If the NBA didn’t desire money, they would just scrap the regular season and skip right to the Finals that fans already see coming. The Oklahoma City Thunder vs. The Chicago Bulls.
Everyone believes that the NBA Finals is a foregone conclusion. That we’re just wasting eight months until the inevitable Finals matchup. I agree.
We’re a week into the season and it’s already clear that these are the two best teams in the league. There are only six undefeated teams in the league right now; it’s no surprise that the Thunder and Bulls are two of them. Chicago has the highest scoring offense in the league. Oklahoma City ranks third in the West. How are they getting it done?
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Easy. They’re not jump shooting teams.
Oct 30, 2016; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder center Steven Adams (12) dunks the ball against the Los Angeles Lakers during the second quarter at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports
For years Charles Barkley has said, “jump shooting teams don’t win championships, Ernie.” And until the Golden State Warriors caught every break in the book two years ago, he was right. Last year, things got back to normal as the Cleveland Cavaliers showed you need attacking athletes and a down low presence to defeat teams that rely on jump shots.
The Thunder and the Bulls can’t shoot. Steven Adams might be the best shooter in either teams starting line-up. But that’s fine, because jump shooting teams don’t win titles. For years OKC tried to win with Kevin Durant, one of the greatest shooters in NBA history, and look where that got them. Meanwhile, the Bulls tried to win with, well, I’m not exactly sure what they were trying to do but it was rarely good.
Now, both teams realize that shooting means nothing.
It doesn’t matter. Because all six guys know that to win games, you need to lower your head and get to the basket. You need to get into the paint, create some contact, and get easy lay-ups, dunks, and bunnies. If you need to shoot, you’re only shooting so your big man can pick up the offensive rebound and get the easy put back. Oklahoma City is the second best rebounding team in the league. Chicago is third.
Both teams were expertly built. While other teams just want to jack up threes and take low percentage shots, the Thunder and the Bulls understand that you don’t win like that. You win with 2-10 foot shots or missed jump shots and rebounds.
Just look at history. LeBron James is a terrible shooter, but he’s been in the Finals every year since 2010. Wade was with him for four of those Finals appearances. The Spurs won with Tim Duncan. The Lakers won with Shaquille O’Neal and then Pau Gasol. The Rockets won with Hakeem Olajuwon. Michael Jordan was a scorer, not a shooter.
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This isn’t to say that teams don’t need shooters. You obviously need someone around to make shots throughout the game. You just don’t need a whole team of them. OKC has Anthony Morrow and Kyle Singler. Chicago has Doug McDermott and Nikola Mitortic. They each provide spacing that allows the scorers to get easier baskets, and if they happen to hit a couple of three’s, that’s just a bonus.
Think about this. The Bulls went out and acquired Michael Carter-Williams prior to the season. OKC acquired Joffrey Lauvergne. When everyone said that both teams needed more shooting if they were going to compete, they went out and got the opposite of shooting. The Bulls got another passer to get the ball inside and the Thunder got another rebounder to clean up the misses.
We’re destined for a Bulls vs. Thunder Finals. The quicker the NBA accepts this and cancels the rest of the regular season and the first three rounds of the playoffs, the quicker we can all move on with our lives and stop freaking out over the first three games of the season.