July 21, 2012; Barcelona, SPAIN; USA guard James Harden (12) during practice in preparation for the 2012 London Olympic Games at Palau Sant Jordi. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-US PRESSWIRE

2012 Olympics: How James Harden can help Team USA

Bob Donnan-US PRESSWIRE

The USA Basketball team is stacked as usual this year for the 2012 London Olympics. The team features some of the best players in the NBA including LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Kobe Bryant.

The Oklahoma City Thunder make up 25 percent of the roster with Durant, Russell Westbrook and last year’s Sixth Man of the Year award winner James Harden.

Durant and Westbrook have made the rotation and will see a lot of playing time in the Olympics but Harden was one of the last players to make the cut for this team.

Harden is really only on the team because so many others dropped out due to injury but nonetheless is extremely talented and can help this team win gold.

Harden played in only four of Team USA’s five exhibition games in preparation for London and averaged 9.5 minutes per game and 6.0 points per game. He hasn’t been great shooting the three at just .364 percent, an area where he is most likely to help the U.S.

The United States have made it clear that they will rely on the 3-point shot attempting an average of 27.6 per game in their exhibitions and shooting .406 percent.

The team isn’t comprised of the greatest outside shooters though and many of the players logging big minutes right now are relatively weak 3-point shooters. This is where Harden could steal some minutes and start to get more playing time.

Chris Paul, LeBron James and Andre Iguodala are three players playing a lot who aren’t the best shooters. LeBron will play as many minutes as anyone and that is fine but Paul and Iguodala playing a little less for the better shooting Harden to get some more minutes might make sense.

Team USA is going to see a lot of zone defense once the Olympics start and they will continue to jack up 27-plus threes per game. If Team USA goes cold from three in one of these games while head coach Mike Krzyzewski is playing his main guys, he could turn to Harden at an important time to come in and provide a spark.

Harden is perfect against the zone not only because he is a good 3-point shooter but because he is best as a 3-point shooter from the wings, which is where the majority of open 3-point shots are taken against a zone. Harden has endless range too and should have the confidence to pull the trigger right when he comes in off the bench because he is already used to that role.

If Harden gets the chance to come in as someone who is needed to drain a few threes and come through, he could potentially jump into the main rotation for Team USA. He is fully capable in other aspects of his game too on the fast break and playing the passing lanes, two areas where Team USA thrives as a unit.

Harden will really have to show Krzyzewski something though to get any major run. Krzyzewski seems pretty set on his 10-man rotation that doesn’t include Harden and rookie Anthony Davis.

But this team isn’t perfect and if they find themselves in a situation where Harden is needed, Krzyzewski should take a chance on him. They added Harden to this team for this specific role of being a guy who can come in comfortably off the bench and knock down some threes.

Team USA will play its first Olympic game Sunday at 9:30 a.m. EST on NBA vs. France.

Tags: 2012 Olympics James Harden Kevin Durant LeBron James Mike Krzyzewski Russell Westbrook USA Basketball

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