In the Land of Spiny Columns

Some moons and swamps ago, FreeDarko laid forth The Song of the Positional Revolution. The title was somewhat deceptive, as we could hardly claim that the old rules were dead, or that success rate was faltering. The long and short was thus: a singular star like Kevin Garnett could not be asked to carry a team by doing everything at once. What KG needed to do was just do KG, carving out a featured role for himself made up of original priorities. It would then be incumbent upon his coaches and personnel brokers to put players around him who complemented this authentic Garnett.

During a long conversation with Ziller this past Friday, I realized how wrong this all had been. It's all fine and good to wish liberation on stars—liberation from both the formulaic game and the burden of versatility. However, this revolution cannot begin at the top with a demi-god exerting a tyranny of style upon his team and organization. There is simply no assurance that those around him can adjust to a reworking of the traditional order.

In fact, I now believe that the true prophets are martyrs, who sacrifice their featured status for the good of the structural whole. And they must do it all so everyone around them, be they great or small, are free to cast off their shackles and find themselves. Thus, there are two key moments in this tale: when one man becomes the ultimate working-class super-hero, and when his teammates go on inner quests to become themselves.

It should come as zero surprise that in this new telling of things, no figure looms larger than Shawn Marion. Nash's virtuosity is the life-force of Phoenix, and Amare's unhinged intensity its most asymmetric weapon. But laugh not: it is Marion that allows for both of these men to play like they do. As TZ pointed out, Marion is widely regarded as a system player, and yet every team in the league wants someone like him. That's because, ladies and gentlemen, Marion is the system . . . or, indeed, THE MATRIX. Nash and Amare's strengths are, in part, a function of Marion, bringing up the whole chicken/egg problem of "complementary" players. And their weaknesses are certainly masked by his mutant contributions.

Perhaps it is facile to use the Suns as an example of all that could be in any way. What, then, of that dastardly forgotten Heat team of '04, whose roster resembled nothing if not outright nonsense? And yet they nearly squirmed their way into the Conference Finals, behind the late-season invention of one Dwyane Wade. Wade, who had been slotted at point guard for most of the year, suddenly began to jut forth in a way that acknowledged his position while invoking MJ.

This hatching only happened for the grace of Lamar Odom. Up until that point in his pro life, Mar Mar had been entrusted with the sacred legacy of Magic Johnson. The Clips waited on him to run their team, and yet were hamstrung by his spacey judgment and lack of aggressiveness. In Miami though, Odom held everything together because he committed to the glass, stepped out only when necessary, and used his size, passing and ball-handling to exploit mismatches. That last one was instead of his Los Angeles style, which amounted to a never-ending attempt to prove he was everyone's mismatch. With this human foundation in place, Wade could look for his shot, and a team that consisted of Caron Butler, Rasual Butler, Brian Grant, Udonis Haslem, and Rafer Alston defied all rational expectations.

Another, less-heralded, member of this club is Antawn Jamison. Jamison has long fascinated the committee here at FreeDarko, in large part because of his plushly angular scoring style. But it's absolutely key to remember that Jamison, rather than cursing his brethren with the stench of tweener-ness, holds together an otherwise scraggly bunch. Jamison can work in the paint on both ends, and yet also hits three's and a variety of eccentric runners. While he may not be a true slasher or pounder, his touch and unique grasp of spatial ruptures allows him to provide in these two ways. This compensates for the Wiz's non-existent big men, and, as with Marion and Nash, provides Arenas insurance.

Granted, Odom was swapped for uber-principle Shaq, and, due to either Kobe, the triangle, or the ability vacuum around him in Los Angeles, has yet to regain his 2003-04 form. And Jamison is a somewhat accidental candidate, as he happens to be the only decent size on a team of scorers. That is, until Blatche's time comes. Sidenote: I am not quite sure what relation the triangle has to do with this dream. Pippen is pre-history, but he might have happened without Phil. On the other hand, you could make the argument that the Bulls' offense was possible only because of Pippen; this would put him in a position much like Marion is vis a vis the Suns' system.

