Statistical Analysis. Humor. Knicks.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

GOTME (Part II): Point Guard

The Greatest PG Of the Modern Era: Magic Johnson

Player Best PER Avg 5 Best PER Career PER #1 PER # of top 10 PER
Magic 27 26 24.1 0 10
Stockton 23.9 23.3 21.8 0 6
Nash 23 22.6 20.1 0 2
Payton 23.6 22.7 18.9 0 5
Kidd 22.5 20.6 18.5 0 1
Paul 30 25.9 25.9 0 2


For those not old enough to remember Magic’s playing career, you can get an idea of how dominant he was by looking at his numbers. Johnson managed a jaw dropping TS% of 61.0, the 7th highest in the 3-point era. He contributed in multiple areas, averaging 11.0 assists, 7.1 rebounds, and 19.2 points per 36 minutes. Magic was a three time MVP and a three time Finals MVP. Johnson was so skilled that he came out of retirement as a 36 year old and still managed good production in a partial season (PER 21.1) despite being away from the game for 5 years and putting on a few dozen pounds.

Prior to his arrival the Lakers had been an average team, their last championship had been Wilt’s 1972 team. During Magic’s tenure the team averaged 59 wins per season, and he was critical to the team’s success. In his rookie season, Johnson stepped in at center for an injured Kareem in the Finals. He scored 42 points, grabbed 15 rebounds, and dished out 7 assists bringing home the Laker’s first title in 8 years. When Jordan retired the first time, the Bulls still won 55 games the year after. After Magic hung them up, the Lakers only managed 43 wins. While the Lakers of the 1980s were a deep team, without Magic Johnson they weren’t a title contender.

For those who are fortunate to witness Johnson play, it’s hard to believe he was so efficient given his flashy style. Magic featured no look passes, going behind his back, spin moves, and long bounce passes. Usually players of that sort suffer from falling in love with the spectacular move that they loose track of how inefficient these kinds of plays are. But not Johnson. He was seemingly omniscient in the half court and lethal in transition. Johnson always found a way to get the ball to the open man and was the engine that fueled the offense. Additionally Magic brought a million dollar smile and a joie de vivre to the game, which made him likable on a national level.

But perhaps the most interesting thing about Magic’s career is how unlikely it was. A 6-8 point guard without three point range is unthinkable today. If you had to construct Magic from today’s players, you’d take Joe Johnson (minus the three point shot), give him Steve Nash’s passing and efficient scoring, add Ronnie Brewer’s steals, combine LeBron’s rebounding, and sprinkle a little of White Chocolate’s flash (from his Sacramento days). Just an unbelievable mix of attributes, and a truly unique athlete.

The Reserves: Nash, Stockton, Kidd, Payton
Young possibilities: Chris Paul

Stockton was almost as efficient with regards to scoring, was just as good a passer, and was a better defender. But he only averaged 3.1 reb/36 and 14.9 pts/36, and was never considered one of the best players in the league. Stockton’s longevity is a positive, but guys with a higher peak are more important to winning championships than those that stick around a few more seasons. Nash, a two time MVP, is 13th all time in TS%, but lags slightly behind the others in passing and much more so on defense. You could make a good case for Gary Payton as the #2 guy, especially when you consider how good of a defender he was. Both he and Kidd suffer from from inefficient scoring. Payton’s had only 4 years where his TS% was good (1995-1998) while Kidd only achieved this recently in Dallas. Meanwhile Chris Paul has gotten off to a great start, but I think we need a few more seasons from him to put his career into perspective.

98 comments on “GOTME (Part II): Point Guard

  1. kaine

    I was lucky enough to watch all the showtime lakers.

    Believe it or not, he is the Greatest player of all time.

    from his year 1, he just dominated and took his teammate to a new level.

    5 titles, 9 finals if I recall well.

    he was lucky to be paired with Kareem clearly, another all-era dominant player, that shared his desire to win but as a team, not as individual.

    That was the best basket ever played.

  2. Nick C.

    Nice write up on Magic. I like that you did 2-5. I don’t if its odd or not but none of the “scoring” PGs made your list like Marbury, Thomas or even AI, if you list him here.

  3. Caleb

    If we are talking about peak performance, I think Chris Paul has had one or two Magic seasons – better than anything those other (great) players you listed, put up. If his knees hold up for a reasonable length of time he’ll be a clear #2, or even better.

    But if we’re looking at career value, you might have to put Kidd at the top — he’s been so good for so long. To stay at the level where he is, at 36.. amazing. I guess Stockton did it, too. And Nash is en route. I hope we don’t have any Clemens-like revelations.

    In the “futures” category, Rajon Rondo is interesting – I wouldn’t put it past him to end up with a Payton-level career.

    I remember John Hollinger did a piece a few years ago, on what type of PGs lasted longest. Unsurprisngly, it helped to be taller, and a better shooter. That sort of explains Nash, and bodes well for Billups. A mixed bag for Rondo.

    I haven’t even peeked at numbers but was thinking off the top of my head if anyone else has had a couple of years with comparable peak value… where did Mark Price top out? Kevin Johnson? Tim Hardaway?

    As for the biggest woulda coulda shoulda, how about Baron Davis?

  4. d-mar

    Sorry to interrupt the PG thread; I meant to post this last night but got home late from the game.

    In this season of despair, I wanted to point out a few things that I saw last night that were really encouraging:

    1) Not only was Gallo hitting all his shots, but his one on one defense on Joe Johnson was really impressive. Gallo’s defensive improvement I think is one of the most positive developments of the Knicks season. Wish he’d get more boards though.
    2) Really liked Douglas’ activity on defense and taking it to the basket hard (even though he missed a few bunnies) His horrendous TO at the end notwithstanding, I think that was a good game for him to be in at crunch time and I liked a lot of what I saw. Now D’Antoni has to decide how to allocate minutes between he and T-Mac.

    3) The crowd at the end of the game was incredibly loud, and I turned to my son and said “I really can’t wait until there are meaningful games at this place again” Hopefully, 2010-2011?

  5. David Crockett

    Great writeup Mike.

    In an odd way, Magic was the reason that I came so late to basketball as a kid.

    I recall being very young in Jersey, before developing any interest in basketball, and hearing all this talk of “Magic” and “Bird”. The only basketball player I had any interest in up to that point was Doctor J, and then only through the occasional highlight. So when people were saying Magic was better than Doctor J, I didn’t disbelieve it as much as I was expecting something like Doctor J–just better. When I finally saw Magic he was the gangliest, oddest looking thing I had ever seen; nothing at all like Doctor J. Magic was all flailing arms and legs and no-look passes. To a kid who had never been on a court, and really only liked football and baseball, Magic’s brand of athleticism just seemed weird.

    So I really didn’t pay much attention to the game until the 8th grade in the mid-80s. I became a real fan upon seeing my teacher get excited about the fact that the Knicks were getting Patrick Ewing.

  6. Ted Nelson

    One thing that’s amazing about Magic is that he managed to be so efficient with a weak 3-pt shot.

    Of course we’ll have to see how Paul does from here on (amazing that he’s only 24) and how his knees hold up, but man is he good. He may already be the GPUSF: Greatest Player Under Six Feet.

    “As for the biggest woulda coulda shoulda, how about Baron Davis?”
    How about Stephon Marbury?

    “where did Mark Price top out? Kevin Johnson? Tim Hardaway?”
    Those guys could be in the conversation. Maybe the next tier, but close. Price and Johnson didn’t really sustain it that long I guess, and Hardaway wasn’t very efficient.

    “But if we’re looking at career value, you might have to put Kidd at the top — he’s been so good for so long.”
    Yet, Magic’s career Win Shares = 155.8, Kidd’s? 122… The career achievement award goes to Stockton with a career Win Shares of 207.7.

    kaine, it is interesting that Magic doesn’t get more play in GOAT conversations.

  7. Ted Nelson

    A couple of random thoughts:

    -The Cavs “terrible” supporting cast didn’t do so poorly without LeBron or Shaq against the Spurs… didn’t do so poorly when Jamison went down too. Maybe they are not so terrible after all?

    -Was great to see Kobe not pass the ball in the last 7 minutes of the Lakers-Magic game!!! Kobe literally took 13 of the 15 shots in the last 6 minutes (Pau had two FGs, but they came on tipping in Kobe misses, so while they were FGAs I’m not counting them in my Kobe analysis). Two Fisher Js were the only other plays LA ran. That All-NBA F/C? Sure he had 20 point on 13 FGAs in the game, but why pass to him?
    Kobe went 5/12 with 2 FTs for 14 points in that stretch. Good for a TS% of 54.34%. He was on the court with the best passing frontcourt in the NBA and a guy who was All-NBA 3rd team last season… He managed to do something only a few other guys in the world could do, but Lakers win that game if he passes the ball at some point in the last 7 minutes. This was not the last couple possessions, it was 7 minutes.

