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View Full Version : Bill Simmons Power Poll: Contenders and Non- Contenders



D Roses Bulls
04-08-2011, 08:28 PM
Pretty good read......


NBA Power Poll: The contenders: http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/page2/story?page=simmons/110408&sportCat=nba

NBA Power Poll: Non-contenders: http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/page2/story?page=simmons/110401&sportCat=nba


THE OLD GUARD

5. Boston
This could be 450 words or 45,000. I will spare you -- we'll go for 450. Just know that I can't remember another deadline deal knocking a team from "favorites" to "also-rans." There's no historical precedent. The trade undermined everything the Celtics were about: size, toughness, togetherness, chemistry, friendship, relationships ... it erased their identity Jason Bourne-style. Whether it was true or not, this particular Celtics team really did believe in the whole "nobody has ever beaten us in a series when we had our starting five" mantra, just like they believed in "ubuntu" and their ability to protect that aforementioned six feet at all times. Well, how do you preach "ubuntu" after you just blindsided one of your core guys in a trade that didn't totally need to happen? So it's conditional ubuntu?

The more I watch this Celtics team, the more I realized that they were overachieving those first 3 months because of chemistry and swagger. Watching Chicago rough them up Thursday was pretty depressing. Keith Bogans pushed Ray Allen around like a rag doll. Kurt Thomas and Glen Davis fell into a heap, then Thomas jumped up and stood over Davis like he had just tripped him in a prison cafeteria and wanted to send him a message before they both got sent to the hole. Joakim Noah pranced around and did Noah things knowing that everyone had his back. With 20 seconds left in a blowout, Carlos Boozer got tangled with Nenad Krstic and decided to shove him six feet, got called for a foul, then stared him down before sauntering back to his bench and being greeted by smiling teammates. Honestly, it was like watching a deleted Cobra Kai scene. The trade was bad enough -- watching my team get punked out on national TV was something else. That game made me ill. So does the trade. I don't know what the Celtics are anymore, and neither do they.

One more thing: Every Celtics fan is in "last year, we wrote them off and we made the Finals" mode. Which is fine. That's what you do when you're grieving. You make excuses. Just know that ...

A. The 2011 Bulls are better than any 2010 Eastern team. There's no comparison, actually. All season long I've been watching them with the same frightened look that Mickey had during Clubber Lang's fights in the beginning if "Rocky 3."

B. The odds of the 2011 Celtics getting a gift on the level of WTHHTLBJBG3G6 (Whatever The Hell Happened To LeBron James Between Game 3 and Game 6) are about 100-to-1. Miracles don't happen twice.

4. San Antonio
Another team that can't protect that six feet. And the Spurs know it.

For the record, Gregg Popovich gets the "Coach of the Year" vote that I don't have. That's a pretty quirky Spurs roster. A few years ago, I gave Steve Nash my 2007 MVP vote because that Suns roster was specifically tailored to him: it was an exquisite, ridiculously powerful race car that only one driver could have handled. This Spurs team was more like a beautiful, slightly broken-down sailboat sailing across the Atlantic -- it needed a skipper who had done the trip a few times, understood his boat completely, could make a few on-the-fly fixes if anything happened, clicked with his crew completely, and wouldn't panic if water ever started spurting from the deck. The way Popp managed everyone's minutes, juggled his rotation, coaxed a decent season from an aging Duncan, quelled the Tony Parker/Brent Barry fiasco, worked in his young guys, landed that 1-seed and kept his team intact for the playoffs was nothing short of spectacular. I just don't think they can beat the Lakers or Bulls.

(But if Oklahoma City can beat the Lakers, and one of the Eastern contenders can take down the Bulls ... )

THE VILLAIN

3. Miami
I know computer programs are spitting out LeBron's numbers as evidence that he's the leading MVP candidate, but how can anyone watch Miami for six straight months and come to the conclusion that LeBron was even 0.00000000001 percent more important to Miami than Wade? I wrote about their Michael Eisner/Frank Wells conundrum after Game 2, and really, they never settled it. They turned into Franchel Wellsner. LeBron has been a little more consistent; Wade has been a little more of a leader; and during crunch-time, they still haven't totally figured out anything beyond the Dueling Banjos routine. If you want to argue for co-MVPs, I'm fine with that -- that's what probably should have happened in 1970 (Reed and Frazier), 1972 (West and Wilt) and 2006 (Shaq and Wade). These guys are playing three-on-five every night and it's been kind of amazing to watch: when you factor in Haslem's injury, Mike Miller's ongoing struggles and the other jabronies, there's simply no way the Heat should have won more than 55 games with that pulsating bull's eye on their backs every night. I don't know how they stayed healthy. I don't know how they didn't implode. I don't know how Wade and LeBron stayed so patient with Bosh, who just wasn't ready for any of this. So it WAS an achievement, and if we were allowed to pick co-MVPs, I would. But picking one of them? Come on.

