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What’s The Best Model?

Here we are.  The 2011 Playoffs.

Of course, there are lots of interesting storylines to talk about as the playoffs begin.  What interests me the most is the clash of styles amongst the teams still standing.

To set the table for that discussion, I think it’s worthwhile to identify who I think the 20 best players in the league are (otherwise, discussions about which teams truly have “star” power get complicated, as it’s easy to call lots of players “stars” but much harder to identify the ones who truly are).  In no particular order, I think the top 20 players, divided into “superstars” and “stars” are:

SUPERSTARS

1.  Kobe

2.  Durant

3.  Rose

4.  LeBron

5.  Wade

6.  Howard

STARS

7.  Dirk

8.  Gasol

9.  Westbrook

10.  CP3

11.  Anthony

12.  Stoudemire

13.  Randolph (20 ppg, 12 rpg)

14.  Aldridge (22 ppg, 9 rpg)

15.  Rondo (11 assists, 2.5 spg)

16.  Ginobili (17 ppg, 5 apg, 4 rpg, 1.5 spg)

17.  Parker (18 ppg, 7 apg)

18.  Johnson (18 ppg, 5 apg, 4 rpg)

19.  Horford (15 ppg, 9 rpg, 1 bpg)

20.  Granger (21 ppg, 5 rpg)

We could probably debate a few of those guys (CP3, Anthony, and Stoudemire might deserve to be considered superstars, while Garnett, Pierce, Bosh, and Iguodala could be considered stars).  But, generally, it’s a pretty uncontroversial list of the 20 best players in the playoffs.  With that as background, the teams generally fall into a few groups:

NO STARS – Philly and Denver:  Both of these teams are athletic, exciting, and deep.  And neither has a chance to win more than one round, because they don’t have the necessary star-power.

ONE STAR – Dallas, Memphis, Portland, Boston, Indiana, New Orleans, Orlando and Chicago:  This is an interesting group. To me, the critical distinction among the teams in this group is that some of them have big guys who operate in the paint, playing alongside dynamic small guys.  Some do not.  The teams that do — Chicago, Memphis, Portland, and Indiana — are legitimate threats.  Dallas is better than it has been in years past because Tyson Chandler is an effective presence in the paint. But, Dirk, as great as he is, is not a traditional PF, and Kidd is no longer a dynamic PG.  New Orleans would be a threat, but for the crippling injury to David West.  Without him, there’s just not enough horsepower there.  Orlando, in my eyes, just doesn’t have the guards to go deep.  That leaves Boston and Chicago.  Before the Perkins trade, Boston had intimidating big guys and dynamic small guys.  Now they’ve lost the intimidation.  All is not lost, because, though they only have one of the top 20 players, it’s possible that they have four of the top 25.  They might be able to get by simply because they have so many guys who can win a game for them, but that’s less likely than it was before the trade.  Chicago is unique among this group, because it has a superstar guard playing alongside big guys who dominate the paint.

TWO STARS – Atlanta, New York, Los Angeles, Oklahoma City, Miami, and San Antonio:  The primary distinction among the teams in this group is that some have superstars and some do not.  Neither Atlanta nor San Antonio have superstars, but both have two stars playing with capable supporting casts (with all due respect to Tim Duncan, he is now a part of the supporting cast).  It’s rare for a team to win without a superstar, but Atlanta and San Antonio are threats — San Antonio specifically because it has the best backcourt tandem, and a very capable frontcourt.  New York is the wild card in this group, because, if Carmelo and Amar’e play like superstars, they might be good enough to make up for the glaring shortcoming on that roster; no big guys who intimidate anyone to play up front with those two.  Miami is the only team with two superstars, and also the only team that relies on Mario Chalmers and Joel Anthony for major minutes.  That leaves Oklahoma City and LA, both of whom have a superstar and a star.

In light of all of that, I’ll make this prediction: I expect Chicago, LA, San Antonio, and Oklahoma City to rise above the rest. Chicago and LA both have superstar guards playing alongside big men who dominate the paint.  San Antonio and Oklahoma City both have overpowering perimeter tandems playing alongside big men who, while not as good as the bigs on Chicago and LA, are effective down low.  Which of those four will emerge as champion?  Stay tuned.

 

 

 

4 Comments:

  • ZachNovakJr.

    No love for Chris Bosh or Josh Smith? How do you see those two vs. Granger? Based on the stars model, it seems like ATL over ORL in game one was no fluke (especially if Jason Richardson is not going to play like he did in PHX). Maybe we should be taking the Hawks and the points (8.5) tomorrow night…

  • Angry Young Man

    Comical to me how much the Knicks have sucked. I told you all CarMElo was not the kind of guy you want on a winning team. Of course he’s an amazingly talented athlete and scorer, but is he an amazing basketball player? Also, Amare was the force behind the Knicks’ turnaround, but he took a backseat once carMElo came to town, and look what has happened.