    -Nice to see that Danilo hasn’t forgotten how to shoot after all… I was getting worried for a couple of months there.

  8. Caleb

    “As for the biggest woulda coulda shoulda, how about Baron Davis?”
    How about Stephon Marbury?”

    Here’s the difference, to me:

    There have been stretches in Davis’ career where he looked like an MVP candidate. Defense, running the team, unstoppable with the ball. Absolutely dominating the game. Like in the GS-Dallas series, a few years ago. Which makes a season like this one, all the more perplexing. I guess you could blame the bad back, but if you believe the gossip he just doesn’t care enough to keep himself in game shape.

    On the other hand, Marbs had his moments – maybe a season of legit All-Star play – but I can’t say he ever looked remotely like a first-team all-NBA. You could say that with his combination of strength and quickness, and early achievement, maybe he should have been better than he was. At the same time, sometimes we mistake a (relative) lack of talent, for mental failing. Some guys just aren’t as good as the hype.

  9. DS

    “Johnson managed a jaw dropping TS% of 61.0 [in 906 career games], the 7th highest in the 3-point era.”

    “Isiah Thomas career TS%: 51.6.”

    I’m expecting a nice blurb about former Knick, James Donaldson (TS% 61.8 in 957 career games) when you do your piece on centers.

  10. Ted Nelson

    I think that they’re pretty close, Marbury and Davis. Marbury was a much better scorer, equivalent playmaker, and much worse def/reb/blk/stl.

    http://www.basketball-reference.com/play-index/pcm_finder.cgi?request=1&sum=1&p1=marbust01&y1=2009&p2=davisba01&y2=2010

    Baron Davis has just not been an efficient scorer. His career mark is .501. He’s been above .515 twice, and never above .530. Marbury was only at .528 on his career, but he put up .540 and .575 seasons where you just wonder why he didn’t do that every year. Both are underachievers (Steve Francis deserves a shout-out, and while some will disagree I’ll give one to Allen Iverson too based on his inefficiency). I do think Marbury could have been All-NBA first team based on his offensive output. If he had his head on straight and either stuck with KG or thrived with Marion/Amare and put up a couple of seasons like 04-05… he would have been right there in the discussion of top PGs in the league (in everyone’s mind, not just his own).

    Davis did step up bigtime in the playoffs two different seasons, which does point to a lack of motivation on his career. Marbury was terrible in the playoffs; although, over half his playoff minutes came before his 21st birthday and with the Celts.

    One is lazy and one is a complete mess, hard to say which is/was a sadder NBA story.

    “At the same time, sometimes we mistake a (relative) lack of talent, for mental failing. Some guys just aren’t as good as the hype.”

    Like I said, I don’t think that’s the case based on his best seasons. I also think that Steph’s mental failings are REALLY blatant and obvious. They are broadcast worldwide and recorded in official court transcripts. It’s not speculation in his case. So, I think his talent and mental failings are both documented.

    “Which makes a season like this one, all the more perplexing.”

    He’s really not far from his career numbers this season, though. This season is well within the expected range for him, especially on the wrong side of 30.

  11. jon abbey

    “The Cavs “terrible” supporting cast didn’t do so poorly without LeBron or Shaq against the Spurs… didn’t do so poorly when Jamison went down too. Maybe they are not so terrible after all?”

    seriously? they were losing the whole way and pulled out a close game at the end at home, and SA didn’t have Tony Parker. in the previous game without LeBron, the Bucks blew them out.

  12. Owen

    Just saw the final play of the game last night. Pretty fantastic stuff from Chandler. Probably the most clutch block I have ever seen.

    It bears noting though, all you Toney Douglas lovers, that was a horrible horrible turnover from him. Also, Lee’s defense on Smith was absolutely atrocious. He let Smith go right past him and wasn’t even challenging Crawford’s shot.

    This is a good post. I like the list and love that Isiah isn’t on it (he shouldn’t be.) Magic was in a class by himself. You can legitimately argue over which MJ was better (although I give Mike the edge) but Magic set a standard for the position that is unlikely to be matched.

    I am looking forward to the shooting guard post…

  13. BigBlueAL

    The Cavs supporting cast over an 82 game season w/o Lebron would be lucky to win 30 games.

  14. iserp

    Well, Cavs supporting cast was missing Jamison in the 2nd half, Z and Shaq. When someone says cavs are not so bad without Lebron, they usually take into account those 3 guys (or at least, some combination of them)

    Bobcats won the Cavs with Lebron, you need more than a couple of games to evaluate them.

  15. TDM

    Talk about coincidence, I was just loggin on to say that Hill is actually having another good game for HOU right now.

    15 minutes, 9 pts, 6 boards, 2 dimes.

  16. Brian Cronin

    That Rocket thing was weird – a lot of extrapolating about one good game (a game that wasn’t even all that amazing).

  17. BigBlueAL

    Doc Rivers with a quick hook for Nate early in the 4th quarter, then KG is seen giving it to Nate on the bench after a couple of HORRIBLE offensive possessions by Nate that even the Bucks announcers were predicting the benching.

    But I thought D’Antoni was an idiot for limiting Nate’s minutes….

  18. Ted Nelson

    “seriously? they were losing the whole way and pulled out a close game at the end at home, and SA didn’t have Tony Parker. in the previous game without LeBron, the Bucks blew them out.”

    7 points is not really a blow-out, and the Bucks are over .500 (5th in the East currently). Mo Williams is not going to have too many 3-17 games. Two of their best players are out, a third went down in the second game, and they went 1-1 against playoff teams. I’m not saying they’re the greatest collection of players ever without LeBron and Shaq, I’m just saying that LeBron has a much better supporting cast than a lot of people contend.
    A lot of people also say that Jordan won 6 championships with a bunch of scrubs… In that case there’s a nice 50 win season to show they weren’t too bad without MJ.

    “The Cavs supporting cast over an 82 game season w/o Lebron would be lucky to win 30 games.”

    I have no idea how many games they would win. As someone else pointed out, losing MJ cost the Bulls 8 wins (58 to 50). The Cavs are on pace for 63 wins this season. Jordan is worth 8 games and LeBron is worth more than 33 wins?
    Shaq, Varajao, Jamison, Hickson, Powe, (Z coming back), Mo Williams, West, Parker, Moon, Gibson… That’s a pretty solid group.

  19. BigBlueAL

    Jordan left and they still had Pippen and Horace Grant, plus BJ Armstrong and a rookie named Toni Kukoc along with all the other role players from the 3peat team. Plus some guy named Phil Jackson as head coach. The next season after Grant left for Orlando they were barely a .500 team until MJ came back at the end of the season and they went 13-4 the rest of the season.

  20. BigBlueAL

    Plus to clarify the Bulls actually won 57 games in Jordan’s last season and won 55 the next season w/o him before somehow taking the Knicks to 7 games in the 2nd round (mostly thanks to Kukoc’s GW shot in Game 3, if he doesnt make that shot it most likely winds up a Knicks sweep or Knicks in 5 but that freakin shot changed the series). They were 34-31 in the next season until MJ came back and went like I mentioned 13-4 rest of the way to finish 47-35.

  21. Ted Nelson

    BBA,

    As much as giving Nate the hook, Rivers was also getting one of his best players back in the game in Rondo.

    No one said that Nate is a basketball god, just that he’s a good player and could help the Knicks win. He’s been playing well for the Celtics. (The Celts are right at their season winning% since getting Nate.) The Knicks have been missing a leader the caliber of KG for a while.

  22. BigBlueAL

    Since they do have Jamison now and Shaq (albeit an old one) I would say they would win around 35 games or so, maybe peak at 40 and sneak into the playoffs at best since Jamison is a solid player to add to that rotation. They are not anywhere near as good though as the 1993-1994 Bulls w/o MJ.

  23. BigBlueAL

    Agreed about the KG thing, no Knicks player could get into Nate’s ass and have an impact like that. Hey I had to needle the Nate lovers a bit with that incident from today :-)

  24. Ted Nelson

    BBA,

    I was looking at the Pythagorean W-L, good call.

    I don’t think they’re as good as the Bulls were (they certainly have no Pippen). But Jordan is worth 2 wins and LeBron is worth 23-28 or even 33? Even if you’re looking at 2004-5, without Jordan and Grant, Jordan is worth 14 and LeBron is worth twice that?

