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 Atlanta Hawks vs. All-Time Dallas Mavericks

Our next match features two teams who have each won one championship in their history. The Hawks experienced their greatest success behind a legendary power forward in the middle of Bill Russell’s Celtics dynasty. The Mavericks won their championship behind another legendary power forward in the bridge year between the reigns of Kobe Bryant’s Lakers and LeBron James’s Heat. Who will win the battle between the All-Time Atlanta Hawks vs. All-Time Dallas Mavericks? Each side holds key advantages.

Atlanta’s Advantages

Interior Play: The Hawks’ big men should have their way in this series. The combination of Dikembe Mutombo, Al Horford, and Zelmo Beaty is superior to that of Sam Perkins, Roy Tarpley, and James Donaldson. In addition, while Bob Pettit and Dirk Nowitzki should cancel each other out, Dan Roundfield, an excellent defender, will make things difficult for Dirk when he’s in the game.

Defense: The Hawks have a number of defenders who can slow down the Mavericks’ offensive attack, including Mutombo, Roundfield, Horford, and Mookie Blaylock. Conversely, the Mavericks do not have many plus defenders, especially up front, where the Hawks will hold a large rebounding advantage as well.

Dallas’s Advantages

Outside shooting: Expect the Mavericks to spread the floor as a counter to Atlanta’s bigger lineups. Nowitzki, Steve Nash, Jason Terry, Michael Finley and Jason Kidd can all shoot from deep, and even Perkins, their starting center, will try to draw Mutombo away the basket with his outside shot.


1. Who wins the battle of the high-scoring forwards? Expect both teams to run their offenses through their forwards: Pettit and Dominique Wilkins for Atlanta, and Nowitzki and Mark Aguirre for the Mavericks. Atlanta has the deeper roster, so the Mavericks need to win this match up, which is improbable.

2. 66 to 35: That’s the number of years that the Hawks and Mavericks have been in existence, respectively. While Dallas fields an explosive all-time team, they do have holes on their roster, while Atlanta has a complete team.


Atlanta, with the deeper, more physical roster, proves superior over the course of the series. Down the stretch of game six, Pettit ensures that the series doesn’t go to a deciding game.

Hawks win, four games to two.

Next Round

Atlanta faces the All-Time Chicago Bulls.

All-Time Dallas Mavericks Team

All-Time Dallas Mavericks Team Infographic

Our next franchise has only been in existence for 35 years. They found immediate success in the 1980s, making the playoffs five years in a row, culminating in a seven-game Western Conference Finals showdown with the eventual league champions. The next decade wasn’t as kind, as they never made the playoffs from 1991 to 2000, and bottomed out with one of the worst teams in league history. Since then, they’ve become one of the league’s model franchises, behind a legendary star and a trailblazing owner. The All-Time Dallas Mavericks team is very good considering their relatively short history, filled with offensive play makers who will make them very difficult to defend.

I’ve already discussed how Steve Nash is one of the greatest offensive players ever; in Dallas, he didn’t reach the MVP heights that he did under Mike D’Antoni, but he was still an all-star player who was one of the best shooters in the NBA. He’ll share the ball-handling duties with Derek Harper, an excellent defender who is one of the best players to have never made an all-star team, and Jason Kidd, who spent early and late years of his brilliant career with the Mavericks. While Kidd wasn’t the force that he was with the Nets or Suns, he was still an elite play maker, who shot over 40 percent from three point range in two of his last four seasons with the team. Rolando Blackman is the team’s starting shooting guard. Blackman was a four-time all-star who peaked during the 1984 season, when he averaged 22.4 PPG while shooting 54.6 percent from the field (he somehow was not honored with an all-star berth that year – go figure). Jason Terry was a hybrid guard who could handle the ball and stretch the defense with his three-point shooting. He was also one of the league’s best sixth men for years, and will be able to play alongside all of the other guards in the rotation.

The starting forwards are the two highest scoring players (on a points per game basis) in team history: Mark Aguirre and Dirk Nowitzki. Aguirre was an incredibly versatile offensive player who was one of the best scorers of the 1980s. He’ll have to play a lesser role on this team than he was used to playing as a Maverick; he led the league in usage percentage in both 1983 and 1984. However, his success as a role player on the two-time champion Detroit Pistons teams demonstrates his adaptability. Nowitzki is the greatest player in franchise history; he may be the best shooting big man the NBA has ever seen, and he makes any team that he plays on an offensive force. Backing them up are two small forwards who experienced great success alongside Nowitzki; Michael Finley, a tremendous athlete who’s another three-point threat, and Josh Howard, who may have been their second best player when they made their first NBA Finals appearance in 2006.

The Mavericks have not had dominant play from the center position in their history; Tyson Chandler may be the best center they’ve ever had, but he’s ineligible for this tournament because he only played on the team for two years. Instead, three big men will share time: Sam Perkins, Roy Tarpley, and James Donaldson. Perkins, AKA “Big Smooth,” played more power forward in Dallas before becoming a center later in his career, and is not an ideal fit alongside Nowitzki, especially on the defensive end of the court. They will create headaches for opponents on offense, however, as both can space the floor and create matchup problems for traditional big men who are used to protecting the paint. Roy Tarpley was an incredible player before personal issues derailed his career; in 17 games in the 1988 playoffs, he averaged 17.9 PPG, 12.9 RPG, and 23.1 PER in 33 MPG off the bench. He’s also a former Sixth Man of the Year Award winner, and will get plenty of minutes as the team’s most talented option at center. James Donaldson was a mammoth player (7’2”, 275 lb), who provided a stabilizing force for the successful Mavericks teams in the 1980s. He and Tarpley will provide this team with rim protection, and should both play well off of Nowitzki.

Overall, this team is full of offensive play makers, but they may struggle against big, physical teams. They’re also lacking on the defensive end, and will need to outscore their opponents to have a chance to compete. The 19th seeded team in our tournament, they have a first-round match up against the All-Time Atlanta Hawks team.

Coach: Rick Carlisle

All-Time Franchise Winning Percentage (through 2014-15): .510