"Not everything that can be counted counts: and not everything that counts can be counted."

George Gallup

 

     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?

Follow me.

 

     I based my bold assertion on an article written by Neil Payne, posted on basketball-reference.com on May 13, 2010, and titled :

Which Position Should You Build Around For Playoff Success?

     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.

1984

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.

1985

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.

1986

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.

SF-2, PG-1

At least the Lakers didn't beat the Suns.

1987

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.

SF-2, PG-2

1988

Lakers over Pistons, 4-3.  Same old Lakers, Detroit was composed of Isiah Thomas, Adrian Dantley, Joe Dumars, Bill Laimbeer, Rick Mahorn, and Dennis Rodman.

Lakers were ranked 2nd offensively and 9th defensively.

Detroit was ranked 6th  offensively and 2nd defensively.

PG-3, SF-2

1989

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.

PG-4, SF-2

Another WCF loss for the Suns, 4-0 to - who else- the Lakers.  Thank you, Detroit.

1990

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.

PG-5, SF-2

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.

1991

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

1992

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

1993 Threepeat

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

1994

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

1995

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

1996

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

1997

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

1998

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

2000

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

2001

Lakers over 76ers, 4-1

Lakers added Isiah Rider and Horace Grant.  76ers featured Iverson, Mutombo, Theo Ratliff, Aaron McKie, Eric Snow, and Toni Kukoc.

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

2002

Lakers over Nets 4-0 with pretty much the same cast.  Nets had Kidd, Kenyon Martin, Kieth Van Horne, Kerry Kittles, and Richard Jefferson.

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

2003

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

2004

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

2005

Spurs over Pistons 4-3.  No Robinson, but Horry, Brent Barry, Malik Rose, and Beno Udrih make an appearance for the Spurs, while Antonio McDyess and Carlos Arroyo were added to the Pistons.

SA 8th O 1st D

Detroit 17th O 3rd D.

Spurs beat the Nash led Suns featuring Amar'e, Matrix, Joe Johnson, LB, Quentin Richardson, Bo Outlaw, Jim Jackson, and Steven Hunter in the WCF 4-1.  Orbital fracture, JJ.  Horry helped.

PG-6, SF-2, SG-6 C-6 PF-2

2006

Heat over Mavs 4-2.

Heat - Shaq, DWade, Antoine Walker, Alonzo Mourning, James Posey, Jason Williams, Gary Payton, Udonis Haslem, and - wait for it - Earl Barron!

Mavs - Dirk, Jason Terry, Josh Howard, Diop, Jerry Stackhouse, Devin Harris, Marquis Daniels, Kieth Van Horne, and Dampier. 

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?

2007

Spurs over Cavs 4-2.  

Spurs - Big 3, plus Michael Finley, Horry, Francisco Elson, Oberto, Bowen, Brent Barry, Beno Udrih - probably the best incarnation of Duncan's Spurs.

Cavs - Bron, Ilgauskas, Varajao, Drew Gooden, Pavlovic, Larry Hughes, Donyell Marshall, Eric Snow, Daniel Gibson, Shannon Brown, Damon Jones - LBJ is in his 3rd year.  

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.

2008

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.

2009

Lakers over Magic, 4-0

Same old Lakers.

Magic - Dwight Howard, Turk, Rashard Lewis, Jameer Nelson, Courtney Lee, JJ Reddick, Pietrus, Alston, Gortat.

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!!!!

2010

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.

So...

Jordan SG 6

Shaq C 4

Magic PG 3

Duncan 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
1984-85 $3.6 million
1985-86 $4.233 million
1986-87 $4.945 million
1987-88 $6.164 million
1988-89 $7.232 million
1989-90 $9.802 million
1990-91 $11.871 million
1991-92 $12.5 million
1992-93 $14.0 million
1993-94 $15.175 million
1994-95 $15.964 million
1995-96 $23.0 million
1996-97 $24.363 million
1997-98 $26.9 million
1998-99 $30.0 million
1999-2000 $34.0 million
2000-01 $35.5 million
2001-02 $42.5 million
2002-03 $40.271 million
2003-04 $43.84 million
2004-05 $43.87 million
2005-06 $49.5 million
2006-07 $53.135 million
2007-08 $55.630 million
2008-09 $58.68 million
2009-10 $57.7 million



