How Much Has Their Starting Lineups Changed Over The Years?
2007-2008 Lakers Starting Lineup (after Gasol Trade): Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum (with Vladimir Radmanovic and Ronny Turiaf filling in with Bynum injured)
2010-2011 Lakers Starting Lineup: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum (with Gasol filling in at center and Odom filling in it power forward with Bynum injured)
2007-2008 Celtics Starting Lineup: Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Kendrick Perkins
2007-2008 Celtics Starting Lineup: Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Kendrick Perkins (with Shaq and Jermaine O'Neal filling in with Perk injured)
2007-2008 Spurs Starting Lineup: Tony Parker, Michael Finley, (with Manu Ginobili filling in for bother Parker and Finley when they were injured), Bruce Bowen, Tim Duncan, Fabricio Oberto
2010-2011 Spurs Starting Lineup: Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, Richard Jefferson, Dejuan Blair, Tim Duncan
The Lakers starting lineup is only one person different (with the person who was replaced playing the 6th man role.) The Celtics lineup has not changed at all in the past 4 years (with the exception of Perk's injury forcing them to plug in someone different into the lineup.) The Spurs' hand was more forced, with the retirements of Michael Finley and Bruce Bowen, and Oberto really being plugged into the lineup because they could not find anyone better. But they still have retained their core 3 players (Parker, Duncan and Ginobili.
What Were Their Smart Free Agent Pickups?
2009 Lakers: Ron Artest
2010 Lakers: Steve Blake, Matt Barnes
2007 Celtics: P.J. Brown and Sam Cassell
2009 Celtics: Rasheed Wallace (maybe a minus), Marquis Daniels (took a year to work out, only because he gets injured)
2010 Celtics: The O'Neals
2008 Spurs: Drew Gooden (unfortunately got injured, got him in trade)
2009 Spurs: Richard Jefferson (took a year to work out), Antonio McDyess
Some people may look to who the team drafted as to where the team is going to go. This is not as important as free agents pickups (or trades, but if a team is smart enough in building their team they often will not need to make midseason adjustments, as evidenced by these 3 teams) for a number of reasons:
1. almost all picks taken after the lottery will take time to develop, and these teams have been choosing 20+ every year because they have had 50+ win seasons in all these years\
2. 2nd round draft picks hardly ever make the NBA
3. late 1st round draft picks (think Rondo, the 21st pick) often are long-term projects for a team
4. it is easier to fill a need in the free agent market than in the draft
How Do The Pieces Fit?
Fisher: great defender, timely 3 point shooter, decent passer
Bryant: uhhh,uhhhh, uhh, great eveything I guess? Don't even really know how to describe this.
Odom: glue guy, rebounds, passing, energy, can cover any position on the floor, but wildly inconsistent (other than Tony Allen coming off the bench to be able to guard Kobe one-on-one and Bynum being injured, this may be the biggest reason the Lakers lost the title this season)
Gasol: great touch around the basket, good midrange and free throw shooter, decent defender who can get pushed around and needs to move his feet more
Bynum: tough around the basket both on defense and offense, great leaper (you can see what they were thinking pairing Gasol and Bynum, the finals would have been a lot closer had Bynum been healthy)
Important role players:
Vujacic: 3 point specialist
Radmanovic: decent rebounder and 3 point specialist
Ronny Turiaf: Rebounder
Luke Walton: the son of someone who was good at basketball
(you can see why the Lakers lost that 24 point lead in game 2...they did not have anyone solid enough all-around to help them out.)
