What a game! I don't know about you but that was just what I needed to get my weekend started. First off Captain Obvious would like to give the Sacramento Kings their due - "They are a much improved team and will definitely win some games this year". It's true - Omri Casspi is always a threat, Tyreke Evans is a stat monster, Beno Udrih is an underrated player, Landry always finds his way to the line and gets his points and they have some promise in their young rookie D. Cousins.
But who am I fooling, this was a must-win game with the gloomy week ahead and it was all about the Phoenix Suns dominating the style-war and pushing their pace and game plan on the Kings like the bully pushes the wimp in the lunch line and steals his chocolate milk. Don't make fun of my analogy.. it's nowhere near the level of ridiculousness as some of Scott Williams' broadcast bafooneries during the game. For more on that and what happened tonight, JUMP IT FOOLS!
(oh and some notes about the other starters.. maybe)
What happened in this game? STEVE NASH happened. You don't have to rely on Landon Donovan's word - Steve is crazy. He shoots better than anyone in the NBA. He passes like no one else. He has eyes in the back of his head. He REBOUNDS. He drives and doesn't care who you are. He eats big men alive with his x-over. He also eats very healthy foods. Enough, just take a look at what he did in the 1st quarter of this game. In 11 minutes he had 10 points, 6 assists, 4 rebounds, 1 steal, and ZERO turnovers.
From start to finish it was the Steve Nash show. We hear Alvin Gentry and Robert Sarver laud him as the Face-of-the-Franchise and tonight he was indeed that in more ways than one. He showed the world... okay at least the Sacramento Kings that he's still the Shiz-Nitz and can take over a game and inspire his team in typical Nash-fashion to play to their fullest potential - or at least with maximum effort.
Nash nearly finished the game with a triple-double. He ended up with 28 points, 7 rebounds, 14 assists, 1 steal, and only 2 turnovers. Let's see... he led the team in points. He led the team in rebounds. He lead the team in assists and OH he only shot 72% from the field. I'll have what he's having - or maybe I won't, I'm not a fan of green tea.
So what was it? Was he motivated by all the trade talk? Is he showcasing his skills for the plethora of teams anxiously drooling over the chance to trade for him? Was he putting up his greatest game of the season in preparation for his retirement tomorrow and entrance in to the Canadian Political realm? Was he motivated by having a brand new baby boy?Was he motivated and fresh because he had 3 days rest? You know what I think? I DON'T CARE. This is Steve Nash an this is what he does. They don't call him 2-time for nothing Chuck. The dude is Merlin of the NBA throwing magic out the back of his Uni while he dribbles and glides up and down the floor.
Oh, Hedo didn't play too well, JRich continues his hot shooting, Grant is THE MAN and is still aggresive as ever on the boards and did a great job defending Tyreke Evans. We'll get to RoLo later. Moving on ->
Only the 2nd time they've scored 30 points in the first quarter this season, the other was last week in the win against the then undefeated Atlanta Hawks.
So we know gang rebounding works, and maybe the bigs were doing a good job keeping the Kings bigs away while the little guys got the boards... but was that why between Lopez, Hedo, and Frye we got an amazing.. 9 rebounds? I don't think that was the game plan. Bottom line - we need to get better, and that sounds like a broken record but it's the truth.
Overall the Suns were out-rebounded 50 to 42.. and 21 to 13 in OFFENSIVE REBOUNDS. Gentry commented after the game that THAT was the biggest concern. We can't continue to give teams 2, 3, and often 4 chances on one trip down the floor to score. We were lucky the Kings couldn't capitalize on all their Offensive Rebs... the 4 teams we play this upcoming week undoubtedly will - so hold on to your hats.
Robin Lopez - To start the game Robin looked smooth, concentrated and had some good offensive plays. But 1 rebound in the first half and 3 by the games end, and because he stayed out of foul trouble - he actually played. As we all know Robin likes to play vollyball on the glass... for whatever reason he continues to just bat the ball around even when he has sure position to reach up and pull the ball down. DO IT. DO IT NOW. I don't know if it's mental or what - maybe somebody like Seth with inside info on his practices can explain what the game plan is for Robin to improve his rebounding - but it was terrible tonight. Thank goodness for Nash, JRich and our 47 Small forwards because without their rebounding efforst we would have been emaciated completely on the glass.
