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 Indiana Pacers vs. All-Time Orlando Magic

Our next first round matchup features the eighth seeded All-Time Indiana Pacers vs. the 25th seeded All-Time Orlando Magic. Despite the seeding disparity, these two teams are closely matched, and each holds several advantages that could swing the series.

Indiana Advantages

Depth and Positional Flexibility: Every bench player on the Pacers roster made at least one All-Star game during their time in the ABA/NBA. They have a clear advantage here, as only one of Orlando’s bench players made an All-Star team. Indiana also has several players who can play multiple positions, including George McGinnis, Paul George, and Billy Knight, so they’ll throw many different looks at Orlando. McGinnis, Detlef Schrempf, and Rik Smits also have the ability to make Dwight Howard and Shaquille O’Neal uncomfortable on defense by playing on the perimeter and dragging them away from their comfort zone in the paint.

Hack-A-Superman: O’Neal and Howard are poor free throw shooters, and Indiana has enough bodies to resort to this gimmick to slow down the Orlando pair, and try to get one or both of them out of the game.

Perimeter Length: Orlando may have the biggest starting guards and wings in this tournament, but Indiana is better suited than most to defend them. Starting guards Vern Fleming (6’5”) and Reggie Miller (6’7”) have great height for their position, and off the bench, 6’9” Paul George, 6’6” Billy Knight, and 6’9” Danny Granger can all compete against the height of Anfernee Hardaway, Tracy McGrady, and Rashard Lewis. Expect George, the best defender of the group, to see a lot of time guarding McGrady, while Fleming and 6’4” Don Buse will hound Hardaway all over the court.

Orlando Advantages

Size and Strength: Although Indiana has the length to compete with Orlando on the perimeter, they don’t have the bulk to compete with them down low. Consider the size of the defenders who will attempt to guard the 7’1” 325lb Shaquille O’Neal:
Mel Daniels – 6’9” 220 lb
Jermaine O’Neal – 6’11” 226lb
Rik Smits – 7’4” 250lb
Let’s not forget that Shaq has the 6’11” 240lb Dwight Howard playing next to him, who the 6’8” 235lb McGinnis will have to contend with.

Playmaking ability: Orlando has elite perimeter playmakers in McGrady and Hardaway, something that Indiana lacks. These two will pressure the defense and create easy opportunities for their big men and three-point shooters. Indiana will have to work harder to create their points, since they don’t have playmaking guards who can break down the defense. Expect Indiana to diversify at times by running their offense through frontcourt playmakers Roger Brown, George McGinnis, and Detlef Schrempf, and by running Miller off screens to free him up for perimeter looks.

X-Factor

Orlando’s twin towers vs. Indiana’s fleet of big men: O’Neal and Howard have the ability to physically dominate the Indiana front line. Indiana can counter by trying to tire them out with fresh legs and 30 fouls between their five big men. Indiana will try to force Orlando to downsize by attacking their big men on the perimeter, and getting one or both into foul trouble.

Results

This series goes back and forth. The championship experience of Daniels and Brown, and Miller’s ability in the clutch lead Indiana to several close victories. However, Orlando’s size and strength prove too much for the Pacers. Much like the 1995 Eastern Conference Finals, Orlando advances.

Orlando_Magic_1995_Eastern_Conference_Champions

Orlando wins four games to three.

Next Round

Orlando faces the winner of the All-Time Heat vs. the All-Time Jazz.

All-Time Indiana Pacers Team

All-Time Indiana Pacers Team Infographic 2

It’s difficult to profile the all-time Indiana Pacers team. They experienced their greatest success in the wild and wacky American Basketball Association (ABA), which Will Ferrell somewhat accurately portrayed in the movie ‘Semi-Pro’ (side note: Terry Pluto’s Loose Balls: The Short, Wild Life of the American Basketball Association, an oral history of the ABA, is my favorite basketball book ever – an absolute must-read). With three championships and five ABA Finals appearances, Indiana was the league’s most successful team. Despite the ABA’s buffoonery, the league had great players, and in the first season after the merger, 10 of the 24 all-star participants were former ABA players. So even though the Pacers have been a slightly below .500 team since the merger, their rich ABA history deserves to be honored here, and those players are evaluated in the same context as their NBA counterparts.

This team’s biggest hole is at point guard, where Vern Fleming and Don Buse will split time. These were perfectly solid players; both were good defenders, with great height to bother their opponents (Fleming is 6’5”, Buse 6’4”). However, this is a subpar pairing for a tournament of this caliber, especially on the offensive end; they both made the cut over Mark Jackson, a more talented offensive player who was comically slow-footed with a shaky jump shot. Reggie Miller is the clear choice as the starting shooting guard; despite being somewhat overrated due to his flair for the dramatic (he only made five all-star games in 18 seasons), he was one of the greatest shooters ever, and a great late-game option who embraced big moments. Paul George provides great length, defense, and versatility off the bench, and he and Billy Knight, one of the leading scorers in franchise history, can play at guard or forward, as needed.

Roger Brown and George McGinnis are the starting forwards. Brown was the first player that was signed in franchise history; he never went to the NBA because he was associated with point shavers as an amateur (his name was later cleared), but he was a Hall-of-Famer who shined brightest on the big stage (in the 1970 playoffs, he averaged 28.5 PPG, 10.5 RPG, and 5.6 ASG in leading the team to their first championship). McGinnis is a former ABA MVP who had a good jump shot and a nose for offensive rebounds. Both were good passers, which will help make up for the lack of playmaking at the point guard position.

Mel Daniels, a two-time ABA MVP and the leading rebounder in ABA history, is the easy choice as starting center. This team boasts impressive frontcourt depth, with Jermaine O’Neal providing a great defensive presence off the bench, and Rik Smits and two-time Sixth Man of the Year Detlef Schrempf doing the same on the offensive end. There were many solid frontcourt players who were not able to make the team, including Clark Kellogg, Dale Davis, Chuck Person, Herb Williams, Roy Hibbert, and Ron Artest (who would have had a good chance if hadn’t played less than 200 games for the franchise).

This should be a very good rebounding team who can shine defensively when Buse, George, and O’Neal enter the lineup. Miller and Danny Granger should help to space the floor for their big men to operate down low. With three championships, the Pacers are the eighth seeded team in our tournament, and face the Orlando Magic in their first round match up.

Coach: Slick Leonard

All-Time Franchise Winning Percentage (through 2014-15): .511