One more thing: I was looking forward to a Celtics-Heat playoff series for so many reasons, but mainly because it was a battle for everything I ever believed about basketball. Hell, it was the premise of my entire NBA book: that there was more to basketball than just a bunch of individually talented dudes playing together, that the concept of "team" mattered, that structure beat chaos, that there were ways to evaluate players beyond statistics, that there was a "secret" to all of this. Miami tried to cheat that structure and my Celtics were going to make them pay.

Then, the Perkins trade happened. If the Celtics can't fend off the Heat, it's up to ...

THE FAVORITES

2. Chicago Bulls
... a team that's been practicing that secret all season. Guys like Luol Deng and Joakim Noah might not be able to sell tickets, but you can win titles with them because they don't care about anything other than doing what it takes to win. Someone like Brian Scalabrine might not matter historically, but he's one of the greatest, most supportive guys you could ever have on your bench. Someone like Thomas might seem like a journeyman center, but he'd fight anyone who messed with any of his teammates. Someone like Boozer might not be worth $70 million, but it's hard to find guys who can grind out 20-10s every night and not take it personally if they don't touch the ball in the final three minutes of close games. Someone like Rose might not seem any more or less special statistically than the other MVP candidates, but when your best player buys into everything your coach is selling, plays hard for every minute of every game, doesn't care about his own numbers, stays humble and does whatever it takes to win from night to night, how could he not be considered "valuable?"

To be honest, this is probably one of those years when there wasn't totally a most valuable player (like 2005 and 2007, actually). Sadly, we can't roll the trophy over like it's a skins match and make next year's award count for two. We have to hand it out. The case against Rose is twofold:

A. Chicago's MVP has been its tenacious defense (not Rose). That's fine except for the part that every true contender assumes the personality of its best player. Russell's Celtics won 11 of 13 titles because he cared about winning more than anyone ever ... until Jordan, whose teams won six titles because he cared about winning more than anyone other than Russell. Bird's Celtics teams assumed his personality; they were all terrified of letting him down. Magic's Lakers teams assumed his personality; carefree in those early years, then more and more hardcore as the years passed. Duncan's Spurs teams reflected him and his coach: cerebral, classy, competitive in the cleanest way. Kobe's best quality these past three years has been that he's gotten Gasol, Bynum and Odom (three guys who, mentally, could have gone either way) to care about competing as much as he does. This is what great players do.

So for anyone to say that Rose -- who's stuck in fifth gear for every minute of every game, to the point that Chicago's biggest concern might be that he doesn't have an extra gear for the playoffs -- doesn't directly affect Chicago's defense is insane. Have you ever been to an NBA practice? Earlier this year, I went to an Oklahoma City practice and was stunned to see Durant and Westbrook going full-speed through every drill like it was Game 7 of the playoffs. I asked Scotty Brooks about it afterward; he smiled and said something like, "When your best players care that much, everything else falls into place." That's what happened in Chicago with Rose. He sets the tone day after day after day; everyone else eventually fell into place. When your best player cares that much, it's contagious.

B. Speaking of advanced metrics, if you're using them to make the case against Rose, I submit the following two lines:

Player A: 27.2 PPG, 10.1 RPG, 4.2 APG, 54% FG, 76% FT, 28.4 PER, 16.6 WS, 60% TS%, 1st-team All-Defense.

Player B: 29.2 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 3.8 APG, 48% FG, 81% FT, 26.3 PER, 17.1 WS, 55% TS%, 1st-team All-Defense.

Who was better? It's close, but you picked Player A, right? Well ... those were the combined numbers for Karl Malone and Michael Jordan during the 1997 and 1998 regular seasons. You just picked Malone. Thank you and please drive through.