In the end, though, all this comes back to Garnett. I suggested to Tom that Marion was more valuable than KG, then realized this was just because Garnett has never been used like Marion. The pre-Avery Dirk, and what we expect Durant to be, are in keeping with the original definition of the Revolution. They inhabit the foreground, and exist to get buckets with some big man dividends. The same could be said for Webber, who was an elite power forward with some guard skills.

Garnett may be the most talented player in the Association, but to achieve his true destiny he must retreat from the spotlight and become the firmament. This has always been his wish; hopefully, the situation in Boston will let others see how right he has been all along. Like him, the Positional Revolution becomes most radical when the inflamed individual is transubstantiated into a form of basketball logic.

Business: So wow, I guess we've raised a thousand dollars. At the risk of sounding presumptuous, I hope we can keep these trickling in. For those of you going with the $1/month program, I hope you'll keep up with it. And as promised, the super-secret stats section will be going before '07-08 starts braying.


At 8/19/2007 10:36 PM, Blogger Jason said...

The calculus proceeds, but then where those singular (do we mean multiple here) talents that fulfill your destiny but transcend the foundation to be the structure AND the facade lie is obnubilated; the Big O and Magic come to mind. On the other hand, Tayshaun Prince flowers fully formed into your hypothesis: are we dealing with a hierarchy of skill here, and will this Celtics team be KGs key to the pantheon?

At 8/19/2007 11:29 PM, Blogger nerditry said...

Mishbuchah : It warmed me to read your thoughts on the Heat, because that team was by far more important and meaningful to me as an original Heatian than the 06 Champions. The NBA is like evolution in that the things that are going to happen, will happen even if it means forsaking mammalian traditions to grow webbed feet, a bill and lay eggs.

In that I mean that there it almost seemed pre-written that for Wade to become an NBA brand star, he needed a classic facilitator.

I agree with the importance of Marion in his ability to facilitate from another, perpendicular position. He's able to do it because of the selfless nature that flows through Phoenix. No one had been a top-tier superstar on their own beforehand.

KG, though will be working with two men very recently atop their own smaller mountains. I'd imagine we'd all like to see what happens when a triumvirate decides to forsake themselves and become an us.

At 8/20/2007 12:57 AM, Anonymous brendo said...

I'd suggest Luol Deng (and especially the pre '06-'07 certified-star edition) of this company, but he might just seem that way due to the recognizable mono-dimensionality of Hinrich/Gordon and now Wallace...

If he goes all-star now (that is to say, becomes recognized for the overt bottom-line he provides toward the Bulls' win total) will he forfeit recognition under 2.0?

At 8/20/2007 3:38 AM, Blogger T. said...

the Positional Revolution becomes most radical when the inflamed individual is transubstantiated into a form of basketball logic.

This is some excellent excellent wordsmithing, Shoals.

The way this is framed, you could make the argument that Marion and Garnett are glue guys - just uber-talented and doing the Battier and Darrell Armstrong steez, only on a Macro scale. Rebounds instead of charges taken. Buckets and blocks instead of dives on the floor.

Where there is a gap, KG and Marion rise to fill it.

At 8/20/2007 4:27 AM, Blogger Ty Keenan said...

I've had some ideas similar to these percolating in my head regarding our current conception of the role players. This take is really interesting, and goes against a lot of what I'd been thinking.

I want to address Pippen in some depth, because I think your view of him gets at the main issue I have with this view. I've watched a good number of the NBA Greatest Games broadcasts on NBATV recently, and the 94 Pippen plays exactly like the 93 Pippen. Same general moves, takes the same kinds of shots, etc. However, the offense is much, much more lethargic without Jordan: they don't run as much and execute much more slowly in the half court.

