It’s become ‘cool’ to say the Warriors won’t win the NBA title

Ryan O'Connell Columnist

By Ryan O'Connell, Ryan O'Connell is a Roar Expert

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    In NBA circles, it’s become trendy to pick anyone but the Golden State Warriors to win this year’s NBA Championship.

    At a base level, it makes complete and utter sense, for if you’re making predictions, it’s neither bold nor interesting to say the Warriors will win the title.

    You’re not going to be given a lot of credit for doing so, because Golden State are still $1.50 favourites to take home the Larry O’Brien Trophy. Considering their vast array of talent, along with their championship pedigree, even those odds seem high.

    As such, in order to say something worthy of even a smidgen of attention, many pundits and fans have taken to picking other teams to win.

    Which is completely defendable; except when they start to justify their selection as anything other than simply being contrarian.

    By all means, pick another team because it’s boring to choose the incumbents. Most definitely pick another team if it just so happens to be the franchise you support. However, one should tread carefully using any type of rational argument as to why the Warriors shouldn’t remain the overwhelming favourites.

    They currently have a 44-14 win-loss record – the second best in the league – and sit a mere half-a-game behind the first-placed Houston Rockets. They are the defending NBA champions, and lost just one playoff game on their way to the title last year. In Kevin Durant and Steph Curry, they have two of the best four players in the world on their roster, along with two more All Stars in Klay Thompson and Draymond Green.

    Draymond Green

    Draymond Green (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

    I could go on, but you get the point: they’ve been great, they are great, they continue to be great, and the title goes through them.

    Yet in the desire to try to find a story, a number of people have been picking at the seams, attempting to find a valid reason why they will not win.

    The Warriors have lost two games to Houston this season, and that has some suggesting that the Rockets will bump them out of the playoffs.

    Though Houston have been impressive – particularly in losing just one game when James Harden, Chris Paul and Clint Capella have played together – it’s important to remember that both Harden and Paul have a history of flaming out in the playoffs, and that regular-season losses mean little to a team that has gone to three straight NBA Finals.

    The Rockets are undoubtedly a challenge, but Golden State fully deserve the sentence to be written that way: the Rockets are a ‘challenge’, rather than being even remotely close to ‘favourites’.

    On the other side of the country, Cleveland’s trade-deadline flurry of activity has re-energised their season, and given birth to the narrative that they now have a roster around LeBron James that can topple the Warriors.

    Though the moves the Cavalierss made were brilliant and the new team is undefeated, they have still only played two games together, which – needless to say – isn’t a massive sample size. The Cavs have unquestionably improved, but it remains to be seen if they’re anywhere near Golden State’s class just yet. Putting together an NBA championship roster mid-season is difficult, and somewhat unprecedented.

    Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James is defended by Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry

    AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez

    Another ‘story’ was created when Steve Kerr let some of his players coach the team against the Phoenix Suns; a game the Warriors won by 46 points.

    Though Kerr was adamant it was simply a way to keep things fresh for a team that was “tired”, it didn’t stop words like ‘arrogant’ and ‘disrespectful’ surfacing, with more than a suggestion that it showed they were complacent this season, which would eventually cost them a ring.

    In actual fact, Kerr believed his team had started to tune him out, and revealed that he believed he hadn’t “reached” them for over a month before the Suns game. That type of self-awareness is the polar opposite of complacency, and evidence that he has a good handle on the psyche of the team.

    That should scare opponents, because it’s proof the Warriors aren’t just supremely talented, they’re well-managed.

    The Warriors curiously lead the league in tech fouls and ejections, which has also fuelled talk of the team’s arrogance. To be fair, this angle does have some substance, because they definitely need to curb their chat to officials and keep their emotions more in-check, especially Draymond Green. The enigmatic forward has already got himself suspended during an NBA Finals, which was the turning point in the 2016 series loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

    It was a big enough area of concern that general manager Bob Myers addressed the team about it recently, yet if other teams are relying on tech fouls and ejections to beat the Warriors, it’s confirmation of how much better Golden State are than everyone else.

    Yes, the Rockets look dangerous, and you should never count out a team with LeBron James – particularly with an improved supporting cast. The Warriors certainly have a touch of arrogance about them, while their tech fouls issue is a legitimate concern.

    Yet, I’d stop well short of saying they’re vulnerable, complacent or ready to be dethroned.

    On the contrary, the Warriors may be better than they’ve ever been, and ready to unleash pure hell once the playoffs begin.

    Despite what some may have you believe, ‘daylight’ is still in second place behind the Golden State Warriors in the race to the 2017-18 NBA championship.

    Ryan O
    Ryan O'Connell

    Ryan is an ex-representative basketballer who shot too much, and a (very) medium pace bowler. He's been with The Roar as an expert since February 2011, has written for the Seven Network, and been a regular on ABC radio. Ryan tweets from @RyanOak.

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    The Crowd Says (43)

    • Roar Guru

      February 21st 2018 @ 9:13am
      Scott Pryde said | February 21st 2018 @ 9:13am | ! Report

      But it’s cool to pick the winner, so, Houston. Definitely Houston. This isn’t bias at all.

      • Roar Guru

        February 21st 2018 @ 10:44pm
        Rellum said | February 21st 2018 @ 10:44pm | ! Report

        It is cool to pick the winner so that is why I get to be doubly cool by correctly picking the Celtics but also not picking the warriors.

        You are wrong Scotty, very very wrong.

