Q&A: Super teams aren't super for NBA

BY foxsports • July 15, 2010

Out of necessity to compete, do you expect the league to have more "super teams" now after the Miami restructuring? If so, is this bad for the league?— Brent Lew, Hampton, VA

Despite the NBA’s official claim to the contrary (issued because they could do nothing to rectify the situation) LeBron, D-Wade and Chris Bosh definitely colluded to join forces. As you say, the easy way to compete is to have other star-quality players follow suit — and this will certainly be the case from now on.

There are several reasons why this is and will be bad for the league:

• Several teams will practically give away good players for second-round draft choices with the sole aim of clearing cap space. This will leave little money for the teams that do sign tandems of stars to fill their rosters with capable complementary players.

• Only those teams with the appropriate financial resources coupled with attractive urban environments will be able to attract top-tier free agents. This will lead to four or five teams battling for championships, four or five wannabes, and the other 20 or so franchises stuck in the mud.

• The bottom teams will therefore lose money at an astounding rate.

• No more parity. A diminishing of truly competitive regular-season games.

• With teams abandoning 5-man concepts on offense in lieu of playing 3-man games, Nellie Ball will conquer the NBA!

• As a result, young hooplings will be less team-oriented than they are now.

• In other words, the NBA would have a much brighter future if the Heat fail to cop the championship next year.

As a longtime Cleveland resident (53 years) I am interested in your thoughts about LeBron's legacy with the Cavs. I never thought that Michael Jordan's cast of teammates (exception — Scottie Pippen) were world beaters. Michael made the likes of Will Perdue, B.J. Armstong, Scott Williams — heck, even Steve Kerr — into world champion teammates. I have to think that Jordan could have willed the current cast of Cavaliers to a championship by the sheer force of his leadership and play alone. Your thoughts? — Steven Pap, Cleveland

MJ certainly wouldn’t have dilly-dallied through Games 5 and 6 of the Boston series as LeBron did. Instead, Jordan would have played with fire in his eyes. As I wrote at the time, James played as though his bags were already packed. What was most telling about LBJ’s shameful performance was how he reacted when his last game with Cleveland was terminated: smiling and buoyant as he glad-handed the victorious Celtics.

In other words, LeBron had other things on his mind than winning the series. Jordan, on the other hand, was always totally focused on winning.
For sure, Mike Brown shares some of the blame for LBJ’s ultimate failures in Cleveland, just as Phil Jackson shares some of the credit for MJ’s success in Chicago.

However, there’s another crucial difference between MJ and LBJ: Once Jordan respected his teammates' effort, he was able to play to their specific strengths when necessary. But, no matter with whom he happened to share court time, LeBron always played his own game.

Despite their obvious flaws, had MJ theoretically been given the company of Shaq (even in his dotage), Mo Williams, Antawn Jamison, Anthony Parker and Anderson Varejao, his own supreme talents, focus, demand for excellence and contagious intensity would indeed have compelled the Cavs to at least one championship.

If five Carmelo Anthonys were to play LeBron James-times-five in a 7-game series, who do you think would win? Danial Hyde, Toronto, ON

Thanks for the fun question!

Team LeBron would have the obvious edge in strength, handling and passing.

Team Melo’s clearest advantages would be perimeter shooting, creating makeable shots everywhere in the attack zone, and post-up scoring.

The desire to empty their respective tanks in pursuit of a must-win is still lacking in both individuals.

While neither player/team is outstanding defensively, in several games during Denver’s 2009 series versus the Lakers, Anthony played truly exceptional defense against Kobe. The point is that Melo potentially has the greater defensive chops.

In any event, each team would easily score 150+ points per game.

The prospective coaches would be critical, but if left to their own devices, I’d go with Team Melo in six games due to Anthony’s offensive versatility.

Since the big news out of Miami, a friend and I have been engaged in a constant argument. My belief is that the Heat would be far superior with Rodman rather than Bosh. My buddy laughed, thought I was joking and said, "No way. Bosh is way better because he is a more all-round player." What is your take on this debate? Cheers. Martin, Newmarket, Canada

I agree with you.

