In the NBA it’s possible to win a lot of games, even go far in the playoffs, with super-star perimeter strength. However, when push comes to shove the games are won (and lost) in the paint. If you look at the past decade of NBA champions the team holding the trophy at the end of the season has always, at the very least, held it down on defense in the paint. A number of them have also included a legit scoring threat, one who elicits double teams. Here’s a quick rundown of those teams, and their most important bigs (as seen primarily by talent and cumulative playoff minutes for their championship season):
- 2001-2002—Los Angeles Lakers (Shaquille O’Neal, Samaki Walker, Robert Horry)
- 2002-2003 – San Antonio Spurs (Tim Duncan, David Robinson, Malik Rose)
- 2003-2004 – Detroit Pistons (Ben Wallace, Rasheed Wallace, Corliss Williamson)
- 2004-2005 – San Antonio Spurs (Tim Duncan, Robert Horry, Nazr Mohammed)
- 2005-2006 – Miami Heat (Shaquille O’Neal, Alonzo Mourning, Udonis Haslem)
- 2006-2007 – San Antonio Spurs (Tim Duncan, Fabricio Oberto, Robert Horry)
- 2007-2008 – Boston Celtics (Kevin Garnett, Kendrick Perkins, P.J. Brown)
- 2008-2009 – Los Angeles Lakers (Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum, Lamar Odom)
- 2009-2010 – Los Angeles Lakers (Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum, Lamar Odom)
- 2010-2011 – Dallas Mavericks (Dirk Nowitzki, Tyson Chandler, Shawn Marion)
These are the three most important guys from just the center and power forward spots – which comprises just 2/5th of an entire on-court team. Furthermore, some of these teams went to a deeper rotation inside than just three guys. The Celtics, for example, were able to get some real good playoff minutes from Glen Davis. Additionally, the Pistons won a title with 2nd year player Mehmet Okur playing 11.5 mpg. And he played in 22 of a total 23 games in the playoffs. The first three guys in the paint are important. But, these teams don’t win titles just because they have a guy like Zo or P.J. Brown coming off the bench – they win titles because they have guys like Kobe Bryant, Paul Pierce, Jason Terry, Tony Parker, Chauncey Billups, and Dwyane Wade on their rosters. That said, you can’t ignore the paint. Especially not if you are trying to become a contender.
The Jazz are such a team (after all, we only have up to go, we can’t get much farther down). Utah also has a bevy of options for the paint moving forward. I’m not going to make this a huge long post; and there’s obviously some uncertainty here: we don’t know what’s going to happen with free agency, trades, injures, and future drafts. But try this poll out, and in the comments below give some reason for what you picked. Our current strength is inside, and if we don’t maximize this strength we’re only doing our team a disservice.