Dream team or nightmare team?

It looks as though they just never learn. As Jerry Colangelo starts to assemble the roster for the 2006 basketball world championships and the 2008 Olympic games, he appears to be trying to duplicate the same type of team that took the bronze in Athens and flopped in the 2002 world championships.

Touting players such as Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and probably Shaq, this is a team made up of guys who can create off the dribble, slash to the basket and outmuscle their opponents. Or in other words: the exact wrong type of team to win in an international event. Team USA needs athletic players who can shoot the ball, play good team defense and have a mentality different from the normal 21st century NBA success blueprint. The aforementioned 2004 U.S. Olympians were eighth out of 12 in field-goal shooting and were strangely overmatched against such should-be-pushovers as Puerto Rico (a 92-73 shellacking).

A huge misconception is the notion of having big post players who can excel down low. Sure, Amare Stoudamire can outmuscle the everyday European big man. But so could Damon Stoudamire. The overkill is so excessive that it eventually doesn’t matter, and it leaves the United States completely strapped at the other skills that they really need to win.

Which is why there needs to be a return to college players. The Untouchables got uncorrupt cops on their squad by “getting them off the vine before they can spoil,” or, in this scenario, bringing in players who haven’t had their egos inflated by being “The Man” on their respective NBA teams.

There is already a collegiate master at the head coaching position-Mike Krzyzewski, who is the ultimate at getting his players to be a team. Considering that the overwhelming individual talent experiment is obviously not working anymore, wouldn’t it make sense to go back to playing team basketball?

Of course, back when the United States was using a roster composed exclusively of collegiate men, Team USA didn’t always run away with it. So I’m proposing a model based on the 2000 U.S. Olympic baseball team that won the gold medal in an upset over Cuba.

That squad employed almost exclusively minor league players, with one exception: Veteran catcher Pat Borders, brought in to be a coach on the field and settle down a young staff that needed that kind of fatherly mentor.

The basketball equivalent would be a veteran NBA point guard to set the tempo of the game and run the offense, an offense that would be based on high shooting percentages, perimeter play and the extra pass.

On my sample team I chose Allen Iverson and Jason Kidd to be the point guards, with the rest of the team made up of current college players who can all shoot the ball, are all considered unselfish (but still are able to take a game over when need be) and can for the most part defend well.

Kidd is an obvious choice due to his ability to make everyone around him better, and Iverson has to go, thanks to his absolute passion about playing on the national team. While Colangelo is waiting around for players to make up their minds on whether they’d rather spend their next two summers playing for their countries or sitting on the beach, Iverson flew to Phoenix to basically plead with Colangelo for a spot on the roster. Guys like that can inspire the younger ones, and if the United States is ever in a pinch for a late basket, AI would definitely fit the bill.

As for the rest of the roster (see attached graphic), some are obvious choices like Morrison and Redick, while the others just seem to make sense based on their overall positive qualities. The big men would be able to hold their own in the middle, but since that is a minor part of Olympic basketball, they also need to shoot from at least mid-range and defend out on the perimeter. If this squad had success in 2006, Colangelo could decide whether to use the same players in 2008 (when several will undoubtedly be in The Show), or just use the same formula and bring in new college players.

It may not be the perfect model, but at least it won’t be hundreds of millions of dollars worth of disappointment on the world stage.

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