Matthew Kitchen, NBC Olympics
Anthony Davis is the first college kid since Christian Laettner to be seriously considered for the USA Hoops team, and after the Kentucky star made his leap to the NBA official as the No. 1 overall pick to the Hornets Thursday night, it’s worth wondering if there’s a spot for him in the Olympics.
First let’s get something straight: Davis sure ain’t Laettner, who was coming off a Naismith award, his second national championship, and a perfect 20-for-20 performance in the greatest basketball game ever played. Laettner beat out Shaquille O’Neal for the final spot but barely got on the floor in Barcelona, averaging 4.8 points per game. Still, that was the Dream Team and he was playing alongside ten of the best players ever assembled (and Clyde Drexler).
Davis, only 19-years-old, is a finalist on a squad that’s dwindling in front of our eyes. We’ve already lost four NBA all-stars and Dwyane Wade announced Thursday that he’ll have to pull out of the Games because of a knee injury, though he’d spent the better part of 2012 being criticized for his commitment to USA Hoops, so probably all the better. That leaves only 17 finalists, meaning Davis just has to beat out five guys.
Rudy Gay is probably out for lacking versatility, and Lamar Odom’s attitude problems have been an issue for Coach K since Dallas dumped Mr. Kardsashian mid-season. There’s two gone. Davis can play all five spots, which makes him more valuable than James Harden (even though we love both him and the beard), so that’s one more.
This is where it gets tough. You’re not knocking out any Beijing players or anybody who plays defense, so Tyson Chandler is safe. Wade’s absence leaves a spot at the two-guard, meaning either Eric Gordon or Andre Iguodala sneak into a spot. We’ll give it to Gordon, since his shooting will be an asset in international play, and leave Iggy off.
At this point the No. 1 overall pick either needs Deron Williams to pull out because of contract issues or hope he can steal the spot vacated by Wade purely because the team needs an extra big man. Possible, even plausible, but does it happen? Probably not. The kid likely gets left off the Team after the Vegas camp and begins prepping for his first NBA season in New Orleans.
At Davis’ age he’ll be able to play for Team USA in 2016 even if they make it a 23-and-under squad, and if he keeps on this pace he’ll be the star of that squad. For now he’s probably content to don the Hornets and awkwardly hug David Stern. Congrats, kid.
The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.