NBA Syracuse Orange vs. NBA Arizona Wildcats

Size versus speed. Our next match represents a classic stylistic battle. One team starts a traditional lineup with a seven-footer, flanked by a massive power forward and a “small” forward who weighs 240 pounds. The other team starts no traditional power players, substituting shooting ability and lineup flexibility for size and strength. Which team will enforce their will upon the other? The battle between the NBA Syracuse Orange vs. NBA Arizona Wildcats represents a clash of basketball philosophies.

NBA Syracuse Orange vs. NBA Arizona Wildcats

Key Matchups

Richard Jefferson and Sean Elliott vs. Derrick Coleman – This series may hinge on which team’s forwards adapt better defensively. Arizona will go key stretches of each game hoping to survive with Richard Jefferson guarding Derrick Coleman. Conversely, Coleman will have to get comfortable guarding the perimeter and switching defensively on to smaller, quicker players. How badly will Coleman punish the smaller Wildcats on the block? Can Arizona expose DC on the perimeter and force Syracuse to downsize? Coleman may be better served defensively playing as the five in the series, since…

Rony Seikaly vs. perimeter shooting – …this matchup isn’t going to work out defensively for Syracuse. Seikaly is ill-equipped to extend his defense out to the perimeter, and would be toast when Arizona runs pick and pop with one of their perimeter options and Channing Frye. Syracuse can counter by posting Seikaly up and trying to get Frye into foul trouble, so Arizona can bring in more traditional big men off the bench. This adjustment may also have to occur if and when Syracuse punishes Arizona on the glass, as detailed below.

Two-point field goals vs. Three-point field goals – The game of basketball has evolved to the point that one team is currently averaging over 40 three-point field goal attempts per game in the 2016-17 season (Houston). The three point shot has become the most important weapon in the sport. Expect Arizona to run wild from behind the arc, while Syracuse will try to keep pace with a more traditional offensive attack.

Biggest Mismatches

Syracuse’s rebounding advantage – Arizona is dead in the water in any game where their threes aren’t falling, because Syracuse should own them on the offensive and defensive boards. Seikaly and Coleman were excellent rebounders, which can’t be said for anybody in Arizona’s starting lineup. Arizona has two options to stop the bleeding on the glass: Jordan Hill, a tenacious rebounder with a limited offensive and defensive skill set, and Bison Dele, a less tenacious rebounder who was very skilled offensively and could make the Syracuse big men work defensively. Both players will see a lot of time, but Dele will be particularly busy as Arizona’s sole threatening post-up option. Unless they play together, Syracuse will see plenty of second and third shot opportunities on offense, and will limit Arizona’s attempts on the other end of the court.

Arizona’s three-point advantage – Each team has a clear path to victory. If Syracuse can slow the pace and make this a half-court battle, Dave Bing, Carmelo Anthony, and their superior rebounders should make them victorious. Arizona will play uptempo, and bomb from long-range with Jason Terry, Mike Bibby, Channing Frye, Gilbert Arenas, Sean Elliott, Damon Stoudamire, and the NBA’s all-time leader in three-point field goal percentage Steve Kerr leading the charge. If several of these players are knocking down their shots, Syracuse will have a difficult time keeping up.

Arizona’s depth – Arizona has quality depth throughout their bench, and will use a variety of options each game. Several of their bench players, such as Mike Bibby and Sean Elliott, are as good as the players who start above them, and they’ll utilize a hot-hand approach throughout the matchup. Syracuse has a clear drop off whenever they turn to their inferior second unit. Expect Danny Schayes and Billy Owens to earn the bulk of their bench minutes, with the other players mixing in as needed, but Syracuse’s starting lineup will carry a heavy burden in each game.


Evolution of NBA basketball – One key aspect of this tournament is that modern-day rules are in effect. This should be a huge advantage for Arizona, who will benefit from less hand-checking on the perimeter on offense, and more creative ways to guard post players on defense. Non-traditional, smaller lineups are also in vogue, though certain teams, including the incomparable Spurs, manage to thrive with traditional, bigger lineups.


Throughout their history, Syracuse Orange alums have been sporadically successful in the NBA, and have underachieved relative to their success in college. While the school has produced two hall-of-fame players (Bing and Anthony), the rest of their roster is littered with underachievers and players who are not necessarily suited for the modern game. Arizona, led by the defensive mastery of Andre Iguodala, and an overabundance of three-point firepower, moves on to the second round.

Wildcats win, four games to two.

