With the Bucks' 2007-08 season officially over, we (as Bucks fans) are left with the dilemma of wondering what to do, other than scrutinize potential draft picks that are no longer playing and make a list of top coaches for the coaching vacancy. We could pick a team that had the audacity to actually make the playoffs, since there is a lot of good basketball scheduled in the next couple months. The Hornets are a logical choice, given they overcame Hurricane Katrina in style, have Chris Paul, are the least respected number two seed ever, and the fact that over the winter there were rumblings of Bucks fans considering adopting them anyway. Or perhaps we should pull for the Cavaliers, who could attract attention to the breadbasket and the Central Division, provide us more ridiculous LeBron playoff heroics, and after they win the title, we can all explain in detail how the Bucks dominated the season series 3-1.
None of that really feels right though, so in the end it comes down to Team USA-- or Australia or China-- in the upcoming Olympics in Beijing. Michael Redd, Andrew Bogut, and Yi Jianlian are expected to play major roles in the sport's premier international tournament this summer, meaning it won't really be very long before we watch who some would say are the team's three cornerstones play.
And while each national team features compelling storylines, the focus here is on Team USA, which has particularly difficult roster choices to make. The most challenging cuts could be at the point guard position, where Kirk Hinrich's decision to take the summer off (via TrueHoop) doesn't exactly narrow the field , considering his mediocre season probably left him roughly the same chance of wearing red, white, and blue in Beijing as
Mo Williams Ramon Sessions anyway.
While it's impossible to conclusively rank the Dream Teams, the 2008 version figures to be one of the greatest ever. And while LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Amare Stoudemire, and Dwight Howard only solidified their locked-up roster spots this season, not a single other player is an absolute. Carmelo Anthony is probably the next closest thing, but his very strong but perhaps not overwhelming regular season combined with recent legal troubles could throw his seemingly secured spot at least somewhat into question.
The most interesting debate though is who to cut out of Jason Kidd, Chauncey Billups, Deron Williams, and Chris Paul (as well as Gilbert Arenas, Joe Johnson, and Luke Ridnour). We can probably all agree that not all four elite point guards will make the 12-man roster.
And really, we already have a few Bucks tie-ins, but what is more relevant right now than the subject of point guards? News of Derrick Rose's draft declaration is hot around these parts. We have a starter in Mo Williams who followed up a big payday by stroking jumpers like no one else (except Kyle Korver) in the NBA, but also concluded the season as the subject of trade rumors. Then we have a second round rookie backup who recently put up 20 points and 24 assists in a standard, regulation NBA game. To top things off, our good "clubhouse guy" got suspended for three games after a punch to Aaron Gray's groin. Nice.
But uh, back to the lecture at hand. Is it possible that last year's USA Basketball Male Athlete of the Year, Jason Kidd, could be left at home as Team USA flies to China in hopes of regaining gold? Unlikely perhaps, in light of leading them to a perfect 10-0 record last summer in the FIBA Americas while playing brilliantly unselfish offensive basketball and strong team defense. One must consider however, the mightily attractive alternatives.
Chris Paul progressed into a legitimate MVP candidate this season, and is almost universally considered the world's top point guard right now. Paul didn't even play in the FIBA Americas, but was part of the 8-1 World Championships team in 2006. He had a good but not great showing, rattling off 44 assists and only nine turnovers, but shot just 43.1 % from the field as Team USA stumbled to a disappointing bronze medal. Nonetheless, he's still a part of the 2006-08 team roster, and it would be almost impossible to omit him if the aim is to build an unbeatable national team. Plus, he's established himself as the game's top point man by passing, creating turnovers, and making his teammates better, exactly the attributes Team USA needs and exactly what used to separate Kidd from the rest.
If Paul is a sure thing, that leaves two other point guard roster spots. Deron Williams could be the odd man out, but his regular season rivaled Paul's, and in the FIBA's he shot 61.3 % from the field and had as many assists as Kidd. Williams has only gotten better since then, and his youth will serve him well in the intense, one-and-done nature of Olympic basketball.
Chauncey Billups struggled about as much as anyone for Team USA in the FIBA's, but it's tough to turn down his pull-up jumper, defensive intensity, leadership qualities, and big-game credentials. If you had to pick one point guard for to be on the floor with under two minutes left in a gold medal game against Argentina, wouldn't you have a tough time convincing yourself Billups isn't the choice?
Of course, the 35 year-old Kidd still makes a pretty strong case too: before leading Team USA last summer, he won gold in Sydney in 2000, and is 44-0 in meaningful games with national team. It's not all about the past either, as evidenced by his 27-10-10 game in the Mavs' regular season finale. Teammates still love playing with him. And it seems Mike Krzyzewski wants Kidd on the team.
Jason Kidd said last month that if the Dallas Mavericks make an extended playoff run, he might not play in this summer's Beijing Olympics.
On Tuesday, USA basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski didn't wish ill will on Dallas' postseason, but he did make it clear he wants Kidd on his squad.
So while we're lucky enough to watch all four in the playoffs starting Saturday, even if Kidd heroically propels the Mavericks to glory, he might not do the same for Team USA. But does the future Hall of Fame court general still have a (fresh enough) leg up on Paul, Williams, and Billups anyway?
In any event, assuming all four want in, which of the four would you cut from the national team?
***Please read the poll wording carefully. You are voting for the Team USA point guard that you feel SHOULD NOT make the team.