By: Mike Moreau
As Team USA heads into their final preparations for the Olympic Games, three point shooting and the ability to make free throws are becoming a focal point of the offensive discussion. There are some causes for concern here, as well as reasons for confidence.
Taking a look at both of these areas, here's what we find:
THREE POINT SHOOTING
Cause For Concern #1:
There are 13 American NBA players who in the 2007-08 regular season made over 100 threes and shot over 40% from behind the arc.
None of these players are on Team USA.
In fact, no player in the Top 36 in NBA three-point percentage is on the team. Designated shooter Michael Redd was only 69th in the league this year.
NBA stars like Kevin Martin and Chauncey Billups all shot better than anyone on Team USA. Even players such as Anthony Parker, Daniel Gibson, Steve Blake and Derek Fisher out-shot every player on the roster for TEAM USA from the three-point line during the regular season.
Cause For Concern #2:
The International three point line, at 20 feet 6 inches, is in an area of the floor deemed a "long two" by NBA standards – which is considered the worst percentage shot on the court in the league.
This means that many players don't normally shoot from that distance in a game. It's either an NBA three from 23-9 on top and the wings, 22 feet in the corners or a one dribble pull-up from 18 feet.
The spot on the floor where the line now sits is unfamiliar territory, and some players will be pulling up and taking shots from spots they don't ordinarily practice from or shoot from in NBA competition.
Reasons For Confidence:
Over half of Team USA's roster shoots better than 35% from behind the NBA three-point line – led by point guards Deron Williams (39.5), Jason Kidd (38.1) and Chris Paul (36.9).
The others are Tayshaun Prince (36.3), the aforementioned Michael Redd is fifth best on the team (36.2) and Kobe Bryant (36.1). Carmelo Anthony shoots a respectable 35.4.
Of those players, Kobe Bryant made the most threes of anyone during the regular season, ringing up 150.
So, although the team doesn't really have any of the league's top catch-and-shoot marksmen, our perimeter players are all decent shooters – with seven of our 12 players in the Top 85 in the league.
Also, most of these guys have good shooting mechanics and would shoot a much higher percentage if this had to be their calling card.
It may not be the same guys making shots from game to game, but we do have enough quality shooters that a few of them should be feeling it on any given night.
Cause For Concern:
None of the Top 20 foul shooters in the NBA are on the roster of TEAM USA. Again, this includes players like Chauncey Billups, Ray Allen and Caron Butler who shoot over 90%, and Kevin Martin and Derek Fisher who shoot better than 86%. All of these players are better at the line than anyone on the roster of Team USA.
We also boast Dwight Howard, who shoots 58.9% from the line. That's only eight percentage points ahead of Shaquille O'Neal and 10 points behind Joakim Noah – neither of whom have any shooting videos on the market.
Reasons For Confidence:
Half of Team USA shoots better than 80% from the foul line – led by Chris Paul at 85.1, Chris Bosh at 84.4 and Kobe Bryant at 83.9. Michael Redd, Jason Kidd and Deron Williams all shoot better than 80%. Carmelo Anthony, Tayshaun Prince and Dwayne Wade all shoot better than 75%.
That means three quarters (9 out of 12) of the team makes three quarters of their free throws.
In a close game or when protecting a lead, Team USA can put five players on the court at the same time who all shoot 80% or better.
We can put various combinations of guards and
forwards on the floor that shoot a high free throw percentage, and
still have enough size, athleticism and defensive presence on the court
Team USA has all of the three point shooting it needs to succeed against the zones and collapsing man-to-man schemes they will see in these Olympics. They have a better and larger mix of players who can make the international three with consistency. We also have enough quality foul shooters to protect leads and win close games down the stretch. No games should be lost at the foul line with this team.
If Team USA has to literally "shoot for the gold" – it is more than capable of bringing it home from behind the arc or from the line.