    • February 21st 2018 @ 9:48am
      Jerry said | February 21st 2018 @ 9:48am | ! Report

      There’s a natural instinct to support an underdog which would play into people’s preferences. Plus it’s boring to predict the favourite so people wil go for a hot take with a more catchy soundbite.

      But the Warriors are still restrictive favourites.

    • February 21st 2018 @ 12:42pm
      astro said | February 21st 2018 @ 12:42pm | ! Report

      Hit the nail on the head with: “the Warriors aren’t just supremely talented, they’re well-managed.”

      On this front, I think Kerr is such an underrated coach. I think people see his role as easy because the Warriors have so much talent, but his approach to managing the ebbs and flows of an NBA season is brilliant.

      Simmons interviewed him earlier in the season, and he basically said he expected the team to lose games in the first quarter of the season, just through being being burnt out and less engaged after the high of winning a championship. He wasn’t fazed at all. It’s refreshing to hear that kind of honesty, and a big reason the Warriors will win it all again this year.

      Only other ‘story’ to add is the ‘weak’ Warriors bench…as if Kerr is going to roll out a five man unit of Livingston, Young, Casspi, West and Bell for long stretches during the playoffs and finals!

    • February 21st 2018 @ 3:47pm
      Swampy said | February 21st 2018 @ 3:47pm | ! Report

      I’m unaware of the many people who have picked someone other than the Warriors – can you name a few (other than Scott Pryde for obvious reasons)?

      Any discussion on any forum seems to start with ‘can anyone other than golden state win the title’ followed by some genuine thought of how this could happen followed by the final statement of ‘a lot would have to go wrong for the warriors for them to lose’.

      Nothing is ever a foregone conclusion in such a long season but if there is anything to say i think some of the challengers are closer than they have been in the past.

      Now the Cavs have retooled I’m sort of excited to see them play the warriors again. If they had gone with December’s team to the Finals it would be fair to say it would have been a train wreckage with multiple fatalities…

    • February 21st 2018 @ 3:53pm
      steve said | February 21st 2018 @ 3:53pm | ! Report

      Anyone writing off the Rockets as a legitimate challenger to Golden State do so at your peril. You only have to watch a little of the Warriors to notice that they aren’t quite at the level they were last season. GSW may prevail in the end, but Houston are the real deal all the same.

      • Columnist

        February 21st 2018 @ 5:21pm
        Ryan O'Connell said | February 21st 2018 @ 5:21pm | ! Report

        Harden and Paul have major question marks over their playoff performances. Regular season greatness matters little once the playoffs start. Don’t get me wrong, I think Houston are the real deal too, but they have way more question marks over them than the Dubs.

        • February 25th 2018 @ 7:20am
          Mushi said | February 25th 2018 @ 7:20am | ! Report

          But are they legitimate question marks, or are they the same narrative ones that ignored team mates contributions, the opposition and/or injury.

          You know, because there were Questions about lebron and Durant. Dirk didn’t have “it”. Nor did Shaq or KG. A guy with the same initials as a Peter Parker love interest copped flak on his game not being how you win a championship.

          Every quality player who is yet to win get’s their game “questioned”.

          • Columnist

            February 26th 2018 @ 11:19am
            Ryan O'Connell said | February 26th 2018 @ 11:19am | ! Report

            I think the question marks on James Harden are extremely legitimate. He’s had numerous playoff games where he has been pretty poor, and the narrative has basically been built based upon those.

            The Chris Paul ones, I think are a bit harsh. Actually, very harsh. There was that infamous meltdown against the Thunder that everyone remembers (a couple of turnovers and fouling a Rusty 3 pointer), but everyone is allowed one bad period of play, and everyone has.

            • February 26th 2018 @ 2:18pm
              express34texas said | February 26th 2018 @ 2:18pm | ! Report

              Paul has had a much longer career than Harden, and still hasn’t made 1 CF. Small players just don’t lead teams to titles, this is very rare and the few times it’s happened, their teams have been loaded. Paul is small for his position even.

              Paul’s had several good chances and has only made it to the 2nd round. Harden was OKC’s 2nd best player in the 2012 WCF, being a key contributor to them making the Finals, and led his team to 1 WCF with HOU. Plus, Paul’s best chances weren’t against a team as great as GS has been since 2015.

              James had even greater question marks. For some reason, after being up 2-1 vs BOS in 2010, he just stopped competing hard in that series. Then, he got outplayed by Jason Terry in the 2011 Finals and quit again. Harden’s not reaching James’ status obviously, and there is question marks about Harden, but this is the first year I’d he even has a chance of winning. Very few players didn’t have question marks either.

              • February 26th 2018 @ 4:09pm
                Swampy said | February 26th 2018 @ 4:09pm | ! Report

                Steph Curry a giant then?

                John Stockton.

                Gary Payton.

                Jason Kidd.

                Steve Nash.

                Derrick Rose.

                Kevin Johnson.

                Isaiah Thomas.

              • February 27th 2018 @ 4:59am
                express34texas said | February 27th 2018 @ 4:59am | ! Report

                What is this list, Swampy?

                Curry was the best player overall on 2015 GS, but similar to a lot of smaller players, he wears down almost every year in the playoffs, and was only the 3rd best player in the Finals that year. He also had a ridiculously stacked team, and without Finals MVP Iggy playing awesome(also coming off the bench-which shows just how great GS was), GS doesn’t win.

                Most of those other great PGs you mentioned didn’t win titles, and Nash/Rose never made the Finals. Stockton/Payton/Johnson weren’t the best players on their Finals’ teams.

