Mission accomplished: The gold is once again American, as Team USA, with Kevin Durant leading the group, wins the Olympic basketball tournament for a third consecutive time. From a Golden State Warriors perspective, it was a chance to see how their star free agent signing can blend and work together with a group of stars around him, specifically Klay Thompson and Draymond Green.
Well, maybe not. Durant has already played next to bigger stars four years ago in the London Olympics, and it worked out just fine. What we did learn from these Olympic games is that the most important thing for Team USA isn’t the offense; it’s going to be isolations and one on ones in half court offense most of the time, and preferably the more talented scorers and hot hands try to get the job done.
The thing that made the difference is playing with strong and willing defensive lineups, along with the experience that someone like Carmelo Anthony provides. Playing DeAndre Jordan instead of DeMarcus Cousins worked better. Lineups with Jimmy Butler and Paul George worked well. Durant played better when the defensive burden wasn’t mostly on him. Thompson got hot the further the team went in the tournament. Overall players took things more seriously in the knockout stage.
And the Warriors? the Olympics look nothing like the NBA. Not in opponent level, and not in how the team works. Mike Krzyzewski didn’t coach these guys into an efficient, sharing offensive unit. The more important thing is camaraderie and defensive effort. Durant played like he’s on the Oklahoma City Thunder, not having to care for one second if he needs to move the ball into more dangerous areas, and to open players. The Warriors signed Durant believing he can play differently. The isolation heavy basketball from him isn’t what they’re about, and it’s not going to work if that’s the kind of basketball he’s going to play.
As for Thompson, it actually gave a pretty realistic glimpse of his role with the Warriors. Either Stephen Curry not playing, or simply the team sensing he’s getting hot, Thompson took charge when Durant was ice cold, although there were games they were cold together. Thompson is as good of a shot maker as any, and the only reason he isn’t heralded more for his shooting numbers is because he plays next to Curry, although it’s possible to suggest the opposite: Thompson is this good only because defenses pay so much attention to Curry. If that’s the case, it’s going to be that much easier for him in 2016-2017.
And Green? There were better games for him and worse. Overall, he didn’t make the impact he could. On offense, there was nothing from his clever passing or shooting. On defense, he was good, but not as effective and dominant as we’ve seen on the Warriors over the last two years. Personally, I think the last three months have taken a toll on him, and he can’t wait for a break, to recharge his batteries, because the Warriors will be a joy to watch on offense next season, but a spent Green struggling on both ends of the floor could be a major hurdle on their way to avenging their lost NBA title.