Can a 6'3 player lead a team to an NBA title?

It sounds like a stupid question, but a quick glance back through history, and it isn't as dumb as you think.

Here's a look at the unequivocally best players on championship teams in the past 30 years. I'm leaving off teams that had several good players where it was really difficult to determine who was the best:

PG: Isiah, Magic
SG: Jordan, Kobe, Wade
SF: Bird
PF: Dirk
C: Duncan, Shaq, Hakeem, Moses

First, it's worth noting that there are very few players capable of becoming an unequivocally best player on a championship team, and they account for the vast almost every championship in the past 30 seasons.

The Detroit Pistons in 2004 is the only team without one of these players on it, though several of these players won titles where they weren't unequivocally the best as well [Kobe's 5th ring, was he really better than Gasol? Was Duncan better than Parker in the 4th title? etc..]

Taking a look back at the past 30 years or so, Isiah Thomas represents the only shorter player on the list. The two dominant positions are shooting guard and center. Dirk and Magic (two of the exceptions) have the height to legitimately play a larger position than where they played [same is true of Duncan if you argue him as a PF].

It appears that in the balance between size, speed, and place on the court, typically the shooting guard and center maximize those qualities moreso than other positions [though LeBron is certainly a potential exception at SF].

Most teams have multiple large, athletic wing defenders to throw at an athletic point guard in waves to keep them off their game. There simply exists a fairly large pool of athletic 6'4 to 6'6 guys out there. Such players can keep up with a smaller player in bursts and use their size to defend.

Most teams do not have a couple of 6'7-6'9 guys like that to try and overwhelm a Kobe Bryant or Michael Jordan. At best, their ultra athletic wing defenders are merely the same size, and thus they don't have any true advantage. As such, winning as an elite smaller player is almost always a more difficult task.

Does this mean Derrick Rose can't win a title as the best player on a team? Absolutely not. The Chicago Bulls were not that far off from winning the title last season. The same team would have multiple finals appearances and probably at least one ring if it were together for the previous five to seven seasons in the weak East.

However, the quality of Miami's squad combined with the athleticism of their perimeter players [Wade and LeBron] mean that it will be very challenging for Rose.

It might also be the case that Rose needs a legitimate star to play next to him. Of the above champion's list, the vast majority of those teams were made up of at least two perennial all-stars, and only Hakeem won a title with a second best player worse than the second best player on the Bulls.

Derrick Rose has yet to play a season with a second true all-star even if it could be argued that the overall depth of talent with him is as good as some of those other squads.

Championship teams come together in many ways. I think with the Bulls present talent base combined with the long term assets acquired by management [Charlotte pick, Mirotic] means that the Bulls should have an excellent chance of competing now as well as reloading later.

It may take some internal growth, it may take one final trade, but I think over the next eight years, it does get done, at least once, with Derrick Rose as your NBA Finals MVP.


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  • The question is was Rose more hyped(there is no question he is a super-talent with super-athleticism and mentality to improve and win) by the media clamoring for the Bulls to find the next MJ in terms of impact or is he really that? There have been lots of players with super talent and athleticism where the franchises built around them and hoped their talent with the right complementary pieces will get them multiple championships. After 4-6 years, the reality finally dawns upon those franchises that they might get close like an ECF/WCF once but will always come up with short with this kind of guy(Vince Carter, Garnett in Min, Allen Iverson etc..

  • In reply to schaumburgfan:

    I guess it depends too. Were those players always coming up short because it wasn't possible to build a title around them or did they come up short because those teams never built anything around them?

    Look at the talent Carter, Garnett, and Iverson played with, and it's no surprise their teams fell short.

  • I like the optimism, Doug. It's weird how Isiah Thomas is the guy that we sort of can look to as a model for building a team around an elite PG. A Chicago PG at that.

  • In reply to HINrichPolice:

    So all we need to do is find the best rebounder in league history as well as DPOY and we've got a championship? Using Detroit as a model doesn't sound like optimism to me, it sounds hard to live up to.

  • In reply to Shakes:

    Dwight Howard!!

  • In reply to Shakes:

    Forget about comparing player by player to Detroit, the Bulls are one of the best rebounding teams as well as one of the best defensive teams.

    I think they do need to get more perimeter offense.

  • Two words about the PGs on the list: Kareem and Rodman. Of course it's possible for a PG to win if they have a big who is a hall of famer. Somehow I don't think Boozer or Noah are quite up to that level. I mean really, does anyone doubt if the Bulls could swap Boozer or Noah for Kareem or Rodman (when they were winning titles, not now as old men!) that they would have been favourites to win this year?

    But really it's unfair to just pick on the PG position. It's not like SG or SFs have done it on their own either. Elite bigs matter. Other than the first Bulls three-peat you have to go all the way back to 1975 to find a championship team that didn't have a HOF big (assuming Shaq, Duncan, KG, Gasol and Ben Wallace are future hall of famers, which I think is a safe bet).

  • In reply to Shakes:

    I don't think swapping either for Rodman would really make a notable difference at all. The Bulls didn't lose to Miami by lacking anything Rodman provides.