Read more:http://www.insidehoops.com/nba-salary-cap.shtml#ixzz155yfElZ3

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:

RkPlayerSalary
1 Larry Bird $1,800,000
2 Kevin McHale $1,000,000
3 Dennis Johnson $782,500
4 Robert Parish $700,000
5 Danny Ainge $550,000
6 Sly Williams $450,000
7 Bill Walton $425,000
8 Scott Wedman $400,000
9 Greg Kite $150,000
10 Jerry Sichting $125,000
11 Rick Carlisle $90,000
12 Sam Vincent $87,500

$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:

RkPlayerSalary

RkPlayerSalary
1 Magic Johnson $2,500,000
2 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar $2,000,000
3 James Worthy $1,100,000
4 Mychal Thompson $712,000
5 Michael Cooper $676,500
6 Byron Scott $600,000
7 Kurt Rambis $525,000
8 Billy Thompson $230,000
9 A.C. Green $218,750
10 Mike Smrek $200,000
11 Wes Matthews $120,000
12 Tony Campbell $75,000
13 Jeff Lamp $75,000
14 Milt Wagner $75,000

$9.107 million.  What about Detroit?

RkPlayerSalary
1 Adrian Dantley $950,000
2 Isiah Thomas $750,000
3 William Bedford $637,500
4 Vinnie Johnson $633,000
5 Bill Laimbeer $630,000
6 James Edwards $600,000
7 Rick Mahorn $575,000
8 Joe Dumars $400,000
9 John Salley $335,000
10 Chuck Nevitt $160,000
11 Dennis Rodman $160,000
12 Ralph Lewis $75,000

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

RkPlayerSalary
1 Magic Johnson $3,142,860
2 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar $3,000,000
3 James Worthy $1,300,000
4 Byron Scott $1,000,000
5 Mychal Thompson $812,000
6 Orlando Woolridge $500,000
7 Tony Campbell $270,000
8 A.C. Green $269,000
9 David Rivers $200,000
10 Jeff Lamp $100,000
11 Mark McNamara $100,000

RkPlayerSalary
1 Adrian Dantley $1,250,000
2 Isiah Thomas $1,100,000
3 James Edwards $800,000
4 William Bedford $687,500
5 Vinnie Johnson $633,000
6 Bill Laimbeer $630,000
7 Rick Mahorn $600,000
8 Dennis Rodman $550,000
9 Joe Dumars $400,000
10 John Salley $380,000
11 Darryl Dawkins $300,000
12 Fennis Dembo $100,000
13 Micheal Williams $100,000

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.

1990-91

Bulls:

RkPlayerSalary
1 Michael Jordan $2,500,000
2 Bill Cartwright $1,100,000
3 Stacey King $1,000,000
4 Horace Grant $1,000,000
5 Dennis Hopson $915,000
6 Scottie Pippen $765,000
7 Cliff Levingston $750,000
8 Craig Hodges $600,000
9 Will Perdue $450,000
10 B.J. Armstrong $425,000
11 John Paxson $385,000
12 Scott Williams $150,000

$10.04 Mil.

 

RkPlayerSalary
1 Magic Johnson $2,400,000
2 Sam Perkins $1,970,000
3 A.C. Green $1,750,000
4 James Worthy $1,600,000
5 Byron Scott $1,100,000
6 Vlade Divac $770,000
7 Mychal Thompson $615,000
8 Elden Campbell $575,000
9 Larry Drew $550,000
10 Terry Teagle $550,000
11 Tony Smith $120,000
12 Irving Thomas $120,000

$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?

RkPlayerSalary
1 Michael Jordan $4,000,000
2 Scottie Pippen $3,425,000
3 Bill Cartwright $2,200,000
4 Horace Grant $1,900,000
5 Stacey King $1,400,000
6 John Paxson $1,200,000
7 Rodney McCray $1,075,000
8 Will Perdue $625,000
9 Scott Williams $613,000
10 Bob Hansen $600,000
11 B.J. Armstrong $540,000
12 Craig Hodges $400,000
13 Trent Tucker $350,000
14 Corey Williams $200,000
15 Ricky Blanton $8,000

$18.536 million

RkPlayerSalary
1 Charles Barkley $2,420,000
2 Tom Chambers $1,885,000
3 Kevin Johnson $1,850,000
4 Danny Ainge $1,330,000
5 Kurt Rambis $1,100,000
6 Mark West $1,000,000
7 Jerrod Mustaf $904,000
8 Ed Nealy $800,000
9 Dan Majerle $735,000
10 Oliver Miller $517,000
11 Tim Kempton $500,000
12 Negele Knight $469,000
13 Cedric Ceballos $350,000
14 Richard Dumas $140,000
15 Alex Stivrins $140,000
16 Frank Johnson $140,000

$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.

