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 UCLA Bruins

NBA UCLA Bruins

Our first profile details the top seed in our tournament, the NBA UCLA Bruins. Overall, 88 players from UCLA have played in the NBA, six of whom have been inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. They also feature arguably the two greatest players in college basketball history, who both went on to become an NBA Most Valuable Player and the best player on a championship team. With a mix of dynamic playmakers, long-range shooters, and unstoppable low-post forces, they field one of the best and deepest rosters in our field.

Russell Westbrook, the starting point guard, may be the most dynamic player in the current NBA. In addition to his triple-double exploits, Westbrook’s best attribute is his ability to get to the rim, and draw the defense with him. He’ll create many opportunities for his backcourt mate, Reggie Miller, who was one of the greatest shooters in NBA history. At 6’7”, Miller had the ideal height for a shooting guard, and both he and Westbrook will have to use their length and athleticism on both ends of the floor, instead of solely concentrating on offense. They’re backed up by Baron Davis, an erratic point guard whose talent was often overshadowed by his poor decision-making, and Gail Goodrich, a Hall-of-Famer who played both guard positions. Expect Goodrich to serve as the primary backup for both starting guards, and Davis to be used sparingly due to the depth on the roster.

Marques Johnson, one of the more underrated players in NBA lore, will start at small forward. Johnson was a tremendously efficient player in his prime, who also exceled on the glass for his position. While he was not a three-point threat, he was a master from the midrange and in, and his crafty game will allow him to find space despite the plethora of low-post options on this team. He’s backed up by Jamaal Wilkes, one of smoothest players of his time who exceled on the fast break, and defended his position stoutly. Kiki Vandeweghe, one of the best shooters and scorers of his era, will also see time on the wing.

The starting big men are the aforementioned college (and pro) legends, Bill Walton and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Both were natural centers who will have to adjust to playing off of one another in the starting lineup. Before his injuries, Walton led Portland to their only NBA championship, and then guided them to one of the great starts in NBA history the following year before his body broke down. He will man the high post on offense and utilize his world-class passing skills to direct the offense in half court sets. Abdul-Jabbar is one of the handful of greatest players in NBA history, and will serve as their primary offensive option throughout the tournament. Their minutes will be staggered to ensure that one big man is always on the court at all times, but when they play together, opponents will have no chance of scoring at the rim against them. Kevin Love will see plenty of minutes as the ideal stretch four who will create space for each big man to operate in the post. His phenomenal rebounding skills are also noteworthy, as he won’t let them slip on the glass when the Twin Towers are staggered. Sidney Wicks and Mark Eaton will play when needed as the fourth and fifth big men on the roster. Wicks was an immensely talented player who battled with teammates and played on losing teams in his time in Portland. However, his size, quickness, and passing ability were valuable assets, and he should be able to positively contribute when called upon. Eaton, the most prolific shotblocker in modern NBA history, will provide a massive defensive roadblock for opponents if Walton and Jabbar suffer from foul trouble.

The NBA UCLA Bruins have a complete and balanced roster with great high-end talent. In order to reach their peak, their point guards, particularly Westbrook, must run the offense through their big men and avoid dominating the ball. Their shooters will thrive with the looks that Jabbar, Walton, and Westbrook will create for them, and their defense should flourish, particularly on the interior, with three of the great rim protectors in the tournament.

All-Time Portland Trail Blazers Team

All-Time Portland Trail Blazers Team Infographic

Our next franchise may be the NBA’s unluckiest. Their history includes a who’s who of basketball’s tragic figures. Bill Walton. Sam Bowie. Greg Oden. Brandon Roy. If these players were not beset by career-ending injuries, we may be talking about one of the NBA’s glamour teams. Instead, we have a very good franchise that should have achieved greater success than it has. The All-Time Portland Trail Blazers team is solid, and not spectacular, which reflects this unlucky history.