    Even if you want to say they’re a 40 win team without LeBron, that’s a solid team. I think they’d do better, since the Bulls start Taj Gibson and Hinrich is having a Duhon-esque season and they’re .500 in the East. Miami starts Beasley (who at this point in his career is garbage), Q Richardson, and Rafer Alston and they’re over .500. Toronto is the worst defense in the NBA and they’re over .500. Before Salmons came in Jennings was the Bucks’ go-to scorer (.468 TS%), and they’re over .500. I honestly think you can argue that the Cavs could be the 4th best team in the East without LeBron, or at least right there with that group (4-8 if you remove Cleveland from the top).
    Replace LeBron with Jamario Moon and the defense doesn’t fall off too much. If they share the ball and play together, Jamison, Williams, Shaq is a solid start offensively and then there are sharp shooters (Parker and Gibson) and efficient low-volume guys (Varajao and Moon to a lesser extent). West is a solid 3rd guard. Hickson shows flashes. Either he or Powe is their FOURTH bigman. That’s one of the strongest/deepest frontcourts in the league.

  25. Ted Nelson

    By the way, I know that the “worth X wins” logic is pretty iffy, just pointing out that teams often do better than people expect after losing a key player. No one seems to be a better example than MJ. The analogy also makes some sense since both are elite teams. If you take Wade off Miami, I think they are bad… but they’re average to begin with. No idea how many games they would win without Wade…

  26. BigBlueAL

    Well I dunno, lets look at the 1996-97 Knicks and the 1997-98 Knicks. They won 57 games in 1996-1997 (Ewing’s last great season) but the next season with basically the same team Ewing goes out for the season after a subpar for them at the time 15-11 start and go 28-28 w/o him and finish with a 43-39 record. So you could argue that team was .500 w/o Ewing but a 50+ win team with him obviously. Remember that was before they had Spree and Camby so that team was still built around Ewing although they did have Houston and LJ by then.

    OK I have no idea what was my point with this. I guess just proof how big an impact a HOF type player can have on a team that is essentially built around them.

  27. Ted Nelson

    I think the Knicks example is a bit of an aberration. Their Pythagorean W-L was 50-32 in 96-97 and 49-33 in 97-98. Although it got worse, their offense actually improved relative to the league from 25th to 20th. Their defense got better, but went from 2nd to 4th. Maybe they couldn’t close out games at the end or something, but I think they just got lucky one year and unlucky the next.

    It’s still a 14 win swing, though, not a 33 win swing.

    My point is just that the Cavs *might* be the 4th best team in the East without LeBron, or at least might be in that 4-8 group, and people are constantly calling his supporting cast scrubs. 4th in the East probably means out of the playoffs in the West or maybe barely in, I’m just saying they’re not scrubs.

  28. jon abbey

    the Cavs argument is a moving target, as they just got Jamison. I think they’re now probably a borderline playoff team without LeBron, if they played an 82 game schedule with the current roster healthy plus Z. their problem (which might not matter anymore, because LeBron is just that damn good) is that they almost have too much depth and no real pecking order past LeBron, they’d be in a lot better shape if their second through fourth best players were better and they had 8-10 guys who deserved minutes instead of 12 or 14 or whatever it is currently. if they ever get their whole frontcourt healthy (unlikely now with Shaq out), figuring out how to allot minutes would be close to impossible, and I think definitely beyond Mike Brown. they were planning to bench Hickson (I think they maybe even did one game), an awful mistake IMO as he’s proven in recent weeks.

    and the Bulls won 50 games the year Jordan was gone in large part because they were three time defending champions, and Jordan (much more than Jackson) had taught them how to win. if Jordan is never on that team, no way that collection of players goes .500 that year. sometimes I wonder if people actually watch/watched these teams.

  29. jon abbey

    also, as long as we’re talking about Cleveland’s record without LeBron, that win against the Spurs broke a 10 game losing streak for them when LeBron didn’t play, going back to 2007.

  30. BigBlueAL

    When you mentioned their Pythagorean I thought I remembered that during the beginning of the 1997-1998 season they had alot of blowout wins and looking back I was correct. Of the 15 wins with Ewing 12 of them were double digit victories with 9 of them being by 20 or more, w/o Ewing they had only 1 victory by 20 or more points so I assume that has alot to do with their projected win total being so much higher than their actual win total. I assume if Ewing was healthy the entire season they wouldve approached their 57 win total of the previous season, if not at least win in the low to mid 50′s as they routinely did in the 90′s (won 50+ all 4 seasons under Riley and in VG’s first full season which was a stretch of 5 out of 6 seasons with 50+ wins and Im pretty sure the 97-98 season wouldve been another one. Heck in Ewing’s final season which was the next full season he played in since the 98-99 season was the lockout season the Knicks won 50 games then too).

  31. BigBlueAL

    I just read the breakdown on the Chandler block which Mike K had linked earlier. No surprise Josh Smith backdoor cut an unsuspecting David Lee who was not even helping on Crawford, just looking at him and not even paying attention to Josh Smith. So basically Lee was just standing there on D doing nothing, what else is new. Harrington was the player who actually stepped up and forced Crawford to give it up, if Lee had stayed with Smith and not given up the wide open pass Crawford wouldve been in trouble and basically forced to throw up a shot in traffic over Harrington or try to force the pass to Smith with Lee contesting the pass if he wouldve been guarding his man.

    Helluva play by Chandler though.

  32. Nick C.

    Nice try Mike. You write up your thoughts on the greatest PGs since the 3 point line, break it down, do the analysis describe the greatness that was Magic Johnson and his game and whaddya get 35 posts about the Cleveland Cavaliers, the post-Jordan Bulls and f’in Nate Robinson. I wonder why you even bother.

  33. jon abbey

    “whaddya get 35 posts about the Cleveland Cavaliers, the post-Jordan Bulls and f’in Nate Robinson. I wonder why you even bother.”

    sometimes the analysis is so good, there’s not much left to be said. :) also, this is an argument for a multithread forum like we had briefly last year, but Mike preferred this way.

  34. Thomas B.

    I was not a fan of the multithread forum. It seemed like a nice idea when we moved that way, but it invited far too many topics and diluted the overall quality of discussion.

    I am a fan of….Kobe Bryant. Taking over in the game, putting his (very talented) team on his (sore) back, showing the hot hand (with a broken finger), and moving fast (on a bad ankle). Ahhh my MVP.

    But the thing I like most about Kobe is that no one else likes him.

    Hmmm I wonder where Kobe will rank on the GOTME project? Clearly he can’t be 1. At best he could be 2 but maybe his lack of leading the NBA in PER will drop him out of the top 5. Oh well, there is no shame in being an understudy to the likes of Jordan….for now. ;)

  35. Nick C.

    I don’t have a distinct recollection of the multi-thread, but it seems like every thread here gets sidetracked into various hypothetical conversations.

  36. Z

    “Harrington was the player who actually stepped up and forced Crawford to give it up, if Lee had stayed with Smith and not given up the wide open pass Crawford wouldve been in trouble and basically forced to throw up a shot in traffic over Harrington or try to force the pass to Smith with Lee contesting the pass if he wouldve been guarding his man.”

    Sounds to me like the play was going fine until Harrington ruined it by helping on Crawford. Lee’s standing and staring at Crawford on that play was designed by D’Antoni to entice Crawford into heaving up an off-balance shot at the buzzer– a defensive scheme that only a deeply scarred long-term Knick fan can appreciate. Chandler bailed out Harrington, who having not played with Crawford as a Knick, lacked faith in coach’s brilliant plan, panicked when he saw Crawford singly-covered, and left Lee open to being perceived as the goat. Thank God for Wilson!

  37. Z

    “whaddya get 35 posts about the Cleveland Cavaliers, the post-Jordan Bulls and f’in Nate Robinson. I wonder why you even bother.”

    The site is a Knick site and not an NBA site. The Cav’s supporting cast is much more relevant to the Knicks present and future than whether Magic is better than Stockton.

    I love the position-by-position analysis of all time greats (in the modern era), and without them this site would be chirping with crickets at this point in the season. But I also think it’s great people relate Mike’s analysis to the Knicks.

    (And the multi-thread format never really worked here, and no one has complained once (until now) that it was taken down (about a year ago)).

  38. TDM

    Not to stir the pot on the current topic of whether we have gone off-topic, but ESPN is reporting that Curry will be active tonight.

  39. jon abbey

    I didn’t complain and I’m not complaining now, it’s Mike’s site and he can run it how he wants. I did push for the multi-thread format initially and I still would prefer it, but maybe that’s just my taste in sites.

  40. rrude

    “While we’re not sticking to the topic… Jordan Hill is heating up for Houston.”

    Here we needed a rookie to be a savior, there he’s just a piece of a team that has a lot of talent and is well-coached…

    My OT revelation is that the Bulls are totally mediocre despite having benefited from the extra draft picks from the Knicks, and having some nice pieces. It really goes to show that if you don’t have one of the top 10-15 players in the league (or more) you really can’t get out of the circling .500 eddy.

