Three key areas USA must address to avoid an Athens 2004 repeat

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The USA may be 5-0 at the Olympics but it has been far from perfect for the most successful nation in basketball history. Missing superstar players like LeBron James, Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook and James Harden would take its toll on any team, but nobody envisioned it would be such a chore for the States.

Credit must be given to the other nations, who have fought tooth and nail to make life hard for America. But more should be expected from a team that boasts nine All-Stars from 2016 and championship winners from the previous two seasons.

With the knockout stages starting on Wednesday, we take a look at three of the areas they need to focus on ahead of the next game.


Scoring hasn't been a problem for the US, but their levels on defence really have been lacklustre. In the starting lineup DeMarcus Cousins, Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony have all failed to produce their best.

The Sacramento Kings center - and others - have experienced foul trouble on a number of occasions in Brazil and he especially been a target for opposition players. Boogie had an extremely tough time against Nikola Jokic as the Denver Nuggets youngster helped Serbia stage a fantastic comeback.

It's not a lack of quality they are suffering from, it's a lack of intensity. Despite three tight games, they still think they're going to blow teams away.


In the warm-up games, the States were playing some extremely exciting team basketball. But since the level of competition has increased, their passing has taken a hit. Mike Krzyzewski is an iso-heavy coach, but without the likes of James, Kobe Bryant or Harden it is not looking so convincing.

The NBA is becoming more of a passing game league but Team USA appear to be playing in the same manner that cost them so dearly in the 2004 games. Thinking their individual talent will be enough to get them through.

They have two ball-dominant point guards in Kyrie Irving and Kyle Lowry - although the Cleveland Cavaliers star's passing was a joy to behold against France. Anthony, Durant, DeMar DeRozan and Paul George all bring a limited passing ability to the table.


With defence being an issue, it is a wonder the man who came second in the running for Defensive Player of the Year spends most his time watching on from the sidelines. Not only does he bring lockdown defence but Draymond Green also provides intensity and an added dimension on offence.

He is the perfect center in a small ball lineup, and the US have the tools around him to make a success of the style that brought so much joy to the Golden State Warriors.

Harrison Barnes is another player who can feel hard done by; his impact on the offensive end is still minimal, but you can't question his ability on defence. The new Dallas Mavericks man can mark up against players of all positions and is great coming out of the screen.

If the US want a player to provide emphasis facing their own basket then they need to throw in a man who hasn't played in the previous three outings.

The States aren't perfect, but they are far from doomed. You'd expect them to have enough to claim another gold medal. However, a reluctance to address their glaring issues really could come back to bite them.

Team USA Olympics
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