NBA Notre Dame Fighting Irish

NBA Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Our next team is one of the most successful college basketball programs to never win a national championship. They’ve made 35 NCAA tournament appearances, and currently rank ninth ever in all-time wins. While they’ve never climbed the mountaintop in college hoops, they’ve produced a handful of players who’ve had success in the NBA, including a couple of multiple-time NBA champions. While they’re not elite, the NBA Notre Dame Fighting Irish team is a fun mix of offensively talented players who should be a tough out in our tournament.

Notre Dame has several options in the backcourt, and will start off without a traditional point guard in their starting lineup. Mr. Cavalier, Austin Carr, was a one-time all-star who averaged over 20 points per game in each of the first three seasons of his career. Although injuries derailed him, he was an explosive scorer, and excelled from the mid-range and in. He’ll be asked to take on more ball handling duties on this team, and will have to look for teammates more than he was typically accustomed to. Kelly Tripucka will join him in the starting backcourt. Tripucka was a natural small forward, but his shooting touch was his forte, and allowed him to average over 20 points per game five times in his career. He had the ideal height for a shooting guard (6’6”), though not the ideal quickness, so he’ll have to punish opponents on the offensive end of the floor to be effective. John Paxson, the team’s most natural point guard, will see a lot of time off the bench, and will allow Carr and Tripucka to slide to their natural positions when they share the floor together. Paxson and Tripucka are two examples of this team’s dangerous three-point shooting attack, which will be needed as they try to outscore their opponents.

Adrian Dantley, the standout offensive weapon on this roster, will start at small forward. Dantley led the league in scoring twice during a stretch of four straight seasons where he averaged over 30 points per game. Known for his devastating post-up game despite his modest height (6’5”), Dantley was a master of efficiency, currently ranking sixth all-time in NBA/ABA true shooting percentage. In addition to his excellent shooting from the field (54 percent), Dantley also led the league in made free throws five times, and was one of the more unique offensive players in league history. He’ll be paired up in the starting lineup with 6’9” Orlando Woolridge, another standout scorer who is far and away this team’s best athlete. Woolridge may not have fulfilled his immense potential as a pro, but, when motivated, he was an efficient, explosive scorer. The starting center, Bill Laimbeer, was best known for his thuglike tactics with the Bad Boy Pistons. He was more than just an agitator, however; he was also an elite rebounder who could spread the floor on offense. Laimbeer and Dantley can play an inverted inside-out game that will be difficult for any opponent to stop, especially with talented scorers surrounding them in the lineup.

Off the bench, there are a plethora of forwards who bring different strengths to the table. Donald Royal was a rotation player on the great Orlando teams in the 1990s, and had the ideal frame of a modern day wing player (6’8”, 210 lb). LaPhonso Ellis was a hybrid forward who was an inefficient high volume scorer on the 1990s Nuggets teams, but was a solid offensive rebounder who could cause matchup problems when not serving as an offensive focal point. Bill Hanzlik was a solid defensive wing who made the All-NBA Defensive Second Team in the 1985-86 season. Expect him to earn a large role in the rotation as perhaps the only plus defender on the roster. Tom Hawkins was a contributor to three NBA finalists in the 1960s. Pat Garrity was a good shooter who contributed little else, and will likely join Hawkins as permanent bench fixtures who only enter games in garbage time. Troy Murphy will serve as the de facto backup center. Murphy was an excellent shooter and rebounder who averaged a double-double five times in his solid career. He’s the bench’s most effective weapon, and will play alongside Laimbeer when they face bigger frontcourts.

The NBA Notre Dame Fighting Irish team will have no trouble scoring the ball, with a mix of talented shooters surrounding their efficient small forward. They will struggle mightily on defense, however, and will have to outscore opponents to have a chance to succeed. As the 25th seeded team in our tournament, they have an intriguing first-round matchup with the eighth seeded NBA Louisville Cardinals team.

All-Time Miami Heat vs. All-Time Utah Jazz

It’s easy to look at our next first round match up as a contrast of styles. The athleticism of the All-Time Heat vs. the precision of the All-Time Jazz. Wade and LeBron vs. Stockton and Malone. Alley-oop vs. pick-and-roll. However, both teams have strengths that go well beyond these stylistic differences. During the latter part of LeBron James’s tenure with the team, Miami mastered a beautiful offense based on ball movement and spacing. Expect their all-time team to implement this, especially when they play James at power forward and surround him with shooters. Jerry Sloan’s flex offense was ahead of its time, and will maximize the offensive talent of the high scoring team he leads in this tournament. These tactics and several key advantages held by each side will help determine the outcome of this series.