With LeBron, D-Wade and even Mike Miller, the Heat have sufficient scoring to be successful. In any event, Bosh will only get leftover shots. What Miami needs is defense and rebounding and Rodman would be a perfect fit.

As much as he may be wacko off the court, D-Rod could run, jump, execute, play brilliantly without the ball, compete, and also defend like a gigantic spider.

Substitute Rodman in his prime for Bosh and the Heat would match up better against the Lakers than they do now.

Which player would you prefer to have on your team, Charles Barkley or Elgin Baylor? Robert Bennett

Actually, neither.

Baylor had unsurpassed numbers all across the board, but he was an atrocious defender. Tom Van Ardsdale, for example, always looked forward to playing against Baylor. “I once scored 41 against Baylor. He couldn’t guard his own shadow.”

Baylor was also a lackadaisical practice player who reduced intra-squad scrimmages to exercises in futility. Plus, he hated to run and would hold on to the defensive rebounds he captured long enough to obviate any fast breaks (where someone else could shoot instead of him).

At the start of the 1971-72 season, the Lakers were 6-3 when Baylor was told to either retire or become a bench-player. The Lakers won the game after he did retire, and won 32 more games in a row before losing.

Barkley shot too much, missed too often, but was a superb offensive rebounder (mostly because put-backs were easy points). He could play superior defense, but only when he so desired — which was rarely. Worst of all, Barkley was a locker room lawyer (especially when he was in Houston) and a divisive force.

If I had to pick one of these guys, I guess it would be Barkley. But I’d only do so under the condition that as soon as he stepped of the court he’d have to wear a gag.

Would you kindly analyze Al Jefferson’s game and how he might fit in Utah? Rik Mayer, Salt Lake City, UT

Jefferson has post-up moves to spare — spins, duck-unders, fadeaways, jump hooks — and given enough touches and enough space he’s definitely a reliable 20-plus ppg scorer. However, most of his moves result in his taking shots while leaning away from the basket. So, for a post-up scorer, he doesn’t get to the free-throw line (about 4 shots per game throughout his career) as much as he should.

AJ is also a capable rebounder, although he’s much more aggressive on the offensive glass.

However, his defense is downright awful, he is always reluctant to pass, and those passes that he deigns to throw are usually off-target. Plus, he absolutely demands the ball and gets angry when he doesn’t get at least 30 touches every game.

He’s selfish, undisciplined, chronically out of game-shape, and unpopular with his coaches and his teammates.

Fitting into Jerry Sloan’s unselfish, extremely disciplined system will be difficult for Jefferson. Unless the trade — the second of his young career — has forced Jefferson to reevaluate his mind set and his game plan, expect continual confrontations in Utah.

Sloan, of course, will never back down. Don’t be surprised, then, if Jefferson spends more time on the bench then he’s used to. Will this improve the young man’s attitude? Or increase his malcontent?

I’d bet that Sloan can eventually get him to see the light.

Why are Phil Jackson's teams so bad at defending against the screen/roll? It has to be systematic rather than simply blaming it on the personnel and today's selfish players. Is it because his teams use a triangle offense and never get to defend against a typical S/R offense in practice and are unable to develop on-the-job chops for it? B.S., Houston, TX

The triangle offense frequently utilizes S/Rs. In fact, one significant reason why the Lakers beat the Pacers in the 2000 Finals was the efficiency of the 5-3 (Shaq-Kobe) high S/R. So there’s plenty of practice time spent on this.

The blame should fall on the Lakers' personnel. After all, the Bulls routinely jammed up S/Rs. Too many of the Lakers were simply too defensively unsophisticated to adequately defend this tactic. Their instincts were wrong, they got easily confused and made the wrong choices, they weren’t strong enough to absorb the contact, or they were too wide to slip through narrow spaces.

Also, as the Boston series progressed, the Lakers' S/R defense greatly improved. The most common scenario for all of Jackson’s teams in the playoffs is to play 3-5 games while getting familiar with the offensive tendencies and rhythms of their opponents — and making gradual adjustments as the games proceed. By Games 6 and 7 last June, the Lakers knew how to reduce the effectiveness of the specific way that the Celtics ran their S/Rs.