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 Boston Celtics vs. All-Time Milwaukee Bucks

Our first Sweet Sixteen match features perhaps the greatest franchise in NBA history facing off against a former powerhouse who has struggled to stay relevant in recent seasons. Is this a mismatch? Or can Kareem Abdul-Jabbar carry his team to another upset victory? Here is the battle between the All-Time Boston Celtics vs. All-Time Milwaukee Bucks.

Celtics vs. Bucks 2

Key Matchups

Bill Russell, Dave Cowens, and Robert Parish vs. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Vin Baker: Milwaukee’s biggest strength, the play of their legendary big man, will be tested by Boston’s trio of Hall-of-Famers. Russell never had a chance to play against Jabbar, but Cowens and Parish had extensive experience going against him. Cowens played against the Milwaukee version of Jabbar in the 1974 NBA Finals, and unsurprisingly struggled to slow him down (Jabbar averaged 32.6 PPG, 12.1 RPG, 5.4 APG, and shot .524 from the field, while Cowens averaged 22.7 PPG, 9.9 RPG, 4.6 APG, and shot .439). Jabbar doesn’t have a true backup center, however, so he’ll have to play big minutes in this series. The fastbreak ability of Russell and Parish, along with the bruising relentlessness of Cowens, may wind up wearing him down.

Boston’s bench vs. Milwaukee’s bench: The Celtics feature a bench without any weaknesses. Milwaukee has a solid bench, led by their dynamic point guard duo (Oscar Robertson and the underrated Sam Cassell), but they’ll be hard pressed to stay with the Celtics’ Hall-of-Famers.

Biggest Mismatch

Boston’s big man depth vs. Milwaukee’s big man depth: In addition to their three centers, the Celtics have Kevin McHale, Larry Bird, and Tommy Heinsohn, all of whom can play power forward. Milwaukee only has Vin Baker and Terry Cummings besides Jabbar, so they’ll have to play some small-ball lineups featuring Marques Johnson or Bob Dandridge at the four.

Expect the Celtics to swarm Abdul-Jabbar Copyright © Lipofsky Basketballphoto.com
Expect the Celtics to swarm Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Copyright © Lipofsky Basketballphoto.com

X-Factor

The first season for Milwaukee was 1968-69, which was the final year of Bill Russell’s Celtics dynasty. Six players on the All-Time Celtics team had already established themselves in Boston before the Bucks even existed. Boston had a 22 year head start on Milwaukee, and won 10 titles in that time (and an 11th in the Bucks’ first year of existence).

Results

The Celtics use their great depth to outlast a game Bucks team. The old guard celebrates another playoff victory.

Red_and_Me_Part_Two_Bill_Russell_and_Red_Auerbach

Celtics win, four games to one.

Next Round

Boston faces the winner of the All-Time Magic vs. All-Time Heat.

All-Time Oklahoma City Thunder vs. All-Time Milwaukee Bucks

Our first matchup features two very intriguing teams, the All-Time Oklahoma City Thunder vs. All-Time Milwaukee Bucks. It’s a shame that one of these teams will be eliminated so early, but this shows the depth of talent in our tournament. Below is a breakdown of this classic battle.

Oklahoma City’s Advantages

Perimeter Defense: Specifically, the defense of former Defensive Player of the Year Gary Payton. The Bucks starting lineup does not feature a traditional point guard, and Payton’s presence will force them to use more of Oscar Robertson and/or Sam Cassell as the primary ballhandler. When one of these two replaces Ray Allen, there’s less spacing around Kareem Abdul-Jabbar; when one of them replaces Sidney Moncrief, the Bucks perimeter defense is severely compromised. If the Bucks play lineups featuring Robertson or Cassell, Allen, Moncrief, and Marques Johnson, then they’ll suffer on the boards, despite the presence of Jabbar.

Frontcourt Length: Kevin Durant, Shawn Kemp, and Jack Sikma are all over 6’10”, which will cause problems for the Bucks on both ends of the floor. If the Bucks try to play small ball against this unit, they’ll get murdered on the boards, and Durant and Kemp’s athleticism won’t allow Milwaukee to have a large edge in quickness on the perimeter.

Three Point Shooting: This team, featuring one of the greatest groups of three point shooters in this tournament, will never be out of a game. Lineups with Durant at the 4 will be particularly unguardable, and the Bucks won’t be able to physically dominate him on the other end of the court unless they play Vin Baker alongside Jabbar. Baker would have no chance against Durant on defense, so the Bucks will avoid using this lineup as a counter.