Next Round

Arizona faces the NBA UCLA Bruins.

NBA Arizona Wildcats

NBA Arizona Wildcats

Our next team was built for the modern era of professional basketball. What they lack in size, they make up for in shooting, ball handling, and spacing. Even though they lack the Hall-of-Fame caliber talent that some of their competitors boast, the NBA Arizona Wildcats are fun, dynamic, and a dangerous threat to advance in our tournament.

This team has more ball handlers than they know what to do with. Gilbert Arenas, the team’s leading scorer on a points per game basis, will start at the lead guard position. From 2005 to 2007, Arenas had a dominant three-year stretch where he averaged 27.7 PPG and 5.7 APG, with a 23.0 PER and three all-star and all-NBA appearances. He served as the fulcrum of high-scoring offensive teams who made the playoffs in each of those seasons. While his reputation was irreparably damaged by his later antics, he’s a dominant scorer who can work as a primary option in this offense. He’s joined in the starting backcourt by another explosive scorer, Jason Terry, who’s currently third all-time in made three point field goals. He’ll split time playing off of the ball and setting up the offense, and can play alongside any of the team’s other backcourt options. Off the bench, Mike Bibby was known for his clutch play and deft shooting. He was a steady floor leader who nearly led Sacramento to a title in 2002, when he increased his scoring average from 13.7 in the regular season to 20.3 in the playoffs. Damon Stoudamire was a slick playmaker who was most effective with the ball in his hands. With the glut of point guards on this roster, and his lack of size (listed height of 5’10”) he’s likely to play less than the others, but there will be little drop off when he suits up. Steve Kerr, the league’s all-time leader in three-point field goal percentage, will help to space the floor out even further.

Andre Iguodala, the starting small forward, may be the most indispensable player on the roster. Iguodala will always guard the opposing team’s best perimeter offensive option, and he’ll also help to set up the offense so the team’s shooters can play off of the ball and spread the floor. Richard Jefferson and Sean Elliott will split time alongside Iguodala. Jefferson’s athleticism and bulk (230 pounds) will help him against bigger opponents, while Elliott will be better served playing his natural small forward role. These two have remarkably similar statistical profiles, and both help to boost the team’s athleticism and lineup flexibility. Chris Mills was another natural small forward who spent some time at the four in his career, despite his smaller stature. He benefited greatly from the league moving the three-point line in from 1995 to 1997 (shooting 38.7% from deep during those years, versus 31.0% the rest of his career), so he’ll play sparingly behind the other forward options.

Channing Frye is the rare ‘stretch five’ who will start off as the team’s starting center. Although he was a decent shotblocker in his prime, his lack of rebounding is a glaring weakness, and his shooting range is less necessary on a team with so many outside options. He’ll be frequently spelled by the late Bison Dele, a nifty inside scoring threat who can provide instant offense off the bench, and Jordan Hill, the team’s best rebounder who may be asked to stretch beyond his normal limits (career 18.9 minutes per game).

The NBA Arizona Wildcats should be a joy to watch, and can play with many different lineup configurations. Their lack of rebounding and interior defense, however, limits their ceiling. They have an intriguing first-round match up with a team that’s their complete opposite, with an imposing frontcourt and a lack of long-range options.

All-Time Washington Wizards vs. All-Time Portland Trail Blazers

Our next match up features two teams who won the 1977 (Portland) and 1978 (Washington) NBA Finals. They haven’t been able to win it all before or since, but they’re linked by their success in an overlooked era in NBA history. Who would win the battle between the All-Time Washington Wizards vs. All-Time Portland Trail Blazers? There are many factors at play.


Passing Big Men: Both teams are anchored by starting centers who were known for their passing skills. Wes Unseld is widely regarded as the best outlet passer in history, while Bill Walton may have been the best passing center to ever play the game. Both teams often ran their offense through these players, and their career assist numbers reflect this. In addition, Washington’s Chris Webber and Portland’s Arvydas Sabonis were excellent passing big men who can play similar roles when Unseld and Walton are not on the floor.

Big Rosters: Big men make up half of each team’s roster. They each should be able to keep everyone rested, avoid foul trouble, and throw multiple looks at one another.

Washington’s Advantages

Battle of the Boards: Washington’s big men should have a slight advantage in controlling the glass. The starting trio of Gus Johnson, Elvin Hayes, and Wes Unseld is one of the tournament’s best in terms of rebounding, and Walt Bellamy, Jeff Ruland and Webber should help them maintain this advantage off the bench.

