HEAT, Spurs More Than Just Star Power
As the Miami HEAT and San Antonio Spurs get set to face off in the NBA Finals for the second consecutive season, both teams deserve a lot of credit just for simply getting to this point. Although at times they made it look effortless, getting to the Finals is no easy feat, especially when you’re wearing a target on your back like these two dominant franchises have for the last several years.
Much of the talk leading into the series surrounds the star players, specifically LeBron James and Tim Duncan. The two former No. 1 overall draft selections are widely regarded as the best ever to play their position and this is a Finals rubber match for them, as Duncan topped James in the 2007 Finals, while James got revenge last year.
The importance of those two cannot be overstated. The Spurs, from ownership on down, never mince words when it comes to talking about the key to their success. Duncan’s presence is the first thing that’s mentioned and everything else, even the emergence of Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili as stars as well, is a distant second. Even at 38 years old, Duncan is the foundation of everything that they do. He sets the tone for the way everyone works off of the court and follows head coach Gregg Popovich’s lead on it.
Much of the same can be said about James with the HEAT. They did win a championship shortly before his arrival, but even with Chris Bosh joining Dwyane Wade the same offseason, we’re probably not talking about the HEAT as a potential dynasty without the arrival of James. He’s proven to be not just an elite talent, but an elite leader as well.
There’s no denying that in order to become a championship contender you have to have one of those generational talents, the kind that only come around every couple of years. It’s this hope of landing a similar player that encourages teams to tank, or cut massive amounts of salary in attempt to sign them in free agency.
However, what gets under-appreciated far too often is the work that goes into putting the right pieces around them. James was dominant before he got to Miami, yet he never won a Finals game during the first seven years of his career in Cleveland. Duncan’s been eliminated in the first round of the playoffs on three separate occasions in his career. So many teams approach rebuilding thinking all they need is to win the draft lottery or pick near the top in order to become a contender. That is a big part of it and a top-tier star does ensure a lower floor than teams that lack that, but take a look this breakdown of where the Spurs and HEAT players were selected:
Top six selections: Tim Duncan (#1), LeBron James (#1), Greg Oden (#1), Michael Beasley (#2), Chris Bosh (#4), Ray Allen (#5), Dwyane Wade (#5) and Shane Battier (#6).
Later first round selections (15-30): Austin Daye (#15), Kawhi Leonard (#15), Marco Belinelli (#18), Boris Diaw (#21), Damian James (#24), Norris Cole (#28), Tony Parker (#28), Tiago Splitter (28).
Second round selections: Jeff Ayers (#31), Mario Chalmers (#32), Rashard Lewis (#32), Justin Hamilton (#45), Matt Bonner (#45), Danny Green (#46), James Jones (#49), Patty Mills (#55), Manu Ginobili (#57)
Undrafted: Chris Andersen, Udonis Haslem and Aron Baynes.
Two of the top six selections (Beasley and Oden) are not a part of their team’s regular rotation.
The ratio is the same with the later first round picks, but it is somewhat surprising that there’s far more rotation players picked after the lottery than in it. The amount of second round picks and undrafted players who have sizable roles is also quite impressive.
This of course can be a little bit misleading, because if their respective draft classes were re-drafted, a lot of the players taken outside of the lottery would be selected much higher. Guys like Leonard, Parker and Ginobili would be in the mix for the top overall selection, but that’s with hindsight being 20-20.
There are lessons for other teams to take away, though, especially with one of the deeper draft classes in recent memory set to enter the league next season. Clearly, it’s not all about the lottery. Very good players can be had outside of it and if you want to get the most worth out of your star players, you better be able to pinpoint the players whose value exceeds their worth around the league. If the construction of the Spurs and HEAT are any indication, one of the best places to do that is in the draft.
Parker Says He’ll Play in Game 1
Sticking with the NBA Finals theme, Spurs point guard Tony Parker said today on a French radio station that he plans to play in Game 1 after injuring his left ankle in Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals.
“I feel better,” Parker said, according to transcription by Dan McCarney of the San Antonio Express. “I’ll do my best to feel the best I can and give everything I can for the first game.”
Parker revealed that the injury originally occurred in Game 4 against the Thunder. It’s been a rough postseason for him as he’s also had to deal with an ailing hamstring.
“I think my body said, ‘That’s enough,’” said Parker. “I wanted to play. Pop was like no, we never know for Game 7. I understand where he was coming from, but it was hard to watch from the locker room. At the same time I was proud of my teammates. They stepped up big. It was a huge win for us. Those five days are big for us to prepare.”
Parker is the Spurs’ leading scorer in the playoffs with 17.2 points per game. If he’s not at 100 percent, it’s going to put a lot of pressure on Manu Ginobili, who was really up and down (down more often than up) in last year’s Finals against the HEAT. The Spurs also have Danny Green, Cory Joseph, Marco Belinelli and Patty Mills as options in the backcourt, but the only player who can make close to the same impact as Parker is Ginobili.
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