I don't deny that the Bulls' version of the triangle relied heavily on Pippen's ridiculous versatility and skills, but do you really think he defined the system more than Jordan did? Would Phil not have played the triangle if it had been Pippen who'd "retired" instead of MJ? I don't buy that. Likewise, Marion plays a huge part in what the Suns do, but wouldn't they play roughly the same style without Marion? For that matter, Amare sitting out two seasons ago changed the offense in a pretty clear way--would Marion's loss change things any more than that? Ok, that's debatable, but wouldn't things get completely blown up if Nash sat in street clothes for a whole season?

I think it's more accurate to say that all these players define their teams' systems and teammates' roles in their own ways. However, I just don't buy that anyone but the alpha dog can have the biggest effect. He takes up the majority of the possessions and dictates the defense's approach more than anyone else. How could he not be the primary facilitator?

Am I misunderstanding something big here, or maybe even projecting the concerns of my own ideas on a similar yet different post?

Whatever the case, this post is excellent, and it's making me reevaluate and postpone my own upcoming dealie on the same topic.

At 8/20/2007 10:45 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Steve Nash as the handle, Marion as the hilt, and Amare as the blade?
Me likey.
Now, can we all agree, that there has rarely been a collection of teams in the NBA who had to "WIN NOW" more than the 07-08 season?
Also, I like the article over at the Fanhouse about expansion, though I wish you would have written it while the discussion was going on HERE. I read some real hate when that subject was discussed.

Crowded, indeed.

At 8/20/2007 10:50 AM, Anonymous TZ said...

I think this is where I step in to say Ron Artest is of this mold, but clearly has no idea it exists.

At 8/20/2007 10:58 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can't we just sell OKC a team made up of all the free-agents?

At 8/20/2007 11:15 AM, Blogger Liston said...

Dear Sons of Sam Malone,

Fantastic article.



At 8/20/2007 11:26 AM, Anonymous Sweat of Ewing said...

Devin Brown is positional revolution done gone retarded.

At 8/20/2007 1:15 PM, Blogger Brown Recluse, Esq. said...

a quick note for all you kind t-shirt buyers. if you read shoals's initial post, then you know we were taking PRE-orders for the SI shirts. they're not ready yet, but they should be shipping out around the end of august.

At 8/20/2007 1:31 PM, Blogger goathair said...

Hasn't everyone always said that KG was the ultimate second banana? Isn't this the same thing?

At 8/20/2007 1:38 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

yeah, they have, and in one draft of this i addressed the difference. basically i am saying that second bananas can hold the key to the game and the universe. that they can transcend the banana hierarchy and become the tree's DNA.

At 8/20/2007 2:03 PM, Blogger stopmikelupica said...

Ah, thank you for clarifying. Because I still have trouble, even all these posts later, understanding Shoalsian.

Like Ty Keenan alluded to, Pippen and how you feel about Pippen, is the ultimate litmus test. I don't know what the right or wrong answer is, but I know how where I fall on the Pippen debate: Without Pippen, Jordan ain't nothing more than a more motivated Vince Carter. He's not winning six titles, or, to be fairer, he may have won six titles, but not as a leader of the team - only if paired with another stud, must likely a center (like Ewing or someone), who would have cut into his credit.

The 2nd banana might be #2 in the heirachy of "shooting the shot" or "controlling the ball movement" or whatever measure of offense you can come up with, but... yeah, he can be the most important player on the team even from that #2 slot. Hey, he'll never get the proper due (Pippen won't), but in the Bulls' system Pippen was the irreplaceable piece, not Jordan. Replace Jordan with a comparable SG at the time (Dominque? That may not be the best choice, but whatever). The Bulls aren't as great, but are still a legit contender (see '94, as Jordan-less Bulls team came within a suspect Hue Davis foul of making the Conference Finals). There's no SF that could have taken Pippen's place, though.

At 8/20/2007 4:36 PM, Anonymous Laphonso said...

Replace Pippen with Derrick McKey, and the Bulls still win at least three titles. There never was, nor is, a comparable shooting guard to MJ.