Two-time all-star Terry Porter is the team’s starting point guard. Porter was a reliable play maker who regularly raised his level of play at the most crucial moments; during his Blazers career, his playoff averages were 18.2 PPG, 6.3 ASG, .484 FG%, .390 3FG%, 18.4 PER, and .164 WS/48. Another two-time all-star, Jim Paxson, joins him in the backcourt. Paxson had great size for his position (he stood at 6’6”), and was very accurate, shooting over .500 for his Blazers career, and leading the league in playoff field goal percentage in 1983. Off the bench, Rod Strickland was a very good play maker who is one of the better players in league history to have never made an all-star game. Brandon Roy was able to make three all-star games and two All-NBA teams before his body gave out; he’ll play both guard positions in reserve.

Hall-of-Famer Clyde Drexler, who stood at 6’7”, will start at small forward. Drexler had the best career in team history, spearheading two NBA Finals runs, and ranking first in franchise history in games played, field goals, free throws, offensive rebounds, steals, and points. LaMarcus Aldridge barely beat out three other qualified candidates for the starting spot at the team’s deepest position, power forward. Aldridge became a stud in the latter half of his Blazers career, with a deadly mid-range jumper and great size (6’11” 240lb) for his position. They’re backed up by Kiki Vandeweghe, a prolific scorer who came close to achieving the shooter’s holy grail (50% field goal percentage, 40% three point field goal percentage, 90% free throw percentage) for his Blazers career. The aforementioned power forwards are Rasheed Wallace, Maurice Lucas, and Sidney Wicks. Wallace was a versatile and talented player who was solid in all aspects of the game. While he wasn’t a go-to guy, his unselfish nature and versatility were ideally suited for a team that didn’t need to rely on him to be its best player. Lucas was an excellent defender who was the second best player in the team’s lone championship run. Wicks played on losing teams every year he was with the franchise, and was known for battling with teammates as well. However, he has the second highest points per game in team history, and is the only career 20-10 man in franchise history.

For a two year stretch, Bill Walton was one of the greatest centers in NBA history. He was one of the greatest passing centers the league has ever seen. He was a dominant defender, leading the league in blocked shots per game in 1977. He was a prolific rebounder, leading the league in boards per game the same year. He was an easy choice for 1977 Finals MVP, then won the 1978 regular season MVP, despite playing only 58 games. Before his body gave out on him, he was a transcendent superstar, and carried the team to a title in the first playoff appearance in franchise history. He’s backed up by another “what if?” player, Arvydas Sabonis. The 7’3” Sabonis didn’t make it to Portland until he was 31, and already had irreversible wear and tear from a legendary career overseas. While he couldn’t run well or play much on Portland (averaging 24.2 minutes per game in his career), he was still a very effective player, who will combine with Walton to give them the best passing center duo in our tournament.

Coach: Jack Ramsay

All-Time Franchise Winning Percentage (through 2014-15): .535

All-Time Sacramento Kings vs. All-Time Denver Nuggets

Our next match features two teams that would be really fun to watch. The battle between the All-Time Sacramento Kings vs. All-Time Denver Nuggets should be highly competitive, with an abundance of scoring and fast-paced action. Who would come out on top? Each team has several key advantages.

Sacramento’s Advantages

Dominant guard play: The Kings will be led by their guard play, with five Hall-of-Famers in their backcourt. Oscar Robertson and Tiny Archibald will dictate the pace for their starting unit, and Bob Davies, Bobby Wanzer, and Mitch Richmond will lead the bench unit. Expect them to experiment with three guard lineups, which will be particularly effective when Richmond is paired with two of the three lead guards, to help space the floor. Denver does have solid backcourt defenders in Fat Lever and Chauncey Billups, and the Kings do not have a good defensive counter for David Thompson. Despite this, Sacramento has a deeper backcourt.

Battle of the boards: Sacramento has one of the great rebounders in NBA history, Jerry Lucas, alongside double-double machine Chris Webber and Oscar Robertson, who can also dominate the glass. While Denver’s Fat Lever should be able to cancel out Robertson, Bobby Jones and Dan Issel will have a lot of trouble with the other two. Expect Dikembe Mutombo, Denver’s best rebounder and defender, to get heavy minutes in this series.

Three-point shooting: The Kings’ playmaking guards will have a field day when Richmond and Peja Stojakovic are on the floor. This team can experiment with modern NBA basketball for periods of each game, with Peja as a stretch four.