    It made me feel better about the Knicks strategy–either you have one or two great players and can contend, or you don’t. Sure we traded Hill and some draft picks away, but unless one of those players becomes the next LBJ, Wade, Carmelo, et al, we gave ourselves the best chance of having a contending team some day.

  41. Kikuchiyo

    rrude wrote: “It really goes to show that if you don’t have one of the top 10-15 players in the league (or more) you really can’t get out of the circling .500 eddy.”

    I read too quickly. I thought this said that, tonight, starting at center:

    a circling 500 (lb.?) Eddy.

  42. Thomas B.

    @45 Curry will be active. I wonder what that means? I assume it means available as I can’t recall the last time Curry was active. He mostly just sits there and waits for one the refs to charge him with a foul. I can’t think of anything to be gained by playing him. It’s too late to trade for an expiring deal. I guess if he looks even somewhat useful you could send his expiring deal to a team under the cap for a less expensive player, but who would take him. He hasnt played at a productive level in what 2 1/2 years?

    Maybe my stance on the multi threads was a bit harsh. I was actually on hiatus most of that time. When people started threads with interesting topics it was nice. But my recollection was we would have 4 good threads (games, trades, drafts, stats) then 20 things of little to no interest/value based on the same two people posting all of 4 posts in it. I guess the bad held back the good of it. Had to hard to moderate that much activity. Maybe a classic frontpage with limited threads could work.

  43. Kikuchiyo

    @Thomas B.

    I agree. At least during the season, there should be a front page dedicated to these games and recent or breaking news about the roster and such. A secondary thread (or a few) could address these quite interesting topics of GOTME and league-wide things. I love to see the analysis, like in this current thread about PGs, but I’ve got San Antonio on my mind. And by tonight, I’ll be more interested in talking about George Hill than Magic Johnson, although, conveniently, the Knicks might allow Hill to *look* like Magic Johnson.

  44. Nick C.

    Kikuchiyo don’t you mean “go all Dontae Greene” or has Tastycakes already been asking for royalties. :-)

  45. Ted Nelson

    @34

    Z was terrible this season, but in previous years I think Z fr Jamison is a pretty lateral move. Of course, for the Cavs it’s probably better in the “no LeBron” scenario to have Jamison at PF than Shaq and Z at C.

    http://www.basketball-reference.com/play-index/pcm_finder.cgi?request=1&sum=1&p1=ilgauzy01&y1=2010&p2=jamisan01&y2=2010

    I agree with your point that they’d be better served with less depth and more punch at the top of their rotation. Not that depth is the worst thing.
    In the “no LeBron” scenario, I think the depth helps you. Especially in the front court. Only a hand-full of teams have quality depth in the frontcourt,

    “if they ever get their whole frontcourt healthy (unlikely now with Shaq out), figuring out how to allot minutes would be close to impossible, and I think definitely beyond Mike Brown.”

    A. I don’t think Shaq is actually hurt. Maybe I’m wrong, but I think he’s resting for the playoffs as much as anything.
    B. I give coaches as little credit for wins as anyone, but I think Brown is a good coach.
    C. It’s an interesting issue, the frontcourt rotation. Varajao, Shaq, and Jamison seem like no brainers. Hickson, Z, and Powe are the wild-cards. How you use Varajao and which of those three deserve minutes are interesting questions. I like Varajao at the 5 against a lot of teams, without actually doing any research about the implications of that. Then you play either Hickson or Powe if you want a 4th bigman. Z has been awful this season, but he might be forced minutes based on past accomplishments.

    “and the Bulls won 50 games the year Jordan was gone in large part because they were three time defending champions, and Jordan (much more than Jackson) had taught them how to win. if Jordan is never on that team, no way that collection of players goes .500 that year. sometimes I wonder if people actually watch/watched these teams.”

    This is the kind of thing I just can’t understand. For starters, by all accounts Jordan was aloof in the locker room and Pippen was the team’s leader. Did watching Jordan really teach the whole team how to be godlike on a basketball court and “clutch?” Pippen is a HOF player. Grant was a solid defender and put up a reb% of 17.5 that season to go with an assist-rate of 14. Armstrong (.444) and Kerr (.419) both hit over 40% of their 3s. Kukoc was a great passer on the wing.
    What did you observe in watching them win 55 games as the 6th best defense and 14th best offense that made you think they were only good enough to win 41 games? That seems like a really ludicrous comment to me. Watching all 82 games would tell you what exactly?
    They won 55 games, but clearly they were a .500 team?????? You can’t just re-write history to fit your narrative.

  46. Ted Nelson

    @38 BBA

    The criticism of Lee is mostly fair, but you go a little far. Lee was not helping on Crawford because Harrington was playing the 5 and Lee had 5 fouls. Letting Smith cut to the basket uncontested is inexcusable. I’m just saying that Lee could not both help on Crawford and guard Smith simultaneously.

    @39 Nick C.

    There was a discussion on PGs at the beginning of the thread.

    @42 Nick C.

    You can talk about whatever you want. That’s the beauty of this whole thing. If you prefer to comment on something else, go for it.

  47. Nick C.

    Ah, Ted I know its a free country, but every month or so I just rant about feeling a topic has run its course [you know like it did with the interplay between pool shooting, horse racing and basketball ;-)] (I’m not trying to rub anything in if that’s a sore ponint)

    As for Lee did anyone else catch him saying in some interview in the last week or so something to the effect “oh so I should go Oakley … then we’re even samller if I am in foul trouble.”? So I think he is consciously trying to avoid looking to foul for the good of the team and if you want to be cynical the good of his stats since you can’t go 20/10 in a contract year if you are always on the bench in foul trouble.

  48. Owen

    “As for Lee did anyone else catch him saying in some interview in the last week or so something to the effect “oh so I should go Oakley … then we’re even samller if I am in foul trouble.”? So I think he is consciously trying to avoid looking to foul for the good of the team and if you want to be cynical the good of his stats since you can’t go 20/10 in a contract year if you are always on the bench in foul trouble.”

    That’s interesting that he said that. It’s definitely noticeable. That’s a point I made about Lee’s defense last year and about bigs playing at a fast pace generally. Lee would foul out of every game if he played aggressive defense. He’d rarely make it through three quarters. And more generally, if you have a good big you maximize their value I believe by playing at slower pace to keep them on the court for as much of the game as possible. It’s a major reason I think Lee could be something other than a major defensive liability with different personnel and playing at a different pace.

    No horse racing comparisons please.

    As for the thread discussion, both methods have their advantages and disadvantages, but I much prefer it this way. It was just so much work to canvas all the different threads. To me it’s cool to have everyone commenting in one place. Anarchic yes, but much more lively and easier to process…

  49. jon abbey

    “You can’t just re-write history to fit your narrative.”

    I’m not, I would have told you the same thing that year if you’d asked. :)

  50. TDM

    Nick C – “So I think he is consciously trying to avoid looking to foul for the good of the team and if you want to be cynical the good of his stats since you can’t go 20/10 in a contract year if you are always on the bench in foul trouble.”

    I posted that link the other day. Here’s the article: http://www.nydailynews.com/sports/basketball/knicks/2010/03/07/2010-03-07_walsh_knicks_size_up_camby.html#ixzz0hVTEq7ZB

    I think Lee is a team guy and don’t think for a second he isn’t fouling so he can stay on the court to pad his stats. If anything, it would probably increase his value to other teams if they saw him make a hard foul or two so that they know he has a mean streak and isn’t going to give up easy buckets.

  51. Ted Nelson

    I agree to an extent with the logic on the Lee foul/defense thing. I don’t think it totally excuses his poor defense, though. Someone like Kevin Garnett manages to foul only 2.8 times per 36. Maybe that’s unfair since he’s got a very good defense around him, but my point is that Lee is not Garnett on defense. Two guys on a mediocre defense (15th) with good defensive reps are Nene and Kenyon Martin, they foul only 3.8 and 3.3 times per 36, respectively (Birdman is at 3.7). Maybe they are overrated defensively, but they manage to keep their fouls under raps. Their team also plays at a faster pace than the Knicks.

    @57: Jon, I mean that in reality they won 55 games. How many games you think they should have won is less important than how many they actually did. It wasn’t 10 games sporadically spaced over a 3 or 4 season stretch, they played an entire season without Jordan and won 55 games before sweeping the first round then taking a 2nd round series to 7 games against the eventual conference champs.

  52. JK47

    Certainly those Bulls teams derived some sort of benefit from having Jordan around in previous seasons, but it sure as hell wasn’t 14 wins worth of benefit. Jordan was good, but the specter of his ghost hanging over the team did not win them an extra 14 games over the course of a season when he was gone.