At 8/20/2007 4:42 PM, Blogger Ty Keenan said...

SML: See, I take what you're saying to mean that Pippen is the unique piece, not the most important one, which seems right to me. I agree that he's likely the most underappreciated player of recent years, but it's possible for me to conceive of the Bulls looking basically the same without Pippen (offensively, at least--dude's defense deserves it's own wing in Springfield). We saw what the Bulls' offense looked like without Jordan, and it was very different.

I really like this idea; I just think it works better for teams without transcendent superstars; Miami Odom is a great example. I prefer to say that each player defines the system. Let's blow up the trickle-down theory of system definition that's become popular, by all means.

At 8/20/2007 5:14 PM, Blogger Brown Recluse, Esq. said...

SML, i know we've clashed in the past, but i've always respected your hoops knowledge. but, come on, i KNOW you don't believe jordan without pippen equals a motivated vince carter! that could be sort of accurate (but not really) on the offensive end, but what people forget about jordan is what a game-changer he was on the defensive end. i honestly don't think there is anyone currently in the league (not bowen, not artest, not big ben, not anyone) who is as dominant a defensive player as jordan was.

this is not just knee-jerk jordan deifying either. i think jordan as a human being is basically an asshole, but he's the greatest basketball player who ever lived, and kobe and lebron and whoever else have a long way to go to best him.

At 8/20/2007 5:20 PM, Blogger Ty Keenan said...

Jordan also had amazing court vision and passing ability. Carter can't even think about passing like that.

Apologies for the numerous grammatical and stylistic errors in my last comment. There's no reason to use the possessive "it's" or write a sentence with two semicolons.

At 8/20/2007 5:30 PM, Blogger stopmikelupica said...

Alright, let me rephrase it so that it doesn't come off sounding like a cheap shot at Jordan (which was not the intent):

Jordan probably would have done fine without Pippen, but it wouldn't have been the Bulls . It would be a totally different system, different team, and quite possible Jordan may (in fact, I'm pretty sure about this) have had to settle for being the second option for that team to win. It would have been a more traditional team, with the center as the offensive focus. Or put it another way - come up with a roster in which Jordan wins championships in the 80's and 90's without Pippen.

And the idea that Derrick McKey could have replaced Pippen is more offensive than anything I've said about Jordan.

Pippen is why the Bulls could win in a non-traditional system, one in which there wasn't a strong center.

Jordan may have been a movement all by himself, but he's a force when they're together. Pippen makes him better.

At 8/20/2007 6:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I cosign everything SML said, I think he's dead-on with this one.

At 8/20/2007 6:26 PM, Blogger Ty Keenan said...

"Pippen is why the Bulls could win in a non-traditional system, one in which there wasn't a strong center."

This is tricky, because you could make the argument that Jordan's turnaround jumper gave them an unstoppable post scoring option. Yet Pippen posted guys up all the time, and Grant could score there, too (although he was probably more effective when stepping out for a mid-range jumper).

"It would be a totally different system, different team, and quite possible Jordan may (in fact, I'm pretty sure about this) have had to settle for being the second option for that team to win. It would have been a more traditional team, with the center as the offensive focus."

Again, I think Jordan's post scoring means that he'd be the #1 option in any system.

Pippen made the Bulls one of the best teams ever, no doubt. He certainly made MJ better. But, like BR said, you're seriously underrating Jordan. I won't suggest that they would have won three easily with Derrick Mckey in there--they still need a legit #2--but give that team a fringe all-star 3 and I still think they win a few.

wv -- femihcs: backwoods feminists

At 8/20/2007 7:33 PM, Blogger goathair said...

I have 2 issues with SML:

1) Pippen made the Bulls great, Jordan made the Bulls terrifying.

2) Jordan would have never been a #2 option in his prime.

At 8/20/2007 10:04 PM, Anonymous Tom said...