Fisher: tough defender, but has lost a step so can be beat by quick point guards (Kobe switches over to covering points in these situations)
Bryant: smarter and better teammate than ever, has lost some athleticism
Artest: great team and one-on-one defender, can hit timely 3s but is pretty limited on otherwise offensively
Gasol: retained same inside and midrange touch, a little tougher but can still be pushed around
Bynum: tough around the basket both on defense and offense, great leaper
Key Role Players:
Odom: glue guy now coming off the bench (much better role for this type of player), can guard all positions on the court, great passer, good inside and midrange touch, energy guy, more consistent effort
Steve Blake: legitimate point guard coming off the bench that can help out in cases where Fisher can't guard the PG and Kobe can't move over to covering the PG
Matt Barnes: replaces some of the 3 point shooting lost with the Vujacic trade, solid all around otherwise, though unspectacular
Joe Smith: 6 fouls coming off the bench for the forwards/center, won't make stupid decisions
How do they fit together?
The Lakers have much better chemistry on their team than 2007-2008, where a lot of their success relied on Kobe and Gasol being such great players, and Fisher stepping up in important games and possessions.
The team now (despite its recent woes) fits much better together. Kobe may have lost some ahtleticism, but he is an even better player than he was 4 years ago.
Having Artest gives them someone who can shut down the opposing team's best one-on-one player.
Odom off the bench is a much better and natural role for him, enhanced by the fact he is more consistent. This allows Jackson to assess where the team is having match-up problems in the beginning of the game, and insert Odom to turn these problems on their head.
Bynum and Gasol: These two players complement each other perfectly, making what I think is the best PF/C combo in the league.
They finally have a good PG off the bench and still have some 3 point fire power (even if less than before.)\
Really, the Lakers had good chemistry 4 years ago, but relied on their stars more than having good chemistry. Now, their chemistry is perfect.
Rajon Rondo: young point guard who can pass and defend great, but makes poor decisions because of lack of experience, cannot shoot outside the basket area, poor free throw shooter
Ray Allen: Great at coming off screens and shooting, surprising (at least to me) ability to drive and score, ok defender and passer
Paul Pierce: great one-on-one and drawing fouls, above average defender, tough, underrated passer, can handle ball at top of the key and run offensive set
Kevin Garnett: great defender and midrange shooter, good touch around the basket and post play (although he rarely goes there), good at putting in alley oops, above average dribbler and passer for any position, but especially at PF
Kendrick Perkins: young player who knows his limits and plays within them, good touch around the basket, tough one-on-one defender, good at coming out and hedging players at the point who may drive the ball
Key Role Players:
Glen Davis: energy guy who is undersized so can be taken advantage of on the defensive end and blocked on the offensive end, nimble, picks up a good amount of charges, quick and good footwork for a player his size, great offensive rebounder and poor defensive rebounder
P.J. Brown: smart veteran player who at the worst is not going to take away anything on the floor, decent defender and great spot up shooter
Sam Cassell: smart player who can post up, but average on offense and defense otherwise, more important as mentor to Rondo, KG and other players.
Leon Powe: athletic forward who can explode at basket, average in other categories
Rajon Rondo: phenomonal passer only short of Stockton all-time in skills, sometimes makes poor decisions going for the phenomonal playing or thinking pass-first when he should be shooting, scores like a good center inside, best defensively at his position in the league, terrible (even worse than before) free throw shooter, good midrange shooter, still no 3 point shot, above-average rebounder for a guard
Ray Allen: Great at coming off screens and shooting, surprising (at least to me) ability to drive and score, good defender and passer
Paul Pierce: a step slower, but great one-on-one and drawing fouls, above average defender, tough, underrated passer, can handle ball at top of the key and run offensive set, great at spotting up or coming off the dribble and shooting 3s
KG: returned ahtleticism, great defender and midrange shooter, good touch around the basket and post play (although he rarely goes there), great at putting in alley oops because of chemistry with Rondo, above average dribbler and passer for any position, but especially at PF