    Of course swapping in Kareem would make a huge difference.

  • "Other than the first Bulls three-peat?" That's a pretty big "other than." And Rodman is "a big" all of a sudden?

    I think the Bulls 6 championships prove you don't need a big. You need rebounding, hustle, and "enforcement" (if you know what I mean) but who doesn't need that? Indeed, MJ basically re-wrote the rules on this himself. Pre-MJ was a different league. There are lots of ways to win. But not without true players.

  • Doug what team is Nikola Mirotic playing for this summer? I heard Spain, but I looked on the roster and he wasn't on there.

  • Rose as compared to Isiah? Isiah as much as I disliked him was a true leader both in clutch play and vocal leadership. Derrick has more offensive talent as a scorer, but as a PG/passer Isiah appears to be by far the better performer at this point. Leadership wise I'm not sure how much of a natural leader Derrick is.That doesn't mean with a mutli talented offensive roster(Laimbeer, Vinnie, Joe, James Edwards) Derrick couldn't do a tremendous job at point, but still not the natural talent/HOF point skills of Isiah. And as he grows/matures he could become a much better vocal leader, but probably more so by example - excelling at winning in the playoffs his words will be followed naturally charismatic or not.

    The Bulls based on this year's playoffs I'd say have a ways to go despite staying close with confused/newly thrown together, no depth Miami. I may be wrong, but I think Dallas would have eaten them alive. Jo has fallen far in my view as a second or even third best player on a winning team he appeared to be in past playoffs and particulalry last season/November. Who else do they have even? And will Thibs be team/player developing/winning coach? My guess is as 30 years as an assistant that's probably where he belongs. But if Jo and Thibs prove the skeptics wrong, and they add a disgruntled, fan averse rebuilding newly owned franchise outgoing Joe Johnson, and a still valuable two way Prince then maybe they win it all with Taj and Omer rising as the team's level of play does i,e they appear to be winners/character guys.

  • I agree with you on Noah, Asik and Taj . We have three young players who are pretty good but not elite and have a lot of holes in their game. If somehow one of them get to a "higher" level of play like Noah draining his jumper consistently or Taj developing some muscle and developing a post-game/consistent jumper or Asik developing any kind of offense/jump-shot....the Bulls will become regular contenders for the next 6/7 years.
    Unless, something drastic happens in the CBA, I doubt Atlanta will trade Joe Johnson for cheap. If Atlanta screw up again next year and with Joe Johnson being older, Atlanta might dump him in 2012-13 season.

  • Since everytime that I try to use the reply button this site shuts down my browser, I have to respond in the comments section.

    First off, Doug, thanks for taking my suggestion and doing a post on whether you can win with a 6'2" point guard as your best player.

    Second, before I respond to that, Rodman would have made this Bulls team nearly unbeatable, because he would guard the other teams best player and take him out of the game, mentally and physically.

    Who do you think would have guarded Lebron? I guarantee you that Rodman would have punked Lebron into blowing his cool and either getting tossed or just plain quiting at least 2-3 games out of the series. I think that makes all the difference in the world.

    The difference between Rodman and Boozer is so substantial that even if Rodman never scores a point the Bulls come out far ahead in the final score. Rodman is a singularly unique talent in the history of the game, and a HOF'er, Boozer is a clown and a malingerer. Rodman is at his best in crunch time, Bozo is at his best at circus time.

    Rodman would easily be the second best player on this Bulls team, and the only other keeper in any trade scenario. With Rodman we could then legitimately trade the entire rest of the team for Howard and be championship favorites. Nevermind that Rodman and Noah would be an unstopable combo as both defenders and rebounders.

    Finally, I have always contended that Rose was likely most comparable to Isaiah Thomas, if not quite the pure point or leader that he was, at least not yet, but he can get there. As much as I disliked him, Isaiah is in the argument for best little man ever. Hopefully Rose will be right up there with him.

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    The quick answer is "Yes." But as others have posted here, Rose would have to have the right pieces around him. The Bulls would either have to: 1) Add a star-caliber player (preferably at SG) that is willing to defer to Rose as the leader on the floor; or 2) A significant if not star-caliber upgrade at more than one position. And in either scenario, the Bulls CANNOT sacrifice too much defense in those acquisitions.

    Two other much less likely scenarios that could push the Bulls over the top are: 1) exponential offensive improvement from a player currently on the roster - Asik and Taj have the best chance at type of improvement; or 2) New draft pick Jimmy Butler taking the NBA by complete surprise and becoming the "missing piece" the Bulls need on the perimeter. Again, both of these scenarios are not very likely.

  • In reply to Major Stewart:

    Is this thing on???

  • Even if Rose improves as much as he has over the last 2 offseasons, he'll still need an upgrade in the offensive production of the players around him.

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    Doug...who did Islaiah, Duncan, Dirk or Malone win a ring with that was better than Pippen? Doctor J was on his last leg by then, and, therefore, can't be counted...are you that much of a Pippen hater? Kareem I'll give you, Worthy no...Shaq/Kobe of course...McHale, sure, but not by a landslide by any means...David Robinson, yeah, Ginobli/Parker, gimmie a break...

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