Note on his (RoLo) Fouls: 1st foul came halfway through the 3rd quarter! WTF!? That's awesome, and guess what - the foul wasn't even a foul, it was a phantom call on a clear and clean block he had on Carl Landry in the paint.
Channing Frye - lately Channing has been doing an okay job on the glass but tonight he was kind of disappointing, with only 2 rbs.. I'm not going to beat a dead horse. More on Frye's overall game in a sec.
Hedo Turkoglu - Mediocre game for Hedo - he had some iffy fouls but did show some life with 2 assists and hitting some tough clutch-like fade-aways at big moments in the first half... he had 4 rebounds, and I don't know whether to be excited he had that many or disappointed so I'm just going to let that hang.
Moving on ->
Coming into the game we talked about how both teams were struggling because of turnover woes, and if you remember correctly Captain Obvious accurately deduced that whoever executed their offense better and committed less turnovers would most definitely win this game. Man does that dude know what he's talking about. Both teams actually drastically reduced the amount of turnovers they had been averaging and finished with 11 on both sides of the boxscore. But obviously the Suns imposed their will and executed their offense and thus won the game. The Suns shot 51.9% from the field and destroyed the paint - the Kings only shot 40.9% and looked lost at times. bla bla that's boring. Moving on ->
Scott Williams' Bafoonery at its finest. Oh could Wil's Cantrellian play-by-play post have come at a better time? Scotty needs to lay off the spoonfuls of peanut butter while he broadcasts :) I mean I've met the dude and he's a great guy but his slurpy speech and down right weird broadcast imagery definitely makes me roll my eyes and want to puke in my mouth... just a little bit. Anywho - he called Kings rook DeMarcus Cousins an "alligator in a tank-top" - LAME. I would just say the fool is a P, I, to the muthableepin' MP. Yeah yeah - he fouled out and he had some rookie mental errors and shows some interesting passion, but he's got moves, long arms, mobility, and strong physical presence. Needless to say if you weren't impressed by his showing today you might have been tuned into the wrong channel. I hope this kid continues to hone his skills at the pace he is with the Westphal and the Kings - you can't ever have enough fun players to watch in the NBA!
Moving on -> now for the good stuff!
Our bench continues to produce and has consistently all-season proven that they deserve the minutes they get (and maybe should get more at times) and tonight was no different. Though they kind of came out slow in the 2nd period they started to gel and put in a good days work tonight.
Goran Dragic = THE ALLSPARK. This kid has absolutely killed it so far all season and he didn't slow down at all tonight. He only played 13 minutes and though he didn't shoot the greatest he still put up 7 points, 2 rebounds, 1 assist ( a highlight behind the back fastbreak for a JChill AND1 at that), and he led the team with 4 steals. Typical Dragon sighting tonight, he came in he was aggressive, he sparked the bench, he produced highlights and played a good game even when Nash was pressing to get back in the game (which he did, 2 minutes early in the 4th) he stayed relaxed and did what was needed.
Hakim Warrick - He's more comfortable all the time rolling, you can see his confidence grow with every game and this is A GREAT thing for Phoenix fans who were extremely worried about who would fill STAT's inside presense-shoes. Get this - COMING OFF THE BENCH Hakim is close to the #1 spot in the NBA for DUNKS. He goes hard to the hoop and I mean WHAM BAM SLAMMO TIME. I Continue to be surprised by Warrick's post game because it seems like he's showing a different move every night, also his energy and movement is something I can't quite put my finger on.. I want to say 'youthful' or 'active' but those sound weird and don't really express what I was feeling as I watched the game tonight - I'm comparing his activity to Stoudemire's who at times appeared lumbering and pacified. Warrick had a great game and was the bulk scoring effort for the Suns bench tonight with 18.