Denver’s Advantages

Defensive versatility: Normally, the Nuggets aren’t associated with defense, but they have several stoppers who will loom large in this series. Bobby Jones is the one of the great defenders ever, and will see time against Jack Twyman, Jerry Lucas, and Chris Webber. Dikembe Mutombo and Marcus Camby were excellent rim protectors who will each be needed to slow down the penetrating Archibald and the other Kings scorers at the rim.

Wing scoring: Sacramento doesn’t have the personnel to stop David Thompson, Alex English, Carmelo Anthony, and Kiki Vandeweghe. Denver can experiment with lineups where three of these individuals play together, which could be an excellent counter to Sacramento’s small ball lineups.

X-Factor

Sacramento’s defense: Can the Kings get any stops with a lineup that doesn’t include any all-NBA defenders? None of the Kings from the modern era were known for their work on the defensive side of the ball, so they may be forced to outscore the Nuggets to have a chance to win the series.

Results

Run-and-gun. This series goes back and forth, with many high scoring encounters. Sacramento struggles defensively, as expected, with Thompson, Issel, and English repeatedly burning them. In the deciding game, Oscar Robertson controls the action, and the Kings outrebound Denver in a close affair.

Sacramento wins, four games to three.

Next Round

Sacramento faces the All-Time Spurs.

All-Time Denver Nuggets Team

All-Time Denver Nuggets Team Infographic

Our next franchise is the embodiment of…mediocrity. That sounds harsher than intended; they have won almost exactly half of their games played, with a .499 all-time winning percentage. They started as a successful ABA franchise, winning 60 games or more twice, and competing in the only Finals in team history. Since then, they’ve been a frequent playoff participant (earning a trip in 24 of their 39 NBA seasons), but have never really emerged as a title contender, peaking as a Western Conference finalist twice. The All-Time Denver Nuggets team reflects their standing as a solid yet unspectacular franchise, with good to great players littered throughout the roster, without the all-time legends that many other teams boast.

The starting point guard is triple-double machine Fat Lever, a uniquely gifted all-around player who was a special rebounder for his size (6’3”). Lever was also a threat on the defensive end, ranking in the top 10 in NBA history in both steals per game and steal percentage. The two guard, Hall-of-Famer David Thompson, is a classic ‘what if?’ player, who still was able to dominate both the ABA and NBA in a short period of time before injuries and personal issues derailed his career. At his peak, Thompson was a two-time all-NBA first-team player, who was one of five players to ever score over 70 points in a single game. Off the bench, Chauncey Billups, who spent both early and late years of his career with the Nuggets, provides the team with its best three-point shooting threat (seventh ever in made three point field goals), and another excellent all-around option who can play alongside both starters. Ralph Simpson, a high scorer from the ABA days, will also see minutes at shooting guard.

The frontcourt has a mix of dominant scorers and defensive stoppers. Hall-of-Famer Alex English is a top 20 scorer in NBA history, and will combine with Thompson to form an unstoppable wing combination. He’s backed up by Carmelo Anthony, another deadly scorer with greater size to provide opponents with a different look. A third high-scorer, Kiki Vandeweghe, will back up both forward positions; while none of these three are defensive stoppers, they should be able to outscore most small forward pairings. The starting power forward, Bobby Jones, is best known for his work on the 76ers, but he started out as a three-time all-star on the Nuggets, and provides the starting unit with a much-needed dominating defensive presence. He’s backed up by the explosive Antonio McDyess, a high-flyer with a solid mid-range game whose career was also affected by injuries. The starting center, Hall-of-Famer Dan Issel, made up for his (relatively) small stature with a crafty offensive game and a relentless motor. He’s backed up by two defensive stalwarts, Hall-of-Famer Dikembe Mutombo and Marcus Camby, who each won a Defensive Player of the Year award with Denver.

This team should be tremendously versatile, capable of trotting out quality offensive and defensive lineups. Down the stretch of close games, Mutombo, Jones, Billups and Lever should form a stingy defensive unit, while their high scoring wings and Issel will help them to score on anybody. The 20th seed in our tournament, the Nuggets will face the Sacramento Kings in their first-round match up.

Coach: Larry Brown

All-Time Franchise Winning Percentage (through 2014-15): .499