Versatility: Washington should be able to play many different styles. They have score-first ball handlers (Gilbert Arenas and Earl Monroe), and a pass-first option (John Wall). They have a physical small forward (Johnson), an outside threat (Bob Dandridge), and a tweener (Antawn Jamison) that they can play at the three. They have a pass-first big man (Unseld) and a dominant low post scorer (Bellamy). They also have good defensive players (Hayes, Johnson, Dandridge, Wall) who can play when they need to get stops. Coach Dick Motta has many options at his disposal.

Portland’s Advantages

Offensive Efficiency: Overall, Portland’s team shooting is very high, and they don’t feature a player on the roster who shot below 46 percent for his Blazers career. In addition, the advanced statistics (PER and WS/48) of the Portland players are higher than those of the Washington players. Will this translate to the games? Portland’s pieces do seem to fit well with each other, and they have several excellent passers who should help them mesh as a unit.


Health: Much like real basketball, fantasy tournaments of this nature can often be decided by injuries. The methodology here is that once a player makes the cutoff for years and games played for a franchise (4 seasons, 200 games played), then they’re eligible to compete in all games of their series. This clearly benefits a player like Walton, and discounts the ironman achievements of someone like Elvin Hayes. While imperfect, this method allows us to imagine each team’s best roster, and filters out those who had extremely short stints with a franchise.


Once again, we have a very hotly contested series. In the end, the brilliance of Walton and Drexler and the clutchness of Porter win out. The good people of Portland go a bit overboard in their celebration.


Portland wins, four games to three.

Next Round

Portland faces the All-Time Lakers.

All-Time Washington Wizards Team

All-Time Washington Wizards Team Infographic

The Washington Wizards have almost operated as two separate franchises in their team history. In their first 27 years, they were very successful, making the playoffs 20 times, going to four NBA Finals, and winning it all once. The last 27 seasons haven’t been as kind. They’ve made the playoffs only seven times, have never won 50 or more games, and never advanced past the second round of the playoffs. The All-Time Washington Wizards Team reflects this dichotomy, as they’re filled with more players from their rich past than their putrid recent history.

One of the newer players who made the team is starting guard Gilbert Arenas, who disgraced himself toward the end of his Wizards tenure, but was one of the highest scoring players in team history beforehand. At his peak in the 2005-06 season, Arenas averaged 29.3 PPG in the regular season (fourth in the league), and a league-leading 34.0 PPG in six playoff games. He’s joined in the starting backcourt by Earl “The Pearl” Monroe, who started his Hall-of-Fame career in Washington (Baltimore at the time), and was at his improvisational best there. They’re backed up by John Wall, the team’s best passer, and a solid defender who can play alongside either starter. Phil Chenier, an excellent defender who’s the best shooter on the team, will also see time at off guard.

The starting frontcourt consists of three tenacious rebounders who have all been elected into the Hall of Fame. Gus “Honeycomb” Johnson, an incomparable athlete who was an excellent all-around player, can play either forward position. He’s joined by Elvin Hayes, who’s one of the toughest players to analyze in our tournament. As previously discussed, he ranks in the top-10 in NBA history in both points and rebounds. However, it’s hard to find one positive thing written about him from his playing days. His former coach, Alex Hannum, called him, “the most despicable person I’ve ever met in sports.” He was known for choking in big moments. His teammates seemed to hate him. Despite these red flags, he was an eight-time all-star, six-time All-NBA, and two-time All-NBA defensive player with the Bullets, and was their leading scorer and rebounder during their lone championship season. Wes Unseld, who admitted that his listed height of 6’7” was a stretch, is the starting center. Despite his lack of height, he was one of the great rebounders of his era, and was the team’s pillar during their glory years.

Off the bench, Bobby Dandridge, a clutch player who won two championships in his career, will play plenty of minutes at the three. Antawn Jamison, a versatile scorer, can play at either forward position. Chris Webber, who was sadly traded for an over-the-hill Mitch Richmond before his peak years in Sacramento, will see some minutes at the four. Jeff Ruland, an excellent big man who made two all-star appearances before injury issues robbed him of his prime, will split time at center and power forward. Hall-of-Famer Walt Bellamy had his peak years with the franchise, and was the most statistically dominant player in team history. He’ll be the first big man off the bench, and will combine with Unseld, Hayes, Johnson, and Ruland to give them one of the better rebounding units in our tournament.

Coach: Dick Motta

All-Time Franchise Winning Percentage (through 2014-15): .449