NBA UCLA Bruins vs. NBA Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

Sometimes, you have to find beauty in a matchup even when the final result is inevitable. The NBA UCLA Bruins vs. NBA Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets is a mismatch, due to the brilliance of UCLA’s roster. However, Georgia Tech has some unique lineup combinations they can throw out to confound the more talented Bruins. Can they use their quickness and shooting to steal a game or two in this series? Or will UCLA brush them aside on their quest toward the championship? Here’s how the series will play out.

NBA UCLA Bruins vs. NBA Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

Key Matchup

UCLA’s two-center lineup versus Georgia’s Tech’s frontcourt – UCLA has a massive Twin Towers lineup, featuring 7’2” Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and the 7’0” plus Bill Walton, whose listed height of 6’11” was known to be a gross underestimation. Georgia Tech will start each game off with a traditional power forward, Derrick Favors, and an undersized center, Chris Bosh. They also have a solid defender in John Salley coming off the bench, along with their biggest player, 7’0” Matt Geiger. However, none of these players realistically has a chance to stop either Jabbar or Walton. What can Georgia Tech do to make it interesting? They can play Thaddeus Young together with Bosh, and just try to outquick the UCLA duo on the offensive end of the court. Or they can play four perimeter players around Bosh and force one of UCLA’s centers to defend out to the three-point line. Georgia Tech will have to be creative, since playing UCLA straight up is a losing proposition.

Biggest Mismatches

UCLA’s size – The reason Georgia Tech will have to be creative is because they don’t have the personnel to even bother UCLA’s centers. Walton will be able to see over the top of his defenders in the high post, while Jabbar will face little resistance scoring inside and out. The big men will be staggered so each is paired with Kevin Love, who will provide a unique combination of spacing and rebounding on the offensive end, and Sidney Wicks, whose quickness and athleticism will help him on the defensive end of the court against Georgia Tech’s perimeter-oriented options. Outside of Bosh, Georgia Tech’s big men are more pedestrian than spectacular, and they don’t have the size or skill to compete.

Georgia Tech’s small ball – Since UCLA’s two best players are traditional centers, expect Georgia Tech to do everything possible to get them off of the court. Play Mark Price, Stephon Marbury, Jon Barry, and Dennis Scott alongside Chris Bosh, to have a three-point threat at every position? Sure! Try to utilize a breakneck pace to take advantage of the ball-handling skills of Marbury, Kenny Anderson, and Jarrett Jack? Absolutely! There’s no reason why this team can’t be entertaining, even if they’re getting blown out in the process.

UCLA’s star power – Despite these theatrics, UCLA has a Hall-of-Fame-caliber player at every position in their starting lineup, and all-star level talent from one through 12. If Georgia Tech wants to get into a three-point shooting contest, UCLA’s Reggie Miller, Gail Goodrich, Kiki Vandeweghe, and Kevin Love would likely make that a losing proposition. Get in an up tempo battle, and the irrepressible Russell Westbrook will attack with Marques Johnson, Jamaal Wilkes, and those wonderful shooters at his disposal. Jabbar and Walton will doom them in the halfcourt game. There are no good options for Georgia Tech.

X-Factor

Jabbar and Walton – Two of the greatest centers ever facing a team with only one seven footer on its roster (the replacement-level Matt Geiger)? Goodnight.

Results

Georgia Tech has some funky lineup configurations, and the underappreciated Price and Bosh, but this one was over before it started.

UCLA wins, four games to none.

Next Round

UCLA faces the winner of the Syracuse Orange vs. Arizona Wildcats in the second round of our tournament.

NBA Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

NBA Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

Our next profile details a team that has been an also-ran for much of its existence. They’ve made two Final Four appearances, but have only finished in the AP top 25 eight times in history. Despite these hardships, they’ve produced a steady stream of NBA talent since their rise under Bobby Cremins in the 1980s. While the NBA Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets are the lowest-ranked team in our tournament, they field an entertaining roster full of playmakers and shooters.

