Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Reaction to SI's Ultimate NBA Draft Finals

Chris Ballard's team (first place 46-26) VS Joe Posnanski's team (second place 45-27)
C Bill Russell (3) / C Wilt Chamberlain (2)
PF Charles Barkley (23) / PF Dirk Nowitzki (42)
SF Dennis Rodman (43) / SF Julius Erving (19)
SG Reggie Miller (38) / SG John Havlicek (39)
PG LeBron James (18) / PG Isiah Thomas (22)
6 Chris Mullin (58) / 6 Dwight Howard (59)
7 Arvydas Sabonis (63) / 7 Dolph Shayes (62)
8 Deron Williams (78) / 8 Mark Price (79)
9 Tiny Archibald (83) / 9 Grant Hill (82)
10 Carmelo Anthony (98) / 10 Vince Carter (99)
11 Shawn Marion (103) / 11 Jerry Lucas (102)
12 Bill Laimbeer (118) / 12 Michael Cooper (119)

The top two teams in the simulated regular season collide in the finals. Wilt Chamberlain has looked unstoppable, and who is LeBron to challenge him when he disposed of a Jordan/ Wade-led superteam in the previous round? Nevertheless, it is a combination of talents that surround and complement Chris Ballard's team that make it dominant.

The Matchup

In the frontcourt we have the legendary matchup of Russell vs Chamberlain. When the two goliaths met in 142 matchups in their NBA careers, Russell won 84 of those matches. Yet, it was a team effort and the Celtics were the consummate NBA team which led to Russell's 11 championship rings and legacy as a winner. In head-to-head matchups Russell averaged a ridiculous 23.7 rebounds per game, only to be bested by Wilt's ungodly 28.7 rebounds per game record. Chamberlain once grabbed an NBA-record 55 rebounds in a game, and it was against Russell. Russell's primary strength was rebounding and defense, while Wilt has the opposite reputation as a dominating scorer, but Chamberlain actually has better rebounding numbers. Chamberlain is obviously the greatest scorer in NBA history and he averaged a modest 28.7 points per game against Russell, a result of Russell's defense, but Russell only averaged 14.5 points per game in their matchups. With Chamberlain and Dwight Howard testing Russell all night and Dirk raining jumpers over Charles Barkley all night long, it's safe to say the Posnanski frontcourt takes this matchup.
Advantage: Posnanski

On the wings, Julius Erving matches up with Dennis "Worm" Rodman in an offense/ defense clash. I actually think Rodman would end up switching with Barkley on defense to guard and pester Dirk Nowitzki. I still think Dirk can be rattled and who better than Worm. That would leave Barkley guarding Erving, which is a better defensive matchup. John "Hondo" Havlicek is better than people remember/ give him credit for and he could match up defensively with Reggie Miller and match his intensity, but not his distance shooting. Reggie and Mullin could provide a three-point threat that team Posnanski could not match, and they would have to double-team LeBron when he muscled his way into the lane, leaving one (or both) of the shooters open. This one comes down to scoring options off the bench and LeBron playing point-forward and doubling as a wing player.
Advantage: Ballard

At the point-guard position Isiah Thomas comes off besting MJ while reprising his Pistons' "Jordan Rules," and he would be able to physically and mentally bludgeon LeBron. Or would he? The young Jordan that Isiah and his Pistons teammates cracked down on was 6'4 1/2" at the time of his drafting, and grew to 6'6" and 195 pounds. LeBron is 6'8" at least, and over 250 pounds. The L-Train would roll right through Isiah Thomas and run right into Wilt Chamberlain and Dwight Howard. LeBron is an amazing passer averaging 7.0 assists per game for his career including a season at 8.6 dimes per, but it pales in comparison to Thomas' 9.3 career average and career-best mark of 13.9 in '84-85. People overestimate LeBron's passing ability in this matchup, but he's the more dominant player overall. LeBron still has to be the one to get his teammates involved and this is something to question after season 1 of the Miami Heat experiment.
Advantage: Ballard

The benches of both teams got them to this point and we've already talked about the immediate impact of sixth men Chris Mullin on Ballard's perimeter, and Dwight Howard on the low block of team Posnanski. Arvydas Sabonis is a European legend and if he had played in the NBA at his prime would have been dominant, at least providing a serious matchup with Dolph Shayes who was great but undersized at 6'7" compared to Sabonis' 7'3" frame and shooting ability. Mark Price was a talented and consistent guard but would have trouble with the size and quickness of Deron Williams, one of the biggest guards in the current NBA. Nate "Tiny" Archibald once averaged 34 points and 11.4 assists as a 6'1" guard. Grant Hill didn't exactly have a prime, but he was one of the original "next MJ's" before injuries sidelined his career. Vince Carter and Carmelo Anthony in their primes are pretty similar as offensive firepower off the bench. Shawn Marion can run the floor, defend, and doesn't need the ball to score, plus he was a #1 fantasy pick in his prime for his ability to contribute across the board making him a great draft choice by team Ballard. Matrix rounds out the Ballard bench perfectly and Laimbeer just adds more size and toughness.
Advantage: Ballard


Although Ballard wins three of the four categories in this matchup, the strat-o-matic simulation awards the SI Ultimate Fantasy Draft Championship to team Posnanski. The frontcourt of Chamberlain-Howard-Nowitzki didn't have an answer throughout the tournament. LeBron carried team Ballard, but came up short. In the deciding Game 7 of the exciting round between these evenly matched teams Wilt erupts for 45 points and 17 rebounds proving he is the single most dominating basketball player of all time. LeBron goes for 23 points on 9 of 19 shooting because he must pull up and shoot rather than drive the lane against Wilt/Dwight and only Chris Mullin steps up with 24 points but it is not enough. Ballard had an amazing strategy, but I agree with the simulation, Team Posnanski wins the SI Ultimate Basketball Draft.

Wilt Chamberlain

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