                Kidd led the Nets to 2 Finals with 52 and 49 wins, which would’ve put them in the #5 and #7 spots in the West for the playoffs. They would’ve struggled just to win 1 round in the West. And then Kidd was a full-out role player when 2011 DAL won.

                Isiah Thomas is probably the only small who was an elite player(maybe Curry fits in here, too, a little bit) to really lead a team to a title, and again, his DET teams were stacked when he did it.

                Small players can be best players on very good/potentially great teams, but leading them to titles is another thing.

              • February 27th 2018 @ 5:16pm
                Swampy said | February 27th 2018 @ 5:16pm | ! Report

                Point being there has many great small players who have lead teams to conference finals and finals. Hall of famers. Discounting Curry’s achievements on some SW bias is ridiculous. Jason Kidd’s teams made the Finals because they had Jason Kidd.

                I could have thrown in Tony Parker as well.

                It doesn’t matter who their team mates are – Jordan couldn’t get over the hump without really good players around him and a HOFer. No one deducts points from him because he had Pippen, Rodman, Grant and co next to him.

                All teams that win titles have to be loaded – name a team other than the Billups Detroit that wasn’t loaded since 1980?

                Currently GSW and Houston are loaded. So is Cleveland. Even OKC and Minny have great first fives.

                The best player in the league right now is Anthony Davis but can he carry his team to a title? Probably has less chance than Chris Paul or Kyrie Irving. You need the pieces around you.

                Even LeBron can’t drag a team to a title on his own.

                This season it looks like Houston has those pieces. GSW still has the best pieces so they are rightly favourites.

              • February 28th 2018 @ 6:18am
                express34texas said | February 28th 2018 @ 6:18am | ! Report

                I actually said small players can lead good teams, but we rarely see them lead teams to titles.

                I’m not discounting Curry, but perspective is needed. Delly was giving him loads of trouble early in the 2015 Finals. He was just the 3rd best player in those Finals, and GS was so stacked the Finals MVP came off the bench.

                Kidd did well, but those Nets teams weren’t great teams. They were lucky to be in the much weaker East or else they would’ve been gone by the 2nd round at best if in the West. Once they got to the Finals, they were no match. Kidd was a distant 3rd best player in the 2002 Finals, and a distant 2nd best player in the 2003 Finals.

                Not sure what you’re saying about Parker. He’s always had Duncan, and was no better than a borderline top 10 player at his best. Duncan was still clearly SA’s best player in 2007. And then Duncan/Kawhi in 2014. Hard to say who the best Spur was that year, definitely a team effort, and Parker wasn’t exactly leading his team like we usually see with elite players. Kawhi outplayed James in games 3, 4 and 5.

                Everyone needs some help obviously, but we almost never see a small player leading title teams, not much debate on that. Thomas in 89/90, Billups maybe best player on 04 DET(Wallace would have something say), and then Curry in 2015, that’s it. When 04 DET won, it was basically 5 on 2. More of a team effort from DET, and Billups was clearly not an elite player either, similar to many seasons with SA once Duncan slowed down.

                1995 HOU was only a 6 seed. 06 MIA weren’t that great. Kobe didn’t have that great casts of 09/10. LAL basically played only 6-7 players. Pau was just a 1x AS and 0-12 in the playoffs over 7 seasons in MEM. 2011 DAL played solid, but certainly not loaded.

                What we usually see in the playoffs if both teams are remotely even in ability is the team with the best player winning. Size matters a lot in the nba.

                HOU is deep, but I wouldn’t say loaded, and they only have 1 AS with Paul being borderline. They still can’t compare to GS. You’re right about OKC, which is why I wonder about RW. He’s a great player, but doesn’t seem capable of leading a team to a title. Heck, neither was Durant. Look at all those great OKC teams he had. He’s the best player on GS now, but he basically plays on an AS team now.

                Most people love Paul, but he’s had great teams most of his career, and could never make even 1 WCF. He’s similar to Nash. Nash played with loaded teams most of his career, and never made 1 Finals. Making it to the CF or even Finals is great and possibly doable, but actually winning the title almost never happens for teams that have a small as their best player. If BOS wants to win, Irving can’t be their best player.

              • February 28th 2018 @ 6:05pm
                Swampy said | February 28th 2018 @ 6:05pm | ! Report

                With regards to Bill Parker Jr, he won the Finals MVP in 07 – so technically he did lead the Spurs to the title.

                Look it is hard to win a title leading a team regardless of who you are or how big you are. Obviously being taller is a huge advantage in basketball. There are few cases of individuals winning titles. It is not restricted to small guys.

                Chris Paul had a good starting five around him for a bit but health of the team and a rubbish bench didn’t help. His team in NO wasn’t ever great.

                Nash had a so so team that he made better. Shawn Marion made a motsa from Nash. Nash only ever had one true all-star next to him and that was Amare for only a short period.

                Curry wasn’t great in his first finals but he was reasonable in the 2nd one and really good in the third.

                We’ll see in the wash up this year but most of the best teams are currently lead by guards other than Cleveland.

                Might be one for the ages hey?

              • March 2nd 2018 @ 4:31am
                express34texas said | March 2nd 2018 @ 4:31am | ! Report

                So, you think winning Finals MVP equates to leading a team to a title? Ok then. But, then by that logic, you can’t claim Curry led GS to a title. Can’t have it both ways.

                And yes, smalls can play great at times, but like I keep saying, winning titles is an entirely different thing.