Mark Price, one of two point guards in the starting lineup, was a player who was ahead of his time. He was one of the greatest shooters in NBA history, who played with remarkable efficiency. The greatest shooting point guards of the modern era have become multiple MVPs (Steve Nash and Stephen Curry), and provide a template for how Price could be utilized in the modern-day game. He’s joined in the backcourt by Stephon Marbury. While his negatives are well-known, he peaked as a talented offensive force who is one of only five players to average over 19.0 points and 7.0 assists per game for his career (joined by Magic Johnson, Oscar Robertson, Isiah Thomas, and Russell Westbrook). While he’s an awkward fit alongside another point guard, his penetration skills should blend well with Price’s shooting. Kenny Anderson is a similarly talented point guard who will come off the bench and mirror much of what Marbury brings to the starting lineup. Anderson dominated the ball less than Marbury (with a career 21.3% usage percentage versus Marbury’s 25.4%), and will replace Marbury whenever the offense is not flowing. Jarrett Jack will play sparingly as the fourth point guard on the roster. Jon Barry, the lone pure shooting guard on the roster, provides valuable long-distance shooting with noteworthy efficiency (once finishing second in the league with a 64.5% true shooting percentage).

Matt Harpring and Dennis Scott will split time at small forward. Harpring was a solid player who moved well without the ball and had an effective mid-range game. Scott, on the other hand, was a long-range bomber who is best known for playing off of a dominant center (Shaquille O’Neal in Orlando). Both are useful role players who will contribute to their offensive attack. Derrick Favors and Thaddeus Young will share minutes at power forward. Favors is a traditional four who will help them compete on the glass while protecting the paint. Young is a smaller, quicker player who boosts their athleticism and provides a different look against bigger players.

Chris Bosh, an 11-time all-star selection, is the team’s starting center. Bosh was a mid-range master throughout his career who developed a three-point shot over time. He served as the fulcrum of Toronto’s offense before adapting as a third option in Miami, where his solid all-around game helped them win two titles in four Finals appearances. He doesn’t have the bulk of a traditional center, but his quickness is a tremendous asset on both ends of the court. He’s backed up by John Salley, a solid defender who won four titles in his career, and Matt Geiger, a fiery, athletic big man who excelled on the offensive glass.

The NBA Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets are a fun, balanced team who opponents will have difficulty defending. They can field an elite shooting lineup featuring Price, Barry, Scott, and Bosh, and should utilize their athleticism and quickness to play an up-tempo game. While they face a tall task in their first-round matchup, the success of their NBA talent should be celebrated.

All-Time Boston Celtics vs. All-Time Miami Heat

Our next matchup represents the greatest generational divide in our tournament. The Miami Heat’s first year of operation was 1989, while the Boston Celtics have been in existence since 1947. Eleven of the twelve players on Boston’s roster were either retired, or near retirement, before Miami ever existed. However, since that time, Miami has won the Eastern Conference five times, which is three more times than Boston. Miami has three titles, while Boston has one. Does this give Miami any sliver of hope in the battle between the All-Time Boston Celtics vs. All-Time Miami Heat? Here’s a breakdown of our first Elite Eight matchup.

All-Time Boston Celtics vs. All-Time Miami Heat

Key Matchups

Larry Bird vs. LeBron James: The two greatest small forwards in NBA history square off in a dream matchup. Both were elite passers who will serve as the fulcrum of their team’s offenses. James was a better defender, while Bird was a better outside shooter. James won two MVP awards in his four years in Miami, while Bird won three MVP awards in a row from 1984 to 1986. Expect LeBron to guard Bird for large stretches of each game, while Boston will make Kevin McHale their primary LeBron defender. Miami also has to deal with a couple of other Hall-of-Fame small forwards off Boston’s bench: John Havlicek, the perpetual motion machine, and LeBron’s old nemesis Paul Pierce. Miami will play James at power forward at times, meaning Dwyane Wade, Eddie Jones, and Glen Rice will be needed to slow Boston’s trio down.