Anyway, advanced metrics weaken Rose's MVP case but don't murder it. Unlike LeBron the past two years, he isn't a sure thing. That's fine. Just consider these other two points ...

Rose carries his team's offense more than anyone else carries their team's offense. He's the Bulls' only player who can create his own shot, and he's their only player who can create shots for others. Night after night after night, he walked onto the court knowing that Chicago's entire offense hinged on how he played. His usage (32.4 percent) and assist (39.4 percent) rates tell some of the story; in crunch-time per 48 minutes, he's averaged the second-most field goal attempts, the eighth-most free throw attempts and the ninth-highest assists (nobody else made the top-15 for all three categories, much less the top-10). The dude does everything for Chicago offensively, a little like Iverson on the 2001 Sixers (the year he finished with the sixth-highest usage rate ever and Philly somehow made the Finals, anyway). In my opinion, when you're doing everything, you should get a little statistical slack. You might have to take one or two shots per half that you shouldn't take, just because nobody else will take them. In crunch-time, the degree of difficulty ratchets up because the other team knows it's up to you, and you alone. You have to account for these things. That's why I love basketball so much: it's objective and subjective.

Rose keeping the Bulls in contention for three-plus months when Boozer and Noah missed significant time was the most impressive thing I witnessed this season. Their quest for a No. 1 seed should have derailed in November, when Boozer missed a brutal seven-game Western road swing (including Dallas, San Antonio, Phoenix and Los Angeles) plus games in Boston and Oklahoma City ... and yet, they emerged from a potential disaster at 9-6 (with Rose averaging a 28-8-5). Just when they were coming together, their defensive anchor (Noah) went down for two months ... Rose kept everything humming. (As a Celtics fan, I kept looking at the standings every morning thinking, "Jeez, they won't go away ... .") They finally had a full team when they were 35-14; they're 23-6 since. A one-seed. Phenomenal.

I will remember the 2010-11 season for LeBron and Wade, for Blake Griffin, for the dumb Celtics trade, and for how hard Derrick Rose played every night. He willed the Bulls to a No. 1 seed. Unfortunately, we don't have an advanced metric to quantify that specific achievement -- just a primitive, overrated statistic called "wins." I guess we'll have to make due. Derrick Rose, you're my 2010-11 MVP.

Last note: On paper, the Bulls are the best team right now. They proved it Thursday night -- that was a final exam and they aced it. Just don't forget the lessons of the 1990 Bulls, 2000 Lakers, 2008 Celtics and every other team that looked great heading into April, then found out that winning in the playoffs was a slightly different animal. The energy is different. The crowds are louder. The media ten-tuples in size. The pressure can suffocate the weaker links on the team, and sometimes, even the best guys. The games come one after another, and if you get into the wrong groove, you can't get out of it. You get tight. You question who you are. You hit a couple of low points, then glance around wondering who might step up and not totally knowing if anyone will. The playoffs exacerbate every quality you have, good and bad. You just never know how a team will respond until they're responding. I believe in this Bulls team ... but it's the playoffs, and you just never know.

1. L.A. Lakers
The favorites until someone takes them down. Obviously. But one thing has been lost in the shuffle because there was so much else going on: if the Lakers win three in a row, that puts them on a whole other level historically. Here are all the NBA teams that won three straight:

Minneapolis: 1952-54
Boston: 1959-66
Chicago: 1991-93
Chicago: 1996-98
LA Lakers: 2000-02

That's a pretty insane list. Minneapolis had Mikan, the first great center. Boston had Russell, Auerbach and the greatest collection of talent ever assembled on one team. The 1991-93 Bulls had the greatest player ever at the peak of his powers; the 1996-98 Bulls had Jordan and Pippen dominating an expansion-diluted league. And the 2000-02 Lakers had Shaq (the dominant center of his era) and Kobe (who would eventually become one of the 10 best players ever).

It's really, really, REALLY hard for me to believe that the 2009-11 Lakers are 16 wins away from joining that group. But I think they will. L.A. over Chicago in six. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go wander into traffic.

ManRam
04-08-2011, 09:13 PM
Such a Laker hater and a Celtic homer ;)

I still maintain that this man, no matter how gimmicky he is at times, is one of the smartest basketball minds in the media.