Kendrick Perkins: young player who knows his limits and plays within them, great touch around the basket, tough one-on-one defender, good at coming out and hedging players at the point who may drive the ball
(Garnett and Perkins are similar to Bynum and Gasol as a tandem, although Bynum and Gasol are better), emotional player who needs to learn how to control himself so as not to get technicals
Shaquille O'Neal (filling in for Perk): great post moves and hook shot, slow hedging off drives and switching on pick and rolls, which forces the Celtics to change their game plan and defensive sets when he is in the game, terrible free throw shooter, underrated passer, runs the floor harder than just about any center in the league
Key Role Players:
Glen Davis: energy guy who is undersized so can be taken advantage of on the defensive end, although he has improved greatly in this department and now can bang with just about any big man, still gets blocked on the offensive end, but is better at getting to the line because of agility and footwork, best player in the league at drawing charges, quick and good footwork for a player his size, great offensive rebounder and poor defensive rebounder
Jermaine O'Neal: great defender, ok rebounder, lacks shooting touch around the rim and in midrange (I expect this to get better as he gets more minutes and reps), may be the 2nd best player in the league at drawing charges to Davis
Nate Robinson: another energy guy who can score off dribble and get to his spot on the court at will, not a good spot up shooter, lack of size sometimes a problem at the defensive end, but he makes up for this with effort and good positioning, can play point or move over to shooting guard to pair with Rondo in the backcourt, becoming more comfortable in accepting role as scorer and not distributor
Marquis Daniels: extremely smart and hardworking player with limited athleticism, likely to get injured
I suspect the Lakers will have a 9 man rotation for the playoffs and the Celtics a 8 man (because Daniels and one of Perk, Shaq and Jermaine are likely to be injured.)
The Celtics went out and got pieces that fit perfectly in tandem and as a whole (2007-2008):
- Rondo's poor shooting and decisionmaking could be covered up by Cassell
- Pierce and Allen are a great shooting guard/ small forward combination because they are great in the areas the other player is merely good at (they do not have weaknesses on the offensive end)
- KG and Perk are a great forward tandem, covering each other where the other is weak (KG spaces the floor, while Perk gets garbage baskets, KG is a great help defender for perimeter players and great for other PFs that space the floor, Perk can bang with the big boys)
There bench was solid, if unspectacular:
- Davis: could always be counted on to boost the Celtics energy-wise
- Powe: useful in games where the Celtics needed to make up a ton of groun scoring (see game 2 of the Finals that season)
- Brown: solid player who could be used as a "filler" in terms of minutes because, while he does not bring too much to the table, he does not take ANYTHING off
- Cassell: useful in situations where the Celtics are worried the other team might purposely foul Rondo and useful in situations where Rondo may be trying to do too much "hero ball," and therefore needs to sit.
While the pieces this year are better pieces, they actually do not fit the Celtics' system as well as before. The best example of this is Shaq, who is unable to hedge picks or ball handlers at the top of the key, the main Celtics' innovation over the past 4 years. Nate, also, needs to handle and dominate the ball much more than the Celtics have allowed in this past.
Overall, however, I see these changes as a wash because the players themselves are better players overall, and are willing to make the changes to fit the Celtics' system. And while I think the Celtics are likely to fall just short of the 66 wins they established in the first year of the big 3 (61-65 wins is my prediction) this is more because they are more cautious with injuries now then they were back then.
2007-2008 Starting Lineup
Tony Parker: young point guard with a ton of experience relative to his age, great at scoring inside and with floaters, but a below average midrange shooter, good passer, solid defense, great decisionmaking
Michael Finley: lethal spotup shooter who makes very little mistakes, solid defender
Bruce Bowen: best perimeter defender in the league who became a 3 point specialist on the offensive end, he (along with Robert Horry) pioneered the strategy of the corner 3
Tim Duncan: fundamental, old-school forward who can rebound, pass and shoot bank shots with deadly accuracy, poor dribbler but made up for this with great footwork with the ball in his hands, great defender
Fabricio Oberto: really just a "filler" player plugged into the starting lineup because the Spurs could not find or afford someone better, but he is not going to kill you in a game (wish him a speedy recovery from his heart issues!)