                And, please. Paul and Nash each had great casts for several years. Nash wasn’t even the best player on DAL, and they flamed out in the 1st round in 2004. Marion did fine before Nash joined him, and made the AS team before him. Just not true what you’re saying about Marion. Stoudemire averaged 37/10 in the 2005 WCF. That team also had AS Marion, and future perennial AS Joe Johnson on it. That’s quite a bit of help. Nash played with multiple AS on multiple teams, and never made the Finals once. Most of those teams were hardly ‘so-so’ teams. Heck, even in 2010, the 2nd unit for PHO was outplaying LAL’s starters at times. You can’t say he didn’t have a lot of help. In the series Nash/Paul lost, I can’t really remember them ever being the best player in those particular series, and they were each certainly never the best player in the nba.

                Small players aren’t leading any of the top teams this year, except for Irving in BOS. Harden is a mid-size player like Jordan, Kobe, and Irving. KD leads GS. James is more or less a big. DeRozan is a mid-size player. BOS/TOR have almost no chance either. It’s between GS, HOU, and CLE, unless some really strange things happen.

              • March 2nd 2018 @ 11:33pm
                Swampy said | March 2nd 2018 @ 11:33pm | ! Report

                Probably need to re-read the chain properly Tex. You wouldn’t be any good at interpreting contracts.

                Regardless, Nash was a 2-time MVP. Why bring up Dallas – he was basically a rookie there and playing behind Jason Kidd.

                Did you refer to Irving as mid-size like Harden, Kobe and Jordan? He’s 6’3″ in shoes.

                Nice mention of DeRozan but if you ask any Raptors fan, they don’t tick without Lowry.

                Again with the Curry bashing – Durant leads GSW. Does he? He might well be their best player but I would say Curry is their leader. I personally am annoyed by curry and his silly dances but he has been a revolutionary player in the nba. Also a 2-time MVP.

                Still, you miss the overall point. You say no small player can lead a team to a title. But I say no single player can lead a team to a title. You need team mates, big and small, to help. LeBron didn’t win in Cleveland in his first go because he had a cast of minor parts (though he dragged them a long way).

                I have one more name for you. Shoot me down by all means. Allen Iverson. He somehow dragged possibly the worst supporting cast ever to the finals (& even managed to win a game on his own). I’ve stood next to AI and I’m 5’11” and I reckon I had a good two inches on him (in height).

                Take that for data!

              • Columnist

                March 2nd 2018 @ 12:33pm
                Ryan O'Connell said | March 2nd 2018 @ 12:33pm | ! Report

                Just jumping in here, Nash was the best player in a number of series he lost, especially a few against the Spurs.

                And he won back-to-back MVPs, so the “he was never the best player in the league” arguement is a little flimsy.

                Personally, I think you can definitely win the championship if your best player is 6’3” or under. But you’re not doing it alone, just as no one else of ANY height isn’t doing it alone.

              • March 2nd 2018 @ 1:53pm
                Jerry said | March 2nd 2018 @ 1:53pm | ! Report

                Just to clarify something – Paul isn’t borderline All Star. Him missing out this year is one of the biggest snubs in NBA history IMO.

                He’s a better player than at least half of the players selected, IMO.

              • March 3rd 2018 @ 4:46am
                express34texas said | March 3rd 2018 @ 4:46am | ! Report

                Swampy, more like you need to re-read. You’re saying Parker led SA to a title in 2007, which I’ve never heard before(that was clearly still Duncan’s team), just because he won Finals MVP. But, then you’re saying Curry led GS to a title in 2015(which I’d agree), but he didn’t win Finals MVP. You really can’t see the flaw in your logic here? And not sure where I’m bashing Curry, you’re reading into things a bit. Curry is a great player.

                Nash was 29 in his last season in 2004 with DAL(in his prime), his 8th year in the league, not exactly his rookie season. He then basically has the same stats except an increase in assists due to uptempo style in PHO in 2005.

                I seriously doubt Irving is 6-3, he looks much shorter. Even if he is, he’s much smaller/weaker than Harden. Harden is super strong and can actually defend bigs in the post sometimes. Irving is injury prone too, which is due at least partially to his smaller frame.

                Nice mention of Lowry, I can’t remember the last time he was considered TOR’s best player. Obviously TOR needs both of them to have a chance. Neither elite players.

                I’m not missing the point. I started this discussion about small players, and now you’ve changed the parameters. And for the record, clearly no single player can lead a team to a title, I’m not disagreeing with that. Lots of players, including smalls, are the best players on good teams, but we almost never see smalls leading their particular teams to titles. It’s very rare.

                So saying KD is the best player on GS is Curry bashing? You need to chill and quit reading into things. KD is clearly GS best player. Maybe Curry is the supposed leader, I could care less, but KD is the best player.

                When did Iverson lead a team to a title? That’s the whole premise of what I’m saying. And look at the teams he beat in the East to reach the Finals. Not exactly great teams. He should’ve led his team to the Finals, since he was the best player in the East that year.

                And since you say no single player can win. Then, how did 2001 PHI win 56 games if Iverson had no support?

              • March 3rd 2018 @ 8:17am
                Swampy said | March 3rd 2018 @ 8:17am | ! Report

                You can’t have your argument two ways. Either Parker lead his team to the 2007 title because he was recognised as the best player in the finals or Duncan was the team leader. If you consider Duncan was the team leader in your opinion then it is perfectly fair to point out curry is also the team leader of Golden State and has hence lead them to two titles. So whichever side you want to argue there is a recent case history of a small leading his team to a title.