Red Auerbach vs. Erik Spoelstra: Both coaches will have several matchup dilemmas to figure out.  How will Boston adjust when LeBron James moves to power forward? They can put Larry Bird at the four, and bring in one of their wings off the bench, or they can stay big and have Bird guard one of Miami’s wings (preferably Glen Rice). Who will be left out of Boston’s rotation? It’s almost impossible to play 12 players, so expect Jo Jo White and Tom Heinsohn to stay glued to the bench, and to only be used if others are in foul trouble. Expect Spoelstra to go primarily with an eight-man rotation, with his starting lineup, Jones, Rice, and Shaquille O’Neal. Spoelstra has a decision on how to use his big men in this series. Chris Bosh can play the five when they go small, but he’d be at a severe disadvantage on the boards against Bill Russell, Dave Cowens, or Robert Parish. On offense, O’Neal will give any of Boston’s big men fits, but he won’t be able to protect the paint as well as two-time Defensive Player of the Year Alonzo Mourning. Expect Spoelstra to play stretches with a deadly defensive lineup of Jones, Wade, James, Bosh, and Mourning to slow down Boston’s offense.

Biggest Mismatches

Celtics bench vs. Heat bench: Much like the real-life playoffs, expect teams to shorten their rotations to feature their best players in this tournament. Miami’s eight-man rotation should create issues for Boston. However, depth is still important, and Boston’s players should be less taxed than Miami’s as the series goes on. James and Wade may play 40 plus minutes per game, and will be working hard on both ends of the court. The fact that they have to play against two players who were known for their constant movement, Sam Jones and John Havlicek, will only exacerbate Miami’s problems.

Miami’s wing athleticism vs. Boston’s wing athleticism: While Boston has a great athlete on the wing (Havlicek), they also have several others who weren’t known for their athleticism (namely Bird and Pierce). Miami’s greatest strength is the athleticism of their dynamic duo, Wade and James. Eddie Jones is another terrific athlete for Miami off the bench, and expect him to get heavy minutes alongside Wade and James to smother Boston’s perimeter players defensively, and to create mismatches on the other end of the court.

X-Factor

Generational comparisons: One of the guiding principles of this tournament is to consider the relative dominance of players from previous generations, so the results aren’t skewed toward the bigger, more athletic players in the modern era. Bob Cousy and Bill Russell are two of the greatest players ever, and will be favored to win their matchups in this series against Tim Hardaway and Alonzo Mourning, respectively, even if the latter looks like the Incredible Hulk next to the players that Russell faced in his era. This helps to provide some context for Boston’s depth advantage, and the problems their opponents will face trying to stop them.

Results

Remember when LeBron left Bill Russell off his NBA Mount Rushmore? Bill Russell doesn’t forget these things. He leads the Celtics to victory.

Bill Russell's reaction to being omitted from LeBron's Mount Rushmore Copyright © Lipofsky Basketballphoto.com
Bill Russell’s reaction to being omitted from LeBron’s Mount Rushmore
Copyright © Lipofsky Basketballphoto.com

Boston wins, four games to one.

Next Round

Boston faces the winner of the All-Time Spurs vs. All-Time Warriors.

All-Time Miami Heat vs. All-Time Orlando Magic

Our next Sweet Sixteen match features the two youngest franchises remaining in our tournament. The Heat acquired many of their franchise icons through free agency and trades, led by the front office mastery of Pat Riley. The Magic used the draft (and specifically, holding the number one overall pick in the draft three times) to acquire many of their stars, all of whom helped them deliver a first-round upset over the Pacers. How do the All-Time Miami Heat vs. All-Time Orlando Magic compare to each other?

Heat vs. Magic 3

Key Matchups

Miami’s athleticism vs. Orlando’s athleticism: The Heat have one of the most athletic starting wing pairings in the tournament in Dwyane Wade and LeBron James. The Magic have one of the most athletic starting backcourts in the tournament in Anfernee Hardaway and Tracy McGrady. Both have athletic big men who can protect the rim (Alonzo Mourning for the Heat, Dwight Howard and young Shaquille O’Neal for the Magic). The defensive matchups in the starting lineups will be fascinating; Tim Hardaway suffers from a huge size disadvantage, while Rashard Lewis will struggle to keep up with either of Miami’s wings. Will Miami dare put Hardaway on Lewis, so Wade and James can guard Penny Hardaway and McGrady? Who will Orlando put Lewis on?

