Why is the 2016 US Men's Olympic Basketball team playing so poorly? originally appeared on Quora - the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights.
It is all about defense, or the lack thereof. Here are the opponents' shooting percentages from the last 3 games: 50%, 52%, and 56% (Australia, Serbia, and France). That is bad. Not just bad for the "Dream Team" but bad for any team.
The most common reason I hear people talk about is a lack of effort on defense but I don't actually believe this is the case. There is something else going on that has the same symptoms as a lack of effort and that is a lack of respect for the opponent. This causes over-aggressiveness on the ball, which allows the ball handler to beat the defender and put the defense in a bad position. It also allows the defender to be a half-step further away or watch the ball for a half-second longer, and which opens up a back door opportunity. It also allows you to provide help defense more than is appropriate, giving up a wide open shot to the offense.
Also, this just isn't a great defensive team. Three of the starters for Team USA, Cousins, Anthony, and Irving, are not good at defense. Not to mention Kevin Durant, who has looked bad as well, often getting beat off the dribble or back door.
The really big problem is that there is no easy fix. First of all, this team is the most talented team in the Olympics and at any time they could play a "perfect game" and destroy any opponent. But the more likely scenario is that they continue to struggle with above-average teams and continue to win by small margins or even possibly lose.
Finally, Coach K hasn't really tried any wrinkles in the rotation. Small ball has taken over the NBA, but he hasn't really attempted that in the Olympics. How about a small lineup of Lowry, Irving, George, Durant, and Anthony? Run a little motion offense and have the 3, 4, and 5 switch everything on D. Or play the best defensive lineup of Thompson, Bulter, George, Green, and Jordan. That lineup should be able to slow down any offense.
Ultimately, I don't see this improving much, which should make for exciting medal-round games.
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