Channing Frye - Channing started the game well by going to the rim AND hitting a 3, it has seemed like lately he hasn't been able to get both those facets of his game clicking at the same time. He flattened out as the game went on but did hit some critical shots in the 4th to keep the offense flowing. One thing he is doing that I noticed is that he is communicating very well on D - at one point during the game I could hear him telling at at Josh Childress telling him "I'm here, I'm here, I'm here!" so as to let him know he was in position along the bottom of the key if Josh's man were to drive baseline. That's great and all but Channing isn't showing the kind of confidence that he needs in his shot and he wasn't hitting the glass as well as he had in earlier games this season.
Josh Childress - man, this guy is so strong and fast for his size. I'm continually impressed with how fast he is jumping off the floor, driving off the dribble and in the post... or slashing, or running the fast break OR WHATEVER! Dude is a great asset to this team with his AND 1 power (helping fill the void left by STAT) and his fro bringing unprecedented amounts of uber-mojo to the floor every time he's out there. LOVE IT.
Jared Dudley - he had an off night and didn't hit a shot. I'm not worried. It happens.
All in all I am more and more confident in our team. This bench unit is very balanced and I like the variety they throw out every night, they are not always settling for outside jumpers. With guys like Warrick and JChill (and Dragic) there is a better balance of cuts, slashes, hard drives, and jumpers. Good basketball my friends.
To end this boring recap (sorry I'm not putting any pics in unless someone can find some good ones, so it's kind of dull) I'll open this up for some interesting discussion - A question was brought up by Tom Chambers and that other dude on the half-time show, do we have the best point guard combo in the NBA right now? What say ye? Who is better and why!?
Thanks for reading - and p.s. - If you eat your McRib with pickles on it... you're disgusting.
Eutychus - out.
[Note by Seth Pollack, 11/12/10 10:17 PM MST ]
Imma let you finish but I just have to add a few words here to this great recap from Eut.
First off, this wasn't a pretty game. The Suns offense was pretty bleh except for Nash who couldn't miss. Early in the game they sagged off him and defended the pick and roll with Beno "No Defense" Udrih only which was just an invitation for Steve to shoot. Once you saw him make a few of those early buckets in the lane you knew it was game on for him.
By the time they adjusted their defense in the second half it was too late. Steve had their number. The rest of the Suns however, didn't do all that much unless Steve created it and served it up on a silver platter. Oh well.
The Kings however, were horrific. They are apparently going threw all kinds of internal issues and strife and they certainly played like it. No energy or effort and yet, here's what Paul Westphal had to say about the game.
"I can't really find a whole lot of fault with our team effort...We missed too much but that's not an effort thing, that's basketball."
I don't know if that's in comparison to other Kings games which have been worse or if he's just trying to avoid more trouble with his already troubled young team but that was not what I would call a good effort. Oh well, their problem, not ours.
Nash bugged out early so no post game quotes from tonight's hero. Hill did his best Nash impression saying, "I played well, eh".
All in all, this was a pretty forgettable game which is fine. A loss would have been hard to swallow but this really should have been a blow out and would have been if anyone other than Nash had shot the ball well.
Audio: Gentry postgame 111210
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A recent discussion here on the Bright Side led to a challenge - my assertion that the point guard and center position are the most important in seeking the elusive title was called into question. It took an embarrassing amount of time before I could find the article that I based that statement on, but in the process of looking for it, I ran into a plethora of information and opinions that I'd like to explore, and hopefully, discuss. My posts generally get a lot of recs, but a pitifully paltry number of comments. Maybe you can change that.
The question is: "What is the best way to go about winning a championship in today's NBA?
