This has yet to matter though as Team USA is 3-0 so far in Olympic play most recently dominating Nigeria to the fullest with an 83-point victory.
Team USA makes up for its lack of size with superior talent. In particular with three players, that are playing somewhat out of position than we’re used to seeing them in the NBA.
Kevin Durant, LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony have each assumed roles with this team where they are playing power forward and sometimes center. This is something that became necessary for Mike Krzyzewski to do once the likes of Dwight Howard and Chris Bosh weren’t going to be on the team and it has worked our just fine.
Playing the four isn’t a totally foreign concept for these three. In fact, you could argue that their NBA teams were most successful when each of these players played the four for them.
A big reason why the Miami Heat won the NBA title this season was because they went to a smaller lineup after Bosh got injured that featured LeBron at the four. It worked so well without Bosh that when he returned at the end of the Eastern Conference Finals, head coach Erik Spoelstra stuck with it all the way through the NBA Finals.
LeBron morphed into a version of Larry Bird using his distributor skills from the low block and posing mismatch problems even more so than usual with his new position.
While not as dramatic as LeBron changing positions, many argue that the Thunder are at their best when Durant plays the four. He stretches the floor as well as anyone in the league and has the length to contend with taller players inside.
The Thunder become more of an up-and-down team when he plays the four and Serge Ibaka is next to him at the five. They give up more on the defensive end with this lineup but their offense takes on a new form that is almost impossible to truly matchup with.
The Knicks too experienced some of their best success last season with Anthony at the four while Amare Stoudemire was out of the lineup. Anthony has showed in the past in the Olympics his ability to play the four and is doing it again this summer as he just set a U.S. Olympic record with 37 points vs. Nigeria.
This is what the future of the NBA will be. There was a time when teams liked their bigger lineups, ones that might prefer Anthony Mason or Robert Horry at the three. That was the 1990’s and the game is different now and perhaps ready to take an even more dramatic step forward in terms of positions.
There are more skilled athletes than ever in the NBA today. Players like LeBron and Durant are the best in the league largely because of what they can do with a basketball despite their huge frames.
Pat Riley has come out and said that the Heat will not necessarily be looking for a center for next season despite that being one of the obvious holes of their roster. They are committed to sticking with what worked last season in moving LeBron to the low block.
The Knicks too are considering this with their head coach Mike Woodson recently discussing smaller lineups with Ronnie Brewer.
The Thunder became more versatile this year with some of the pickups they made. Two new players that will likely crack their rotation this year are Eric Maynor who was injured last season after playing only nine games and rookie Perry Jones.
Jones matches the future direction of the NBA as well as anyone. Once he would have been considered a soft big who didn’t rebound enough or score enough from the block. Now he is a matchup nightmare because of his versatility. And lined up next to Durant will give the Thunder something that will be just about impossible for any team to match up with.
We will continue to try and find something about this 2012 U.S. Olympic team that will make them beatable. Spain and Brazil’s size is the one thing that looks like could give Team USA trouble.
But maybe that’s not the case at all. Maybe Team USA is better off with this lineup, becoming more versatile and being able to play the brand of basketball that will be displayed for years to come in the NBA.
Basketball is always evolving and Durant, LeBron and Melo are the next evolution.