Milwaukee’s Advantages

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: If Oklahoma City decides to double Kareem, then the Bucks have the perimeter firepower to make them pay. Lineups with Ray Allen and Michael Redd will be particularly difficult to defend from beyond the arc. Sikma is a crafty defender, but he doesn’t have the size or length to effectively defend Jabbar one-on-one, and if he gets in foul trouble, Oklahoma City doesn’t have another true center on the roster.

Defending Durant: Marques Johnson will make Durant, Oklahoma City’s best scorer, work very hard on the defensive end of the floor. In late game situations, expect the Bucks to put Moncrief on KD, despite the size mismatch. Smaller defenders have had some success against Durant (Jason Kidd, for example), since he doesn’t have the bulk to dominate them down low. He can shoot over anybody, but Moncrief will make him work for everything.

X-Factor

Foul trouble and Roster Depth: Both teams have plenty of backcourt depth, but don’t have a deep roster of big men. Can the Thunder’s bigs stay out of foul trouble defending Jabbar? When Sikma sits, Kemp will serve as his primary defender, so player/coach Lenny Wilkens will have to stagger their minutes and play Spencer Haywood and Detlef Schrempf alongside both big men. Vin Baker will have to step up in case Kareem gets in foul trouble, which (needless to say) is a big downgrade for Milwaukee on both ends of the court.

Results

These two teams go back and forth in a seven game battle. Oklahoma City proves to have a deeper bench, but Milwaukee has the best player in the series. Down the stretch of the deciding game, Durant hits a three to put the Thunder up by one. Seven seconds remaining. Larry Costello knows exactly what to draw up:

Bucks win four games to three.

Next Round

Milwaukee faces the number one seeded Boston Celtics.

All-Time Milwaukee Bucks Team

All-Time Milwaukee Bucks Team Infographic

Fear the deer! The all-time Milwaukee Bucks team has a unique blend of perimeter firepower and low post dominance. With one championship, they are the 17th seeded team in our tournament, and have a first round matchup with the Seattle Sonics/Oklahoma City Thunder.

The starting backcourt consists of all-around dynamo Sidney Moncrief, and the all-time leader in three pointers made, Ray Allen. Moncrief was one of the great, underappreciated players of the 1980s, and won the first two Defensive Player of the Year awards ever. If they need more ball handling, they can bring in the past-his-prime but still effective Oscar Robertson, or Sam Cassell, who averaged 19.0 PPG and 7.2 APG during his five years with the Bucks. In addition, they have two-time Sixth Man of the Year Ricky Pierce, and three point gunner Michael Redd to spread the floor. Similar to the Sonics, they’ll play a lot of three guard sets, and space the floor very effectively around their big men.

Marques Johnson and Terry Cummings are the starting forwards. Johnson was another special player who rarely gets his due; watch how he dominates a do-or-die playoff game against the 76ers to get a feel for his incredible offensive game. Cummings was very athletic, had a great face-up game, and should be a perfect fit in the starting lineup. Bobby Dandridge is the first forward off the bench, a prototypical three who used his quickness and mid-range game to frustrate opponents. They also have Glenn “Big Dog” Robinson, who could score prolifically, even if he didn’t have a great all-around game. Vin Baker is the backup big man, and he’ll have to play both the power forward and center spots. This is another team without great big man depth, so health and foul trouble will both play an important role in their fortunes.

Every single player in this tournament is good, and many are all-time greats. Only a handful are transcendent legends who can single-handedly carry their teams to victory. Milwaukee’s Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is one of those legends. In his six seasons with the Bucks, the team averaged 57 wins per season, and went to the only two NBA Finals in franchise history. Jabbar won three MVP awards during his Bucks tenure, and easily ranks as the greatest player in franchise history. His presence makes them a dangerous sleeper in this tournament.

In many ways, this team is similar to their first round opponent, with a deep backcourt featuring Ray Allen alongside one of the great defensive players ever, and an athletic, multi-talented frontcourt that lacks big man depth. Jabbar should expect to play a ton of minutes, which he’s accustomed to, since he averaged over 40 minutes per game every year he was with the team.

Coach: Larry Costello

All-Time Franchise Winning Percentage (through 2014-15): .512