    If anybody “taught them how to win,” it was Phil Jackson.

  53. jon abbey

    I know exactly what you meant, Ted, and I’m sticking to my belief that if Jordan never donned a Bulls uniform, that team wins 10-15 less games that season. that’s not revisionist history, it’s alternate history that can’t be proven or disproven.

  54. Jeff

    I don’t care who the Knicks sign in the offseason – all I want is for Al Harrington to get off this team.

  55. jon abbey

    “Do you have any reasoning behind it?”

    well, they won a lot of close games (muscle memory from endless big wins?), they outperformed their Pythagorean by 5 games, so that gets it down to 50-32.

    next, looking at their roster, they really didn’t have much talent after Pippen. Grant and Armstrong were solid and Kukoc was a talented rookie adjusting to the NBA. so Pippen was a huge part of it, and it is my contention that if Michael Jordan had never been born and Pippen had to carry his own team, we’d have been a lot more likely to see the early career head case version of Pippen, the one who came down with a crippling migraine in the biggest game of his first three seasons and who didn’t have a postseason up to his level of talent until 1993, when he was 28 years old and in his sixth year in the league. and that was WITH the greatest player of all time carrying the bulk of the load.

    Pippen was the best perimeter athlete in the league in his generation (more than Jordan, more than Drexler), but people seem to forget he had a two cent head for a really long time. having to be THE MAN in Chicago from the start of his career as a 22 year old from a small town in Arkansas would have adversely impacted it, I believe. I think on his own he would have been maybe a McGrady level player, maybe a borderline HOFer. the other parallel is Garnett, who I think has been a lot better player, but who has also had many issues scoring down the stretch of big games over his career (and both dominant defensive players). all three of those guys: supremely physically talented with mental issues in many big games.

    even in 1994 after three straight titles and a mammoth regular season, Pippen lost his head in the playoffs against NY. of the five guys Jackson put on the floor in the fourth quarter that whole series, he was the one I was hoping would shoot, open 15 footers even. I don’t know where to look it up (I don’t see it on basketball reference), but it’s my recollection that he ended up with something like 5 total made FGs in the fourth quarters of the seven games, he was scared to shoot and he missed most of the time when he did.

    so, no Jordan ever, I think Pippen is a notch worse, that’s maybe 2-3 more games. also, the triangle offense, such a big key to their success. if Jackson/Winter install that in 1989-90 with no Jordan, trying to run it through Pippen, I think there’s a good chance he falls flat on his face, it’s a failure and it’s even possible they’ve dumped it by 1994.

    add all that together and you’re in the 10-15 game range. again, it’s an alternate reality and impossible to know either way (maybe Pippen would have flourished as THE MAN from day 1, although everything I know about human nature tells me no), but that’s my perspective.

  56. jon abbey

    and I didn’t even mentioning refusing to go in the game when the shot wasn’t called for him. oh wait, now I did. :)

  57. Kikuchiyo

    Lee’s line tonight: 21-10-4 with 2 steals and zero blocks.

    Win, loss, earthquake, or fire: Lee gets nearly this exact line EVERY night. It’s impressive, I think.

  58. nicos

    Outside of the first quarter the Knicks played pretty hard tonight- if they can keep that effort level for the rest of the year they’ll at least be watchable. Watching Blair I can’t say I’m all that upset the Knicks didn’t get him; he’s an amazing rebounder but has some real defensive limitations. He’d have helped, sure, but I’m not sure he’d have been a real difference maker.

    Manu absolutely killed Gallo (and to be fair, everybody else the Knicks put on him) but on the plus side Gallo does look like he’s getting more comfortable in the post. He still has a tendency to fling up some ugly scoop shots rather than just taking it strong to the rim and drawing the foul.

    Also Sean Elliott isn’t a bad color guy, plenty willing to criticize the home team (even called out Duncan on several occasions) and one of the few guys who really pays attention to what’s going on off of the ball. A little like the Spurs- he’s not very flashy (and maybe a bit boring if I had to listen to him every game) but clearly knows the game.

  59. Owen

    Jon – That was a nice post. The WOW had a pretty full treatment of this topic. I like the spin you put on their pythagorean that year, which was in fact off the charts.

    Manu is a pretty amazing basketball player. When healthy, I am not sure there is anyone I enjoy watching more, now that Lee has jumped the shark and become an All-Star.

    I can remember a day when people told me Lee could never be an All-Star. Probably the same day I said he was going to be a Hall of Famer. I love Lee but I am not feeling that good about the projection with the way his defensive splits look this year.

  60. Ted Nelson

    Jon,

    Interesting stuff.

    I think it’s fair to doc the Bulls 5 wins on close games. Whether that has anything to do with Jordan, I don’t know (could be luck… i.e. not repeatable and why they underperformed their projected win total the very next season). I don’t think they could win 76% of games decided by 5 or less points and 72% of those decided by 10 or less again (meaning luck had a part), with or without Jordan. Since they were .500 in games decided by 5 or fewer pts the season before with MJ, not quite sure how his memory helped them win more close games then they won with him. They won 58% of 10 points or fewer in 92-93. In 91-92 they were at 54.5% and 68.5%. So, since MJ didn’t seem to help them in close games, I would call it partially luck that they won so many in 93-94.

    I would also point out that this was a team that won with defense more so than offense. They were 6th defensively and 14th offensively in the NBA. They were a thoroughly average offensive team. The previous 3 seasons, with Jordan, they were 1, 1, and 2 in offense. They were 7, 4, and 7 on defense. Where losing Jordan hurt them was offensively, defensively they were able to pick up the slack.
    6th and 14th is a reasonable finish for a 50 win team, especially since they were only 1.3 pts/100 possessions worse defensively than the 2nd place Rockets. Rockets were 2nd and 15th that season and won 58 games.

    I have no idea what Pippen would have done without Jordan. What he did do was have a HOF caliber career, though. To compare him to someone like KG or McGrady is pretty irrelevant. Those guys have both won 50 games in a season without a Jordan next to them (The Rockets won 52 in a season where Yao only played 48 games, they were 20-12 in the main stretch he missed… a 51.25 win pace. T-Mac also kept an otherwise miserable Orlando team… Mike Miller was generally the only other quality NBA starter on the roster and he was young and they traded him for Drew Gooden… above .500 for a few years). To say “oh, he’s only comparable to the KG of wing players” might make a big difference in GOAT discussions, but KG is a HOFer and one of the best of his era. He led rag-tag teams in Minni into the playoffs for a decade and 50 wins a few times (when he finally got Spree and Cassell they won 58 games and went to the conference finals). I would also put KG solidly above Pippen, but that they’re comparable says a lot. If you want to say that the Timberwolves were an early lottery team without KG a lot of those years, I just might agree with you (haven’t really looked into it enough to have an opinion).

    That Pippen couldn’t get it done in the playoffs doesn’t really matter for this discussion anyway, since as you say the team won a lot of close games in the regular season. Somehow they won those games, whether it was Pippen, someone else, or luck. If it was luck, it points to Jordan not helping and that it probably isn’t repeatable. As I said earlier, based on previous close game record I don’t think Jordan has much to do with it.

    I’m not saying that the Bulls were as good without Jordan, just that they were still good. An outside contender for the championship. Maybe equivalent to this seasons’ Celtics… good defense, overrated as a title contender overall due to past wins, but a good 50 win team (don’t know who to compare them to in the West, since those teams are so closely bunched… maybe the Spurs). Not the Lakers or Cavs of this season or even the Magic, but still a good team. Not a .500 team, either. A top 8 or so team.

    The main thing I am arguing against is that Jordan took a bunch of scrubs and won 6 titles. That is legitimately thrown out there a lot. I find it ridiculous.
    SF: Whatever you think of Pippen, he was the #3 pick in the draft (talent/upside), a great defender, a great playmaker from the wing, and a good/solid scorer. Grant was a solid rebounder/defender, and Rodman was the best rebounder of the modern era plus a great defender.
    PG: Kerr and Armstrong were good spot-up shooters. Ron Harper was a 20 ppg scorer in LAC.
    Bench: Kukoc was good.
    C: Somehow they always got by at the 5-spot with at least something most years.

  61. jon abbey

    yeah, I just think that much like with the current Cavs (or let’s say the pre-Jamison Cavs), you underestimate the effect of having the best player in the league on a team. it’s massive, even if he’s not on the court for a few minutes or for a quarter or for a game or for a week, even if he sits out the whole season (in this very specific case). no one ever says that Bird’s or Magic’s or Isiah’s or Kobe’s 2009 teammates weren’t very good, because it’s clear that they were.