 

RkPlayerSalary
1 Michael Jordan $33,140,000
2 Ron Harper $4,560,000
3 Toni Kukoc $4,560,000
4 Dennis Rodman $4,500,000
5 Luc Longley $3,184,900
6 Scottie Pippen $2,775,000
7 Bill Wennington $1,800,000
8 Scott Burrell $1,430,000
9 Randy Brown $1,260,000
10 Robert Parish $1,150,000
11 Jason Caffey $850,920
12 Steve Kerr $750,000
13 Keith Booth $597,600
14 Jud Buechler $500,000
15 Joe Kleine $272,250

$61.33 million.

RkPlayerSalary
1 Karl Malone $5,118,578
2 John Stockton $5,000,000
3 Jeff Hornacek $4,195,000
4 Chris Morris $3,000,000
5 Bryon Russell $2,857,144
6 Adam Keefe $2,300,000
7 Antoine Carr $1,600,000
8 Howard Eisley $1,240,000
9 Shandon Anderson $1,200,000
10 Greg Ostertag $647,400
11 Jacque Vaughn $601,320
12 Greg Foster $504,000
13 Troy Hudson $242,000

$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

RkPlayerSalary
1 Shaquille O'Neal $17,142,858
2 Kobe Bryant $9,000,000
3 Glen Rice $7,000,000
4 Robert Horry $4,800,000
5 Rick Fox $3,033,000
6 Derek Fisher $3,000,000
7 Travis Knight $2,800,000
8 Ron Harper $2,000,000
9 A.C. Green $1,700,000
10 Tyronn Lue $809,280
11 Devean George $790,440
12 Sam Jacobson $721,080
13 Byron Scott $510,000
14 John Salley $510,000
15 Brian Shaw $510,000
16 Shea Seals $385,000
17 John Celestand $301,875
18 Andy Panko $5,000

$54.97 million.

RkPlayerSalary
1 Rik Smits $12,250,000
2 Reggie Miller $9,031,850
3 Derrick McKey $4,800,000
4 Dale Davis $4,490,000
5 Chris Mullin $4,079,100
6 Mark Jackson $4,000,000
7 Travis Best $3,250,000
8 Jalen Rose $2,437,500
9 Jonathan Bender $2,214,600
10 Sam Perkins $1,925,000
11 Austin Croshere $1,515,120
12 Zan Tabak $1,100,000
13 Jeff Foster $857,760
14 Al Harrington $745,800
15 LaSalle Thompson $510,000
16 Mark Pope $460,000
17 Brent Scott $385,000
18 Mate Skelin $385,000
19 Shannon Smith $301,875
20 Mitchell Butler $150,000
21 Terry Dehere $50,000
22 Adrian Caldwell $50,000

$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....

 

1984-2009RS-BestbyWSRS-BestbyGmScPO-BestbyWSPO-BestbyGmSc
Position#WLChamps#WLChamps#WLChamps#WLChamps
PG 77 372 366 4 80 402 374 6 87 480 428 5 85 395 387 5
SG 88 448 423 7 82 422 392 8 92 462 408 12 95 473 445 9
SF 70 303 325 2 80 324 363 2 62 228 272 2 68 270 301 2
PF 96 445 455 6 100 454 480 5 97 408 453 4 95 446 464 5
C 85 386 385 7 74 352 345 5 78 376 393 3 73 370 357 5

 

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.

Poll
What is the most important piece in winning a championship?

