Excellent forum post from very valued TWolves Blog member "Wolfenstein." We'll let him take it away from here...
(Check out this post and much, much more, in our TWolves Blog Forums)
First of all, credit where credit's due: from Simmons via ESPN.com (about halfway down, read the Rockets write-up):
...The Law of Too Many Guys. You only need eight and a half guys to win in the NBA: five starters, three bench guys, then an 8½th man who doesn't mind playing 0-10 minutes a night and being on call if a rotation guy gets into foul trouble, gets hurt or whatever. Of those eight and half guys, ideally, you need two scorers, one ball handler, one perimeter defender and one rebounder. You need to be able to play defense. You need everyone to know their roles. You need to know who's playing crunch time and who gets the ball in those last few minutes. And you need a coach competent enough not to screw things up. That's it.
It's a common-sense thing. Ask any NBA starter how many minutes would make them happy and they'd say 36 to 38 (one rest per half). There are 240 minutes available in a basketball game. That means you need to allot 180-190 minutes for your five starters to be happy. Now, ask any bench player how many minutes they need to play well and you know what they'd say? Two stretches per half for 8-10 minutes. They need time to run around, break a sweat, get a feel for the game and get comfortable. That means you need to allot 50-60 minutes for your three bench guys and your 8½th man.
So let's split the difference: 185 minutes for five happy starters, 55 minutes for the three and a half bench guys. That adds up to … wait for it … 240 minutes! What a coincidence.
Deep, deep insight from Simmons. If you line up 2 scorers, a ballhandler, an excellent rebounder, and an excellent defender in a pickup game, you know you can run the court for a few games, until you either tire out or until someone brings a better team with similar balance and better talent. I would argue that it is possible for your best defender to be a post defender, as long as you don't have substantial gaps with your perimeter defense. If you are letting guys penetrate all game long, you will have a problem with just a great interior defender. Otherwise, with decent perimeter defense a guy like Mutombo or Garnett as your plus defender is good.
Let's assume this bit of basketball knowledge is accurate, as I think it is. Let's also go one step further and say that you can have a MAXIMUM of one defensive liability in your starting 5, and one in your 3.5 backups. Usually this is one of the scorers, but if you think back to some of the great teams of the last 10 years you realize at times it is a ballhandler, at times a big man; in no case is more than one starter a defensive liability.
So, to recap:
- One Ball Handler
- One Rebounder
- One Elite Defender
- Two Scorers
- Three Bench Contributors
- One Serviceable Sub
- MAX one Defensive Liability as a Starter, one as a Sub
Let's now take this theory back to our dear Wolfies. Keep in mind that everyone at the NBA level is versatile to a certain degree- i.e. Love is a solid scorer as well as rebounder, but since we must categorize him as one or the other, the dominant role takes precedence; obviously Love gets classed as a Rebounder. I'm also going to list each player's overall score as I see it at this point in their career. ++++ would be your perennial All-Stars, +++ is top 10 at his position, ++ is a legit starter, + is a contributing role-player, = is a replacement level player and - is sub-par. I will also note those players that I believe are significant Defensive Liabilities. This is obviously a subjective exercise so there will be those that disagree with details, but it's useful nonetheless for sorting purposes.
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