3) You have to factor in just how much better MJ made his teammates. Could MJ have won with Marion or Odom?

At 8/20/2007 10:48 PM, Blogger stopmikelupica said...

Hell no to Odom, possibly to Marion. Sh*t, stop disrespecting Pippen! Odom?!? Odom has always had the potential to be a Pippen, but not the mental focus. Pippen existed; Odom is just a myth.

I said it was the litmus test. Listen, building Jordan up is fine. He's the greatest SG of all time, and probably the greatest player of all time. But don't do it at Pippen's expense. Even the other possibility for the GOAT (Wilt) didn't win championships every year. You don't do it solo, and you don't do it as a SG carrying the team unless you are blessed with another amazing one of a kind talent.

Without Pippen, Jordan would be unlikely to have won championship after championship as the first option. That's just how the NBA works. Jordan's moves are unstoppable? Agree. So are Kobe's, though. How far is he getting in his prime?

Regardless, the point is this: Pippen was a top-50 player of all time. That's a fact. But he was much better than that. He was one of the best players we'll ever see - he could do whatever was needed, like a prototype of KG. He could play hard defense, rebound, shoot from anywhere, and like Ty said, he could post up if needed. He was 6'8, and able to post like a big man! He was more like a Magic Johnson minus the extreme ball handling skills, confined to playing SF and second banana.

Again, we can argue all day about this - it's all hypothetical anyway. But to me it's like Catholics arguing about who is the most important - God, JC, or the Holy Spirit. Point being, one of the three cannot exist without the others. No Pippen = No Jordan = No Phil Jackson.

At 8/20/2007 11:28 PM, Blogger Thomas said...

The God-JC-Holy Spirit to Pippen-Jordan-PJ analogy doesn't work for me, especially not in that order. I prefer to think of MJ & Scottie as Batman & Robin because when they're together, they're the dynamic duo but lets face it, we all know who runs the City. As for Phil, he's Commisioner Gordon because, well, he looks like Commisioner Gordon.

At 8/20/2007 11:30 PM, Blogger T. said...

As a shoe geek, I just have to mention that the Pippen shoes (Air Maestro I, II, Pippen I, II, III) are superior to the Jordans. There. I said it.

All this talk of GOATs and second banana players is a little shortsighted though. Didn't all of the GOATs have a second player to put them over the top to win a ring?

Even Mikan had Jim Pollard and Vern Mikkelsen. Wilt had Hal Greer, West and Goodrich. KAJ had Oscar. Bird had McHale. Magic had Kareem, Worthy, and Rambis. Walton had Mo Lucas.

The only one I can figure who really didn't have a wingman who was the level of the guys mentioned above would be . . . Isiah Thomas (although the team 1-5 was really strong)

At 8/20/2007 11:49 PM, Blogger Ty Keenan said...

"Listen, building Jordan up is fine. He's the greatest SG of all time, and probably the greatest player of all time. But don't do it at Pippen's expense."

Is it not possible to build up Jordan while still giving Pippen his due? That's what I've been trying to do, at least.

"Without Pippen, Jordan would be unlikely to have won championship after championship as the first option. That's just how the NBA works."

Agreed, but that assumes that the Bulls wouldn't have replaced Pippen with anyone else at the 3. If the argument's about who was more important, I think the hypothetical situation needs to involve a replacement at the same position. (You're right, though--fuck a hypothetical.)

"Point being, one of the three cannot exist without the others. No Pippen = No Jordan = No Phil Jackson."

Yes, which is why we need to stop this "alpha dog defines the system on his own" theory and move to something more inclusive. That doesn't mean a hierarchy doesn't exist, though.

"Didn't all of the GOATs have a second player to put them over the top to win a ring?"

Not only that, T., but they also had viable third and fourth options. Again, we need a more inclusive model for this stuff, which is why I like this post so much in the first place.

At 8/21/2007 12:26 AM, Blogger stopmikelupica said...

