane and grab a rebound. He also works VERY well in transition, much better than Boozer does… and if transition is going to be how Team USA scores points, he’s very valuble.
    Miller, I know, is an arguement. There is no doubt Redd is a better player, MUCH better. I’m saying that Miller is better suited for the team, as there is an overabundance of guards, and Miller is much better suited to play the three than Redd is. This way, incase of zone troubles, you could easily have Deron, Wade, Miller, Bosh and (SHOULD BE CHANDLER) Boozer out there in all their natural positions. With Redd in the game, either him or Wade have to play the three, which they are vastly undersized for. Miller is also very good at moving the ball around the perimeter, getting long rebounds, etc. He is not near as good of a ball handler or as an offensive force as Redd is, but for Team USA’s needs, Miller was a better choice. Remember Danny, this is a TEAM. Plain and simple.

  • http://sdfjkl.com Jukai

    Also, there was VERY little zone in the FIBA Americas. I attended half of them. It was mostly man to man… so there’s a lot of difference.

  • http://sdfjkl.com Jukai

    I should take back “disagree with a lot of this,” I agree with most of it, I just get timelier responses when I say that.

  • http://www.friendster.com/sesa Sesa

    @Jukai, Carmelo’s offensive game can be easily replaced by either LeBron, Kobe, Wade or maybe Deron. What Team USA really needs is pure perimeter defender who can knock down 3s.
    USA may have Prince, but his offensive game is struggling right now

  • jeremy

    paul was far worse defensively than melo; he looked completely lost on defense

  • http://20secondtimeout.blogspot.com/ David Friedman

    Jukai:

    Team USA has not been “vastly outrebounded.” They outrebounded the opposition 37.4 rpg to 36.0 rpg in the five exhibition games.

  • http://20secondtimeout.blogspot.com/ David Friedman

    Jukai:

    If Chandler were on the team he could not merely stay in the lane and grab rebounds. He would also have to be able to switch and defend screen/roll plays and he would have to be able to guard bigs who prefer to face up.

  • David Friedman

    Jukai:

    LeBron is as big as Mailman was in his prime. Team USA will only possibly have a problem on the glass if they let teams slow the game down and even then I still don’t think that it will be a problem.

  • David Friedman

    In the FIBA Americas tournament, Redd played 199 minutes and Miller played 156 minutes. They both played most of their minutes when Team USA was well in front. Miller shot .439 from the field, Redd shot .530 from the field.

  • David Friedman

    (Comments section has been funky the past couple days, so I broke my response to Jukai into several parts).

    The reality is that players 10-12 (and maybe even 9) will not get that much run barring injury/foul trouble/blowouts, so I don’t understand why so much emphasis is placed by some fans on the composition of the bottom of the roster. If we see players 9-12 on the court for significant periods of time then Team USA will either be winning by 20 or in serious trouble because key players are out of action.

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