Let me take you back to the 2004 NBA Playoffs. Detroit is a three seed in the Eastern Conference. The favorites are my LA Lakers, and behind them a Reggie Miller-Jermaine O'Neal led Indiana Pacer club, and the Kidd-Jefferson-Martin New Jersey Nets. (Yes you can compare those with the three favorites this year: LAL, BOS, CLE.)
Now what was special about Detroit that made them upset New Jersey in the second round, Indiana in the ECF, and LA in The Finals? Was it their balance of players in the front-court and back-court? Was it their unselfish "we before me" attitude? Perhaps, the talent coming off the bench with Mehmet Okur, Chucky Atkins, Corliss Williamson, and Mike James?
Sure. All of those points can be argued. Don't think that Finals MVP Chauncey Billups didn't have as much to do with it then all of those other factors though.
Now let's come back to the present and draw some comparisons with what we saw in '04 and what we see now.
- Does Denver have the balance of players in the front-court and back court? With the addition of Billups, now the front-court actually comes into play and they can do more then just foul the guard that got past Allen Iverson's pathetic defensive effort, and head to the bench. Nene, K-Mart, and Chris Anderson are finally being utilized in the right ways and are healthy for once! I would say the back court of Melo, Chauncey, J.R, and Dahntay Jones speaks for itself. I think we found our answer to the question. Check.
- Does Denver have the unselfish "we before me" attitude? After the trade they pulled off with Detroit, you better believe they do. Billups is the reason they have that attitude now. Check
- Does Denver have talent coming off the bench? Guys, Chris Anderson is fourth in the NBA in blocks per game and provides energy like Anderson Varejao and has got hops like VC. Don't overlook him. You got Linas Kleiza, Renaldo Balkman, JR Smith (assuming Dahntay Jones starts), and Anthony Carter to go with that and you're challenging LA with the best bench in the league. Check
Okay, a lot of teams have those three things though right? So what's the big deal? Chauncey Billups is the glue to all of those pieces making them gel together and making sure they play the way they're supposed to every night.
With the recipe of those three keys plus a Chauncey Billups, we saw what that did for Detroit in '04. Don't be surprised if another Billups led team pulls an upset again come playoff time.