Miami’s Advantages

Perimeter athleticism: Utah doesn’t have a good option to defend Dwyane Wade. Pete Maravich and Jeff Hornacek are outclassed athletically. John Stockton will be busy guarding Tim Hardaway. The Wade and James combination can overwhelm people on both ends of the court, and Utah doesn’t have many rangy wings who can slow them down. Speaking of James…

Jack of all trades: LeBron James should dominate in this series. Adrian Dantley has no chance of slowing him down. Expect Utah to use Karl Malone on him at times, and to play Andrei Kirilenko big minutes as the primary LeBron defender. Neither is an ideal option; Malone isn’t quick enough to defend him on the perimeter, and Kirilenko doesn’t have the bulk to contend with the brilliant post-up game James developed with the Heat.

Battle of the big men: Alonzo Mourning and (an older) Shaquille O’Neal vs. Mark Eaton and Mehmet Okur. Enough said.

Utah’s Advantages

Offensive efficiency: Dantley, Stockton, and Malone are not only three of the great offensive players of all-time, but also three of the most efficient (ranking fifth, ninth, and 56th ever in true shooting percentage). No defense will be able to completely shut down this trio. Add in Maravich’s playmaking ability, and the long-range shooting of Hornacek, and this offense has the potential to be deadly.

X-Factor

Jazz’s pick-and-roll vs. Heat’s aggressive, blitzing defense: Can Miami’s aggressive approach disrupt one of the greatest orchestrators in NBA history?

Results

Despite the brilliance of Utah’s offensive playmakers, the two-way dominance of the Heat overwhelms the Jazz over the course of the series. How do you feel about that LeBron?

LeBron celebration pose

Miami wins, four games to two.

Next Round

Miami faces the All-Time Orlando Magic.

All-Time Utah Jazz Team

All-Time Utah Jazz Team Infographic

The all-time Utah Jazz team is…interesting. They should have no trouble scoring, with two former scoring champions (Pistol Pete Maravich and Adrian Dantley), the second leading scorer in NBA history (Karl Malone), and the all-time leader in assists (John Stockton) leading the offense. The question becomes, how well do the pieces fit together? The 24th seed in our tournament, they face a difficult first round match up against the all-time Miami Heat.

John Stockton is the starting point guard, an all-time great legend who had few weaknesses and made everyone around him better. In his 19 seasons, he was incredibly efficient, with a .515 career field goal percentage, and a .608 career true shooting percentage, which currently ranks ninth in NBA history. Pete Maravich, the starting two, was an incredible showman, who had the misfortune of playing on miserable Jazz teams in the 1970s. In his five full seasons with the franchise, the team averaged only 32 wins per season. While some may ascribe blame to Maravich for these failings, the talent around him was nonexistent (see this team, for example), and he was never put in position to carry the team on a deep playoff run. Maravich averaged 25.2 points per game for Utah (New Orleans at the time) without the benefit of a three-point line. It’s questionable whether his freewheeling style fits into Jerry Sloan’s structured offense, however, and it’s hard to imagine two more different players sharing the same backcourt.

The starting forwards should be able to score with any duo in this tournament. Adrian Dantley was a mid-range and low post wizard who used his rare foul-drawing ability (currently eighth all-time in free throws made) to become one of the most efficient scorers in NBA history (currently fifth all-time in true shooting percentage). Dantley averaged over 30 points per game for four straight seasons with the Jazz, and won two scoring championships in 1981 and 1984. Karl Malone was a two-time Most Valuable Player, and the fulcrum for Jerry Sloan’s offense. Having Dantley and Maravich as the starting wings is less than ideal defensively, so their minutes will have to be staggered to maximize their effectiveness.

The starting center, 7’4” Mark Eaton, was a two-time Defensive Player of the Year who averaged 5.6 blocked shots per game in the 1985 season. Eaton was not much of an offensive player, but his presence will help make up for the team’s lack of wing defense.

This team has a solid yet unspectacular bench. Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer were the poor man’s Stockton-to-Malone in the 2000s. Jeff Hornacek was a great shooter who will get plenty of minutes behind Maravich. Andrei Kirilenko might be the bench’s most important player; he’s by far this team’s best perimeter defender, and their only other rim protector besides Eaton. Mehmet Okur was a rare stretch-five who will serve as Eaton’s primary backup. Unfortunately, he offered little resistance defensively, and he’ll have to be paired up with Kirilenko whenever he enters a game.

Expect this team to use different looks around their core players. Stockton should get plenty of minutes alongside Maravich, Hornacek, and even Deron Williams in two point guard sets, while Malone will be surrounded by both the Dantley-Eaton and Kirilenko-Okur pairings. Rickey Green and Paul Millsap will play sparingly as solid third string point guard and power forward options. Down the stretch of close games, Kirilenko, Malone, and Eaton will be a very solid defensive frontcourt pairing, and Stockton, the all-time leader in steals, will provide good resistance against opposing ball handlers.

Coach: Jerry Sloan

All-Time Franchise Winning Percentage (through 2014-15): .536