                Not sure what you have against Nash. He was clearly a great player who made others around him much better. Perhaps you need to re-watch the spurs series 2007 (& how the Suns were absolutely cheated by the suspensions for game 7). The sun’s were the best team in the nba that season and just imagine if Robert Horry attempted the assault he did on Nash in today’s league!

                For the record I’m not a Suns fan. I used to be a big Sonics supporter (you know – Gary Payton who lead the sonics to the finals against MJ) & haven’t followed a team since.

              • March 6th 2018 @ 2:54am
                express34texas said | March 6th 2018 @ 2:54am | ! Report

                Swampy, you continue to see the flaw in your logic. I’m not the one saying whoever wins Finals MVP means they’re their team’s best player, that’s you. I don’t consider Iggy the best player on 2015 GS. But, if you think Parker was 2007 SA’s best player because he won Finals MVP, then you can’t say Curry was 2015 GS’s best player. Please think this through more. I’ve never heard anyone think Parker was the 2007 SA’s best player let alone their leader. Have you? Parker didn’t even make 3rd team all-nba in 2007. Duncan was 1st team all-nba and 1st team all-defense in 2007.

                I’ll say it again, Nash had multiple AS teammates on multiple teams and never made 1 Finals. Think about that a little and all the help he had. Most love him which is why he gets a pass often for that. If he was the best player in the series he lost with PHO, I could see your point a little, but he wasn’t, and often not even the 2nd best player in those series losses. PHO wasn’t robbed in 2007. Their bench players made a bad mistake, that’s their own fault going onto the court

              • March 6th 2018 @ 3:13am
                express34texas said | March 6th 2018 @ 3:13am | ! Report

                Ryan, believe what you want about MVP voting. But, I think it’s pretty foolish to think Nash winning as many MVPs Shaq/Kobe combined doesn’t make nba historians scratch their head all day long. Just like Iverson wasn’t better than Shaq in 2001, there’s endless examples. And I’m still waiting to hear what times Nash was the best player in the series loss he had with PHO. If he’s truly the MVP(2x), then he needed to play like it, and I certainly didn’t see that.

                Bad luck? Really? That’s a pretty simple copout explanation, especially with lots of years of evidence saying otherwise.. DAL gets better without Nash, and pretty much makes the Finals immediately after he leaves. In all of his series losses, guys like Dirk, Duncan, and Kobe are substantially outplaying Nash, and Stoudemire is outplaying Nash at times, too. That’s a lot of years of bad luck. At some point, I expect the MVP to play like the MVP, but I guess you don’t. He played with great players most of his career, can’t say he didn’t have a lot of help.

                Back to the height argument. NBA history doesn’t backup your theory of height not mattering. There’s a reason tall people play and are better at basketball. We have Thomas leading DET 2X, maybe you could say Billups for 2004 DET though that was more of a team effort and Billups was never an elite player, and then Curry in 2015, though we’re seeing Curry wear down a lot in the playoffs(which his smaller size causes some of that), only be 3rd best player in the Finals, and needing bench player Iggy to be the best player in the Finals. That’s 4x in 68 years of the NBA. Maybe Wade should be included 1x, too, but I still thought that was Shaq’s team.Do you honestly think if someone like James was 6-1, that he’d be anywhere near as good as he is?

              • Columnist

                March 6th 2018 @ 2:07pm
                Ryan O'Connell said | March 6th 2018 @ 2:07pm | ! Report

                Winning the MVP would suggest you were the best player in the league that year. Yes, journos get get caught upon narratives, and yes it doesn’t mean you’re the best player in the NBA – but it says you were the best player for THAT season.

                No one (I don’t think!) thinks Nash is a better player than Shaq and Kobe, but for that one (two, actually) seasons, he was deemed to have a better season. You can argue with it, but that’s how the vote went.

                Nash was excellent in the 2007 Western Conference Semi-Finals versus San Antonio Spurs. Was he the best player in the series? Not sure. I don’t want to rely on memory.

                Yes, I would say the Suns players getting suspended after the Horry hip check is unlucky. Yes, I would say Artest putting an air ball offensive rebound back in to clinch the series is unlucky. Yes, I would say breaking his nose is unlucky.

                Is he any unluckier than other players? Probably not, but he certainly was prevented from making some Finals due to bad luck.

                Can we clarify what a “small player” is? Give me some parameters here. Because if segment heights to 6’0″ to 6’3″, 6’4″ to 6’7″, 6’8″ to 6’11’, 7’0″ to 7’3″, I wonder if the breakdown of best plater on each champion will work out to be roughly equal?

              • March 7th 2018 @ 9:55am
                express34texas said | March 7th 2018 @ 9:55am | ! Report

                I agree winning MVP ‘suggests’ you are the best player for the ‘regular season’ for that particular season; however, it’s a highly subjective award voted on by non-experts(journalists), and often the wrong guy wins. Nash goes from a distant 2nd best player on 2004 DAL in his prime at best losing badly in 1st round to suddenly the MVP the next year with only slight stat improvements, which are the result of a system. Huh?

                Nash was deemed the hypothetical ‘best player’ by journalists who mostly voted for him because he was a ‘good story.’ In hindsight, he clearly didn’t elevate his team more than several other players did, and we now know his MVPs were bogus. He was never a better all-around player as guys like KG, Dirk, Duncan, and Kobe, and that’s just the West. Like I said before, if he’s truly the MVP and playing with a great cast, he should be making not just 1 Finals, but several.

                Nash was usually good in the playoffs while with PHO, but so were several other guys on his own team in each series as well other guys on opposing teams. I wouldn’t say he was ever the best player in each of his 3 playoff series in 2006, and that’s just looking at the offense side. Factor in defense, no chance.

