USA Basketball announced Tuesday the 30 players who’ve made the cut for the potentially historic 2016 Olympic team and Ames native Harrison Barnes was among them. Four of his teammates on the reigning-champion Warriors are in the final 30 as well: Stephen Curry (who’s a lock for the Olympics barring injury), Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and Andre Iguodala.
The culture of USA Basketball is very strong thanks to the leadership of Hall of Fame manager Jerry Colangelo, who became president of the program after the 2004 Olympics in which the USA team embarrassingly ended up with only a bronze medal. Since Colangelo’s intervention, the team has won gold in two Olympics, 2008 and 2012. With the strong culture and the overabundance of historically great American basketball talent, the team could be poised for a new generation’s Dream Team.
USA Basketball is known to value players who are versatile in their skill set, guys who can shoot and score but also defend multiple positions, handle the ball efficiently, and be playmakers for teammates. Barnes fits well in the profile that USA Basketball is looking for because he plays both ends of the floor, he’s smart and relatively efficient, and he can shoot the ball from 3 (which is a skill likely to be exploited by Team USA considering the personnel).
That being said, for Barnes to make the final 12-man team would mean being selected above some other amazing players at his position. So, LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony are givens at the small forward position that Barnes also plays. LeBron and Carmelo have been members of both USA teams to win gold at the last two Olympics and, though aging, they are still playing at very high levels and are trusted veterans. The other players on the list who’d be vying for a spot at the three would be Kawhi Leonard (who is almost assured to get a spot, as he perfectly meets the team’s standard of extreme versatility), Paul George (who suffered a grotesque injury in a USA Basketball scrimmage in 2014 but has since fully recovered), Gordon Haywood, Rudy Gay, and his teammate Andre Iguodala.
I’d say Barnes is definitely behind Kawhi Leonard and Paul George from that list and the team likely wouldn’t have more than three or four players at small forward. But it’s certainly a possibility that Barnes could get a nod for his championship pedigree and for a solid set of fundamentals that would give a multi-purpose tool to the team off the bench.
WARRIORS EARN TWO COMMANDING WINS THIS WEEK, SPURS COMING NEXT WEEK
In the span of three days this week, the Warriors have utterly dispensed with the top two teams in the Eastern Conference, beating them by a combined total of 65 points.
The Warriors’ thrashing of the Cavaliers on Monday night included an unfortunate moment involving Harrison Barnes. The Cavs guard J.R. Smith, who has a long history of dangerous hits that have gotten him fined and suspended, barreled into Barnes in the third quarter with his forearm out, leveling Barnes. Smith was called for a flagrant two and ejected from the game.
The Warriors’ dominating victory over the Hoiberg-led Bulls included a very solid and efficient game from Barnes who had 19 points (second only to Curry) on a sharp-shooting 8-of-13 from the field that included going 3-of-5 from three. There was one play that kind of summed up the game where Barnes got an outlet pass in transition and found himself with a 1-on-5 against the whole Bulls team. He just dribbled to his spot and popped off a jumper and scored. The Bulls did not defend well and the Warriors attacked them all the harder for it.
DOUG McDERMOTT STRUGGLES VS. WARRIORS BUT MAKES HIGHLIGHT WITH STRONG JAM
We didn’t see anything like a shootout between locally legendary Ames High stars McDermott and Barnes on Wednesday night, although they were guarding each other for a while late in the game. McDermott shot poorly, going 1-of-6 from the field and missing his only three-point attempt. The Bulls have been leaning on young players, including McDermott, at the 3 because their starting small forward, Mike Dunleavy Jr., is injured. Doug has had some good games, but a lot rides on his ability to produce on the offensive end because his defense is a known liability. If his shots aren’t going down, he’s not offsetting the disadvantage of having him in there.
In spite of that, he did show some signs of being more aggressive and looking to drive to the basket when he saw that his shooting was off. He had a strong dunk over Shaun Livingston, all the more impressive because, as the replay shows, Livingston got a clean hand on the ball. McDermott is wise to develop a diversified portfolio of shots because, as with any pure shooter, there are going to be nights when jumpers are just not going down and he’s going to have to figure out how to still contribute and finish when his jump shot is off.
DeAndre Kane and Chris Babb Are Playing on the Same Team: Two solid former Cyclones of recent memory happen to be playing on the same team in Germany now. Earlier this fall, Babb joined Kane’s club Ratiopharm Ulm in Bavaria.
Nick Collison’s Minutes Are Down but He Could Still Contribute: The late-’90s Iowa Falls High School basketball star Nick Collison is getting into the latter part of his NBA career now, but he does play for one of the league’s best teams, the Oklahoma City Thunder. He came on a little slow at the start of the season but seems to be back in good playing shape now. The Thunder are driven by stars Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant, but the team has often struggled when those two aren’t on the court. They need solid role players off the bench if they want to make a serious run at the Warriors or Spurs at this point. He hasn’t taken many shots all year, but when he has his field goal percentage is .417. That’s not awful, but it’s not good either and it’s lower than his career average of .532. Collison is a Thunder lifer; he’s been with the franchise since they were the Seattle Supersonics. If the Thunder do end up making a deep run in the playoffs, it’d be cool to see Collison play a small role.
Phoenix Suns Continue Poor Play but Hornacek Still Has a Job: The Suns’ fortunes have continued to drop in the wake of two assistant coaches being fired. The team’s losing streak is still going strong and includes losses to some of the league’s worst teams. It remains to be seen if ISU legend Jeff Hornacek will make it through the season with his job. He has tons of history with the organization (the Suns drafted him in the second round in the 1986 draft and he played there for six years) but it’s clear that the team lacks focus and motivation and at some point there’s got to be a major shakeup.