|Posted by dennee on July 28, 2012 at 11:50 AM|
How to win a championship is one of the most complex puzzles facing any General Manager. There are so many influences that are largely guesswork and that many fans and observers swear are the most important. Chemistry, unselfishness, emotional control, mental attitude, locker room presence, cohesiveness, and unrelenting will to win are some of the often quoted "intangibles." Not a complete list to be sure, all of these are important and can have a profound impact upon a team's win-loss record. There is and has been no shortage of teams with incredibly talented lineups who never won anything. So there is no argument here regarding the validity of the intangibles. The problem with intangibles is that they are not measurable or quantifiable. They are characterized by feeling, opinion, and guesswork. As such, they are largely uncontrollable. A General Manager must therefore focus on what he can control.
The bottom line, in the final analysis, at the end of the day, or whateveer other popular cliche' one prefers to use, there are only two things that matter above all else. Can you put the ball in the hoop and can you keep the other team from putting the ball in the hoop?
In the past few years, there has been an increased emphasis on defense. Just in the past week I read another article which pointed out that fans come to see the great passes and the ooh-ahh slam dunks, but it is defense that wins ballgames. While the first part is true, is the second? Is defense the difference between winning and losing? The answer really is yes - and no.
Theoretically, a team defense could be so good as to hold the other team to say, only one basket for the entire game. Yet, if a single free throw made is your entire offense, you still lose. Obviously this is a most simplistic example, but it holds true regardless of the total point outcome. So just as obvious, the team that finds the best combination of adequate defense and sufficient offense is the team that will persevere.
If defense was truly the most important factor, the Miami Heat would not have won the Finals. Look for the proof here: http://www.nbastuffer.com/2012_NBA_Playoffs_Advanced_Stats.html
These stats are for the 2012 playoffs and they show that if defense was all it took to win (or at least the biggest determining factor), then Chicago should have been the champs as they had the best defense allowing only 86 points per game.
Conversely, no or poor defense is also the road to disappointment. Utah allowed 102.3 points per game followed by Dallas at 99.8. Both were quickly eliminated after only four games.
Does this mean that defense is completely overrated and that an overpowering offense is the answer? Well, no. Were this true, then San Antonio scoring 102 points per game or Oklahoma City close behind at 101.3 should have been the champs. Of course we all know they aren't.
So the real conclusion is that it is the right amount of defense combined with the right amount of offense that is key. When we look at the point differential, the picture begins to come into focus. Utah was swept with a differential of minus or negative 16 and Miami was the ultimate survivor with a differential of plus or positive 7. Of course, this is again simplistic as it does not consider injuries, match ups by seeding, rest, or timeliness in individual games of points scored or points allowed. Still, the overall premise holds true. It is not enough to be a great defensive team. You still have to score more points than the other guys.
At the same website on another page is a graph which helps to put this into visual perspective:
Along the x axis is offensive efficiency and the y axis shows defensive efficiency. The graph is divided into four quadrants with the two upper being the best defense, the two right being the most powerful offenses. The single upper right is where not necessarily the best defense and best offense meet. Rather it is where the best combination of the two exists and it is populated by only one team, the Heat. Their defense was only the sixth best in the playoffs, and their offense was only the third best, but it was the number one combination of the two that brought home the trophy for them.
What does all of this mean for the Celtics and their offseason moves? As mentioned, the Heat had a point differential of 7 in the playoffs while the Celtics differential was 1. All else being equal, which of course it won't be, the six point difference has to be accounted for by either holding the Heat to an average of 7 points less or the Celtics scoring an average of 7 points more or some combination of the two.
Danny Ainge was undoubtedly well aware of this equation and made numerous moves to try and solve it. As hard as it may be to believe, all of the signings, contract negotiations, cap space worries, draft picks, and everything else basically boils down to trying to be an average of 7 points better. What do you think? Can Danny add and subtract?