Monday, May 15, 2006

Pooh's "Dude" Theory of Hoops

Unlike some of the worthies at FreeDarko, I'm heartily enjoying this NBA playoff season - there has been one great series and one flawed but thoroughly entertaining train-wreck (and sorry MY, but if you lose to Da-mon Jones, you must accept shame and mockery until, well, forever.) Plus, we've had two knucklehead suspensions, a few great performances and Charles Barkley doing the Peanut Butter-Jelly Time dance on a near infinite loop. And that's just the first round.

Watching some of the second round, I'm struck by one thing - these are better teams then we've seen in a while. For too many years, the NBA was all about finding about 3.5 guys who could score, filling the rest of the lineup with athletic defenders/interior bangers and hoping that your "Dude" outplays there's at the end of the game. See Lebron-Gilbertthe majority of Cavs-Zards for a better than average iteration of this dynamic.

Somehow, that's changed a little. Of the remaining teams, at least 6 have a lot of guys who can play, there are more 'dudes' on the court then I'm used to seeing. At the end of the previous NBA golden Era (which roughly coincides with the Lakers/Celtics/Pistons championship years), this was not uncommon - the last good Celtics team of that period had about 7 'dudes' (Bird, McHale, Parish, Lewis, Shaw, Dee Brown, Kevin Gamble), other teams had even more, the Trail Blazers team had so many dudes, that a future 'super-dude,' Drazen Petrovic, barely got any run.

However, the thugball Knicks and Heat of the mid to late 90's put an end to this - guys like Gamble got bullied out of the league, replaced by Mario Elie or Darvin Ham or (shudder) Bruce Bowen. So teams went with variations upon the "Big Three" theme, with the archetype being the George Karl coached Milwaukee Bucks of Cassel, Allen and Big Fraud Robinson.

Somehow, in the last two years, things have come, if not full-circle, then 270 degrees - the combination of the several things has brought about deeper teams than we've recently seen: The stellar 2003 Draft class maturing; some quality Europeans improving (Tony Parker, Boris Diaw, etc.;) this year's 'amnesty' rule which allowed teams not run by Isiah Thomas to cut some dead wood (and thus for Thomas to acquire said kindling...) and the continued willingness of certain teams to remain crappy by giving up quality parts for spares (the Hawks...well yes, the Knicks as well. Remember he's assembling the headcase point guards over there, so we don't have to over here...)

Thus, the top echelon teams are deeper then they have been in years, at least by my completely unscientific couting mechanism - how many "dudes" does each team have? Without getting overly (or at all) technical, a 'dude' is a player who, if you're a fan of the opposing team you are worried about. (Ergo, the Wizards got beat by a non-dude. Oh, the ignominy...)

Consider for example the Spurs-Mavs series (another stupendously good game tonight), the Mavs have 6 legit dudes (Dirk, Terry, Stackhouse, Josh Howard, Daniels and the electric Devin Harris - where has this guy been?) while the Spurs have about 7 (Duncan, Parker, Manu, Big Shot Bob, Barry, Finley and Nicky the Gangster.)* Pretty much any of those guys can take over a game, which makes for excitement.

Now, I'm not saying that picking winners necessarily comes down to simply counting dudes, but it provides a useful guide as to which teams will be succesful. As a rule of thumb, any team that routinely has two or more non-dudes on the floor = done.

*One of the great difficulties of this theory is deciphering when someone no longe warrants "dude" status. Given Steve Kerr's out of mothball performance for the Spurs a couple years back, I'm willing to give Nicky a little benefit of the doubt.


XWL said...

I think one important change you didn't mention was ending the constant 'illegal defense' calls.

Now you can beat teams with 4 good defenders on the floor together, instead of 2 great ones. It allows good players to effect games more, and help shutdown the great players more easily, than before.

Most every team, even the ones with bona fide super stars play the 'team concept' ball of Detroit on offense and defense for part of each game.

Plus, the talent pool has expanded, you have international players who have grown up their whole lives believing they could play in the NBA (thanks to Vlade Divacs, among others). Look at the UN teams of the Spurs and Suns for the best example. Not only are the non-American players skilled, but many are athletic, and tough.

If they really want to open things up more, go for those funky trapezoidal lanes of international ball, and eliminate the back court violation (while switching to a 20 second instead of a 24 second clock).

(Dude count for the Clippers; Brand (Super Dude), Mobley (Solid Role Player Dude), Cassell (Old Ugly Dude), Livingston (sometimes, still young, could be Super Dude soon), Maggette (Invisible Dude, against Suns), Kaman (White Ugly Dude), Radmanovic (Offense only Dude, but will shoot you into or out of a game), Ross (Defense only Dude, but a great defender))

Pooh said...

Nogo on dude-dom for Ross, and Vladi maybe counts as .5 dude (though I'm willing to revise)

Defense only dudes have to be special on the Wallace, Motumbo level to count, I feel.

XWL said...

Ross was responsible for shutting down Carmelo Anthony in the opening round, and he's helped limit Nash's effectiveness this round, that's some pretty tough assignments that he's handled awfully well.

But it's your concept, so your rules apply.

(and I didn't even mention their Dukie Dude in Waiting, Daniel Ewing)