  62. jon abbey

    also it’s not that Jordan led a bunch of scrubs to six titles, it’s that the guys who played with him didn’t need to be as well-rounded as typical contributors to title teams. they could entirely ignore/be deficient in huge areas of the game, and still be important role players.

    “I’m not saying that the Bulls were as good without Jordan, just that they were still good. ”

    they were, but mostly because of the system and the confidence level instilled by winning 12 playoff series and 3 rings in the three preceding years. but I’ve argued this enough already…

  63. Ted Nelson

    It’s a matter or degree. I agree that having the BEST player in the league–or even one of the best, but especially someone like LeBron is right now–is huge. I agree that the Cavs aren’t a contender without LeBron and that the Bulls were barely a contender without MJ.
    I also think, though, that the Cavs would be right in home-court contention in the East. That’s based on the production of Varajao, Shaq, Mo Williams and the rest of the roster. Based on their #7 defense not falling off that significantly with a switch from LeBron to, say, Moon, and their #4 offense being around 15-20 without LeBron. It’s also based on the fact that the East is weak. They would be competing with the Bucks (4 defense, 23 offense), Raps (30 D, 5 O), Bobs (3 D, 25 O), and Heat (10 D, 19 O). I think they could be right in that group, at worst I think they’d be even up with Miami. They’ve got quality players at every spot and go 10 deep even without LeBron and before Jamison: Mo, Parker, Moon, Varajao, and Shaq with West, Hickson, and Z off the bench rounding out the 8 man, and then Gibson, Powe, and a few back of the roster guys. If LeBron were gone, you’d also assume they’d sure up their weakness on the wing by at least adding an MLE guy there.
    I think that the Bulls were a contending team without MJ. That’s based on the fact that they were in reality a contending team without MJ. Also based on the talent on the roster, especially defensively. They didn’t get any worse defensively without MJ. Once they added Ron Harper and Will Purdue and Longley took over the C spot they got better defensively. The non-MJ Bulls were a defensive team, which is why I don’t agree with your assessment.

    “you underestimate the effect of having the best player in the league on a team. it’s massive, even if he’s not on the court for a few minutes or for a quarter or for a game or for a week, even if he sits out the whole season”

    I think that’s total C-R-A-P, crap. You also think so since you cited the Cavs being 0-10 in the sporadic games LeBron has missed for the past 3 or 4 seasons. Teams didn’t magically bow down to them because LeBron was on their roster.
    What is this magical power that having the best player in the league on your bench or inactive roster or not even associated with your team (in Jordan’s case) gives you? The Bulls didn’t seem to benefit in the same way after Jordan retired his second time… would you contend that due to the 15 win Jordan rule the 98-99 Bulls were actually a -2 win team?

    “they could entirely ignore/be deficient in huge areas of the game, and still be important role players.”

    That’s generally how you define a role player. Ben Wallace didn’t play with the best player in the league and he still won a title while ignoring huge areas of the game. Rip Hamilton also ignored huge areas of the game on the same team. Derek Fisher ignores actually playing well for the most part. Rondo was raw and Perkins ignores a lot. They’re “role players.” If you take Pippen away from Jordan and replace him with some one or two dimensional role player I’m not sure MJ wins even one title. If you take away Grant and Rodman for some Jerome James… not sure they win more than one or two together. LeBron doesn’t have that one guy, but all his guys are good-to-very-good-to-great in their roles.

    “also it’s not that Jordan led a bunch of scrubs to six titles”

    This is exactly what a lot of people contend.

  64. Z

    It seems to me that the 1993-1994 Bulls are a bizarre outlier that doesn’t make sense in either a statistical universe or an “I know it because my eyes tell me” universe. Pete Myers, a certifiable scrub, started 81 games, filling the Titanic-sized Jordan hole that year. Backing up Myers was Jo Jo English, who played 36 of his 50 career games that season. The fact that replacing the greatest player ever with two minimum-salaried D-Leaguers produced virtually the same amount of wins can only really mean that Jordan wasn’t very valuable. Since its not worth redefining the universe over the 1994 Bulls, let’s just throw them out altogether and pretend they never happened. (Though I like Jon’s alternative “the infrastructure was in place” explanation, I really wish the Bulls had won 25 games that year, just so people wouldn’t argue that Pippen was the true leader of the dynasty).

  65. Ted Nelson

    I think it makes a lot of sense both from a statistical sense and a “I know it because my eyes tell me” sense. You don’t win 6 titles in 8 years with a bad supporting cast. Is Jordan the biggest reason the Bulls won those title? Yes. If you put a bunch of scrubs around him he wouldn’t have won, though.

    They were a mediocre offense and a good defense. They won 50+ games. It’s not that hard to believe. The Rockets were 1 point/100 possessions better on defense and about the same on offense and won 58 games that season (and the Championship).

    It’s tough to think of it as “replacing.” It’s a different team without Jordan in a way, Pete Myers was not expected to take his role: he played 25 mpg and had a usage rate of 17.

    Myers was a journey-man, but he was a good defender and a good passer for an off-guard. A solid fit in their system. His back-up was really Toni Kukoc, the team’s 3rd wing player. English played 11 mpg for 36 games.

  66. jon abbey

    “just so people wouldn’t argue that Pippen was the true leader of the dynasty”

    heh, anyone who argues this never needs to be paid attention to about anything again.

  67. Ted Nelson

    @76 All accounts I’ve read and heard from people actually on the team are that Pippen was the vocal leader of the team. That Jordan was aloof and basically a downright asshole. What I’ve read from media types who covered the team coroborates this, and that’s no small feat considering how hated Pippen is/was by the media.

    No one would argue that Jordan was not the best player on those teams. However, what evidence do you have that Jordan was actually the team leader? You watched him play and he was an amazing player?

  68. Ted Nelson

    Anyway, Z, they didn’t win 25 games. They won 55. I wish the Knicks won 50 games this season, but no matter how hard I wish… they haven’t. I can either think the Knicks got unlucky or didn’t “have the infrastructure to win in place,” or I can think they don’t have the talent to win 50 games. You can either create wild explanations for how the Bulls were good in 93-94, or accept that the dynasty Bulls were a very talented team even outside of Jordan. I’m not taking anything away from Jordan, but guys like Pippen, Grant, Rodman, Kerr, Harper, Kukoc, etc. produced just as much without Jordan on their team (and in some cases with entirely different organizations or on a different continent in one case).

    When we look at other very talented players like KG, Kobe, Wade, Paul, etc. (not to say any is or isn’t as good as Jordan) you see that their team success fluctuated according to the talent around them. That’s not to say that they’re not all great players to varying extents, it’s just to say that basketball is a team game and one guy can only do so much. Those guys have often made the playoffs with weak supporting casts (Paul less so than the others maybe), but they could only take those teams so far.

    While one guy can carry a ridiculously disproportionate load offensively, it’s a lot harder to do so defensively. Especially for a perimeter player. The Bulls had a good defensive team. That’s how they survived without Jordan.

  69. Z

    “they didn’t win 25 games. They won 55…You can either create wild explanations for how the Bulls were good in 93-94, or accept that the dynasty Bulls were a very talented team even outside of Jordan.”

    Or maybe the league was bad. The Hawks were the #1 seed in the East that year. They won 15 more games that year than they did in 1993 with almost the exact same mediocre roster. By 1995 they were back to being a .500 team. After Jordan left, there were no superstars left in the east besides Ewing and a burgeoning Shaq. And the teams that had success were the grind-it-out defensive teams that played a sport that only mildly resembled basketball.

    So yes, I will create wild explanations, because I simply will not accept that the 1994 Bulls were, or even possibly could have been, good :)

  70. Caleb

    “They were a mediocre offense and a good defense.”

    That’s how I remembered them, too. But it’s not true. The Bulls’ championships were built much more on offense than defense (with glaring exception of 1997-98). Much the same story with the ’00 – ’02 and ’09 Lakers. Looks like Coach Jax is an offensive mastermind, somewhat camouflaged by the slower pace. Makes you wonder why more teams don’t try the triangle.