  218 votes | Results


If you people join the Suns game threads we post, you no doubt take part or are exposed to comments and conversations about both local and national voices calling the games. Oftentimes we tend to criticize the talking heads for their comments which vary from imbecilic and mindless to nonsensical and illogical. We have unfortunately come to know a number of individuals employed to add to our experience fail miserably amid the task. In fact, they degenerate our experience. We are either dumber from listening to them or we mute them altogether as a means to maintain sanity. Some examples:

A certain broadcaster you may know has nicknamed Jared Dudley, "Dudley Do-Right," which in my opinion, is downright lame. Another enjoys using the phrase "whirling dervish" when describing and athletic play. That's beyond corny. There's a national guy who dresses like a used car salesmen on purpose to make up for his lack of talent, intelligence, and expertise. There is a very un-dynamic brother and sister duo who only make a game interesting to the audience by causing us all to consider who actually is the brother and who is the sister.

Now don't get me wrong, I don't despise all of the color and play by play guys and gals I've heard and watched. There are some concise, knowledgable voices that don't incite violence in my mind or illicit disgust in my soul. But I'll be honest, they are few and far between. So Brightsiders, I wanted to engage in a little spitballing with you all. What if we got rid of the play by play and color commentators? What if we could create our own options? What would enhance our game watching experience?

There are no ground rules to this fantasy other than forget about ground rules and being rational. I don't care about FCC requirements or what may or may not be against the law or in the NBA's best interest, nor do I care about David Stern's wadded up panties or Robert Sarver and his stupid foam finger. I wanna get selfish here. Remember, without us, the franchise doesn't exist. Here is what I have so far :

  • I want an option to hear what the player's hear:  I want micc'd up coaches, players, officials, basketballs, etc. I want to hear the grunts and the cursing, the trash talk (what up KG?), and the whining. 
  • I want a camera on the player so I can see what he sees. I want the Steve Nash view. Like a contact lense camera or something James Bondesque.
  • I want a camera on the ball-balls eye view, get it!
  • I want control of the camera via remote control. When the Suns play the Lakers, I don't want to see Anthony Keidis' stupid mustache or Jack Nicholson in the midst of a cocaine haze rabid fandom. If I want to isolate on J-Chill slashing to the hoop, I should be able to use a remote to check out the 'fro.
  • If I can't get the oncourt microphone, I want the lip reader closed caption. Example: 
  • Channing Frye to Steve Nash: "Hey Steve, you know something about like movies and acting, right?"
    Steve Nash to Channing Frye: "Little bit, hey you may wanna pick up your guy..."
    Channing Frye to Steve Nash: "So what did you think of that commercial I did for that grocery store?"
    Steve Nash to Channing Frye: "You &^%$@ing sucked."



What other elements of the game are there? What am I missing? Help me out, don't make me look like a fool in front of Samsung.


Suns 103, Kings 89 PHOENIX — It’s hard to classify the eighth game of an 82-game schedule as crucial. But after glancing at the Suns’ upcoming schedule, that’s exactly what...

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1 on 1 with Goran Dragic and some cool stats


YO! HAPPY FRIDAY! 

So tonight the Suns are back in action after a 3 day vacation facing the Sacramento Kings here at home!  Both teams are coming off of tough losses to teams that you almost don't want to admit you lost to... but ya'll know that this is the NBA, where "Unpredictable" happens - just ask Chad Ford... or anyone at the mothership or any other national media outlet who predict and prognosticate to no avail year after year.

The Suns turned the ball over abundantly and showed sloppy offense in their loss to the Memphis Grizzlies and the Kings did the same in their 'L' to the T'Wolves.

Anyways, I know we're talking about the 3-4 Sacramento Kings... but believe it or not we are the 3-4 Phoenix Suns and this game tonight means more than you would think.

Not only is this going to be a gritty match between two struggling teams trying to find cohesion and wash bad-loss tastes out of their mouths, but there is a little more riding on this game tonight - find out what the heck I'm talking about and more after the jump!


"Scheisse!"  - Jump it comrades

HERE'S THE DEAL...

This game is so important because starting Sunday, the Suns will play 4 games in 5 days - 2 sets of back-to-backs - against 4 of the leagues best teams, The Lakers, the Nuggets, the Heat and the Magic.  It is going to be brutal week, and the tough schedule continues for the Suns.  This is why tonight's game is soo important. 

Captain Obvious says,

"A poor showing and a loss tonight will put the Suns at 3-5 heading into a potential 4 game disaster,  but a good showing and a win would bring the Suns back to .500 and make whatever happens over the next 'death-week' not seem so bad."