Agree with ya, Ty. We need a more inclusive model for this stuff.

The Batman and Robin analogy is exactly what I hate about the conversations about Pippen! Listen, if the Rockets win a championship next year (I'm betting on them right now, given they have the system, including viable third and fourth options), is anyone going to imply that either T-Mac or Yao is a "Robin"? Does anyone really think of Kobe or Wade as "Robin" to Shaq's "Batman"? Or vice versa?

That's exactly my point.

Anyway, I'll let the discussion on Pippen end, because it ain't really the point of Shoals' post. But here is a good tie-in: What if next year Pierce is the alpha male in Boston? And KG is the second banana doing what needs to be done, like a Pippen? What effect will that have on KG's reputation? Would anyone really consider him a "Robin" to Pierce's "Batman"?

At 8/21/2007 12:35 AM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

getting past the batman/robin thing is pretty much the point of my post. if the person who enables the team to exist like it does happens to not be the lead scorer or primary playmaker, do we have to call them "secondary?"

no one had any problem calling ben wallace the heart and soul of the pistons.

At 8/21/2007 1:27 AM, Blogger Ty Keenan said...

"if the person who enables the team to exist like it does happens to not be the lead scorer or primary playmaker, do we have to call them "secondary?""

I think this is what initially bothered me about this post. We've proven in these comments that it's difficult to figure out who has more of an effect on a team's style. When I say that Nash is more important than Marion, I'm doing that based mostly on the team's stats--objective numbers that seem like the best way to categorize these guys. Of course, that's just as arbitrary a method as picking Marion over Nash based on your own subjective experience of watching the Suns. Is it enough just to acknowledge that they're both insanely important (and we can argue about that hierarchy of importance amongst ourselves)? Do we really need to say the heretofore secondary players are the primary enablers?

That's why, in the end, I think this model doesn't work quite as well for teams with transcendent superstars like Jordan. His skills/myth exist above so many other players (whether because of Pippen or not) that it's incredibly difficult to think of him on the same plane as his teammates--even one as awesome as Pippen.

I think the Pierce/Garnett example is a tremendous one to look at more closely. Garnett can rebound, clean up for his points, and play defense, freeing up PP to focus on scoring and whatever else he does. Of course, the only reason KG can focus on that stuff is because PP can shoulder the scoring load. The problem with identifying one of them as the second banana is that we already know what KG is capable of as a first option. Therefore, it becomes more obvious that the two complement each other really well. Pierce wouldn't be the alpha male--he and KG would be equal.

This method could cause problems for GMs, who need to decide how much these players really matter to their teams. They need to create hierarchies for this stuff, but I suppose that's why they're paid for it.

At 8/21/2007 2:51 AM, Anonymous groverblue said...

Can the Phoenix system exist and work without Marion's superlative talents?

I'll grant this: on the offensive side, he's pretty easily replaceable. I'd say there are 2 exceptions related to his freaky athleticism - extra easy dunks and extra off. rebounds. Beyond that he could be replaced on one side of the floor.

But it's Marion's defensive abilities (or the threat thereof) that allow the PHX system to work. Without Shawn to help on the defensive side, the PHX scoring machine is a moot point, a la the Denver Nuggets futile era.

Marion has averaged over 3 combined blocks & steals per game in the pre- and post-Amare/Nash days. That is indispensable and certainly gives rise to a valid claim that he is more than 'secondary player' or 'primary enabler.'

At 8/21/2007 6:24 AM, Blogger Ty Keenan said...

"Without Shawn to help on the defensive side, the PHX scoring machine is a moot point, a la the Denver Nuggets futile era."

Point taken, but the Nuggets made the conference finals, which is as much as the Suns have done.

For anyone still interested in the topic of role/secondary players and their relationship to a team's greater system, I've finally gotten around to crafting a post on it. Read it here (http://westcoastbasketball.blogspot.com/2007/08/instigate-role.html) if you'd like.