Miami’s small-ball lineup vs. Orlando’s small-ball lineup: Miami’s jack-of-all-trades, LeBron James, will play power forward at times, and will be surrounded by shooters in this configuration (most notably Eddie Jones and Glen Rice off the bench). Stan Van Gundy had great success in Orlando surrounding a big man with four shooters around him, so expect him to utilize this tactic and stagger O’Neal and Howard’s minutes with Lewis, Hedo Turkoglu, and Dennis Scott alongside them both.

Biggest Mismatches

LeBron James vs. Orlando’s small forwards: It’s unclear how Orlando will guard James in this series. Rashard Lewis has the length to bother him, but doesn’t have bulk or elite athleticism. Tracy McGrady has the athleticism and length, so he’ll see plenty of minutes on James, but he’ll likely start each game on Dwyane Wade. Expect Nick Anderson to get many minutes alongside Hardaway and McGrady to help Orlando match up better with Miami.

Orlando’s size vs. Miami’s size (in the starting lineup): Orlando’s starting big men (Shaquille O’Neal and Dwight Howard) are far bigger and bulkier than Miami’s (Alonzo Mourning and Chris Bosh). Orlando also has the tallest backcourt in the tournament, and a 6’10” starting small forward. There’s no good defensive matchup for Tim Hardaway, who may cede a lot of minutes to Eddie Jones and Glen Rice since Miami already has two ball-dominant players in Wade and James.

X-Factor

In the mid-1990s, the Magic had the makings of an NBA dynasty. Shaquille O’Neal was one of the greatest prospects ever coming out of college, and Penny Hardaway made two all-NBA first-team appearances in his first three seasons in the league. However, they never fulfilled those expectations, getting swept out of the playoffs in the first round (1994), the NBA Finals (1995), and the Eastern Conference Finals (1996), before O’Neal left the team via free agency. In 2010, the Heat had the one of the greatest free agency coups in sports history, re-signing Wade and signing-and-trading for James and Bosh. In their four years together, that group became champions, making four straight NBA Finals berths and winning two championships.

Results

These two franchises engage in a classic battle. While Orlando has the talent to defeat Miami, the Heat have the championship mettle, and James shines as the best player in the series. It’s party time in Miami.

Miami_Heat_The_Big_3_CelebrationParty

Heat win, four games to three.

Next Round

Miami faces the All-Time Celtics.

All-Time Toronto Raptors Team

All-Time Toronto Raptors Team Infographic

I had to bend the rules with our next franchise. To help them field a competitive team, I dropped the four-year requirement, since they’ve only been around for 20 years. All players did meet the second requirement (200 games played), and this adjustment allowed us to include their current all-star point guard (Kyle Lowry), and their first Rookie of the Year (Damon Stoudamire). The all-time Toronto Raptors team clearly doesn’t have a chance against more established franchises, but they’re a fun unit with solid play makers littered throughout the roster.

The starting backcourt is the team’s current pairing, all-stars Kyle Lowry and Demar DeRozan. Lowry is a pit bull who is an all-around force, despite his small stature (6’0”). DeRozan is a high scorer who struggles with efficiency; he has an advanced mid-range game, but would be well-served to work on his outside shot and decision-making. Despite these flaws, he has jaw-dropping athleticism, and will pair with Vince Carter to give them one of the more athletic wing pairings in the tournament.

Carter, the starting small forward, is the franchise’s signature player. Why? Here are a few reasons:

For my money, he’s the greatest dunker ever, and beyond that, was a prolific scorer with Toronto who will be an interesting Hall-of-Fame candidate when his career is over. Chris Bosh, the starting power forward, was the franchise’s other signature star, who could score by using his quickness advantage over other big men and by using his deadly mid-range game. Antonio Davis, the starting center, was a solid player who could do the dirty work, and his presence will enable the lithe Bosh to avoid getting banged up down low.

