Comparing Each NBA Team to Its College Basketball Doppelganger
Every NBA team bares at least some resemblance to a college program.
Whether it's because of injuries, roster balance, strengths, weaknesses or history, each pro franchise has a college equivalent.
These doppelgangers aren't based on success. Some top schools might be matched up with mediocre NBA teams.
Obviously, you have to expand your imagination a bit to make this work, but there are eerie similarities between some of your favorite NBA teams and college programs.
Chicago Bulls and Wisconsin Badgers
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Both the Chicago Bulls and Wisconsin Badgers lost their floor generals to start the 2012-13 season. Chicago lost Derrick Rose to a torn ACL, and Wisconsin lost Jordan Taylor to graduation.
These offenses have struggled mightily without them. The Bulls are second-to-last in the NBA in points per game without Rose, while the Badgers are ranked No. 206 in the country.
But both teams have remained competitive despite the loss of offensive production.
The Bulls are third in the NBA in points given up per game. They win games on the defensive side of the ball.
Wisconsin succeeds with the same formula. The Badgers rank No. 7 in the country in scoring defense, giving up less than 56 points per game.
Despite losing their quarterbacks and offensive superstars, the Bulls and Badgers have succeeded by playing top-notch defense on a consistent basis.
Brooklyn Nets and Oklahoma State Cowboys
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What's the common theme between the Brooklyn Nets and Oklahoma State Cowboys?
Guard play. An offense predicated on the guards providing the bulk of the team's scoring production.
You can say there are actually a lot of similarities between Marcus Smart and Deron Williams, two floor generals who can dish it out or get their own.
At the off-guard slot, the Nets rely on Joe Johnson to knock down shots and score in isolation. Oklahoma State's Markel Brown plays that role for the Cowboys, averaging over 15 points per game as the team's go-to perimeter scorer.
Because both teams rely so heavily on their guards, they resort to low-percentage offensive possessions a little too often.
Atlanta Hawks and UCLA Bruins
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The Atlanta Hawks are playing this season knowing that the team's star isn't likely to stick around.
The UCLA Bruins might know what that feels like.
With Josh Smith expected to demand a hefty contract this summer, and the Hawks unlikely to give it to him, he's ultimately using this year to drive up his price on the open market.
Shabazz Muhammad is UCLA's star small forward who the coach already acknowledged wouldn't be back with the team next year. Muhammad is a projected top-10 pick in the NBA draft and, like Smith, will be using this year to build up his value.
Boston Celtics and Kentucky Wildcats
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The Boston Celtics and Kentucky Wildcats lost their star players midyear to a season-ending ACL tear, and both will have to game-plan for how they want to deal with the consequences.
Rajon Rondo was knocked out midway through the year, which eliminates any realistic possibility of the Celtics emerging from the East. Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce are also nearing the end of their careers and are unlikely to stick around for the next phase of Celtics basketball.
Kentucky's Nerlens Noel's injury is a little trickier, considering it happened just over four months before the 2013 NBA draft. Since going down, the Wildcats have struggled to compete and ultimately missed the NCAA tournament before getting knocked out of the NIT.
Like the Celtics, the Wildcats will also have to deal with the uncertainty surrounding its supporting cast. Though they've mentioned they'd like to come back, Willie Cauley-Stein, Archie Goodwin and Alex Poythress aren't set in stone to return either.
Between injuries to their star players and roster changes coming, the Celtics and Wildcats seem to resemble one another.
Charlotte Bobcats and TCU Horned Frogs
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The Charlotte Bobcats are the TCU Horned Frogs of the NBA.
The Bobcats sit on the basement floor of the Eastern Conference standings with the worst record in the NBA. However, one of Charlotte's 16 wins came against the Indiana Pacers early in the year, a team currently slated to finish second in the East behind Miami.
TCU finished last in the Big 12 with a 2-16 conference record. But one of those wins they'll remember. The Horned Frogs knocked off Kansas earlier in the year, a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament and the No. 5 team in the country at the time.
Unfortunately for these teams, the win against the Pacers and the win against the Jayhawks only count as one.
Cleveland Cavaliers and Missouri Tigers
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The Cleveland Cavaliers and the Missouri Tigers are two teams who rely solely on their point guards to pretty much take care of everything.
Kyrie Irving is more than just the face of the franchise—he's the engine that powers it. The Cavs rely on Irving to take over offensively, whether it's as a scorer or facilitator, whatever the situation calls for.
