Great teams in the NBA have eight legitimate players. They aren't necessarily the deepest teams. Many thought OKC and Chicago were deep. Look what happened. Great teams just have eight players who are capable of playing well in the finals.
2012 Finals Champs
Miami: LeBron, Wade, Bosh, Battier, Chalmers, Haslem, Cole (game 4) & Miller (game 5)
Miami appears to be somewhat of an exception. But looking at it, they needed all eight guys to beat OKC. No, LeBron did not beat them single-handedly. Cole made two great threes in Game 4 after OKC opened up with a 17 point lead.
If he doesn't make those shots, they are down 2-2 and have to play Game 6 on the road. Series in doubt. Miller went unconscious in game 5. Battier had 34 points and 9 threes in Game 1 and 2 combined. Chalmers dropped 25 in game 2. 25! Haslem dominated the glass. Bosh actually played well. Wade game through in spots.
In a series where three of the five games were decided by six points or less, and one game pushes it to a Game 6 in OKC, Miami needed help from eight guys. They don't win without a few of the bench guys going unconscious in several games.
2011 Finals Champs
Dallas: Dirk, Chandler, Kidd, Marion, Terry, Kidd, Barea, Stevenson
Dallas is a prime example. You can expand this list to include Stojakovic and even Brendan Haywood if you want. I stuck with eight. Chandler's contribution was enormous. He protected the rim and arguably was the second or third most important player on that team.
Stevenson gave LeBron fits defensively like no one else in the league. No player could do that this year. Kidd and Barea formed a dynamic combination at point guard that hit key clutch shots. Marion was a box score filler. Terry was a high energy three-point and transition player. Dirk was Dirk. That's a team. Shame on Mark Cuban for breaking that team up.
He didn't understand. You can't give up your advantage of having eight guys who can make an impact in an NBA Finals. He gave up three (Chandler, Barea, Stevenson) and two more this year in Terry and Kidd. Wow. Talk about demolishing a team.
2010 Finals Champs
Lakers: Kobe, Gasol, Fisher, Artest, Odom, Bynum, Brown, Farmar.
First six need no explanation. You can make an argument that the 2011-2012 Lakers, with a motivated Odom and clutch Fisher, could have won the West. Fisher played for OKC. Odom was a reliable big man that could create his own shot.
The problem with the Lakers this past year is that Kobe had to be the workaholic. He was the only one who could create his own shot. That's tough to do over the course of a condensed season and then in the playoffs.
Farmar spelled Fisher and allowed him to do damage at critical points of the game. Brown was a great perimeter defender with incredible athleticism and energy. Even Vujacic went off at points in the series. They needed Kobe and seven other guys to get by at tough Celtic team in seven games.
Kobe hasn't had much help since then, but 2012 is looking good.
2009 Finals Champs- Lakers
Throw in Trevor Ariza for Artest. Ariza played fantastic. Super athletic, great defender. Vujacic for Brown. Similar role, three point specialist at times. That was easy.
Memo to Lakers! Get Kobe help, this can happen more often.
2008 Finals Champs
Boston: Pierce, KG, Allen, Rondo, Allen, Posey, Perkins, House
Guess who they played. LA. What a shocker! The problem for LA was that Boston just had better guys at 2-8 than LA did. Kobe was the best player in the series, but it didn't go further than six games. You could even add Leon Powe to that mix, or Glen Davis or Tony Allen! Boston was deep and had a mixture of talents. Shooters, great perimeter defenders, slashers and clutch-shooters.
One of the biggest myths for why Boston lost to LA in 2010 was Perkins' injury. It wasn't just that. It was losing House and Powe. They didn't have quite as strong an eight man group in 2010. LA did.
This can keep going. In 2007, a veteran Spurs team with a solid bench. Elson, Horry, Oberto, Finley and Barry beat LeBron and company.
That doesn't include Parker, Duncan, Ginobili and Bowen.
Going back to 2012-2013: the Knicks and Lakers have a chance. Among other teams.
Carmelo, Amare, Chandler, Shumpert, Kidd, Lin, Smith, Novak, Camby.
The myth about this team is that it doesn't play defense. People forget that the Knicks are a team that now has three of the best defenders in the game. Despite Camby's age, he averaged 9 boards and almost a block and a half a game in limited minutes. He is a renowned defensive specialist. Chandler was the defensive player of the year. Shumpert is a phenomenal talent who is already regarded as one of the top 5 perimeter players in the league.
Novak is one of the best three point shooters in the game, Smith showed flashes of scoring and athleticism off the bench last year. He can also get his own shot. We saw what Lin can do. Now, they bring in a mentor like Jason Kidd to help him out.
For all the heat Amare took last year, you're talking about a guy that averaged 18-and-8 in a bad year. Melo single-handedly beat the Heat in one game this postseason and averaged 28-and-8 over five games. Not bad.
If this rotation can stay healthy look out. Carmelo didn't have this group going into the playoffs last year. He had to carry them himself. Lin was hurt, Amare wasn't himself and Shumpert was out.
Now, Carmelo has this group, and hopefully a healthy Shumpert going into next season.
Kobe, Nash, Gasol, Bynum, Artest, Hill, Sessions, Blake, Ebanks
The great thing for LA is a starting five, regardless of age, doesn't get much better than this. A backcourt with Nash and Kobe and a frontcourt with Artest, Bynum and Gasol is elite.
After that the question is: who fits in?
For a backup point Blake isn't bad. He shot 42 percent from deep in the playoffs. He is smart and makes good decisions. Between Blake, and/or Sessions, they are fine at the backup point.
Ebanks just re-signed. Despite not playing a whole lot in 2011-2012, I expect him to be a big sleeper this year coming off the bench. If you watched the NBA Finals, when Coach Brown put Ebanks on Durant, he gave him a tough time. He has incredible length and can get in a shooters face. Unfortunately, the adjustment was made a little too late in the series. Ebanks, however, is capable of being an athletic and versatile defender off the bench. Think of a championship version of Trevor Ariza.
Great move by LA to bring him back. I don't think they are done making moves either. They realize that it's not just having one of the best players ever in Kobe and a great frontcourt. You need a point and you need at least three guys off the bench that can play a role.
OKC and Miami are in great shape. Boston too (although losing Allen will be a bigger loss than they realize). You can still throw in a Memphis, San Antonio or Chicago.
But, don't rush to expectations in Brooklyn where they have no semblance of an eight man rotation.
New York and Los Angeles are capable of competing too. And I think they will.