After watching both Team USA games in Japan (thank you TiVo), itâ€™s clear that we deserve to be undefeated. And itâ€™s clear we still have reason to be concerned.
The reason for my nervousness: outside shooting. The same issue that plagued the team in Athens two years ago and that some of us were concerned about early on. Through two games, Team USA is shooting just 31.9% from three (compared to 48.9% for their opponents). Overall their eFG% is 55.7% — good if youâ€™re an NBA team but not great for a team with a three-point line nearly three-feet in from what youâ€™re used to and a team counting on easy baskets from fast breaks.
UPDATE: I wasn’t expressing my other concern because it had been only two games, but it should be noted that the gambling USA defense has not slowed other teams scoring. Through two games USA opponents are averaging 113.5 points per 100 possessions, for comparison Argentina is at 95.6. I decided to bring it up after stats guru and Cav’s employee Dan Rosenbaum started discussing it on the APBR message board.
I have a theory on why Puerto Rico hung closeâ€“ they have an NBA guard handling the ball much of the time and they were facing the USA for the fourth time in the last few weeks. The Puerto Ricans were used to the defensive pressure. China was not â€“ their guards were not as good and they had seen the USA only once.
The USA has not looked bad, but the weaknesses are clear. Against a team with good guard play that will not turn the ball over 24 times in a game (like China) the USA is going to have to rely more on the half-court offense. And that means better shooting â€“ guys like Wade can break down a zone with penetration but you still need other players to take advantage of the kick-out passes off the drives, or bigs who can find space when there is defensive rotation. Right now the USA just has the penetration part down.
Kirk Hinrich is an exception, he is hitting 66.7% from three, and Joe Johnson and Shane Battier have hit 40% of theirs. Wade was great against China. Dwight Howard is a force on the boards as well. But those are the only people worth mentioning. This team clearly misses what Redd and Kobe could bring.
The next game, against Slovina, should give us a better idea of this teamâ€™s capability. I still expect them to get through group play undefeated. Hopefully the remaining games will give the team the chance to work on its deficiencies before things get serious.