    Also, I think the Heat are going to win the whole thing. Which will serve only to prove the NBA regular season is a colossal waste of time, along with being a fabricated sham.

    Have a nice day.

  • Tweener

    Thanks for the comment, Novak.
    Nope, no love for Chris Bosh. Never have, never will.
    Josh Smith? That’s an interesting question. Looks like ATL might surprise a few folks, but, with two All-Stars, we probably shouldn’t be surprised to see them win a series.

  • Tweener

    Yeah, you sound angry.

    Comical that the Knicks have sucked? They were a team with a dangerous top-3, and a bunch of barely-adequate parts around them. Only one of those 3 was healthy for the whole series. This counts as comedy to you?

    Do you watch college hoops, Mr. Angry? If so, you certainly remember Carmelo’s team doing quite well when he was on it, don’t you?

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And So It Ends.

The Timofey Mozgov Era in New York is officially over. What to make of it now that it’s done? Well, as they say… you can’t spell Timofey without OFEY.

I’ve been discussing the ‘Melo trade with a bunch of folks. People generally seem to agree with me, that it was a good move. To the extent that they don’t, there are a few points that continue to get raised that I don’t agree with.

For starters, I’ve heard a few people say that they don’t mind giving up Chandler, Gallo, and Mozgov, but including the Felton for Billups swap really eats at them. I’m sorry, but when did Raymond Felton become better than Chauncey Billups? I must have fallen asleep for that part of the show or something. No disrespect to Felton, whom I like and enjoyed watching, but Billups has started at PG for an NBA champion, has an NBA Finals MVP Award, and has been an All-Star five times. (Here’s his wikipedia bio.)  He’s 34, I know, but it’s not like he’s breaking down — he was an All-Star just last year.  And spare me this chatter about him not being “designed for D’Antoni’s system.”  As of the moment the deal got made, the Nuggets were leading the NBA in scoring; Chauncey was their PG and second-best offensive player.  There are things that Felton does better, but this guy is ready to lead a high-octane offense.

I also keep hearing that the Knicks are going to be terrible at defense.  Well, that might be true, I’m not going to address it here.  I will, though, hoopserve that, if they happen to somehow figure out a way to ever get their opponent to miss, the Knicks are quite likely to get the rebound; they now have three of the NBA’s top-29 rebounders (Amar’e, Carmelo, and Landry Fields).  That doesn’t include Turiaf, who should pull down some boards once his minutes go up.

The last point I’ll make about the Knicks at the moment is that they wound up with three guys who have contributed to championship teams at a high level: Chauncey was a critical part of the Pistons’ championship team, Carmelo was the main man when Syracuse won, and Corey Brewer was a starter on the Florida Gators’ repeat championship teams.  I’m not saying this team is winning the championship, but that’s worth something.

Of course, the ‘Melo deal wasn’t the only big deal to go down.  Nobody is interested in reading my detailed breakdown of each deal, so I won’t go there.  For now, I’ll only hoopserve that some teams that were kind of on the border between contenders and pretenders made aggressive moves to get better: Atlanta got Hinrich, Oklahoma City got a legit big man (Perkins), the Blazers added Gerald Wallace, and the Grizzlies got Battier.  Each conference has more than four legitimate teams — it wouldn’t be shocking to see an upset or two.

2 Comments:

  • Sippy

    How can you not address the Knicks’ defensive shortcomings? As you all saw last night, two All-Stars and a fabulous point guard weren’t enough to defeat the worst team in the league, which point up its fourth highest point total of the season against New York. Knicks coach Antoni (notice the absence of a D) is allergic to defense, as are all the teams he coaches. Knicks top priority needs to be one of those grizzly veterans who plays lockdown defense, not adding anymore stars.

  • Tweener

    Sippy! Nice to have you on board.
    Regarding Antoni (I like that, by the way), I hear you that he doesn’t have a record of coaching good D. Four responses to that:
    1. Antoni, for better or worse, is the coach of the Knicks right now. To try to win with Antoni as your coach, it makes no sense to construct a roster of players who are primarily focused on D. Now, whether or not Antoni SHOULD BE the Knicks coach, that’s a different discussion. The point is that he is, and one you put him in that spot, you’ve got to build your roster accordingly. Given that he’s the coach, the ‘Melo move makes lots of sense.
    2. The Knicks now have a bunch of good defenders / rebounders: Fields, Turiaf, Balkman, Douglas, Brewer. That group at least brings SOME defensive toughness to the team. If Billups / Antony / Amar’e can do their thing on the offensive end (and they will), it’s a group good enough to win lots of games with.
    3. I still don’t get what people think would have been a better option than making the deal. When I ask the question of people who didn’t like the deal, all I hear is that the Knicks should have “waited for free agency in 2012” to make their team better. But that’s a year and a half away. And, anyway, didn’t we already try the whole wait-and-hope-free-agents-come-make-us-a-championship-team thing? Haven’t we learned?
    4. You’re really making judgments after two games? Two?

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