                Nash was very good in 2007 vs SA, but it’s really hard to put him better than 3rd best player in that series, and that’s probably very generous given his defensive ineptness.

                You could say similar ‘unlucky’ things about almost any player. The great players make their own luck, too. Nash wasn’t even close to the best player in 2010 WCF either, plus that game still goes to OT if Artest doesn’t make that shot. To reverse things, how about how lucky Nash was in game 6 vs LAL in 2006 1st round? He misses a late wide-open 3 to tie game in final seconds, but needs Tim Thomas to bail him out. LAL was 1 defensive rebound away from winning series with a garbage roster.

                There’s no set parameters for ‘small’ players probably. Height and weight both matter. I’d think we know what a small player, obviously has to be a guard, likely no taller than 6-4. Wade is borderline, so maybe. Unless I’m missing something, there’s only 4-5 title teams ever being led by small players. Usually it’s big players, at least 6-8 or taller, with occasional mid-size guys usually great on both ends of the court breaking through.

                Thomas wasn’t even an all-league player in 1989 or 1990 and never a real MVP candidate. His title teams were stacked. Magic was also hurt in 1989 Finals. Billups was never an elite player, had a great cast, and LAL was suffering major injuries by the Finals. These special situations for these 2. Curry was great in 2015, but he had by far the best cast in the league and was only the 3rd best player in the Finals. He didn’t play like the best player in the league in the playoffs.

              • Columnist

                March 7th 2018 @ 5:41pm
                Ryan O'Connell said | March 7th 2018 @ 5:41pm | ! Report

                I just think it’s dangerous grouping the best players into 6-3 and under, versus everyone else. That’s not a fair comparison, as you haven’t segmented the height evenly. The ‘short’ guys are disadvantaged from a data perspective: it’s them versus the field.

                If you grouped the best players on championship teams into:
                6’3” and under
                6’4’ to 6’7”
                6’8’ to 6’10”
                6’11” to 7’3”

                And then looked at the most recent data set (last ten years), you’d have these individuals:
                2017 – Durant – 6’10”
                2016 – LeBron – 6’8”
                2015 – Curry – 6’3”
                2014 – Kawhi – 6’7”
                2013 – LeBron – 6’8”
                2012 – LeBron – 6’8”
                2011 – Dirk – 7’0”
                2010 – Kobe – 6’6”
                2009 – Kobe – 6’6”
                2008 – Pierce 6’8” (though you’d could argue Garnett was probably the best player at 6’11”)

                So that’s:
                1x 6’3” and under
                3x 6’4” to 6’7”
                5x 6’8” to 6’10”
                1x 6’11” to 7’3”

                By your rationale, super big guys don’t lead their teams to championships in recent years, right? There’s only 1 or 2 outliers.

                (I know ten years is a smaller sample size than all of history, but the game has also changed dramatically in the last 5 or so years. Big guys aren’t as dominant as they used to be. It probably also highlights you can cut the data any way you want to “prove” your own narrative! Haha)

              • March 8th 2018 @ 4:44am
                express34texas said | March 8th 2018 @ 4:44am | ! Report

                That’s not what I’m doing at all. And I’m looking at the every title team in history, not just the last 10 years. But, just looking at the last 10 years highly supports what I’m saying that size matters a lot. This isn’t a new concept either.

                What you’re saying about the game changing lately might be true, but then we should see more smaller guys leading title teams, which we aren’t. There’s a lack of great centers today(which has little to do with how the game has recently changed or not), but there’s more quality large mid-size players or PFs today, so there’s still lots of quality bigs out there.

                Look at RW, for example. He’s a great player, but made only 1 Finals with KD, and needed Harden, too, then. And now so far as his team’s undisputed #1 option, he’s won 1 playoff game combined in 2 seasons(2015, 2017). Already talked about Paul/Nash. They were each regarded as the league’s top player for a time by many, and had several years of quality casts, but neither have made the Finals.

                There’s actually just 3 groupings of players: smalls, mid-size, and bigs. Usually, there’s a big leading a title team. KD is listed 6-9 at bkref, but there’s reports of him being 7-0, and I never hear him being shorter than 6-11. James might be 6-8, which is a large mid-size, but he’s more-or-less a big, too. Kawhi emerged in the playoffs in 2014, but he wasn’t really SA’s best player and not even in AS that year either. That title team was more of a ‘team’ than any one individual though.

                The mid-size players breaking through usually are large mid-size players bordering on bigs like Bird/Magic/James. There’s very few instances when true mid-size players really excel like Kobe/Jordan continuously. Dr. J even never won an NBA title. I can’t think of any dominant center in NBA history that didn’t go on to win titles. There isn’t anyone who fits that category today though. Cousins might be the best center today and puts up great stats, but that’s about it and he’s a headcase.

                Rarely do we see a title team not have an elite(top 5-6ish) player. And even rarer do we see a title team’s top player not excelling in the Finals. This is the recipe for success more than anything else. It’s not just size alone, but size definitely helps. If KD was only 6-3, he’d probably still be very good, but nowhere near his current status.

                Not sure about anyone on 2008 BOS fitting this, but Pierce/KG were close, and that team was stacked. Nobody was close to elite on 2014 SA, but again, more of a team thing, and Kawhi really emerged in the Finals outplaying James. Curry is the outlier here. Other than KD in 2017 joining Curry and maybe 2008 BOS, Curry had by far the best cast of any recent title team. Overall, he did well in 2015 Finals, but had a ton of help and needed Iggy outplaying James as well.

