This is a popular question that gets asked almost every time a very talented team gets assembled. Can this team go 82-0? Can they eclipse the 95-96 Bulls record of 72 wins and 10 losses?
Obviously we can count out the Big 3 Celtics, the Big 3 Miami Heat, and this year’s Super-Lakers out of beating the Bulls, because none of them have even come close to passing that mark.
But an 82-0 team? It can be done. Right now the Los Angeles Clippers are playing pretty much seamless basketball, and that is the reason why they have been winning so many games.
As with many things in life, too much of something isn’t necessarily a good thing, and overloading with talent may end up doing more harm than good. The 82-0 team will not happen with 12 star players, but rather a few stars who can play well with each other, and a cast of elite role players that can play off these stars.
In my quest to create the perfect team in the 2012-2013 season, I may have to draw upon the 95-96 Bulls team for inspiration as to how a ‘perfect team’ is built.
Not only did the Bulls have the greatest basketball player of all time, they also had the second best perimeter player of that era, and a player that many experts and fans alike consider the most versatile defensive player in the history of the league. Despite making only two All-Star games, Dennis Rodman is another Hall of Famer, and one of the greatest power forwards of all time despite only averaging 7.3 points over his career.
At the other guard position was Ron Harper, once an explosive scorer who turned into an all-around solid player with good size, and just enough point guard skills for the Phil Jackson triangle. Luc Longley tipped off every game with his great size at the center position. He was certainly no slouch, and possessed average to above average skill in many categories. The Bulls had the Sixth Man of the Year in Toni Kukoc, and the greatest 3-point shooter of all time (in terms of career percentages) in Steve Kerr. That was pretty much it during the playoffs as Phil Jackson kept to a 7-man rotation. Also noteworthy about this team- none of the 12 players in the playoff roster were under the age of 27.
And who can forget about coaching? Everyone has their own opinions on the significance of a head coach in the NBA. I’m in the camp that only a select few coaches are actually good coaches in the NBA. Many recent ‘Coach of the Years’ have been fired within one or two seasons of winning their award. The best NBA coaches are direct complements to their star players, and design a team’s offense and defense according to their star players strengths and weaknesses. He also needs to be able to earn the respect of all his players, so he is not Erik Spoelstra. Obviously with the 95-96 Bulls, Phil Jackson pretty much perfects the triangle, and utilizes his 7-man rotation to play with maximum synergy. What more can you ask for from the NBA coach with the most championships in NBA history?
A cursory look at other greatest NBA teams show that they follow a similar team format. It goes without saying that the other Bulls teams of the 90s were similar to the 95-96 team. The 99-00 Lakers feature two of the greatest players ever, and great role players like Glen Rice, Ron Harper, Robert Horry, A.C. Green, and of course, Derek Fisher rounding out the roster. The Bird Celtics and Magic Lakers also featured multiple Hall of Famers, and cohesive role players that helped hold the team together.
I will set some ground rules before making this team, for the fear of making this team ‘too’ unrealistic. This team will be slightly unrealistic no matter what, but there has to be a line somewhere because there is no team in the NBA where Russell Westbrook is your 12th man. For the sake of this team I will be creating a 9-man rotation that will win 82 games in the regular season, and hopefully win the title as well.
So the rules – The team will have a maximum of 3 NBA All-Stars, with a limit of 2 All-Star starters. The rest of the starting lineup can be constructed from any NBA starters. The 6th man can be a starter caliber player, and the rest of the bench has to be actual bench players in the NBA.
Stay tuned for the next article, where I reveal my ‘perfect’ team.