I based my bold assertion on an article written by Neil Payne, posted on basketball-reference.com on May 13, 2010, and titled :
In this article, Payne uses data based on 'win shares', as well as Hollinger's 'Game Score' metric to analyze the success of teams based on what position that team's best player filled. The validity of these measuring sticks is the subject of much discussion already, but they are attempts to quantify more indicators of productivity than the standard 'points/assists/rebounds' metric that has been traditionally used. Of course, any true Suns fan know that some things are unquantifiable, that there are intangibles that go beyond numbers, and that they count in the final result. And, as with any numerical analysis, there are countless anecdotal examples that can be used to contradict the numbers. On any given day, it might be a challenge to find 50% of our contributors to agree that it is a good day. In a phrase that was, at the least, popularized by Mark Twain, there are "There are three kinds of lies - lies, damn lies, and statistics." Since they are the basis of the article I quoted, we will start with a discussion of the third kind of lie, statistics.
What matters in winning the NBA championship? Talent? Luck? A dominant big man? A great coach? Money? The fans? Home court advantage? The referees? A top 5 player (or 2, or 3)? Statistics? The answer is: All of the above, and more. To my knowledge, there is no statistic that encompasses all of the above, but we can throw a few of them at the wall, and see what sticks.
Payne studies the NBA from 1952-2009. He qualifies this criteria by stating:
"the game has not stayed static over the past 57 years -- rules have changed, styles of play have come into and out of vogue, the playoffs have become longer and more drawn out, etc."
He then breaks down the data again, using the seasons from 1984-2009 to get a more cogent picture of today's game.
It may be more accurate and applicable, but the truth of the matter is, that when looking at the last 25 years, the NBA has been dominated by dynasties. When a team gets really good, it tends to stay that way for several years - for instance, Jordan's Bulls, the Magic/Shaq/Kobe Lakers, the Robinson/Duncan Spurs, Hakeem's Rockets - a three year run can dominate the statistics when your sample size is 28 years. So you might be able to say that a shooting guard is the most important position, and you might be totally correct - if that SG is named Kobe or Michael.
The lines are further blurred by positional definitions. What was Magic Johnson? Either the best point guard ever, or simply one of the best players ever. After all, he played every position in one playoff game, played Center in another playoff win, and could defend just about anyone. But even he couldn't win a championship alone, and had one of the best (and most highly paid) supporting casts ever. Was Dennis Rodman a big man? Sir Charles? Is Scottie Pippen really one of the 50 greatest players of all time? Can Kobe win without a Pau Gasol? Can he win without Derek Fisher? What position does Lebron really play?
I don't have the answers to all those questions. In fact, since it is impossible to prove a negative, these points will be argued and re-argued until the end of times. So let's get started!
I won't reprint all the data in Payne's article - you should click on the link and study it on your own. I am going to break down the championships year by year from 1984 on, and see where things fall. We'll return to Payne later.
The first of the Boston/Lakers classics, featuring Larry Bird, a 6'9" 220 lb. shooting forward, vs. Magic Johnson, a 6'8" 215 lb. point guard. See what I mean?
Bird was flanked by Kevin McHale, Robert Parrish, Dennis Johnson, Cedric Maxwell, and Danny Ainge, while Magic was accompanied by Kareem Abdul-Jabaar, James Worthy, Jamal Wilkes, Byron Scott, and Michael Cooper. The Celtics won in 7 games, so for our first example, a SF is obviously the most important position, right?
The Celts were ranked 6th offensively, and 3rd defensively.
The Lakers were ranked 5th offensively, and 9th defensively.
Fun fact (not) Lakers beat the Suns 4-2 in the WCF.
Turnabout being fair play, Lakers take down Boston 4-2. Largely the same teams (but interestingly, Boston added Rick Carlisle, and Lakers added Mitch Kupchak). PG-1 vs. SF -1.
Lakers were ranked 1st offensively, and 7th defensively.
Celtics were ranked 2nd offensively, and 5th defensively.
Not so fun fact - Lakers beat Phoenix 3-0 in the first round.
The usual suspects on the Celtics take down the Houston Rockets, 4-2. The Rockets were made up of Hakeem Olajuwon, Ralph Samson, (the original Twin Towers), John Lucas, Lewis Lloyd, and Rodney McCray.
Celtics were ranked 3rd offensively, and 1st defensively.
Houston was ranked 5th offensively, and 14th defensively.
