June 11th, 2009

Most Valuable Player

There's no end to debate about what constitutes the sine qua non of an NBA champion. Is it a top big man? Is it an all-star point guard? Is it outside shooting by committee, so one or two cold streaks won't bring the team down? Obviously, all those ingredients are important. From where I sit, though, there have been many champions over the past two decades that lacked at least one of these qualities. The one thing I rarely remember a team doing without since Michael Jordan's ascendancy, however, is a player who can consistently create off the dribble during crunch time, who has the capacity, as the color commentators like to say, to "get his own shot."

The Magic have Turkgolu, who comes close when single-teamed, but lacks the quickness and dribbling prowess to get space when he's doubled in earnest. The Lakers, on the other hand, have Kobe, who was crucial to their success even when Shaq was in his prim. Think about it: Pierce, Wade, Ginobili and Parker, Kobe, Jordan. The only possible exceptions might be the pre-Parker Spurs and the Rockets during Jordan's "retirement" years. I don't remember those teams well enough to speak with authority. Maybe some of you remember better than I do and can fill in my gaps.