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 Brooklyn Nets vs. All-Time Los Angeles Clippers

Our next match features two big-market teams that have accomplished very little in their time in the NBA. While the Nets had a brief run as a juggernaut in the ABA, they’ve mostly been a laughingstock since, save for a noteworthy stint behind a Hall-of-Fame point guard in the 2000s. The Clippers had a promising start as the Buffalo Braves, but then became the worst franchise in sports, before finally trading for another Hall-of-Fame point guard and becoming an annual contender over the past four seasons. These point guards are the featured match up in the battle between the All-Time Brooklyn Nets vs. All-Time Los Angeles Clippers, which will produce an unlikely second round participant in our tournament.

Brooklyn’s Advantages

Balance: The Nets have a well-constructed starting lineup. They have a low post scorer (Derrick Coleman) along with a bruising rebounder (Buck Williams). They have two athletic wings, both of whom can shoot from deep and slash to the rim (Vince Carter and Richard Jefferson). They also have a great floor general who will double as their premier perimeter defender (Jason Kidd). This unit will cause trouble for the Clippers’ power forward heavy lineup.

Wing Depth: The Nets are well-positioned to take advantage of one of Los Angeles’s biggest weaknesses, wing depth. Carter, Jefferson, and Kerry Kittles are all between 6’5” and 6’7”, and are all supremely athletic. Los Angeles may have to play at a slower pace to mitigate this issue and wear Brooklyn out with their assortment of big men.

Brooklyn’s Question Marks

Star Power: This is a relative term; the Nets have a potential Hall-of-Fame backcourt and all-stars littered throughout their roster. However, they only have two players with a PER above 20, and Carter has their highest WS/48 total at .148, a relatively low team-high compared to other franchises in this tournament. The Clippers appear to have more high-end talent, especially in their starting lineup, even if the pieces don’t fit together perfectly.

Los Angeles’s Advantages

Rebounding: The Clippers are starting three big men (Blake Griffin, Elton Brand, and Bob McAdoo), and have two former rebounding champions coming off their bench (Swen Nater and DeAndre Jordan). They should be able to control the glass in this series, and to wear out the Nets’ frontcourt in the process.

Los Angeles’s Question Marks

Spacing: How will the starting lineup function with Griffin nominally playing at small forward? Will the combination of Griffin, Brand, and McAdoo get in each other’s way, or mesh to form a dominant frontcourt?


Can the Nets exploit the Clippers big man lineup? The key for the Clippers will be Griffin, who has the athleticism to play credibly at small forward. Expect Doc Rivers to stagger Griffin, Brand, and McAdoo’s minutes after the opening of each game, and to play the athletic Corey Maggette heavy minutes at the three.


The Clippers have been an NBA wasteland for the majority of their existence. However, they had a few respectable seasons back in their Buffalo Braves days, and they’ve been elite since Chris Paul has teamed up with Blake Griffin. They also lucked out by drawing the moribund Nets as their first-round tournament opponent. I can’t believe I’m about to type this. Do you believe in miracles?


Clippers win, four games to three.

Next Round

Los Angeles takes on the All-Time Pistons.

All-Time Brooklyn Nets Team

All-Time Brooklyn Nets Team Infographic

The All-Time Brooklyn Nets team is…lacking. It’s lacking the clear-cut greatest player in franchise history, Julius Erving, because he only played three seasons with the franchise (sorry Nets fans, but these are the rules of our tournament). It’s also lacking other greats such as Rick Barry and Drazen Petrovic, due to the same longevity issue. What we’re left with is an underwhelming group that reflects the team’s standing as an NBA also-ran and fails to adequately commemorate their two ABA championships. Even though those championships make them our 11th seeded team, their lack of high-end talent makes them susceptible to an early-round exit.

Since Erving is ineligible, the great Jason Kidd is the team’s best player, and is one of only three players to be a member of three of our all-time franchise teams (along with Wilt Chamberlain and Shaquille O’Neal). Kidd led the Nets through an historically weak Eastern Conference and to back-to-back NBA Finals appearances in 2002 and 2003. He’s joined in the starting backcourt by Vince Carter, an elite scorer in his time with the franchise, who represented them on three all-star teams. While the Carter-Kidd backcourt failed to put the team over the top from 2005 to 2008, they had complementary skill sets, and were lethal in the open court. They’re backed up by another three-time all-star, Bill Melchionni, who twice led the ABA in assists and was a contributor to the two championship teams in 1974 and 1976. Kenny Anderson, the talented New York product who never lived up to the enormous expectations placed on him, will serve as the third point guard. Otis Birdsong, a one-time all-star with the Nets, will back up Carter along with Kerry Kittles, a solid all-around player who ranks in the top ten in team history in field goals, three pointers, total points, and steals.

While Richard Jefferson, the starting small forward, was not Erving or Barry, he was a dynamic wing who played well off of Kidd. He became a competent three point shooter in his latter years with the franchise, and provided elite athleticism for his size. Buck Williams is the greatest big man in franchise history, and is the all-time Nets leader in games, minutes, field goals, free throws, rebounds (total, offensive, and defensive), rebounds per game, total points, and win shares. They’re backed up Kenyon Martin, a plus two-way player, who provided toughness and athleticism from the power forward position. Although he’s infamous for his 3-for-23 shooting performance in game six of the 2003 NBA Finals, Martin’s offensive game was well-suited for a complementary role, which he should be able to assume as an off-the-bench contributor for this team.

Although he was a natural power forward, Derrick Coleman will serve as the team’s starting center. Coleman was one of the most talented big men of the 1990s, who, unfortunately, developed a horrible reputation during his time with the franchise. Like Anderson, he didn’t live up to the enormous expectations placed upon him, but he was a two-time all-NBA selection who averaged a double-double in his Nets career. Off the bench, Billy Paultz was an elite ABA big man who was an excellent shooter for his size. Brook Lopez, the team’s current center, will also get minutes as a dangerous scoring threat who can use his elite size (7’0” 275 lb) to protect the rim.

This team consists of many solid pieces, but does not have the mix of hall-of-fame legends that many of their competitors in our tournament boast. They have an intriguing first-round match up with the Los Angeles Clippers, another also-ran who has only recently developed into a competitive franchise.

Coach: Kevin Loughery

All-Time Franchise Winning Percentage (through 2014-15): .440