Nothing is impossible: Here's how the Boomers can beat USA
Every four years, passionate basketball fans around the world wonder if it is possible for their team to defeat the juggernaut United States men's basketball team, and claim Olympic gold. Mostly, the diagnosis is grim and the outlook bleak.
For Australia, there is a scenario. Yes, a brave new world exists where the Boomers vanquish the United States and shock the basketball world. Is it impossible? Maybe not. Let us journey into this magical land together.
The Battle of the Bigs
One area the Boomers could realistically win, is the front court. But first, Australia needs to deal with DeMarcus Cousins.
DeAndre Jordan also factors into this equation, but it’s Cousins’ uniquely varied skill set as a creator, combined with his size that makes him such a danger to the Australian team.
The solution lies in the NBA big men, Andrew Bogut and Aron Baynes, with a handy assist from Brock Motum and Cameron Bairstow.
Right from the tip, the bigs make the game a tough slog for their American counterparts. Elbows, hip checks, aggressive box outs and the overwhelming physicality of the game engulfs all the bigs. A grounded battle ensues to determine who the most physically imposing player in the world is.
This could lead to two different series of events unfolding, if the Australian big men emerge victorious in this fight.
First, Boogie could take a swing, getting himself ejected from the game. Maybe Jordan shows some frustration with the style of play and decides to take matters into his own hands. After all, Bogut and Jordan do have a history of animosity in the storied Warriors-Clippers rivalry.
This scenario may not seem likely. But given the infamous ability of Australian basketball players to irritate, and Boogie’s storied history with altercations, it cannot be completely ruled out.
Here's the second. Dissatisfied with the inability of the traditional bigs to dominate inside, Coach K opts for a small-ball lineup with Draymond Green at centre, which would give the Aussie bigs an opportunity to dominate the glass and be assertive offensively, and cause a decline in Team USA's ability to protect the rim.
Both of these scenarios could expose a lack of depth at the centre position for the US, particularly if one of the All-Star big men find themselves permanently attached to the bench or in the locker room.
Now that Bogut is set for a return, the Boomers big men become an imposing group for any national team to face.
Stopping the Unstoppable
Meanwhile, the USA's talented crop of perimeter players need to be defended effectively. Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Carmelo Anthony and Paul George are all versatile offensive powerhouses that need be dealt with.
The aim of the wing defenders as a whole would be to force the ball out of the hands of Irving in particular, but also Durant, Green, Lowry and George as decision makers. Pushing Klay Thompson to be a playmaker for others could disrupt the flow of the Americans.
Naturally, Dellavedova would be guarding Kyrie Irving, as if he was guarding Steph Curry in game 3 of the 2015 NBA Finals. Hounding Irving in the full court, never allowing an easy catch, and diving on every opportunity to make a gutsy play could throw Irving off his offensive game and energise the Australian team. The training staff for the Boomers would probably need an IV drip ready for Delly as soon as the final buzzer sounds.
Kevin Lisch, the 2016 NBL Defensive Player of the Year, would play a similar role on Irving and others such as Kyle Lowry. Mills would appear to be somewhat of an odd man out, as he is not regarded as highly on defense as Delly or perhaps even Lisch. If he can find a way to hold the fort defensively (with assistance from active help defenders) it's more than conceivable he can get the job done.
Australia's largest defensive weakness by far, is clearly at the wings. The US boasts incredible depth at the shooting guard/small forward positions. Depending on the lineup, these wings could even see time at the stretch four spot.
Stopping four of the most versatile wings in the world is a seemingly impossible task for the likes of Joe Ingles and Ryan Broekhoff, much less big men like Baynes and Bairstow.
What if the spirit of Tony Allen somehow fills our wings with relentless defensive tenacity, and they make every catch, pass and shot extraordinarily difficult? Forcing desperate, contested shots might give our blokes in green and gold just enough to be able to pull the odds close.
The best case scenario is that DeMar DeRozan, Jimmy Butler and Harrison Barnes become the three main playmakers for a disoriented USA team. While they are extremely talented players, this would be far from the ideal situation for the Americans, potentially resulting in poor decisions and turnovers from the inexperienced trio.
How the heck do we score?
Offensively, the ball needs to fly in a very 2014 San Antonio Spurs fashion.
Creating opportunities for open shots on the perimeter for Delly, Lisch and Mills is key. The trio's offensive capabilities create a three-headed monster that could be a nightmare for the United States, if they get hot.
The way in which Australia has played in the PAC-12 games and recent warmup games make it seem that beautiful ball movement isn't quite a possibility. If they are to beat the US, a collective out of body experience needs to occur.
Goulding would need to get into a groove as the multi-dimensional offensive talent that he can be. Ingles as a facilitator from the wing, as well as stepping into shots with confidence is also key. Martin would also have to step onto the court with a great amount of confidence to establish himself offensively.
Plays off the post needs to be aggressive. There needs to be a focus on drawing fouls upon the USA big men --namely DeAndre and Boogie-- with a series of up-fakes and step-through moves. Forcing traps, passing off the post and effective ‘legal’ screens also could influence the offensive performances of the other Aussies.
The inescapable truth about the offensive game plan? All five players on the court have to at least appear to be a threat in order to stretch the defence.
Grit, grind and guts
What ties all of these things together in this world is tough, roll-up-your-sleeves, true Australian grit. The players need to be gutsy, their efforts need to be enormous and the emotion of the game gargantuan.
Their amount of sheer determination can be measured by the rebound count. The US is a nightmare to rebound against, as one missed box out is almost certain to result in an offensive rebound and likely a highlight. A concerted effort on the boards by all five player on the court and making the box out battle a grounded wrestling match will likely be the main story coming out of any story about an Australian team defeating the US.
In other terms, the Australian team, who have never won a medal in the Olympics for men’s basketball, need to take the fight to the superstars with unprecedented intensity and fearlessness. Sheer, unrelenting passion is what is required from this team.
Imagining the fallout
By no means is this a prediction, nor is it a likelihood that these events will occur as I have written them. Rather, this is a celebration of the fact that there is a scenario in which the Boomers could beat the US that isn’t completely out of the realm of possibility.
It’s not crazy that Delly could be standing on the podium with a gold medal around his neck and an IV drip in his arm. A bruised Bogut could be hugging an equally battered Baynes in a moment of pure joy.
Mills could jump on the scorer's table, fist pumping wildly, Andrej Lemanis could be doused in Gatorade at the hands of Broekhoff and Motum. Social media would explode with praises, mockery and memes. The USA team would get the crying Jordan/LeBron treatment.
All this happens while the stadium sits in an awkward, stunned silence, and with multiple USA players pictured with their head in their hands. Media outlets would criticise the Golden State trio endlessly, with Durant becoming even further vilified.
Boogie would tweet something controversial about Australians, starting an epic Bogut versus Boogie Twitter beef that would stand as one of the greatest of all time. Stephen A. Smith would come on First Take and question the heart of all members of Team USA. Anarchy would reign as Australia reign supreme with cans of Corona in hand.
Or maybe none of that happens. But it's something we can't quite rule out.