I agree with this list completely. That's my exact top 5.


I also love what he wrote about the Bulls. Gives the props to the defense first and foremost, without ripping of Rose. :clap:


Glad he called the Celtics trade "dumb". Wish Bags was here to tell me we're all wrong. We aren't.


Someone said it last night on TNT...but if the Lakers don't win it all this year, they underachieved. I agree. They're the clear best team. Bynum has been a complete non-factor in the playoffs the last two years...and now he's a legit defensive and rebounding force. That's just crazy. Throw in the fact that Blake and Barnes are better than Farmar and Sasha and this team is crazy.

Without Perk, Boston can't beat them. Chicago might be able to with their defense, but I don't think they can score enough. Miami doesn't have a good enough bench or supporting cast. They're a year or two aware. Orlando has regressed. It's LA's year.

I love Billy...

still1ballin
04-08-2011, 09:24 PM
I would love to see Lakers Bulls finals. No better way for Phil to leave with a series win against the Bulls

RZZZA
04-08-2011, 09:27 PM
I would love to see Lakers Bulls finals. No better way for Phil to leave with a series win against the Bulls

I think you mean, no better way for the Bulls to win their first championship since the 90's than to beat Phil Jackson ;)

still1ballin
04-08-2011, 09:37 PM
I think you mean, no better way for the Bulls to win their first championship since the 90's than to beat Phil Jackson ;)


:laugh2:

Regardless who wins, it will be epic!

RZZZA
04-08-2011, 09:38 PM
indeed. I think Bulls fans have a lot of respect for the lakers and vice versa

Draco
04-08-2011, 09:42 PM
I think you mean, no better way for the Bulls to win their first championship since the 90's than to beat Phil Jackson ;)

That would nicely mirror their 90/91 season.

Slimsim
04-08-2011, 09:47 PM
Bulls are Scary and might win it all this year.

Draco
04-08-2011, 09:56 PM
Joakim Noah pranced around and did Noah things knowing that everyone had his back.

...and for how hard Derrick Rose played every night. He willed the Bulls to a No. 1 seed. Unfortunately, we don't have an advanced metric to quantify that specific achievement -- just a primitive, overrated statistic called "wins." I guess we'll have to make due.

lol

Flojo
04-08-2011, 09:58 PM
List, and the order seems pretty accurate. I certainly hope that its a Lakers-Bulls Finals. I'd throw a whole paycheck in for some tickets.

RZZZA
04-08-2011, 10:04 PM
Noah doesn't prance! he frolics.

Young and Stupid
04-08-2011, 10:05 PM
Without Perk, Boston can't beat them.

Disagree. I think people are really overlooking Shaq's ability to turn it on come playoff-time; he's lost a significant amount of weight and -- despite the recent setback, in the form of a calf-injury -- he's ready to go. I'm of the belief that Celtics fans are going to be pleasantly surprised by O'neal's production in the playoffs; he won't admit it -- actually he will and has -- but he cares about matching Kobe's ring count.

I think when it's all said and done, the Perkins-trade will benefit both sides; the Thunder needed that interior defender and playoff-tested attitude and the Celtics could afford to let him go because of their staple of bigs, with Green looming as one of the key players that will bridge the gap between the "ubuntu" era and the one that follows. We'll see.

The Jokemaker
04-08-2011, 10:15 PM
Solid rankings, no real disagreements. I hope the Lakers win it all this season.

tredigs
04-08-2011, 10:16 PM
Disagree. I think people are really overlooking Shaq's ability to turn it on come playoff-time; he's lost a significant amount of weight and -- despite the recent setback, in the form of a calf-injury -- he's ready to go. I'm of the belief that Celtics fans are going to be pleasantly surprised by O'neal's production in the playoffs; he won't admit it -- actually he will and has -- but he cares about matching Kobe's ring count.

I think when it's all said and done, the Perkins-trade will benefit both sides; the Thunder needed that interior defender and playoff-tested attitude and the Celtics could afford to let him go because of their staple of bigs, with Green looming as one of the key players that will bridge the gap between the "ubuntu" era and the one that follows. We'll see.

