It may not be easy to find positives in Team USA’s pair of pre-Olympic tune-ups, which consisted of two crushing losses at the hands of Nigeria and Australia, but the play of Golden State Warriors big man Draymond Green has been seen as one of the few bright points.
America’s team of NBA stars has struggled in adjusting to the pace and style of international play, allowing the Nigerian squad to outshoot them and failing to contain the more experienced Australian squad. Despite the disappointing losses, Green has been able to take on a larger role as his defensive style has been a better fit — and a more needed addition — for the international game.
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Green’s Play Earns Praise
While Green’s biggest contribution to Team USA in the Olympics is expected to be his defensive presence, the Warriors big man showed off some offensive prowess in their loss to Nigeria. He notched 10 points on 2-of-3 shooting from the floor, and added three blocks, two rebounds and two assists.
Green moved from the bench to the starting lineup for the second game. As Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Bay Area noted, United States basketball head coach Gregg Popovich swapped Jayson Tatum and Bam Adebayo out of the starting lineup, replacing them with Jerami Grant and Green to improve on the defensive end.
“The move was clearly with defense in mind, as Grant is a stellar wing defender and Green is one of the best defensive players in the world,” Hughes wrote. “Though Adebayo is also very good on that end, Green is far more accomplished and brings unique versatility.”
Green showed off some of that versatility in the loss to the Aussies, contributing five assists, four blocks, three rebounds and a steal. He didn’t have as much to contribute on offense, scoring just one point on 0-for-1 shooting from the field.
As Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports noted, the other members of Team USA need to catch up to Green’s level on the defensive end. Haynes pointed out that the entire team seems to be lagging on the FIBA rules, including the ability to snatch the ball off the rim on defense, which would be goaltending in the NBA but perfectly legal in international play.
“This version of Team USA has lacked defensive aggression, aside from Draymond Green,” he wrote. “Head coach Gregg Popovich has stated players are still rounding into shape, so applying immense full-court pressure is probably not the best course of action at this stage.”
Time to Rebound
Though the back-to-back losses could put a scare into Green and the American team, Haynes noted that there is still time to turn things around. He pointed out that the roster is not yet complete, as NBA Finals participants Devin Booker, Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton are still slated to join the rest of the members before the Olympics start. Holiday is seen as a particularly important addition, with Team USA in need of a true point guard. Until the roster is complete, it’s difficult to make a full assessment of where the team stands, Haynes wrote.
“Once the team is fully acclimated to the new rules and officiating, once it is equipped with more practice time and once the entire roster is in place, then we’ll be able to thoroughly evaluate the team and Popovich,” he noted.