With a thanks to Basketball-Reference.com’s Neil Paine, who accumulated all of the necessary statistics, I put together a Win Chart purporting to attribute wins and losses to each player on Team USA for every game the team has played thus far (up through Tunisia and including the friendly matches). I also handed out grades to each player for their relative performances so far.
Although the competition was much better at the 2008 Olympics, if you click here you can use the 2008 Gold Medal team’s Win Chart as an international ball comparison.
Grades for Team USA (so far)
Durant, Love (co-Valedictorians)
The dominant players on the team thus far have been PF Kevin Durant, the leader of the team in wins with 1.9, and C Kevin Love, the leader of the team in performance level with an unconscionable +13.07 Marginal Win Score per 40 minutes. Love, despite playing the second least minutes, has somehow produced the second most wins. What a display. He’s just having his way with the competition on the backboard. Yeah, he doesn’t look glamorous doing it, but basketball ain’t about the pretty. And what can you say about Durant? Durant has been impressive on both offense and defense. Who knew he would be such a great defender coming out of Texas? He’s simply developing into a real beast (though watching him I wonder how long his spindly legs can support his mobile game. Are seven footers supposed to be able to play like 6’5” guys?) Love, on the other hand, is putting up a pretty convincing case that he may be the best rebounder alive today.
Westbrook, Rose, and Gay (tri-Salutatorians)
Some players who have played surprisingly well include Derrick Rose and especially Rudy Gay. Each is normally around average during the NBA season when measured by wins produced. But each has been hard for the world to handle so far. Russell Westbrook has really developed into an outstanding player in the past few seasons. He and Durant, along with other Oklahoma players, are the foundation for what could be a scary good team in Dust Bowl. They could be Miami’s chief threat, or perhaps the other way around.
Iguodala, Odom (cum laude)
Remember this grade is on a curve. Iguodala and Odom are each doing okay, but when you consider that each is normally an above average NBA player, and sometimes considerably above average, their individual national team numbers are milquetoast.
Billups, Gordon, Chandler (a “C” is a degree)
A “C” is kind of generous. In international competition, what look like above average win numbers if they were posted in the NBA are akin to below the median numbers when posted against world competition. Tunisia and Slovenia clearly are not NBA timber. Of the three who earned this grade, Chauncey Billups and Tyson Chandler are both players who have exhibited signs of rapid decline in their once very productive careers, and Eric Gordon is a young player who is hard to measure. Coming out of college I projected him to disappoint, in his first season he surprised me with productive play, but last season he slumped backward toward what I expected he would produce (surf over to the NBA Win Chart Pages on the right hand column of this blog if you want to see my exact calculations for each of the players mentioned in this post).
Stephen Curry (NR: needs replacement)
I don’t know what he’s doing on this team, or how on Earth he beat out Rajon Rondo, but Stephen Curry has looked awful. For such a reputed “shooter” he looks like a “non-shooter”. Besides (warning: tirade coming) why would National Team organizers favor players with jump shooting skills?! Those skills are easily replicated. Why not concentrate on loading the team up with players who show either rare productive skills (Love’s rebounding), rare physical skills (Wade, Rose, Westbrook or Rondo), or freakish combinations of skill, size, and talent (LeBron, Durant). Why put guys like Gordon and Curry on the team? Foreign teams can match them. Didn’t Redd prove that? Or how about the Iverson/Marbury disaster of 2004? How many more of these mistakes is USA Basketball going to make?
Danny Granger (See ya next fall… same homeroom)
How low are grades allowed to go? Granger has been awful. If the World Championships were considered his original third grade year, Granger would right now be thinking up reasons to explain to his friends why he has to spend this fall repeating the third grade. What in the hell is Granger even doing on the team anyway? What fool thought he could possibly add more value to Team USA than the monster from Charlotte, SF Gerald Wallace? Still, Granger’s play has been inexcusably putrid. Unless Granger is suffering from West Nile or something, his poor play is hard to explain even by his ordinarily low standards.