Although I'm not quite as confident in Shaq's ability to stay on the court throughout the entire playoffs as you are - it IS possible - and if he's near full health against the Bulls then they're still my favorites in the East. That's a team of playoff ****ing GAMERS against a squad with very little experience. I'd take Boston. And frankly, I think Simmons knows this in the back of his head but is too scared of jinxes (seriously) to put it on paper just yet. He wants to see a glimmer of it before he gets back behind his team full bore.

Solid/fun article by Simmons as usual though.

Emperor Kobe
04-08-2011, 10:18 PM
Pretty good read......


NBA Power Poll: The contenders: http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/page2/story?page=simmons/110408&sportCat=nba

NBA Power Poll: Non-contenders: http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/page2/story?page=simmons/110401&sportCat=nba

The MVP award is such a joke. Kobe only has one says more about the idiots who vote for it than Kobe's ability. Rose will get it,we've been hearing that craps since the begining of the season, Rose will get it but still won't get a ring.....3peat, just deal with it.:clap::clap:

RZZZA
04-08-2011, 10:19 PM
The MVP award is such a joke. Kobe only has one says more about the idiots who vote for it than Kobe's ability. Rose will get it,we've been hearing that craps since the begining of the season, Rose will get it but still won't get a ring.....3peat, just deal with it.:clap::clap:

We'll see...

There's no shame in losing to the best in the finals. If Bulls give it their all and play a good competitive series against the Lakers and lose, thats not the worst thing that could happen. Bulls weren't even expected to make it this far.

GREATNESS ONE
04-08-2011, 10:23 PM
hahahah wow Bill Simmons took the Lakers ! I agree with this list except, I have OKC at the 4th spot. That team is scary good and like the Bulls up and coming fast.

This is going to be a very entertaining Playoffs !!! I can't wait !

cmellofan15
04-08-2011, 10:38 PM
Knicks are winning it all, they're scary good.

Sportfan
04-08-2011, 10:40 PM
Say what you want, I still think the Heat get their **** together and go all the way. Coming from a C's fan

PurpleJesus28
04-08-2011, 10:44 PM
i really enjoy reading bill simmons articles, say what you want about him, but he's one hell of a writer. agree with a lot of points too - atlanta, D12, Bulls (;)). agree with RZZA too, got a lot of respect for the Lakers. used to hate em, specially Kobe. after watching that ESPN special (last year? 2 years ago?) that spike lee did about Kobe, i gained a world of respect for him. don't think its possible for any chicago fan to despise Phil. Lakers/Bulls championship would be epic.

theheatles
04-08-2011, 10:49 PM
Say what you want, I still think the Heat get their **** together and go all the way. Coming from a C's fan

:clap:

jzero
04-08-2011, 10:56 PM
ehh all this trash talk is pointless until a team gets eliminated
for all we know kobe, rose, the big 3, the other big 3 etc could all get injured
then who?
i wud love for philly to win then :D

ManRam
04-09-2011, 01:53 PM
Disagree. I think people are really overlooking Shaq's ability to turn it on come playoff-time; he's lost a significant amount of weight and -- despite the recent setback, in the form of a calf-injury -- he's ready to go. I'm of the belief that Celtics fans are going to be pleasantly surprised by O'neal's production in the playoffs; he won't admit it -- actually he will and has -- but he cares about matching Kobe's ring count.

I think when it's all said and done, the Perkins-trade will benefit both sides; the Thunder needed that interior defender and playoff-tested attitude and the Celtics could afford to let him go because of their staple of bigs, with Green looming as one of the key players that will bridge the gap between the "ubuntu" era and the one that follows. We'll see.

Well, I don't think you can count on him being healthy, and I don't think you can count on him really logging a ton of minutes. Just look at last year's playoffs...he only played like 20 minutes a game. I don't he can top that by much. Perk was just a rock down low for them. I just feel that if they couldn't get past them last year, they aren't doing it this year when LA essentially has gotten SO much bigger (Bynum is actually relevant) and Boston has gotten a good about weaker up front.

We'll see. I'd prefer them to win over LA, I just think that with Howard in the East, and Chicago and LA's size, it wasn't a move they needed to make.

JordansBulls
04-09-2011, 05:43 PM
Bulls vs Thunder would be epic.

BALLER R
04-09-2011, 05:49 PM
I think you mean, no better way for the Bulls to win their first championship since the 90's than to beat Phil Jackson ;)

either way the history behind he would make for a great ending