At least the Lakers didn't beat the Suns.
Back to Lakers/Celtics, with the Lakers taking it 4-2. Again, pretty much the same cast, although the Lakers had added A. C. Green, and the Celtics added Bill Walton.
Lakers were ranked 1st offensively, 7th defensively.
Boston was ranked 3rd offensivly, and 9th defensively.
Lakers were ranked 2nd offensively and 9th defensively.
Detroit was ranked 6th offensively and 2nd defensively.
Detroit gets revenge by sweeping the Lakers. Kareem is 41 years old, down to under 22 min, 10 points, and 5 boards a game.
Detroit is ranked 7th offensvely and 3rd defensively.
Lakers are ranked 1st offensively and 7th defensively.
Another WCF loss for the Suns, 4-0 to - who else- the Lakers. Thank you, Detroit.
The Pistons beat the Trail Blazers 4-1. Detroit has added James Edwards, and Rodman is starting about half the games by then. Portland has Clyde Drexler, Terry Porter, Jerome Kersey, Kevin Duckworth, and Buck Williams.
Detroit is ranked 11th offensively and 2nd defensively.
Portland is ranked 9th offensively and 4th defensively.
Fun facts: Detroit beat Jordan's Bulls in their first ECF appearance, and Portland beat - wait for it - the Suns in the WCF. The Suns did beat the Lakers in the semis.
Lakers, meet Michael Jordan. Bulls take it 4-1 behind Jordan, our own beloved Bill Cartwright, Pippen, Horace Grant, and John Paxson. Vlade Divac has replaced Kareem.
Bulls are ranked 1st offensively, 7th defensively.
Lakers are 5th, both offensively and defensively.
Suns lost to the Stockton/Malone Jazz in the first round, 3-1.
PG-5, SF-2, SG-1
Bulls over Portland, 4-2. Bulls have added BJ Armstrong, Portland now has Danny Ainge.
Bulls are ranked 1st O, 4th D. Portland, 7th ), 3rd D.
Portland beat the Suns in the Semis, but the Suns did take out the Spurs in the first round.
PG-5, SF-2, SG-2
You know this story. Bulls 4-2 over the (sob) Suns, featuring Sir Charles, Tom Chambers, Thunder Dan, Kevin Johnson, Cedric Ceballos, Richard Dumas, Oliver Miller, Mark West - even Kurt Rambis. Hearts are still broken.
Bulls 2nd O, 7th D.
Suns 1st O, 9th D.
FUN fact - we beat the Spurs, Lakers, and Seattle to get to the finals.
PG-5, SF-2, SG-3
Jordan is trying to hit curveballs. So it's the Rockets over the Knicks, 4-3. The Rockets are sporting Hakeem, Otis Thorpe, Kenny Smith, Robert Horry, and Vernon Maxwell, with Sam Cassell and Mario Elie backing up. The Knicks feature Patrick Ewing, John Starks, Charles Oakley, Greg Anthony, Anthony Mason, and Derek Harper.
Houston is 15th O, 2nd D.
Knicks are 16th O, 1st D. Ugly, ugly basketball.
Rockets beat the Suns in the 2nd round. These facts really aren't fun.
PG-5, SF-2, SG-3 C-1
Rockets over the Magic, 4-0. Rockets have added 32 year old Clyde Drexler, and Orlando has 2nd year Shaq, Horace Grant, Nick Anderson, Anfernee Hardaway, and Donald Royal.
Houston is 7th O, 12th D.
Orlando is 1st O, 13th D.
Houston beat the Suns again in the 2nd round.
PG-5, SF-2, SG-3 C-2
Guess what. Jordan can't hit a curve ball. But he can BALL! Jordan, Kerr, Rodman, Pippen, Ron Harper, and Tony Kukoc, with Luc Longley and Bill Wennington manning the middle beat Seattle, featuring Gary Payton, Shawn Kemp, Detlef Schrempf, Hersey Hawkins, with Nate McMillan, Eric Snow, and Ervin Johnson, 4-2.
