FanPost

Composition of a Finals Team

Bonjour, Denizens of TDS,

Though a long-time reader of the blog this will serve as only my first fanpost, so please be gentle.

One common theme that seems to come up time after time is that of what it will take for the Rockets to become a championship-worthy team. One faction supports tanking and rebuilding through the draft, discontent with years of mediocrity; another places faith in The Honorable Mr. Morey and bides its time in expectation of a trade or signing that will send us over the edge. This topic has proven the source of much discussion, debate, and flat out fighting. Wishing to avoid this and acknowledging I have nothing to add to the existing body of thought by providing my own opinion, I instead have chosen to provide a superficial glimpse of what it takes to be a contender in the NBA.

The long term goal of any NBA franchise should be to play at a higher enough level to compete in the NBA Finals, and accordingly this is what this article focuses on. What I’ve done is taken each team to appear in the Finals over the past 23 years, identified any players to be selected onto the (first, second, or third) All-NBA team on that team in the year of the Finals appearance, and looked at how that team acquired that player. The data only goes back the last 23 year because the 1988-89 season was this first to have 3 All-NBA teams; previously only 2 were selected per year.

The purpose of this post is for my noble TDSers to look at some basic data concerning what makes a team successful, more specifically how key players are attained. I’ve tried to keep it as objective as possible, so please feel free to look over what I have and solidify, question, or maybe even reform your opinions. I acknowledge that this serves as an imperfect picture of the topic at hand, and I admittedly only threw it together during a couple hours of time spent procrastinating; however I still believe it holds some merit. The degree of that merit and overall usefulness of this information is up to you to decide.

I put the juicy summary stats first with the more specific stuff underneath. Please let me know if you see any errors. Again, this was hastily thrown together, so I won’t be offended if you see something wrong with it.

Please note that the numbers of All-NBA selections used below refer to appearances, not players. For example, Michael Jordan has been an All-NBA player and appeared in the Finals in the same year 6 different times, and so he is counted 6 times, once for each occurrence.

Teams to reach Finals in past 23 years: 46

Number of teams in past 23 years to reach NBA Finals without an All-NBA selection: 5

Number of teams in past 23 years to win NBA Finals without an All-NBA selection: 1

All-NBA selections reaching finals in year of selection in past 23 years: 61

Method of Acquisition:

Draft: 40 (66%)

Trade: 16 (26%)

Free Agency: 5 (8%)

Pick in Draft:

1-5: 23 (57.5%)

6-14: 14 (35%)

14-30: 3 (7.5%)

Second Round: 0

2010-2011: Heat vs. Mavericks

  • · Heat:


LeBron James: F/A*

Dwyane Wade: Draft (#5)

  • · Mavericks:

Dirk Nowitzki: Draft (#9)

2009-2010: Lakers vs. Celtics

  • · Lakers:

Kobe Bryant: Draft (#13)

Pau Gasol: Trade

  • · Celtics: None

2008-2009: Lakers vs. Magic

  • · Lakers:

Kobe Bryant: Draft (#13)

Pau Gasol: Trade

  • · Magic:

Dwight Howard: Draft (#1)

2007-2008: Celtics vs. Lakers

  • · Celtics:

Kevin Garnett: Trade

Paul Pierce: Draft (#10)

  • · Lakers:

Kobe Bryant: Draft (#13)

2006-2007: Spurs vs. Cavaliers

  • · Spurs:

Tim Duncan: Draft (#1)

  • · Cavaliers:

LeBron James: Draft (#1)

2005-2006: Heat vs. Mavericks

  • · Heat:

Shaquille O’Neal: Trade

Dwyane Wade: Draft (#5)

  • · Mavericks:

Dirk Nowitzki: Draft (#9)

2004-2005: Spurs vs. Pistons

  • · Spurs:

Tim Duncan: Draft (#1)

  • · Pistons:

Ben Wallace: Trade

2003-2004: Pistons vs. Lakers

  • · Pistons:

Ben Wallace: Trade

  • · Lakers:

Shaquille O’Neal: F/A

Kobe Bryant: Draft (#13)

2002-2003: Spurs vs. Nets

  • · Spurs:

Tim Duncan: Draft (#1)

  • · Nets:

Jason Kidd: Trade

2001-2002: Lakers vs. Nets

  • · Lakers:

Shaquille O’Neal: F/A

Kobe Bryant: Draft (#13)

  • · Nets:

Jason Kidd: Trade

2000-2001: Lakers vs. 76ers

  • · Lakers:

Shaquille O’Neal: F/A

Kobe Bryant: Draft (#13)

  • · 76ers:

Allen Iverson: Draft (#1)

Dikembe Mutombo: Trade

1999-2000: Lakers vs. Pacers

  • · Lakers:

Shaquille O’Neal: F/A

Kobe Bryant: Draft (#13)

  • · Pacers: None

1998-1999: Spurs vs. Knicks

  • · Spurs:

Tim Duncan: Draft (#1)

  • · Knicks: None

1997-1998: Bulls vs. Jazz

  • · Bulls:

Michael Jordan: Draft (#3)

Scottie Pippen: Trade

  • · Jazz:

Karl Malone: Draft (#13)

1996-1997: Bulls vs. Jazz

  • · Bulls:

Michael Jordan: (Draft #3)

Scottie Pippen: Trade

  • · Jazz:

Karl Malone: Draft (#13)

John Stockton: Draft (#16)

1995-1996: Bulls vs. SuperSonics

  • · Bulls:

Scottie Pippen: Trade

Michael Jordan: Draft (#3)

  • · SuperSonics:

Shawn Kemp: Draft (#17)

Gary Payton: Draft (#2)

1994-1995: Rockets vs. Magic

  • · Rockets:

Hakeem Olajuwon: Draft (#1)

Clyde Drexler: Trade

  • · Magic

Penny Hardaway: Draft (#3)

Shaquille O’Neal: Draft (#1)

1993-1994: Rockets vs. Knicks

  • · Rockets:

Hakeem Olajuwon: Draft (#1)

  • · Knicks: None

1992-1993: Bulls vs. Suns

  • · Bulls:

Michael Jordan: Draft (#3)

Scottie Pippen: Trade

  • · Suns:

Charles Barkley: Trade

1991-1992: Bulls vs. Trail Blazers

  • · Bulls:

Michael Jordan: Draft (#3)

Scottie Pippen: Trade

  • · Trail Blazers:

Clyde Drexler: Draft (#14)

1990-1991: Bulls vs. Lakers

  • · Bulls:

Michael Jordan: Draft (#3)

  • · Lakers:

Magic Johnson: Draft (#1)

James Worthy: Draft (#1)

1989-1990: Pistons vs. Trail Blazers

  • Pistons:

Joe Dumars: Draft (#18)

  • · Trail Blazers:

Clyde Drexler: Draft (#14)

1988-1989: Pistons vs. Lakers

  • · Pistons: None
  • · Lakers:

Magic Johnson: Draft (#1)

*Note: I’m going to go ahead and say, for these purposes, that the Heat got LeBron through free agency. I feel like most people would agree, though I may be wrong.

Analysis/Interesting Observations:

· *Note that of the 5 instances of an All-NBA player acquired through free agency appearing in the Finals, 4 belong to Shaq and 1 to LeBron. Both players as free agents went to teams that already had a perennial All-NBA player on the roster. One went to Los Angeles, one went to Miami. My conclusion based off of this is Houston shouldn’t count on getting a player through free agency that with propel us into the Finals. It just doesn’t happen unless you’re a sexy city with a superstar already in place. I’m not saying we can’t get good players that may contribute greatly to a Finals run (though that probably won’t happen anytime soon), only that we won’t get a superstar that’ll drive our team through free agency.

· *Everyone cites the Pistons of the 2000’s as some starless bunch, but keep in mind that Ben Wallace was the best defensive player in the league for a while and a perennial All-NBAer, and Billups managed to make the teams several years as well (though not in the years they went to the Finals).

· *For those of you who didn’t look at the stats, the 5 teams to make the Finals without an All-NBA player that year were the 2009-2010 Celtics, 1999-2000 Pacers, 1998-1999 Knicks, 1993-1994 Knicks, and 1988-1989 Pistons. The 1988-1989 Pistons were the only ones to win it all.

· *Most teams that got an All-NBA player (in a Finals year) through a trade had an additional All-NBA player on the roster beforehand. Examples of such players include the Pau Gasols, Scottie Pippens, and Clyde Drexlers of the NBA. This is to say that most teams that get a player in a trade that does well in Finals years were contenders (or on the verge) before acquiring that player.

· *The only instances of an All-NBA Finals player acquired in a trade that was the only All-NBA player on the roster in that year are Ben Wallace, Jason Kidd, and Charles Barkley. Note that Ben Wallace was a nobody when he was traded and only blossomed into a star afterwards. Note also that the team that traded for Jason Kidd gave up an All-NBA player to get him. And the Suns had an All-NBA player in Kevin Johnson when Barkley was traded to them, though Johnson was not selected to the All-NBA team the year the Suns went to the Finals.

· *My subjective conclusion is that unless you already have an All-NBA player on your team, counting on getting a superstar in a trade is unreasonable. The stats show that this has been proven true 100% of the time. The case has always been that either you use the superstar to attract a fellow superstar or give up a superstar in the swap. The only exception to the rule is the Charles Barkley trade to the Suns. And Ben Wallace, in that he didn’t become a good player until after he was traded to the Pistons.

Closing Thoughts:

I hope everyone enjoyed this post. It’s a lot to read, but I think the material is very interesting. My conclusions, which I believe are supported by the stats, are that acquiring via free agency or a trade an All-NBA caliber player that will propel you into the Finals is unrealistic unless you already have a superstar in place or give up a superstar in return. In the past 23 years there have been no exceptions to this rule. As such, as Houston currently has no superstar on the roster (Lowry is good, but not worthy of an All-Star selection, let alone a place on an All-NBA team), expecting to acquire a superstar that will make us a contender (defined for these purposes as a team that makes the Finals) is unfounded. The stats say it’s simply not going to happen. The stats also say that very rarely does a team without All-NBA talent make the Finals, making that an unrealistic expectation for our Rockets as is as well. So what does this all mean? Anyone is free to disagree with me, but based off of the above information the only way for a team to go from nothing to the Finals is through the draft. Whether this means we should tank or not is a more difficult question that I’m not going to touch.

I hope you all enjoyed and I look forward to your feedback.

No cursing in title. No pirated material, such as links to online game streams. Do not cut/paste entire sections of content from other websites. Thanks.

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