                Except for maybe Wade/Curry, whenever we see a small leading a title team, it’s either a down year in the NBA and/or that player isn’t really an elite player. The years Thomas/Billups won titles, neither of them even made 3rd team all-nba. This is very aytpical. This wasn’t a one-guy leading a team thing, but more of a team concept. And 2004 LAL was injury ridden and depleted. Magic was hobbled in 1989 Finals, too. Special circumstances are also usually needed.

                Weird comment about narrative, especially since the evidence highly supports what I’m saying. There’s a reason tall/big people play basketball.

              • Columnist

                March 8th 2018 @ 8:00am
                Ryan O'Connell said | March 8th 2018 @ 8:00am | ! Report

                Your original comment was “Small players just don’t lead teams to titles, this is very rare and the few times it’s happened, their teams have been loaded.” The data backs up this comment, so it’s hard to argue, but I think it’s also a touch simplistic, because I think there are additional reasons other than height that some of the great point guards we’ve spoken about, haven’t won titles.

                As such, I won’t be counting any great small player to win the title this year, especially with the way the game has changed.

                Couple of other points:
                – Curry led the Warriors to the 2015 title. You simply can’t argue this. Just because he had a couple of rough games in the Finals does not change that.
                – Dr J did win an NBA title, in 1983.
                – I wouldn’t read a lot into Isiah not making an All-NBA teams the year he won title. He had previously made 5 All NBA teams, he was unquestionably the best player on this title teams, and was definitely the leader. Don’t denigrate his 89 ring by saying Magic was hobbled, because you could add asterisks to everyone’s titles if you really wanted to. Isiah was a great, great player.

              • March 8th 2018 @ 3:35pm
                express34texas said | March 8th 2018 @ 3:35pm | ! Report

                Sure, there’s always other reasons to anything, but when we have 4-5 instances out of almost 70 years, that’s pretty glaring, and several of those times the players aren’t playing like elite players, which is rare for any title team.

                Also, the only small in NBA history to be considered amongst the top elite(top 15ish) is West. There’s a few mid-size players in there, but mostly bigs. It’s a ‘big’ league.

                I can’t remember a time when the truly best player in the league was a small. Curry won 2 MVPs, but nobody’s taking him over James or KD. He just happened to be the best player on the best team, which was a great story, and he’s a media darling. Once KD joined GS, we clearly see who’s better between them. Very rarely do we not see the truly elite players not leading teams to titles. In recent memory, we have Kobe, James, Duncan, and Shaq really standing out. Throw in Dirk, KG, KD, and maybe Wade. All of these guys sustained themselves at the top of the game for many years. Nash/Paul, to name 2 guys, clearly don’t fit in here.

                I don’t know what you mean by ‘the way the game has changed,’ but it seems to be easier for smaller perimeter guys to excel with some of the recent rule changes.

                I didn’t argue that Curry wasn’t the best player on 2015 GS, but we need perspective. His cast was ridiculously great and easily the best cast in the league that year. He also was just the 3rd best player in the Finals and wears down regularly in the playoffs. He was an elite player that year, but given similar casts to James or KD, Curry’s not winning.

                Dr. J did win, but wasn’t the best player on that title team. He had a few great runs in the ABA though.

                Nobody’s saying Thomas wasn’t the best player on his DET title teams, but he was never a serious MVP candidate during his career, and no longer even an all-nba performer in 1989 or 1990, even on very successful teams which usually helps your case to make all-nba teams. He gets credit as the best player on 2 title teams, but his teams were stacked. Jordan was greatly superior to him in the ECF. Dumars was outplaying him at times, too. He had Rodman coming off the bench often, too. I’d say better than Billups or Wallace, whoever you like for 2004 DET, but again, none of these guys were true elite or MVP-candidate players. Someone has to be deemed ‘best player’ on these title teams though, but definitely not your typical ‘best player on a title team.’ And not denigrating anything, but when the opposing team’s best player was substantially hobbled and who is normally much better than you, it deserves mentioning.

            • March 3rd 2018 @ 5:00am
              express34texas said | March 3rd 2018 @ 5:00am | ! Report

              Ryan, which times was Nash the best player on teams that lost in the playoffs, particularly in the PHO’s heyday from 2005-08. He wasn’t even PHO’s best player in their 2005 loss to SA. Dirk was better in 2006. At best, he was 3rd best player in 2007 series loss to SA. Maybe 4th best player in 2008 series loss to SA. He didn’t make playoffs in 2009. He was clearly not the best player in 2010 series to LAL.

              Winning MVP certainly doesn’t equate to ‘best player in league.’ Maybe some believe that, but I don’t. Nash was never better than Kobe or Duncan, for example. There’s weird agendas/opinions or a great story on who deserves MVP often. If Nash was truly the best player in the league playing with multiple AS teammates at multiple stops, but yet never made the Finals even once, that doesn’t add up. And DAL improved once he left, too.

              You can win titles being a small, I’ve never said you couldn’t. And we’ve seen it a few times. But, what should be obvious, is that it’s much harder and almost never happens. And the best players on title teams are almost always bigs or at least mid-size players, and usually these players are great on both ends of the court. Nash/Paul are media darlings, but I’m not surprised either came close to winning a title, especially Nash, since he didn’t concern himself much on defense.

              Jerry, Paul is playing great, but he’s missed 18 games. He would’ve made the AS team in the East, but I don’t know who you take out from the West team for him. He’s also not better than Griffin, and Griffin didn’t make it ether.

