I had to write about what just happened in the NBA Finals this past week, there were so many thoughts I had about and so many important topics that I wanted to touch on so it here it goes
1. The resurgence of TEAM basketball- In the last couple years there has been a big shift away from the team emphasis in the way we think about winning basketball and the way teams have been constructing their rosters, but the Spurs proved the better TEAM trumps the best player. LeBron James is clearly the best player in the NBA but he is only one player and basketball is a team game and he alone couldn’t stop the freight train that was the Spurs.
The Spurs out assisted the Heat 127-76, In 12 of its 16 playoff wins, the Spurs won by 15 points or more, an NBA record, including winning all four of their games in the NBA Finals by 15+. The Spurs’ 52.8 field-goal percentage was the best in Finals history. The Spurs had an 8 man core made up of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, Boris Diaw, Danny Green, Patty Mills, Thiago Splitter and Kawhi Leonard that played like a finely tuned machine. The passing was incredible, it led to open uncontested shot after open uncontested shot again and again and again. They would pass up open shots for even more open shots, this was a team in sync.
I’m very interested to see how this translates to roster building in the immediate future. I hope it helps the NBA shift away from the superstar oriented roster construction and the desperate “need” to have a superstar on your team. LeBron may have won two titles teaming up with fellow superstar Dwyane Wade but if you look at the last ten NBA champions, most of them were much more team oriented than that. You have the 2004 Pistons that played team basketball to end the Shaq-Kobe Lakers era, two additional Spurs titles, the 2011 Mavericks who played good team defense to stop the Heat’s big three, Boston’s big three with Rajon Rondo, Kendrick Perkins and an assortment of good role players like Tony Allen and Eddie House, and James Posey the two Bynum, Odom, Gasol, Kobe Lakers titles and other than the 2006 Heat led by Shaq and Dywane Wade, all these teams were deep and had a more traditional 6-8 man core of players who were impactful and neccesary to win those titles. As we have seen with roster moves like the Knicks acquiring Carmelo Anthony and turning the Nuggets into a perennial playoff team under George Karl with all the parts they acquired from that deal, gauging a good roster in search of that “superstar” isn’t the way to go about winning a title, having that superstar and a team of good players around them is.
2. The Erosion of the Miami Heat- Save for LeBron James the Miami Heat looked slow, old and simply outmatched during this year’s finals. Dwyane Wade is clearly a shell of himself, he missed a third of the season this year so he could be rested and ready to go during the playoffs but he averaged a lowly 15.2 PPG in the finals and scored 10 and 11 in the final two games of the finals, while failing to average 20 PPG for his second consecutive postseason.
Chris Bosh has turned into a spot up shooter who really isn’t a good shooter and has seen his rebounds and points totals dip to below average levels in the recent years. He put up a paltry 14.0 PPG and 5.2 RPG. He went from being a 20-10(points, rebounds) guy in Toronto to a guy who hasn’t averaged one of those since leaving. While some regression is to be expected form going to the primary option on an offense to a third option what is worrying is that his points and rebounds have dropped a little each year since he has been on the Heat, starting from a 18.7 PPG and 8.3 RPG during his inaugural Heat season down to 16.2 PPG and 6.6 RPG. His playoff rebounds have also dropped off every year, from 8.5 RPG the first year to 5.6 RPG this postseason, not to mention he hasn’t averaged 15 PPG in the last three postseasons.
Mario Chalmers imploded in the finals and couldn’t stay on the court some games, and when he could you wish he wasn’t playing. Ray Allen looked his age and couldn’t handle more than about a 20 minute per game. The rest of the bench was pitiful and non-effective save for the consistent effort of Chris “Birdman” Anderson who provided blocks and rebounds off the bench and the nice surprise of Rashard Lewis who was able to hit a some open three pointers.