The bench is led by two prolific play makers, Stoudamire and Jose Calderon. Stoudamire was the franchise’s first attraction, and will be the most explosive player for the second unit. Calderon was one of the great shooters at the point guard position, and can also play at off guard if needed. Doug Christie blossomed in Toronto, and developed his reputation as an elite perimeter defender who could also score when needed. Morris Peterson was an average swing man, who was a solid three-point shooter over the course of his Raptors career. Amir Johnson is a solid and efficient back-up power forward, and he’s joined by Andrea Bargnani, the only number one draft pick in team history, and Jonas Valanciunas as the backup big men. Although he’s had a disappointing career, Bargnani was an offensive threat with the Raptors, and Valanciunas is a very effective post player who’s lacking on the defensive end.

This team is solid, and would be a contender if they were competing in today’s Eastern Conference. Unfortunately, they’re playing against tradition-rich franchises in our tournament, and have an impossible first-round match up awaiting them.

Coach: Dwane Casey

All-Time Franchise Winning Percentage (through 2014-15): .426

All-Time Miami Heat Team

All-Time Miami Heat Team Infographic

Is this the new dominant NBA franchise? After only 27 years of existence, the All-Time Miami Heat team has a mix of dominant wings, Hall of Fame big men, and clutch point guard play. With three championships in that short time, they enter our tournament as the ninth seed.

The team’s only true point guard is Tim Hardaway, who helped them amass a .664 win percentage during his five full seasons with the franchise (the equivalent of 54 wins per season). Although he no longer had the speed and quickness from his Golden State days, he was a clutch performer with Miami, and finished fourth and sixth in the MVP voting in 1997 and 1998. The starting shooting guard is the franchise’s signature player, Dwyane Wade, who’s emerged as one of the greatest shooting guards of all time. John Hollinger rated Wade’s 2006 NBA Finals performance as the greatest ever, and he’s led the league in scoring (2009), playoff scoring (2010), and PER (2007) during his Heat career.

Remember what I said about Milwaukee’s Kareem Abdul-Jabbar? The same applies for Miami’s LeBron James, who might be the most versatile player in this tournament. James’s ‘four years of college’ produced an NBA Finals appearance in every season, a 27 game winning streak, and the only two regular season MVP awards in franchise history. The underappreciated Chris Bosh is the starter at power forward. Bosh’s deadly midrange game fits beautifully alongside Wade’s slashing game and James’s all-court dominance.

Hall-of-Famer and two-time Defensive Player of the Year Alonzo Mourning is the team’s starting center. Mourning dominated the paint defensively, and putting him alongside James (a dominant defender), and Wade and Bosh (solid defenders) will make this team very difficult to score against.

This team’s bench consists of long-range shooters and big bodies. Expect Eddie Jones and Glen Rice to get plenty of minutes alongside James and Wade to space the floor. Jones was a good all-around player who defended wings very well, and Rice will play small forward when this team downsizes and places James at the four. Voshon Leonard is another three-point shooter who will play sparingly behind Hardaway, Wade, and Jones. P.J. Brown and Brian Grant provide nice size at power forward. Brown was a very solid defender, and both bring toughness and energy off the bench. Shaquille O’Neal and Rony Seikaly are the bench’s centers. Although Shaq was past his prime, he could still score on anybody one-on-one, and he finished second in the MVP voting in his first year with the franchise.

This team should be exceptionally versatile, largely due to James. Want to play big? Play James at point guard. Want to play small? Play him at power forward. Need a defensive stop? Have James guard the opposing team’s best perimeter player, and trot out a lineup of Wade, Jones, James, Brown, and Mourning. While their bench isn’t great, they have many effective players who fit well around their superstars. Despite the franchise’s youth, this team holds great potential, and will be a threat to advance far in our tournament.

Coach: Erik Spoelstra

All-Time Franchise Winning Percentage (through 2014-15): .518