              • March 3rd 2018 @ 9:29am
                Jerry said | March 3rd 2018 @ 9:29am | ! Report

                He is better than Griffin, Green & Thompson and has played only 4 less games than Steph Curry and you can’t tell me he wouldn’t have been selected even if he’d not been voted as a starter.

              • Columnist

                March 3rd 2018 @ 11:08am
                Ryan O'Connell said | March 3rd 2018 @ 11:08am | ! Report

                “Winning MVP certainly doesn’t equate to being the best player in the league”.

                I can see what you’re getting at here, but it sounds very foolish.

                I’d say bad luck prevented Nash from not making a Finals, but really, this arguement is coming down to opinion and selective use of stats/accomplishments. I don’t think we’ll come to common ground.

                I think your best players height has little to nothing to do with winning the title. You think the opposite.

              • March 3rd 2018 @ 11:17am
                Swampy said | March 3rd 2018 @ 11:17am | ! Report

                I concur Ryan.

                I guess we are all welcome to our opinions. This is what the site is for.

              • Columnist

                March 3rd 2018 @ 11:19am
                Ryan O'Connell said | March 3rd 2018 @ 11:19am | ! Report

                But, as ever and always, I’m right.

      • March 2nd 2018 @ 1:03pm
        jim said | March 2nd 2018 @ 1:03pm | ! Report

        I cant believe you think the Rockets can win a title with Harden, but the Celtics cant win with Irving, because one is 5cms taller than the other.

        By that logic, Jordan would never have led the Bulls to single championship, had he been 5cms shorter. Correct?

        • March 3rd 2018 @ 5:07am
          express34texas said | March 3rd 2018 @ 5:07am | ! Report

          Jim, read everything first. I never said just because you’re a certain size, you can’t win titles. HOU looks much better than BOS right now, and the most likeliest team to beat GS, if possible, which is what I’m hearing from people, too. BOS has a fighter’s chance, but I have a hard time seeing them beating CLE, and then even if they do, they’d likely have to beat TOR in the ECF, which TOR would have homecourt advantage likely. If you think they do, then great, I’d be happy with BOS could make the Finals.

          I’m sure Jordan could’ve won being 6-1. If Thomas won 2x with DET, then I’m sure Jordan wins with CHI. Size matter a lot in the nba, though. If Thomas was 6-6 like Jordan, he would’ve been a much better player, and vice versa. But, do you really think Jordan would’ve won 6 titles if he was 6-1? You all need to look at nba history. Look at who the best player was on each title team. They’re almost always big players, and then there’s some instances of mid-size players, and very few instances of small players(which special circumstances are always needed).

    • Roar Rookie

      February 21st 2018 @ 5:25pm
      Marc Princi said | February 21st 2018 @ 5:25pm | ! Report

      Absolutely agree. People are getting excited about the fact that the Warriors have lost twice to their biggest rival. The Warriors are a whole different animal in the playoffs. Houston, Cleveland and Boston have a shot, but they’re going to fall short.

      • February 22nd 2018 @ 5:02am
        express34texas said | February 22nd 2018 @ 5:02am | ! Report

        Actually regular season greatness is a great indicator of playoff success. Almost never does the champ not come from a top regular season team. HOU is 1 of 4 teams that are top 10 in the league in offense and defense along with TOR, OKC, and GS. Only 3 teams have point differentials higher than +3.5, and all 3 are above +8 actually(HOU, GS, and TOR) with HOU leading the way. This stat has historically been a great indicator for playoff success. There’s more to it than that obviously, but hard to see the champ not coming from 1 of these 3, but the East lacks any truly great team. James is the best player in the East and has another great cast, meaning CLE probably wins the East, and then it’s just 1 more series. If the WCF winner is banged up, then who knows. BOS has almost no chance. They’ll have a tough 1st round matchup, then have to likely beat CLE and TOR, just to reach the Finals. And then GS or HOU? No way.

        KD and RW had/have huge question marks, too. Both have been top 5ish players for many years now, to go along with a solid cast around them for years, and only made 1 Finals appearance, which they needed another likely future MVP(Harden) to do so. RW as ‘the man’ has missed the playoffs in 2015, and won 1 playoff game in 2017. I seriously doubt GS doesn’t win a title last year if you replace KD with RW or Harden.

        Harden’s had a bit of a mixed bag as the man in HOU, but he’s never played with anyone close to as good as KD or RW there. He’s had some stinker games, but overall has played well in the playoffs. Against GS in the 2015 WCF, he stunk in 2 games, but was the best player in the other 3 games. The difference was that Curry’s cast was much better. This is probably the first year where his cast is good enough where he even has a chance to beat GS. GS is absolutely the favorites, but they definitely look much worse than last year(though still looking great) while HOU looks much improved.

        • February 22nd 2018 @ 6:54pm
          Ryan OConnell said | February 22nd 2018 @ 6:54pm | ! Report

          Golden State look “much worse”?! Hyperbole much?

          • February 23rd 2018 @ 10:39am
            Mushi said | February 23rd 2018 @ 10:39am | ! Report

            He does say v last year and (still looking great)

            Last year they were Zues this year they look more like Achilles. Much worse…

            But still odds on to win any contest versus the best that mere mortals can summon.

            There is a sliver of hope for the challengers this year. You can see, though you wouldn’t bet on it, a couple of teams if they wax when GSW materially wanes they could take a series in 7.

            Last year it felt like only two serious injuries combined with a LeBromination in the finals would level the playing field. (cue spurs fans extrapolating one half and making out that Leonard was far more influential than any player in history)

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