Bulls were ranked 1st O, 1st D.
Seattle was 8th O, 2nd D.
Spurs took out the Suns in the 1st round.
PG-5, SF-2, SG-4 C-2
Bulls over the Jazz 4-2. Bulls were good, and had Robert Parrish to boot. Jazz were manned by Stockton and Malone, Jeff Hornacek, Bryon Russel, and Greg Ostertag.
Bulls were 1st O, 4th D.
Jazz were 2nd O, 9th D.
Seattle over Suns 3-2 in the 1st round.
PG-5, SF-2, SG-5 C-2
Two-peat of the Threepeat.
Bulls over Jazz 4-2.
Bulls 9th O, 3rd D.
Jazz 1st O, 17th D.
Spurs beat the Suns 3-1 in the 1st round.
PG-5, SF-2, SG-6 C-2
1999 Strike shortened season
Spurs over Knicks 4-1. 22 yo Duncan towers with 33 yo David Robinson, backed by Kerr, Sean Elliot, Avery Johnson, Mario Elie, Knicks with Ewing, Latrell Sprewell, Allan Houston, 24 yo Marcus Camby, 26 yo Kurt Thomas, and Charlie Ward.
Spurs 11th O, 1st D.
Knicks 26th O (of 29), 4th D.
Blazers over Suns 3-0 in 1st round.
PG-5, SF-2, SG-6 C-3
Lakers over Pacers 4-2. Shaq, 3rd year Kobe, 3rd year Fisher, Rick Fox, Robert Horry, Ron Harper, A. C. Green, and Brian Shaw matched against Reggie Miller, Jalen Rose, Rick Smits, Austin Croshere, Dale Davis, Mark Jackson, Travis Best, Sam Perkins, Al Harrington, Chris Mullin, Derrick McKey, and Johnathan Bender.
Lakers 5th O, 1st D.
Pacers 1st O, 13th D.
Suns beat the Spurs 3-1, but lost to the Lakers 4-1.
PG-5, SF-2, SG-6 C-4
Lakers over 76ers, 4-1
Lakers 5th O, 1st D.
Philly13th O, 5th D.
Suns beat the Spurs 3-1, but lost to the Lakers 4-1. Yes, I cut and pasted that from the previous year. Not fun.
PG-5, SF-2, SG-6 C-5
Lakers 2nd O, 7th D.
Nets 17th O, 1st D.
Lakers 2nd O, 7th D
Suns miss the playoffs, draft Amar'e.
PG-5, SF-2, SG-6 C-6
Spurs over Nets 4-2. Familiar roster - Duncan, Parker, Ginobli, Bowen, Kerr, Stephen Jackson, and David Robinson agains the Nets, who added Mutombo.
Spurs 7th O, 3rd D.
Nets 18th O, 1st D.
Spurs took out the Suns in the 1st round 4-2, and the Lakers in the 2nd, Mavs in WCF.
Our first PF sighting - although Duncan is listed as a F-C.
PG-5, SF-2, SG-6 C-6 PF-1
Pistons over Lakers 4-1. Lakers had added Malone, Gary Payton, and Luke Walton, and wre starting Devean George. Pistons were made up of Chauncey Billups, Rip Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince, Ben Wallace, Rasheed Wallace, Mehmet Okur, Darko Milicic, and Elden Campbell.
Detroit 18th O, 2nd D.
Lakers 6th O, 8th D.
No playoffs for Suns. 29-53, drafted and traded Luol Deng.
PG-6, SF-2, SG-6 C-6 PF-1
SA 8th O 1st D
Detroit 17th O 3rd D.
PG-6, SF-2, SG-6 C-6 PF-2
Heat over Mavs 4-2.
Wow. Two great teams, pretty much in their prime.
