With Chauncey Billups pulling his name out of consideration for the U.S. national team’s ’08 Olympic roster, it’s pretty much a forgone conclusion that USA Basketball boss Jerry Colangelo will name Jason Kidd, Chris Paul and Deron Williams to the Team USA roster when it’s announced next Monday. Who should be the starter among those three? Let’s break down the pros and cons…
Pros: Kidd has the experience — 14 years in the NBA, 105 playoff games, two NBA Finals appearances, and his much-hyped 44-0 record in FIBA play in the rearview mirror. He is the definition of the pass-first point guard (and perhaps the world’s greatest passer), witnessed by the fact that in 10 games at 16 minutes per in last year’s FIBA Americas tournament, he only took 10 shots. Total. With so many explosive scorers on the roster, Kidd is content to distribute all day on the offensive end, and he’s still a capable defender. At 6-4, 210 pounds, he can muscle many point guards at this level. He’s not a vocal leader, but has the respect of everyone in the U.S. locker room.
Cons: He won’t be able to stretch the defense with his shooting (38% FG), and as Chris Paul made clear in this year’s playoffs, the 35-year-old vet’s best days are behind him.
Pros: CP is hot right now. He’s coming off perhaps the greatest all-around season (21.1 ppg, 11.6 apg, 2.7 spg) for a point guard since Tiny Archibald’s 34-point, 11-assist per game campaign in 1972-73. The pick-and-roll can work wonders on the international level, and Paul runs it better than anyone in the NBA. He’s willing to look for his own shot, so if Team USA’s scorers and shooters are having an off day, he can shoulder the scoring load himself. No point guard in the world — at least not in this field — is faster with the ball, quicker getting from one spot to another, or will be able to stop Paul from penetrating into the lane.
Cons: Paul’s only other major international experience came during the ’06 World Championship, where he was the starter on a U.S. team that finished a disappointing third-place. His outside jumper is improving but by no means automatic, and while he collects a lot of steals, isn’t considered a great on-ball defender. He is also coming off the longest season of his career — 92 games counting the regular season and playoffs — and could be at risk of wearing down eventually.
Pros: Another maestro when it comes to pick-and-roll basketball, Deron has the added threat over CP that he is a dependable three-point shooter. A strong, solidly-built (6-3, 205) point, he can finish above the rim in traffic, out-physical many point guards in the League, and defend two-guards too if need be. He QB’d his team to the Western Conference Finals in ’07, and in the ’08 playoffs took control as Utah’s go-to scorer and general do-everything threat when Carlos Boozer and Andrei Kirilenko struggled. He will take and make game-winning shots in crunch time.
Cons: While he was on the U.S. team in last summer’s FIBA Americas tourney, Deron was the third-stringer and didn’t get as much (meaningful) on-court experience, logging the majority of his minutes in games that were already blowouts. Running with Team USA can, when the group is rolling, be akin to playing in the All-Star Game, and Williams doesn’t have any NBA All-Star nods under his belt.