At 8/21/2007 11:00 AM, Anonymous Sweat of Ewing said...

Nuggets finals what? They haven't been there since the 80s.

Along those lines, do you think that AI would serve the Nuggets better, then, if he sublimated his role into the ultimate pure point guard? Threat at any moment to go off, but able to reign in his domineering tendencies enough so that he only detonates at crucial 4th-quarter moments, and the rest of the time uses that threat to set up teammates? Or is Iverson not multi-talented enough, or position-redefining enough, for him to count in this argument.

At 8/21/2007 12:33 PM, Anonymous Tom said...

Can the Phoenix system exist and work without Marion's superlative talents?

Yes albeit on a much lower level. You just have to ask the question, can the show go on without him? It's entirely different from the Pierce-Garnett situation where it's difficult to discern whose show it really is. In that case, I think a Avon Barksdale-Stringer Bell analogy is better suited.

At 8/21/2007 3:54 PM, Blogger Ty Keenan said...

"Nuggets finals what? They haven't been there since the 80s."

Maybe I misunderstood what groverblue was talking about; I assumed he meant the 80s Denver teams. Apologies if I did.

At 8/21/2007 5:58 PM, Blogger Andrew said...

Not to derail the thread, but reading this I envisioned a re-do of last year's adidas "Five" ad, wherein Garnett posts up and drops a behind-the-back bounce pass to Pierce as he streaks through the lane, dunking ferociously over, I dunno, Francisco Elson or somebody. Garnett and Pierce bump fists on the way back up the court KG says to the camera, "it takes five, baby." Of course Pierce is a Nike guy so this could never happen.

At 8/22/2007 2:11 AM, Blogger Mr. Six said...

Does it help the Jordan/Pippen lens for this discussion to separate Jordan from the Bulls.

Jordan was a transcendent player and arguably the player most responsible for the Bulls success, but he wasn't more central than Pip to defining the Bulls style and identity. MJ was more responsible than Pip for ensuring that the Bulls won, but Pip was more responsible for how they won.

Consider the triangle. It's a system in which one player initiates action by surveying the positions and options available to others based on their positions on the floor and how the defense is responding to them. I'm saying nothing original in pointing out that Pip was the player most responsible for initiating the action in the triangle. Jordan was the first and last option, but everything else that happened in the triangle ran through Scottie. Plus, there were his opportunistic pull-up 3s on the break, his sick tomahawks, and his post-up game. I'm leaving more out, but I think there's an argument to be made that Pip really defined the style in which the Bulls played and won.

Consider also the Bulls' defense. From 89-93, the second-half pit-bull press of Pip and MJ, backed by Grant, was a hallmark of the way the Bulls won. That attack wouldn't have existed without Jordan's strength and determination, but it arguably depended upon Pip's length and speed. From 94-96, while MJ and Harp roamed on the perimeter and Rodman defended the post (with an occasional appearance by Luc), Scottie was actually defending two players: he'd start on the wing and then sag into the lap of the post player. Again, that wouldn't have happened without his speed and length. It was essential to their defense and wouldn't have happened without him.

I think that similar things can be said about Marion. He is definitional to the Suns' defensive approach. On offense, his tip-ins, rebounding, and mid-range and 3-point shooting are essential aspects of the team's attack that others can't offer as a complete package.

What I'm not sure about is how many teams have a player who's essential to how they win, who isn't also essential to the fact that they win.

At 8/22/2007 2:25 AM, Blogger T. said...

I think a Avon Barksdale-Stringer Bell analogy is better suited.

Surely this is minimizing Ray Allen. I think he's quite a bit more than Slim Charles or Wey-Bey, no?

At 8/22/2007 2:32 AM, Blogger Mr. Six said...

Hmmm ... let me qualify that last sentence: I'm not sure how many teams have a player who's essential to how they win but isn't also responsible for ensuring that they win.

Which makes me wonder what they might be a central component to constructing a championship NBA team.


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