I was reading reviews of Bill Simmons’ gargantuan Book of Basketball at NY Mag and couldn’t help but peruse the comments section. I find that some of the most profound ideas and insights can be found not in the reviews themselves, but website viewers reviews of the reviews – that and dick jokes and homophobic insults. After reading Tommy Cragg’s backhandedly positive assessment of the Simmons’ NBA magnus opus, I couldn’t help but have my interest peaked by the following comment from Sam Anderson:
“This whole "1.5" thing is fascinating. I want a list of all the true 1s in the league (LeBron, Kobe, Wade, et al) & then a list of all the 1.5s (Nowitzki, Pierce, Garnett, Roy...). And then I want a compatibility list showing which 1.5s would fit together to win you a championship, & which pairings wouldn't work. E.g., who (just hypothetically) would be the perfect 1.5 to help Nowitzki win a title? Brandon Roy? Deron Williams? Heat-era Shaq?”
I thought to myself that one: I can’t believe no one has done this before, and two, I am going to do what a good writer would do and steal this idea. A Simmons column about the subject would of course be more popular and get roughly three quarters of the USA reading it, but I think I could do a much better job, as I am without the Beantown bias and, unlike Bill what with his man-crush on Kevin Durant exposed, I have an affinity for players who know how to play defense.
I am going to take what Sam Anderson wants and accomplish it. First of all, I am going to take the true franchise players in the league and then match them with their ultimate 1.5 guys to create the best possible pairings, some of which may already be in place. What I am trying to do is piece together dynasties. You can have a championship team with no true number 1, exhibit A the 2004 Detroit Pistons, but a dynasty requires at least one number guy. Let’s get started shall we.
The True Franchise Players
Honorable mentions and omissions:
Tim Duncan - No longer a guy you can presumably built a championship team around.
Dirk Nowitzki - I have always seen Dirk as a 1.5 guy. He lacks the mental toughness to be a number 1.
Kevin Garnett - Offensive game, defensive prowess and leadership make him a no-brainer. A gimpy knee does not.
Anyways, here is the fun part, matching our Franchise Guys with the best possible 1.5er. I have put a lot of thought into these pairings and taken into account style of play, amount of touches needed, etc. which is why you won’t see silly pairings like LeBron James and Steve Nash – they both control the ball too much to a be successful pairing.
Kobe Bryant – Pau Gasol
First up is a bit of a cop out. Kobe has found his 1.5 guy - its none other than Pau Gasol. Who better complements Kobe’s game right now? Pau doesn’t require 20 shots a game, hits a high percentage of the shots he does take, is an incredible passer for a big man, and is the Lakers’ best rebounder. He seems to be ego-less, never complaining or slouching when Kobe is having one of his 40 shot bonanzas and gives max effort, all while looking completely calm and collected. Not only have the Lakers built a championship contender with these two, but they have the makings of a dynasty.
LeBron James – Dirk Nowitzki
Now who would fit best as LeBron’s partner in crime? They would have to be able to hit the three, taking advantage of James’ ability to get into the lane and draw defenders. They would have to be fine in the role as second option, even relishing the fact that they don’t get called out and blamed for losses. His second-in-command should be able to fill it up on a regular basis, allowing LeBron’s talent for passing to flourish. This has to be Dirk right? And if LeBron ever developed a post game, can you imagine Dirk giving the entry pass and either letting Bron go to work or awaiting the kick out? Disgusting.
Dwyane Wade – Kevin Garnett
Many would say Chris Bosh, but Bosh’s allergic reactions to defense wouldn’t fit with Wade’s gambling in the passing lanes. KG would be the perfect companion to Wade’s offensive prowess. Could you imagine having to gameplan for these two? They would be like Bryant and Gasol but better, because Garnett is miles ahead of Pau as a rebounder and defender. At this point in his career, KG lacks the offensive game that Gasol carries, but who cares! Wade would fill it up, and Garnett would scare Wade into staying at home on defense. You know who else would work great alongside Wade? Tim Duncan.
Chris Paul – Josh Smith
Right now Josh Smith isn’t quite there as a 1.5 guy, he’s more of a 1.75. But could you imagine Chris Paul being able to run an uptempo offense with a guy like Josh Smith on the wing – it is absolutely frightening and also quite funny, because if Atlanta had done the right thing, this would be a reality. I could see Josh Smith putting up 25 points per game with still being able to swat 2 or 3 shots and get 2 steals a game. Paul has never had anyone like Josh Smith before. He would turn J-Smoove into a superstar and they would win a TON of games. Instead of this being real, I have to watch Paul carry David West, Emeka Okafor, and the corpse of Peja Stojakavic up and down the court for 48 minutes – 3 guys who are the complete opposite of the type of players who should be flanking CP3.
Dwight Howard – Carmelo
I know, I know they are both franchise guys. But it’s been done before (i.e. Kobe-Shaq) to fantastic results. Carmelo can score more ways than anyone without the middle name Bean. Dwight is the bestbig man on D in the league. If these two ever got together I would say 4 championships would be within reach. They would be unstoppable. If I was Orlando I would do anything to wrangle Carmelo away from Denver. Of course it will never happen but one can dream.