    Bulls Offensive/Defensive Efficiency Rankings:
    1990-1991: 1st/6th
    1991-1992: 1st/4th
    1992-1993: 2nd/7th
    1993-1994: 14th/6th
    1994-1995: 10th/2nd
    1995-1996: 1st/1st
    1996-1997: 1st/4th
    1997-1998: 9th/3rd

    Lakers Offensive/Defensive Efficiency Rankings:
    1999-2000: 6th/1st
    2000-2001: 2nd/21st
    2001-2002: 2nd/7th
    2008-2009: 3rd/6th

    source: Basketball Reference
    http://www.basketball-reference.com/leagues/NBA_1991.html (for 1990-91), scroll down to Miscellaneous Statistics

    I also noticed that when Jordan retired, the Bulls’ offensive dropoff was huge. Not so much on defense. As to the quality of the non-Jordan Bulls, of course they had a good supporting cast – aside from everything else, their best remaining player was still a likely Hall of Famer. Still, the (only) two-win dropoff is a little misleading. As people have noted, the Pythagorean shows it should have been more like an 8-10 game dropoff. Jon Abbey says it’s the tricks they learned from Jordan; I say luck, but that will stay a matter of opinion…

    How many victories was Jordan “worth?” It’s only a meaningful number if you know the basis of comparison. Were his minutes and shots taken over by good players? Mediocre ones? Bad ones? On a good team, the dropoff will always be less than most experts predict – Dave Berri lays it out as the law of diminishing returns. Short version: if you have a bunch of All-Stars, individuals are sacrificing their individual production. On the Bulls, Jordan’s departure made room for Pippen, Grant and Kukoc to shine. And the key defensive players were still there.

  71. Ted Nelson

    Because one player left the entire complection of the Eastern Conference changed?
    The East was about as good as the West at that point, and there were good teams that missed the playoffs. Charlotte went from 5 seed with MJ around in 92-93 to out of the playoffs, even with Zo, LJ, Mugsy, Dell Curry, etc.
    What was so different? Reggie Lewis is the only other player I really see leaving who made a big impact. Orlando got a lot better (adding that Hardaway guy with the #3 pick in the draft might have helped… and Shaq was a certifiable monster already). Indiana remade their roster a bit and got 6 games better while playing much improved D.

    While the Hawks improved, the Cavs had a very similar rotation and got 7 games worse than they were in 92-93.

    The Hawks were also a defensive team. They changed coaches to Lenny Wilkens, and made some changes at the back end of the rotation. Wilkins was hurt half the season, which maybe actually helped their defense. Their D jumped from 23rd to 4th, and that’s why they won so many more games. By 94-95 their roster was not the same, they had made significant changes.

    “So yes, I will create wild explanations, because I simply will not accept that the 1994 Bulls were, or even possibly could have been, good :)”

    I don’t know how you could look at a team with Pippen, Grant, Armstrong, Kerr, Kukoc and say they weren’t good.

  72. Caleb

    “‘… I simply will not accept that the 1994 Bulls were, or even possibly could have been, good :)’”

    I don’t know how you could look at a team with Pippen, Grant, Armstrong, Kerr, Kukoc and say they weren’t good.”

    You are missing the :) which you included in your pull-quote…

  73. Ted Nelson

    Caleb,

    You’re missing the context of that quote.

    The 93-94 team was a mediocre offense and a good defense (they wre 14th and 6th, respectively). The first three-peat was a great offense and good defense, finishing 1st twice and 2nd once in offense. Losing Jordan hurt the offense significantly (being replaced by rookie Kukoc and Myers who both passed well, but both put up TS%s around .500), but not the defense.

  74. Ted Nelson

    “You are missing the :) which you included in your pull-quote…”

    I saw it, and first typed “I know you’re sort of joking, but…” I didn’t want to read too much into the tone, though.

    Given that Z’s earlier quote was “It seems to me that the 1993-1994 Bulls are a bizarre outlier that doesn’t make sense in either a statistical universe or an “I know it because my eyes tell me” universe.” I’m not sure the :) signifies he is joking, but simply a playful tone.

  75. Caleb

    It reads as though you are referring the Bulls championship teams – sorry for mixup.

    I find it interesting that my memory of the Bulls’ relative strengths was opposite reality. Also interesting that Jordan’s departure barely affected the defense – just the O.

  76. Nick C.

    Caleb, that is odd b/c as I recall a big deal was made that Jordan and Pippen (and to a lesser extent grant) were these great wing switch defenders who could go out and get back to their man, etc.

  77. Ted Nelson

    They were still a good defense, and when they added Rodman and Harper they were a very good or great defense. All this with no real plus defender at the 5 spot, in the age of the C.

  78. Caleb

    It could be that Jordan was overrated on defense.

    It could be that no one is humanly able to shoulder the offensive load that Jordan did, and still play all-out defense on the other end. Even if could turn it up for a given possession. (He could!)

    It could be that Pete Myers was a very strong defender, and the combo of Myers, Pippen and Harper was just as good as Jordan, on the defensive end.

    It could be that the Bulls interior defense – the players, and the scheme – were strong enough that the perimeter defense was less important than it would have been on a team without a good defensive center.

    Or some combination…

  79. Caleb

    No doubt, the Bulls were a very good defensive team but as the ratings show they were even better on offense.

    I would respectfully disagree about the quality of the interior D – Bill Cartwright was a top-rate defender for the first three championship teams, and Horace Grant was deservedly an All-NBA defender…

  80. Ted Nelson

    “I would respectfully disagree about the quality of the interior D”

    I said they had no great defensive 5. Grant was a good defender, but not a 5. After the first ‘ship, Cartwright played 20 mpg and missed 20-40 games a season, he was not that key a cog. The 2nd three-peat is where the defense got really good, and while Luc Longley might have been solid he was certainly not Hakeem, Robinson, Ewing, Dike, Zo, etc.

    In terms of comment #88, I think it’s mostly that they lacked that great or even very good 5. That was the age of the 5s, when a ton of All-NBA caliber 5s were in the league. That was more of an age of pound-it basketball and they had 1.5 big bodies in the first 3-peat.

    I respectfully don’t think your 4th explanation in #88 is relevant. There is not evidence presented in this thread that their interior defense was better than their perimeter, or vice versa. Unless you have some sort of evidence, it could just as easily be that they were great on the periemter and weak inside. Given their personnel, 2-4 do not seem to be the weak positions.

    “but as the ratings show they were even better on offense.”

    That’s true for the 1st 3, but not the second. The second had Ron Harper guarding PGs in a more physical era and Dennis Rodman.

  81. Ted Nelson

    Elaborating on my own post:

    “Grant was a good defender, but not a 5.”

    He could and did play the 5, but in an age of jumbo Centers you’d have to define his natural position as 4. Today, he’d be a 5 on most teams.

    “That was more of an age of pound-it basketball and they had 1.5 big bodies in the first 3-peat.”

    I suppose the 1st 3-peat was maybe a bridge between the go-go 80s and the pund-it 90s. Not sure exactly what the league pace was. There were some good, physical teams during that run, though.

  82. Z

    The “:)” at the end of my post neither meant as a sign of joking nor a symbol of a playful tone. It was created when I banged my head against my keyboard thinking about the 1994 Bulls.

    I admit I am irrationally unwilling to accept the 1994 Bulls as being good and arguing it is a complete waste of time, but since I am off my meds, here goes–

    “I don’t know how you could look at a team with Pippen, Grant, Armstrong, Kerr, Kukoc and say they weren’t good.”

    Same way I can argue that a team with Kevin Willis, Mookie Blaylock, and Stacey Augmon was not good. Those players led the Hawks in minutes that year and won even more games than the Bulls did. They were a mediocre team before that year and a mediocre team after it.

    “Cavs had a very similar rotation and got 7 games worse than they were in 92-93.”

    The Cavs had a very good core but failed to get over the top. By 1994 they were past their prime and on the fast track to a lengthy rebuild. In 1995 Fratello had slowed their pace down to a completely unwatchable level. Time would literally tick backwards at Gund arena and scores would be 35-34 at halftime. It worked, I suppose, because it kept the Cavs somewhat competitive, but really it just prolonged the inevitable.

    “Orlando got a lot better (adding that Hardaway guy with the #3 pick in the draft might have helped… and Shaq was a certifiable monster already).”

    Shaq really was the only dominant player left in the eastern conference when Jordan went on sabbatical. But The Magic got swept in the playoffs by the 5th seed Pacers and really wouldn’t become a force in the conference until the next year.

    The NBA in 1994 really was a pretty bad product. Aside from the successful teams playing such and ugly brand of basketball that it cost the association enough fans to necessitate rule changes, the teams and players really weren’t that good. The East all stars included Mookie Blaylock, John Starks, BJ Armstrong, Horace Grant, Charles Oakley, Derrick Coleman, and Kenny Anderson– all one-and-done participants. They were basically just the top two or three players on the top four teams at the break with Mark Price thrown in to play PG.

    So there it is. Yes, I think that 1994 deserves an asterisk, not only because Jordan wasn’t there, but because the league really did stink. Like Owen wrote a few minutes ago in the next thread, no team in the modern era has won a championship without an all time great SG. Well, in 1994 Vernon Maxwell led the Rockets to the title. How? Because they were playing the NY Knicks, who (and it pains me to say this after all the time, $, and emotion I spent watching that team) really wasn’t very good. Sadly, only one controversial call better than the Bulls… :(

    (That’s a sad face. I didn’t smash my head that time….)

