Monday, March 01, 2004

The BluePrint

Good to be back. The Bulls are currently playing the Cavs as I'm typing this, but in my area the game isn't shown. But I think its fitting that I'm not even seeing the game because in all actuality the individual games don't matter anymore. What is more important than one game is the states of these two similar teams. Even the most insanely optimistic of fans cannot see the Bulls reaching their preseason goals of the playoffs. But the time of reflection on what went wrong and what needs to be done can be done at greater depth and breadth at the end of the year. For now I want to discuss a team that is close to reaching the goal that the Bulls set: tonight's opponents, the Cavs. 

How similar are the two teams? Well speaking in the terms of current rebuilding phase, they are both teams that are looking to make a return to respectability. They have both very young talent as well as some imported veterans. And hell, the two GMs are brothers.

Cavaliers Roster            
    2003-04 Roster          
   4 Tony Battie C-F 2/11/1976 Texas Tech '98 6
   1 Carlos Boozer F-C 11/20/1981 Duke '03 1
   44 Ruben Boumtje Boumtje(IR) C 5/20/1978 Georgetown '01 2
   3 J.R. Bremer(IR) G 9/19/1980 St. Bonaventure '02 1
   5 Kedrick Brown G-F 3/18/1981 Okaloosa-Walton CC FL (J.C.) '03 2
   52 DeSagana Diop F 1/30/1982 Oak Hill Academy HS (VA) 2
   11 Zydrunas Ilgauskas C 6/5/1975 Lithuania 5
   23 LeBron James G 12/30/1984 St. Vincent-St. Mary HS (OH) R
   24 Jason Kapono F 2/2/1981 UCLA '03 R
   0 Jeff McInnis G 10/22/1974 North Carolina '97 6
   14 Ira Newble F 1/20/1975 Miami (Ohio) '97 3
   12 Kevin Ollie G 12/27/1972 Connecticut '95 6
   2 Dajuan Wagner G 2/4/1983 Memphis '05 1
   55 Eric Williams F-G 7/17/1972 Providence '95 8


I'll start with the vets first, and how they compare  the Bulls. The Cav organization can really thank Celtics GM Danny Ainge for giving them 2 hard-working role players in Tony Battie and Eric Williams in the Ricky Davis swap. These are the types of players that coaches love, especially former Celtics coach Jim O'Brien who said that dealing Williams and Battie away was the leading factor in his abrupt resignation. Are Battie and Williams better mid-season additions than Antonio Davis and Jerome Williams? I think they're actually quite even, although in terms of age and salary the Cavs players have the advantage. They also have good veterans in the backcourt with the recently acquired Jeff McInnis and former Bull Kevin Ollie. Actually along with J.R. Bremer they have 3 point guards better than Rick Brunson. But is the difference in bench players really accountable for the two teams' contrasting fortunes? There's actually a far more obvious reason.

What wins in the NBA is the stars. Obviously the term 'star' is relative, its probably better to say 'core players' of the team. And that moreso than the supporting cast is what separates these two teams. On the Bulls' side you can say that the team's fortune rides on Curry, Chandler, Crawford, and Hinrich. It says volumes that Hinrich is probably the most consistent of the group, and as a result the team play is inherently inconsistent. For the Cavaliers, they obviously have a young star in James. But they also have consistent play from Carlos Boozer and Big Z. Boozer in fact is emerging as one of the premier young frontcourt players in the East. James' brilliance this year has really given the team something that the Bulls are still looking for in their young players, a leader to take them to the playoffs.

So while on the surface the teams have similar personnel and status, the Cavaliers are on the brink of the playoffs for a reason. Their marquee talent is simply outplaying the Bulls' counterparts all year, and that makes more of a difference than any fine tuning the brothers Paxson could do to their teams. Hey...but it looks like the Bulls won while I typed this all up :)