Miami 7th O 9th D
Dallas 1st O 11th D
PG-6, SF-2, SG-6 C-7 PF-2
Ah, the Suns that year. Nash, Marion, Diaw, Kurt Thomas, LB, Bell, Pat Burke, Tim Thomas, Eddie House and James Jones. SSOL, baby. Smallball. Great comeback series to win 4-3 against the Lakers (cough*clothesline*cough). Great 4-3 win against a tough Clippers team. Then a heartbreaking 4-2 loss to a great team after a Bell injury. Overachieving bunch, huh?
Spurs over Cavs 4-2.
Spurs 5th O 2nd D
Cavs 18th O 4th D
PG-6, SF-2, SG-6 C-7 PF-3
Suns : Amar'e is back. Suspensions. Not fun in any way facts. Spurs take us 4-2, and Robert Horry burns a long career, and changes the meaning of a cool nickname, "Big Shot Bob" forever. Hip check my dyin' ass.
Celtics over Lakers 4-2
Boston - Big three - Garnett, Pierce, Allen. Big Baby. Perkins. Rondo. House. Tony Allen. Posey. Cassell.
Lakers - Kobe, Pau, Odom, Fisher, Farmar, Radmanovic, Vujacic, Ariza, Kwame Brown, Turiaf. No Bynum.
Celtics - 10th O, 1st D
Lakers - 3rd O, 5th D
PG-6, SF-2, SG-6 C-7 PF-4
Suns - Shaq. Spurs 4-2. Marcus Banks. Crap.
Lakers over Magic, 4-0
Same old Lakers.
Lakers - 3rd O, 6th D
Magic - 11th O, 1st D
PG-6, SF-2, SG-7 C-7 PF-4
Suns - Porter. Shaq. Detached Retina. F*********************ck!!!!
I assume you know this story, intrepid fans. Let's just leave it at -
PG-6, SF-2, SG-8 C-7 PF-4
We don't need to say anything else.
So that's a brief (not really) revisitation of the last 26 years. Damn! All that work, and it looks like...SG wins. But wait - first of all, it's not really SG's - it's Jordan (6) and Kobe (2) - remember, this is when they were the best player on the team - not true when Shaq was in LA. And these guys are freaks. Centers are distributed a little bit better, but still, it's Hakeem 2, David Robinson 1, Shaq 4. SF is all Bird, and PG is Magic 3, Isiah Thomas 2, and Billups 1. And in the PF category, it's Duncan 3, Garnett 1.
Jordan SG 6
Shaq C 4
Magic PG 3
Bird SF 2
Hakeem C 2
Isiah PG 2
Kobe SG 2
Billups PG 1
Robinson C 1
Garnett PF 1
Eight players account for 24 of the last 27 teams best players. So it looks like the best way to build a champ is to get Michael Jordan, right? Can he hit a curve ball yet?
Our little look here accounts for the champs, but we didn't look at the other teams. We really didn't look at the supporting cast, either. But from this standpoint, it sure looks like having a top 5 player is a good formula for winning a championship, doesn't it?
What about the supporting cast? Jordan didn't win anything without Pippen, and Scottie is generally considered to be in the top 50 all-time. Kobe has never won a title without Fisher and a premier big man - Magic needed Kareem, Bird needed McHale and Parrish, Robinson needed Duncan, and Duncan needed Parker and Ginobli - and of course, Robert Horry has more rings than anybody. So which is the peanut butter and which is the jelly? And what about the bread? (I mean money).
1984 is significant as a starting point for this excercise, because that was the year the salary cap was instituted. It even has a clause called the "Bird Rule" which allows teams to exceed the cap to re-sign their own free agents. We know that in 2010, Buss outspent every other team by about $14 million, not including Phil Jackson's $20 million salary, and he won it all. Is that fair? How does salary impact championships over the same period?
|NBA Season||NBA Salary Cap|
So, in 1985, the salary cap was $3.6 million. The Lakers won - but I can't find their salary. So, let's start with 1985-86, when the Celtics won. The cap was $4.233 million - here are the individual salaries:
$6.5595 million dollars - almost 35% over the cap. I guess they liked the Bird rule. What about the competition, the Rockets? $4.259 million - right at the cap. Money wins.