It could be the difference between having a 5-7 record or a 3-9 record by the 19th... but then again, monkeys could fly out of my butt too. The truth is, it's really not that big of a deal because the season is so young and our schedule has been so tough. But I needed to grab your attention somehow right?!  Now let's continue with the usual notes, predictions and beautifully inane yet pertinent random junk from yours truly.

THE MATCH-UP

22yl_medium

Rebounding - It has become standard that we address rebounding as an issue for each game... and tonight is no different especially with wide bodies like Landry, Dalembert, and Jason Thompson coming off the bench - the Suns will again struggle to clean the glass and prevent 2nd chance points for the Kings.

Stop Evans - with fouls, crowbars, fast cars... or we can just try Grant HIll, Jared Dudley or Josh Childress. The kid is a minotaur.

Impose our will - With active hands - full court pressure and frequent fast breaks we need to impose our style of play and take the Kings out of their element.   This is what has hindered the Kings so far this season and Paul Westphal mentioned this a little after their loss on Wednesday,

"We've got big guys dribbling when they should be passing and letting little guys dribble up the floor," Westphal said. "We've got people going one-on-one into a crowd rather than seeing the defense and passing … We're just not playing together and playing to our strengths the way I see us doing in practice or the way we did in the first few games."

Here's a little more testimony as to the Kings woes from Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee on his Twitter.  

21mj_medium

They're pretty much struggling with the same type of problems our Phoenix Suns team is facing, so again Captian Obvious reminds us all that the win will no doubt go to the team that executes better!  Ha! Imagine that. 

It does help that the Suns haven't lost a divisional home game to a team other than the Lakers since 2006-07 when they lost to the Clippers on April 17, 2007.  It also helps that the Suns swept the Kings last year (4-0) and has won 9 straight home games against Sacramento.  The numbers are on our side.

BENCH PRESS

One of a few clear advantages the Suns do have in this match-up is our improved bench. Goran Dragic is playing out of his mind to start the season (Please see this again... and again, and again...), J-Chill is finding his niche, and Warrick is turning into the finisher the Suns need him to be.

In fact - the Suns bench is playing so well that it's actually out-shooting the Starters.  The Bench so far this season is shooting 47.4 percent form the field while the starters are shooting 47.2!  Another crazy fact is that with Warrick (12.3) and Dragic (9.4) this combo is nearly the first pair of full-time Suns reserves to average double-digit scoring since 2001-02 when Rodney Rogers and Tony Delk did it.  

The concern on the Bench for me is Channing Frye's shooting.  I'm going to leave it at that becuase he has stepped up and played pretty good D and has been rippin' down boards at a satisfactory rate.  I'm hoping he gets out of his 'slump' soon, tonight might be a good night since he always shoots better at home.

A REUNION OF ALL SORTS

Something interesting (and yes trivial) that I noticed while writing this is the fact that when the Suns face the Kings there are all kinds of reunions and connections going on - here are a few I can think of:

  • Head Coach Paul Westphal - This one is obvious and rings familiar, why?  He coached for the Suns during the beloved 1992-93' Finals season and for 3 years after that.  He also played for the Suns to end his NBA career as a player in 1983,  what's interesting is that also as a Suns player he helped them get to their only other NBA Finals appearance in 1976!  He's a Suns legend.
  • Assistant coaches Elie & Robinson - Both Kings Assistants Mario Elie and Truck Robinson played for the Suns - Elie in 2000-2001, and Robinson from 78-82.
  • Slovenian Slumber Party - This is another reunion that happens every time these two teams have met for the last 2 years or so - fellow compatriots Beno Udrih and Goran Dragic snuggle up in snuggies and spoon while telling stories of 'back home' ... okay I made that up but these two are always happy to see each other and usually go out to eat at the Cheesecake factory when the Kings come to town.
  • Baby Hedo - Way back in the day when a young Hedo Turkoglu emerged from the uterus of Euroball - it was the Sacramento Kings that gave birth to his NBA career by drafting that fool in the first round.  That's kind of a reunion too right?

Okay enough of this - family reunions and high school reunions are always awkward and boring so lets move on...

THE 09' J-RICH RULE... ABROGATED

A little VOCAB for you high-school Bright Siders,ABROGATE [ab-ruh-geyt] –verb (used with object), -gat·ed, -gat·ing. 1. to abolish by formal or official means; annul by an authoritative act; repeal: to abrogate a law. 2. to put aside; put an end to.

