This is a copy cat league, and the San Antonio Spurs just ripped through it with a whole lot of depth but not a lot of stars. The Miami Heat recently won back to back titles with multiple stars and not a lot of depth. What's the best way to win a title?
First, I'd like to dispel the myth that the Spurs were really a star team because of their big three which might all be hall of famers some day. If you pro-rated out the way they played this year to a whole career and removed past accomplishments, they'd have zero hall of fame players. The fact Duncan used to be a superstar and Ginobili used to be an all-star caliber player is irrelevant.
Tony Parker is the only one close to that right now. They were definitely a depth team. Here's an overall view of the most recent NBA champions:
2013/14: Spurs - Group of borderline stars
No one played over 30 minutes per game in the regular season and the leading scorer (Parker) averaged 16.7 per game. In the playoffs no one played over 32.7 minutes per game and the leading scorer (Parker again) averaged 17.4. However, the team was packed with tons of experience and a bunch of guys who were near stars. Duncan, Parker, Leonard, and Ginobili were all stars for stretches, and their role players all stepped up and played huge as well.
2012/13: Heat - Superstar + two stars
The Heat actually played a pretty big rotation as far as minutes go and regularly went 10 deep. However, the scoring was largely due to their stars who averaged almost all of their points. During the regular season they kept minute totals inline though with only James having a high total (37.9). James played over 40 minutes per game in the playoffs, but Wade stayed under 36 and Bosh was a shade over 32.
They stuck with their 10 man rotation in the playoffs to put in fresh bodies for the most part, except for James, but the impact still came down to winning. James was the lone superstar in these playoffs while Bosh/Wade played more at a normal star level.
2011/12: Heat - Two superstars + star
The Heat ran a much shorter rotation in 11/12 than in 12/13 and put a bigger burden on their stars. LeBron was over 40 minutes per game in the playoffs and Wade was at 39 while Bosh was at a shade under 36 and Chalmers was also over 30. Effectively the big three still carried the full load here of course with James and Wade playing superstar roles and Bosh being a star.
2010/11: Mavericks - Single superstar + Depth
The Mavericks played a nine deep rotation with one superstar, but they had five guys over 30 minutes per game (four starters and Jason Terry off the bench). They had a keey player surrounded by a group of guys who stepped up for one season to deliver a ring.
2009/10: Lakers - Superstar, Star
Kobe played the role of superstar, Pau Gasol was nearly just as important and had a shot at finals MVP as well. The team then had several really good players (World Peace, Bynum, Odom) to chew up the rest of the minutes in a short rotation
2008/09: Lakers - Superstar, star
Kobe dominated these playoffs much more than in 2009/10, but the model was similar. You had a superstar, a star and a group of really good starters with him on a team that didn't go very deep into its rotation.
2007/08: Celtics - Multiple stars
I'm not sure if anyone on this team deserved the title superstar, but Garnett and Pierce were both pretty close to that while Allen was definitely a star as well and Rondo, who hadn't quite emerged yet, wasn't too far behind. It was a team with those four guys who carried the load along with Perkins who was a great fit next to four strong offensive players to clog the middle.
They didn't play a particularly deep rotation and their big three each averaged 38 minutes per game in the playoffs with Rondo over 30 as well.
2006/7: Spurs - Superstar, stars
This was definitely a big three with Duncan being the dominant superstar, Tony Parker playing like an all-star (and winning finals MVP), and Ginobili playing at a star level. The Spurs had four guys over 30 minutes (Bowen being the other), but played nine guys over 10 per game to keep fresh bodies in or use matchups when their primary players weren't on the floor.
2005/6: Miami - Superstar, star
You could make an argument that this was a multi-superstar team with Wade and Shaq, but Shaq's playoff PER was sub 20, and he really wasn't playing near a superstar level at this point. He was still a star, but Wade carried the Heat to victory on his shoulders. They had a couple good ring chasers in Payton, Walker, and Mourning, as well as some decent role players in Jason Williams and Udonis Haslem. They played an eight man rotation overall while Wade was more or less engine.
2004/5: Spurs - Superstar, stars
Similar to the 06/07 team, they won around their big three with Bowen playing huge minutes as a defender. Horry, Barry, and Muhammed played their depth roles in what was an eight man rotation overall. Duncan was the superstar surrounded by two star players.
2003/4: Pistons - Stars? Depth?
Hard to classify the Pistons who basically had a starting five of all low rung all-stars or border line all-stars. They took up the vast majority of the minutes overall and had fairly balanced scoring up and down their lineup. They are perhaps the only team to win without really a truly great offensive player on their team.
2002/3: Spurs - Superstar and good players
Tim Duncan dominated the heck out of the league back on this team with Stephen Jackson and Tony Parker playing the next biggest roles and Manu Ginobili not yet coming into his own. It was definitely a superstar led group.
2001/2: Lakers - Two Superstars
Shaq and Kobe, there isn't much else to say. They played a nine man rotation with very balanced scoring outside of Shaq and Kobe, but those two carried the team.
2000/1: Lakers - Two Superstars
Same as above.
1999/2000: Lakers - Superstar, star
Kobe hadn't quite come into his own yet, and was more of a star than a superstar in this season. Glen Rice maybe was somewhat better than role players they had afterwards.
1998/9: Spurs - Superstar good players
Maybe David Robinson could still be counted on as a star here, maybe not, but Tim Duncan pretty much was the alpha and omega for this team. They had a group of other guys chipping in and playing well.
So what does this mean for the Bulls?
If Derrick Rose returns to form, they have one superstar. There are plenty of teams who've won with a single superstar. We frequently try to upgrade non superstar guys into superstar guys because of what they did in prior years or what they'd do in later years though.
The next question is do they have a star to go along side Rose? Can Pau Gasol be a star again like he was next to Kobe? Will Joakim Noah be good enough to be counted on as a star when the ball isn't in his hands so much rendering much of what he did so well last season rather pointless?
It seems like the answer is no. However, the Bulls do look like a team that could easily have the Superstar + really good players type of team. Gasol, Noah, and Gibson all look like they can fit into that mold. If Jimmy Butler can step up a bit with less pressure and McDermott/Dunleavy can knock down shots then they'll fill their roles.
The Bulls could stack up similarly to the 13/14 Spurs, 10/11 Mavs, 03/04 Pistons, 02/03 Spurs, and 98/99 Spurs if Rose can play like a superstar.
If not? Well then that leaves the Bulls in quite a hole because it doesn't look like they have multiple stars, and that'd mean only the Pistons would win in a similar way (lots of really good players and possibly no guys who even qualify as true stars let alone superstars).
Obviously each season is it's own animal, and this season will be unique in it's own way, but the Bulls, obviously, are really banking on Derrick to play at a star level. It wasn't the path they wanted to choose. They have chased Love and Melo hard, but it's the path they're on anyway.
Filed under: Uncategorized