There's no salary listed for the next year (Celtics vs. Lakers) but it's a safe bet that they were both well over the cap. In 1988, the Lakers beat the Pistons - the Lakers salary was:
$9.107 million. What about Detroit?
Just over $5.9 million against a cap of $6.164 million, and they took the Lakers to 7 games. But money won again.
In 1988-89, Detroit turned it around on the Lakers
The poor Lakers were forced to go with only 11 players, with a total salary of $10.694 million vs. Detroit's $7.53 mil, against a cap of $7.232 million. This time, the lesser paid team won.
No data for the next year - Pistons vs. Blazers.
$12.12 million, against a cap of roughly $9.8 million. Kareem is gone, so some of the 'Bird rule' players are working their way out of the system, and there's a bit more parity.
What about 1992-93, bulls vs. Suns?
$14.28 million, against a cap of $14 million. So we was outspent, and we wuz robbed.
The Bulls, of course, dominated the 90's. Since data is incomplete, I'll just cherry-pick a few years.
1998 - the last year of the Jordan Bulls dynasty.
$28.5 million, against a cap of $28.9 million. Of course, Jordan making 33 million skews things a bit - I'm not even sure that's right. But the year before, BB-reference lists him at $31 mil or so, so in the absence of other data, I'll have to accept it.
1999-2000 Shaq's Lakers
$54.95 against a cap of $34 million. Both teams overspent the cap by almost 40%.
Money talks. So the conclusion we can draw from that is, SPEND MORE MONEY!!! And get Jordan. But wait....
Here's Payne's take on the same period. RS stands for regular season - PO is playoffs. WS is win share, and GmSc is Hollinger's game score metric. You can look up haw these are calculated in the link I provided at the beginning of the article.
What's really happening is that Hollinger is finding that the best player may not really be the best player - at least according to his metric. So he's obviously giving some weight to the supporting cast here. Using this metric, the best players on most championship teams since 1984, regardless of the star, is the SG. You can account for this by maybe saying that on Shaq's Lakers, Kobe really was the best player, or maybe Ginobli had more to do with winning and losing than Duncan did. I don't know how he figured that, because I don't have his raw data.
Just for grins, here's another article that maintains that the SF position is most important.
If you use the data from 1952, big men are much more important. Of course, that encompasses Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell, Moses Malone, Willis Reed, Bill Walton, and more of Kareem's career. But in the modern era, not so much. When dominant big men do come along, they have an impact - but they are more rare. When you have 6'8" PG's, and 6'11" 3 point shooters, the lines become blurred and indistinct. Sir Charles has been listed as anywhere from 6'4" to 6'8" - does it really matter? He played big. Yao Ming and Dwight Howard have yet to win a championship. But Steve Nash hasn't, either.
I began writing this article to support my statement - from this article- that PG and center are the two most important positions in winning a championship. After taking this entertaining stroll through the dusty archives, and reading Payne's article more closely, I think I was wrong. In fact, all the charts and data notwithstanding, it seems to be spending more money is the best way to build a champion. Of course, the more money you spend, the better players you get, and the better supporting cast you get - and the more championships you get. A lot of what I've written here may be comparing apples to bulldozers - I don't know.
I'd like to see the same kind of study done whose only metric is luck. You've heard the saying "It's better to be lucky than good", right? How much of Artest's putback was luck, and how much was talent, and how much was just hustle? That depends on your perspective. If you're a Suns fan, it was luck. If you're (gag) a Lakers fan, it was talent, and hustle, and the Suns sucking. All true. But until luck can be quantified, and the basketball gods consulted, we will never have a truly clear answer to the question of how to build a champion. The Suns have been good, but they certainly haven't been lucky. The good news is, we have a great PG (and his backup). We have a great SG in JRich. We have a promising, if unpolished big man in Lopez, and a unique and improving backup in Frye. We have great role players, great chemistry, a great coach (another area that needs study), and an owner who has proven that he's willing to go into the luxury tax if he thinks it's worth it. So Dear Mr. Sarver - go buy us some luck. And Michael Jordan in his prime, please.