Fresh off of blasting South Korea by 53 points, Team USA has one more cut to make from its roster. (Originally, there were 2 cuts that needed to be made, but then Kirk Heinrich outplayed Gilbert Arenas for four straight games and whaddya know, suddenly Arenas has a minor groin pull). Many people think that either Bruce Bowen or Shane Battier will get the axe, and at first thought I'd like to see Bowen kept on the team despite his bad performance for them to-date. But let's take a look at the overall roster.
Because the international game is played so differently, rather than break each player into the traditional five positions, we're going to go with "Guards" (bring the ball up and initiate the offense), "Wings" (players who play mainly on the perimeter and either catch and shoot or drive to the basket), and "Posts" (do I need to explain this one?).
Guards: Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul, Kirk Heinrich, Joe Johnson
Wings: Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James, Antawn Jamison, Bruce Bowen
Posts: Elton Brand, Chris Bosh, Dwight Howard, Brad Miller, Shane Battier
Anyone who knows anything about international basketball will tell you that you need to have four guards on your roster. So all four of those guys aren't going anywhere. Looking at the list of wings and posts, Anthony, James, Brand, and Miller have proven themselves as necessary pieces to this team's success, so they aren't going anywhere. That leaves the final cut coming down to one of Jamison, Bowen, Bosh, Howard or Battier.
The first question to me is, do any of those players have skill sets that are already accounted for? In a nutshell, here are each player's strengths:
Jamison - inside/out scoring, rebounding
Bowen - three point shooting and defense
Bosh - rebounding, shotblocking, post scoring
Howard - rebounding, shotblocking, post scoring
Battier - rebounding, toughness, defense, post scoring
I think you've got to have Bruce Bowen on the roster, for two big reasons: 1. He is the best one-on-one (i'm sorry, i refuse to use the term "on-ball") defender on the team, and 2. He has a tremendous amount of experience playing against Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, the two starts of France and Argentina; what will likely be USA's most competitive rivals (along with Germany). So Bowen stays. Jamison can shoot from outside and spread the floor, which will help out against the zone defenses that teams will inevitably be throwing at Team USA.
So we're down to Bosh, Howard and Battier. Three big men who have similar skill sets. I think that Team USA will have enough scoring -- both in the post and from the perimeter -- with the players we've already discussed, so the primary "needs" of the team would be defense and rebounding. Battier is a nice player, a very complete player, and a guy I'd love to have on the Blazers -- but he simply doesn't do those things as well as Chris Bosh or Dwight Howard does them; and the skills he does have are duplicated somewhat by Anthony and Elton Brand. They say that one of Team USA's biggest potential weaknesses would be a big-man who can score from outside and inside, and though Battier is better at muscling out of the paint than either of the other two, I really think that Howard and Bosh's height, leaping ability and long arms will be more effective and will win them the final spots. It's closer than you think, but that's my prediction for now.