I am going to discuss the differences in FIBA and NBA, the contrast of Team USA and the rest of the world and, of course, the title, why Kevin Garnett could quite possibly be the all-time greatest player in Olympic Basketball -- That is, if he played of course.
The superstars of the NBA are always going to be great in the olympics. They are bigger, stronger and faster. They have experience shooting from further out and play against the toughest opponents in the world on a regular basis, unlike a lot of their competition. But of course the rest of the world play under the FIBA rules 365/24/7 and the teams play together a lot more than Team USA do. So they have their advantages too. But that doesn't change the fact that the USA are bigger, strong, faster and better.
In the NBA there is a defensive three-second rule. What this means is that the big men have to work together and communicate a lot more. Because there is an offensive three second rule coinciding with this it means it is easy to play man defense though. The biggest impact of this rule is what I consider to be the most important -- It makes it very hard to be a defensive powerhouse. Which is why when a defensive specialist in the post comes about in the NBA, it is something very special to watch. Take David Robinson, one of the best defensive specialist centers of all-time. He was a beast in the NBA, an all-time great. Just imagine for a second, if there was no defensive three-second rule in the NBA and Robinson can camp in the paint all day long. You wouldn't be able to buy a point in the post.
Right there is a great reason why defensive post players are oh so dominant when it comes to playing under FIBA regulations. Dwight Howard is the closest thing Team USA has to a defensive center in this olympics. While his defense is adequate, I wouldn't say it would frighten top international talent. Put in the NBA's current DPOY, Kevin Garnett into FIBA rules. Marc or Pau Gasol would've been contained better in the gold medal match and the game would not have been so close. Not to mention the amount of offensive rebounds that Spain would have got with Garnett in there would be nowhere near the amount they managed to get in the gold medal match.
Something that ties into that rule, though, is the shape of the key. In FIBA it is wider and a trapezoidal shape. As opposed to the NBA's rectangle. It is a lot of easier to get out of the paint on defense as the area is smaller in the NBA, and the offensive post player can collect the bring much much closer to the hoop. Something that makes Dwight Howard look very good in the NBA, he can catch it, turnaround and dunk it. In FIBA the trapezoidal key shape helps the defense a lot more. The defense can camp under the basket and in the key as long as they like and the offensive player often collects the ball further away from the hoop. This in turn can help spread out the defense and can encourage much more penetration. When I tuned into the gold medal match I saw a lot of penetration and a lot of threes. Compared to NBA play where you can often see a lot more play through the post and slightly less threes.
If you can have a post player that can catch the ball and shoot with the wider key in FIBA, then that gives you another weapon. Kevin Garnett is very good at the mid-range touch. He is very very strong and the opposing defender would be absolutely helpless against Garnett. The version that the 2008 Team USA has of this is Chris Bosh. He is a PF that can shoot mid range shots. This is a valuable weapon in FIBA and can help your penetrators even more. Just imagine Allen Iverson in that gold medal match. He would tear apart that spanish defense, and having a post player that can shoot from a little further out like Bosh would help immensly.
The three point line is also closer to the hoop in FIBA, this helps players like Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony score a lot more threes than they would with the further out NBA three point line. A player like Wade that can shoot mid-range and penetrate very well in the NBA is always going to be very valuable in FIBA play. The olympics help prove that with Wade having an excellent Olympic campaign. Allen Iverson would be very good at this as well. Carmelo Anthony is very good in FIBA thanks to the closer three point line and his size. With a shorter distance to the hoop this also encourages penetration and also gives the defensive players less time to react. I think evidence of that could have been at the end of the 3rd quarter when Navarro drove and scored. He got past his defender and that was that. Within a split one second he was right at the hoop. That where defensive orientated post players come back into the equation. If Garnett or Robinson were there they would've seen this and reacted. But Bosh and Howard didn't react quick enough and in FIBA you can't do anything if you don't react quickly.
Players like Kobe and LeBron are always going to give Team USA that added X-Factor because no matter what rules you play under no players are really going to compare. A defensive post persence that can shoot a little further out like Garnett is an unstoppable force in FIBA. I didn't see too much evidence of any such player at this olympics. But Team USA had the best of the other group of players that can help you out the most. Guards that can penetrate and shoot the mid-range shot (NBA mid-range, FIBA three point), like Wade and Iverson.
No player at that Olympics would be able to stop Garnett, offensively or defensively. If he played he would be classed as one of the best Olympic basketballers of all-time, if not the best. Because he is suited towards those rules. His game fits perfectly into the mould you need to be successful. Nothing against Howard, he is the greatest NBA center right now and is the star of my Orlando Magic, but he isn't really suited toward Olympic play. Team USA didn't have a choice, there is currently no better post player to send. If Garnett were there, he would dominate. I'm not even a huge fan of Garnett's but his style and his game is totally suited for FIBA play. Personally, if any all-star NBA player gets snapped up by a european outfit - I hope it's Garnett. Not because I want to see the NBA lose a top player, I don't and I hope they never do, but because I want to see Garnett play in or around his prime under FIBA rules.
Thanks for Reading guys, please comment as I would love to hear all opinions on anything and everything that I have mentioned....