Jason Richardson has started the season right where he left off during the Playoff run last year.  EN FUEGO. He has scored 15 or more points in 7 straight games to start the season and has posted a total of 152 points.  These are career bests for J-Rich, bettering his 143 point 7-game start to the 2005-06 season with the Warriors and he is just 1 of 10 NBA players this year to have scored 15 or more in every game this season, joining the ranks of mind numbing scorers Kevin Durant, Monta Ellis, Pau Gasol, Rudy Gay, Jeff Green, LeBron James, Kevin Martin, Derrick Rose, and Russell Westbrook.


Out of those 7 high scoring games Rich has posted more than 20-points in 4 of them... now following the rules of the J-Rich Law found in the Codex of Laws of the Basketball Kingdom of last year, that should account for 4 victories for the Phoenix Suns right? Wrong.  We're 2-2 when Rich scores 20+ this season. 

A little legal lesson for those unfortunate souls who are unfamiliar with the Codex of Laws of the Basketball Kingdom 2009-10,
League: NBA
Region: Western Shire Division: Pacific District: The Honorable Phoenix Area Suns
Title 75 - Chapter 1 - Article 1.1:
§ 75-101.  (A.) There is a SG named Jason Richardson  (B.) The above mentioned SG will be named herein after J-Rich and plays for the Phoenix Suns (C.) When J-Rich scores 20 or more points the Suns will have an 86% chance at victory (D.) This approximation is based on the 31-5 record in 09-10 when J-Rich accomplished such feat (E.) Given such high % Layman's terms shall be - "When J-Rich scores 20, the Suns will win"     

You see there's just one small problem with this law...  it's outdated, a lot like the Arizona law still on the books that says you can't keep your donkey in a bathtub.  Jason Richardson is now one of the top 2 scoring options on the team.  No longer are his 20 points a compliment to the heavy work of Amare Stoudemire.. they are the heavy work of the team and that is why this rule shall be striked.  Someone else needs to step up and add some extra 'complimentary' points (HINT HINT ROBIN LOPEZ HINT STEP UP YOUR GAME HINT HINT) for the Suns truly to be successful like last year.

Mash it up now my peeps - if there's something else you're looking for in this game let it be known in the comment section!

LINKS, ZELDAS & RUPEES 

Well.. mostly Links

Paul Coro's Orange Slices Blog - Nash envisions playing beyond this contract but how much losing would he be willing to endure in Phoenix at this stage? Nash has been blunt with his frustration that the Suns were a step away from the NBA Finals last season, only to have the team made over  in the summer and the reliance fall on him to make it work.

Paul Coro in the AZRepublic - Phoenix Suns center Robin Lopez starts, rarely finishes - "I think Robin still is trying to get back to his best physically," Nash said. "He's not moving the same as he did last year. He's not covering the same amount of ground. It takes time. Backs are difficult and what he had is not a joking matter.."

More Coro - Phoenix Suns' first priority - limit turnovers - "For a team that has been competitive in each game of a 3-4 start, taking a few extra shots instead of turnovers and not trying to defend a fastbreak on many of those turnovers could reverse their fortunes."

Check out Sactown Royalty Opposing Small Forwards Feasting on Kings- "The Kings have several problems leading to these three straight losses and an awful 1-3 home record. In today's column, The Bee's Ailene Voisin blames a lethargic, confused and ineffective offense. The offense certainly hasn't been creative during the homestand. But to me, the glaring problem is still defense. Specifically, it's perimeter defense. And it's hard to ignore what opposing starting small forwards have done to the Kings."

Kings vs Suns coverage - SBNation coverage

[Note by Seth Pollack, 11/12/10 11:50 AM MST ]

Not to much from shootaround today. Gentry called the Kings a "good team" which is pretty much what he says about every team unless they are a "great" team. 

As for the Hedo/Warrick thing, it doesn't sound like he's ready to make the change but will adjust rotations based on what happens.

"I don't know, we'll take a look at it. One of the things I talked to Hedo about is that to have him guard a Zach Randolph or something like that is a little unfair so there is a possibility. We'll see how it goes. I don't want him in foul trouble, so if I think it's a situation where he's going to get in immediate foul trouble then we'll change our rotations and it could be as early as two or three minutes in the game."

Here's the full shootaround audio from Coach Gentry:

Gentry shootaround 111210

 

 


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