Key Role Players:
Manu Ginobili: impossible to guard if you let him get to his left, all-around scorer, smart player, brings great defensive energy even though he is not the best defender, won 6th man award this season (for good reasons)
Robert Horry: the best clutch spot up shooter in NBA Playoff History (as evidenced by his multiple buzzer beaters and 7 rings), above average all around player
Ime Udoka: who? I didn't know either until I looked up the Spurs roster and found out he played 18 minutes a game for them this season. Based on his stats, he only use was spacing the floor with good 3 point shooting
Kurt Thomas: solid pick-and-roll and pick-and-pop players who got most of his points as a last option and put in solid rebounding numbers
2010-2011 Starting Lineup
Tony Parker: great at scoring inside and with floaters, above average midrange shooter, good passer, solid defense, great decisionmaking
Richard Jefferson: lethal 3 point shooter, good but not great one-on-one player because of diminished athleticism, honestly don't know how he is as a defender (send me an e-mail about this!), good passer, average rebounder
Manu Ginobili: impossible to guard if you let him get to his left, all-around scorer, smart player, brings great defensive energy even though he is not the best defender
Tim Duncan: fundamental, old-school forward who can rebound, pass and shoot bank shots with deadly accuracy, poor dribbler but made up for this with great footwork with the ball in his hands, average defender and average scorer because diminished athleticism makes it harder to create shots
Dejuan Blair: "starter" but really bench player (only plays 20 m inutes a game), good rebounder, quick hands for a forward (1.2 steals per game), but bad at challenging shots (.4 blocks a game), undetermined ability at the line (shooting well this season after shooting terrible last)
George Hill: deadly shooter who is above average in all other categories
Matt Bonner: maybe the quickest release in the game, deadly 3 point shooter, below average shooting inside the arc and at the free throw line, and below average on defense and rebounding
Gary Neal: deadly 3 point shooter and above average rebounder, don't know how he is on defense
Antonio McDyess: great rebounder, and still solid on d and offense even if unspectacular
The Spurs relied on Tim Duncan much more heavily in 2007-2008 and used the corner 3 as a secondary weapon (an offensive strategy they pioneered.) Now, they went out and got a TON of 3 point shooters as the last few years has indicated teams that shoot the 3 more often do better.
This shift is a much bigger systematic shift than the Lakers and Celtics have undergone because their franchise player has moved from his prime into his twilight years (this has not happened to Kobe, Ray, Pierce and KG despite their age. In 2012-2013, we are likely to see this same shift in the Lakers and Celtics.)
This caused a change in strategy, but rather than overhaul their whole system, the Spurs have simply made their secondary offensive strategy (corner 3s) their first, they have made Duncan their 4th option (behind Ginobili and Parker, who were, respectively, the 3rd and 4th options before.) So rather than an overhaul of the whole system, it has undergone simple tweaks over the years (which has culminated in a big difference once taken over 4 years.)
Phil Jackson is easily the greatest coach in NBA history (sorry Red!) because he has won 11 of the past 19 championships. Phil is a master of the triangle offense and managing personalities.
Doc Rivers won the Coach of the Year Award in 2000 coaching an undermanned and oft-injured Orlando Magic team to a .500 record. Doc is a master at creating a team atmosphere (ubuntu!) and at developing point guards (he, himself, was a great NBA point guard.)
Greg Poppovich- Why Poppovich is such a great NBA coach was most on display last night against the Celtics. He is on the opposite side of Phil Jackson (who likes to let his players figure things out themselves was struggling during a game, and prefers to use timeouts only to diagram plays) because he called two timeouts in the first 3 minutes of the game, and substituted Matt Bonner into the game 2 minutes into it. Despite the Spurs 29 and 5 record prior to last night, Poppovich dug into his mix of veterans and youngsters, saying they were playing terrible defense recently despite winning game.