  83. Caleb

    “That was the age of the 5s, when a ton of All-NBA caliber 5s were in the league.”

    I would argue that there are more good centers in the league today – a lot more — but that is probably for the next discussion…

    “”’but as the ratings show they were even better on offense.’”

    That’s true for the 1st 3, but not the second. The second had Ron Harper guarding PGs in a more physical era and Dennis Rodman.
    “I respectfully don’t think your 4th explanation in #88 is relevant. There is not evidence presented in this thread that their interior defense was better than their perimeter, or vice versa.”

    Well… the 72-win team was first in the league, both categories. But I think the offense was stronger. Their offensive efficiency was nearly 2 points better than second-place Utah. On D, they were first by only 0.2 points — four other teams were within a point and a half. The following year, ’96-97, the Bulls’ offense still ranked first but the defense was down to 4th. ’97-98 is the outlier year — the offense was only 9th; the defense was 3rd. Not sure what happened.

    In general, I think Rodman’s rep had outpaced his actual defense by then — he was focused single-mindedly on dominating the boards. (sort of like Zach Randolph!) Seriously, Rodman was a great player but by the late ’90s he’d lost the quickness that made him such a versatile stopper for the Pistons.

    “I respectfully don’t think your 4th explanation in #88 is relevant. There is not evidence presented in this thread that their interior defense was better than their perimeter, or vice versa.”

    I’m not saying there’s *evidence.* Just throwing out a hypothesis as to why the Bulls defense didn’t suffer – or barely suffered – when they lost a great, at least highly-regarded, perimeter defender. Subjectively, I think that strong interior defenders can cover up a multitude of sins on the perimeter. More easily than vice versa.

  84. Ted Nelson

    “Same way I can argue that a team with Kevin Willis, Mookie Blaylock, and Stacey Augmon was not good.”

    The Hawks were a fluke, but they were good defensively that year.

    “By 1994 they were past their prime and on the fast track to a lengthy rebuild.”

    They won 47 games again in 95-96. Two seasons later they were still not “rebuilding.”

    “Shaq really was the only dominant player left in the eastern conference when Jordan went on sabbatical. But The Magic got swept in the playoffs by the 5th seed Pacers and really wouldn’t become a force in the conference until the next year.”

    Which would seem to mean that the East was, in fact, deep with quality.

    “Well, in 1994 Vernon Maxwell led the Rockets to the title.”

    That’s ridiculous. It’s pretty clear who led that team to a title, and it’s pretty clear that they won with defense not offense.

    “not only because Jordan wasn’t there, but because the league really did stink.”

    It became a defense-first league. That style of play was/is unpopular among fans, but it doesn’t mean that it stinks.

    “They were basically just the top two or three players on the top four teams at the break with Mark Price thrown in to play PG.”

    That’s pretty much what it is every year. The top player on all 8 playoff teams, and then one or two more from the top 4. That’s the All-Star game, plus the David Lee’s who get a call when someone else doesn’t play. Guys like Jameer Nelson and Mo Williams make it because they play on good teams.
    All the guys you mention besides Kenny Anderson and Derrick Coleman, the random one-time all-stars, were strong defenders. Blalock and Oakley were 1st team All-Defense, Grant had been 1st team the season before.
    One of those guys only made the team because Wilkins was voted in and injured, by the way. Similar to Chris Kaman making it

    I’m not saying that 93-94 was the greatest year in Eastern Conference history, but the thing I’m wondering is how much better was the East in 92-93? You might also have to put an asterisks next to Jordan’s title. In fact, one could argue that he won so many titles because that era was a bit of a vortex after the 80s stars were declining and before the preps-to-pros era super-stars (Shaq, KG, Duncan, Kobe, etc.) matured.
    The All-Stars in 92-93 weren’t that much better.
    Isiah and Dumars were voted in on rep even though the Pistons were falling from grace. (Isiah had a TS% of .488, it was almost the equivalent of AI making it this season… not quite as bad maybe.) Dumars wasn’t much worse in 93-94, and Isiah had a really similar season. They weren’t voted on though.
    Daugherty and Nance deserved it, but the Cavs didn’t get that much worse when those two started to decline (and decline fast) because they had assembled a lot of young talent on the fly (Phils, Brandon, Mills, Hill, Ferry). Plus Daugherty had a good back-up in Hot Rod Williams. Zo replaced Daugherty on the All-Star team in 93-94, hardly a travesty. Actually, Nance had several seasons that were about as good, and had only made two previous All-Star appearances in 11 seasons… so maybe his being on the team speaks to the weakness of the 92-93 East.
    Detlef made the 92-93 East All-Star team. He was a good player, but not really great “star power.” It’s like saying Zach Randolph made the All-Star game this year, thank god he was there to provide some star power and be the reason the WC is strong.
    LJ made the All-Star game in both 92-93 and 94-95, but wasn’t selected in 93-94…
    Ewing, Shaq, Pippen, and Price all made it both seasons.

    Anyway, All-Star teams are hardly a way to judge a season. They might act as a proxy, but teams can have several near All-Stars and be better than a team with one KG surrounded by a bunch of scrubs.

  85. Ted Nelson

    Also, Z, I told Jon Abbey I was willing to dock the Bulls 5 wins anyway. I’m not saying they were amazing or a REALLY strong title contender, just a quality playoff team with Jordan.

    I still find it ridiculous that you believe Jordan was the only reason the Bulls won 6 championships. That he took an otherwise hopeless team and magically made them look like they were good. Even though they largely put up the same numbers before and after playing with him. Even though he had another HOFer on every one of those teams and an All-Defense PF. The second 3-peat had possibly the greatest rebounder of the modern era and the greatest 3-pt shooter of all time on it. (Kerr made over 50% of his 3s in Cleveland one season before ever playing with MJ… Rodman was also a beast on Detroit and SA… 7 time All-Defense and 2 time 3rd team All-NBA before playing with MJ.) They also had the best European player of his generation on the 2nd 3-peat.

  86. Ted Nelson

    Caleb,

    The Bulls averaged 3.667th place offensively and 2.667th place defensively in the second 3-peat. They were pretty good defensively, whatever impact wearing a dress might have had on Rodman’s defense.
    I’m not saying that they were definitely better defensively than offensively, just that it’s hard to say they were clearly better offensively in that second run. They got better on D in that second run relative to their own offense.

    As far as Rodman’s rebounding, a lot of guys are out there to get boards and not one of them has had a career like Rodman’s. It’s like saying David Lee is a dime-a-dozen hustle player and comparable to Mikki Moore.

    “I would argue that there are more good centers in the league today – a lot more — but that is probably for the next discussion…”

    Would love to hear what you mean.

  87. Z

    “I still find it ridiculous that you believe Jordan was the only reason the Bulls won 6 championships.”

    Well, I did admit to being irrational about it.

    And the best way I can explain it is that I devoted WAY too much of my time rooting for those Knick teams that always came up a tiny bit short to Jordan (I was in high school then). I was devout in my belief that John Starks was completely awesome, and that the Knicks were better than the Bulls, even though they lost to them every year. The ONLY way I could justify in my head how the Knicks had lost at the of a series was to tell myself that it was all because Michael Jordan had made a deal with the devil and there was no point in even playing the games because it was all predetermined as long as Jordan was on the floor. Like I said, completely irrational, but brainwashing is hard to overcome, especially when it is self-inflicted.

    But I don’t think I’m irrational criticizing the league as a whole in 1994. The Hawks, Bulls, Cavs, and Knicks had success by playing a defense that is illegal now and should have been illegal then. Yes, the fans hated it because it was was joyless to watch, unless one had a psychotically vested interest in one of the teams playing.

    I think the reason the league devolved into what Phil Jackson called “thugs and football players” at the time, was because teams were out of ideas. They couldn’t beat Jordan playing basketball, so they tried to redefine the game. The rougher the teams played, the slower the teams played, the better the result. Then, Jordan was suddenly gone, and the league didn’t know what to do with themselves except keep playing the same style of ball.

    I don’t know whether this is revisionist history, or alternative history, or what. But 17 years later, I have become objective enough to acknowledge that John Starks wasn’t awesome, the Knicks really did play ugly, largely despicable basketball during the era, and so did most of the rest of the league.

    But 17 years later, I still kind of believe Michael Jordan made a deal with the devil…

    A deal LeBron James should make on July 1st, when he shakes hands with the Devil himself, James Dolan.

  88. Ted Nelson

    I like hardnosed defensive basketball. I prefer it if it’s accompanied by more motion on offense. I know that’s not the norm.

Comments are closed.