Phil Pressey sets the table for everyone. While the supporting cast is certainly capable of sitting down and eating on their own, none of them are capable of preparing their own meals.
Without Irving and Pressey, nobody gets fed, and nothing gets done in Cleveland and Missouri.
Dallas Mavericks and Purdue Boilermakers
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The Dallas Mavericks usually have a reserved spot in the NBA playoffs, just like the Purdue Boilermakers are typically shoo-ins for the NCAA tournament.
Not in 2012-13.
The Mavericks have made the playoffs 12 years in a row, a streak that should come to an end. The team was missing Dirk Nowitzki for the first portion of the year, and it's taken him awhile to get back into rhythm.
After six straight March Madness appearances, Purdue finished 8-10 in conference play and missed out on the Big Dance.
The team lost Robbie Hummel in 2013, Purdue's version of Dirk Nowitzki. Hummel had been with the team since 2007 and, after a couple of ACL tears, was able to stay eligible till 2012. Without him, Purdue just didn't look the same.
Both the Mavericks and the Boilermakers are experiencing rare down-years after age became a factor for the faces of each program.
New York Knicks and Miami Hurricanes
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The New York Knicks and the Miami Hurricanes are both really old—in context.
Between Jason Kidd, Kenyon Martin, Kurt Thomas, Marcus Camby, Pablo Prigioni and Rasheed Wallace, you won't find another roster in history with this many miles on the tires.
The same goes for the Hurricanes. Star point guard Shane Larkin is 20, center Reggie Johnson is 23, 2-guard Durand Scott is 23, swingman Trey McKinney Jones is 22, stretch 4 Kenny Kadji is 24, big man Julian Gamble is 23 and guard Rion Brown 21.
That's your rotation, folks.
Both of these teams' biggest strengths center around their experience. And if either of them make a run, chances are that might have something to do with it.
San Antonio Spurs and Duke Blue Devils
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The San Antonio Spurs and Duke Blue Devils are winning with seasoned veterans and experienced, credible head coaches.
Both teams go to a three-man core they rely on. The Spurs trio of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili remains intact. Though not the most explosive nucleus, they've maintained the top record in the NBA and are on pace to earn a No. 1 seed in the playoffs.
Duke is currently a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament, with a similar three-man core of reliable seniors. Seth Curry, Ryan Kelly and Mason Plumlee are the main cogs in Duke's offense that's directed by the legendary coach Mike Krzyzewski.
These are your successful veteran squads who you know will be in contention year after year.
Indiana Pacers and Georgetown Hoyas
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The Indiana Pacers and Georgetown Hoyas rely on their defensive efforts over offensive firepower to win games.
The Pacers are second in the NBA in points allowed per game, giving up less than 90 a night to opposing offenses.
And while Paul George has emerged as the team's primary scoring option, that's not necessarily his natural role.
Like Indiana, Georgetown prides itself on stopping opponents. They rank No. 6 in the country in points allowed, winning games by grinding them out for 40 minutes.
Otto Porter is the team's leading scorer at over 16 a game, a player who also doesn't project as a go-to option.
These teams both let their defenses do the talking and allow the offense to come second.
Miami Heat and Kansas Jayhawks
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While the personnel on each team don't exactly match up, the Miami Heat and Kansas Jayhawks win games with offense and defense equally.
The Heat rank top eight in both points allowed and points scored. We know what LeBron James and Dwyane Wade are capable of doing offensively. And these guys aren't too shabby on the other side of the ball, either.
Kansas ranks top 25 in the country in scoring, yet is also No. 1 in the country in opponent field-goal percentage.
And between the two teams, they might each have the top pro in their respective leagues. LeBron James has established himself as the best player in the world, while Ben McLemore looks to be the favorite to go No. 1 in the 2013 NBA draft.
Just to top it off, both Miami and Kansas will be No. 1 seeds in the playoffs and NCAA tournament.
Denver Nuggets and Syracuse Orange
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The Denver Nuggets and Syracuse Orange are two teams who win with depth as opposed to relying on a few individuals.
George Karl employs a nine-man rotation with six players averaging in double figures. There isn't necessarily a go-to option on the roster. It's possible that each game results in a new leading scorer, with multiple players capable of stepping up to the plate.
Jim Boeheim also employs a nine-man rotation, which is rare at the college game. The Orange have four players who average in double figures in C.J. Fair, James Southerland, Michael Carter-Williams and Brandon Triche, and neither of those guys is considered an option A or option B.
Both the Nuggets and the Orange win games with defense and a balanced offensive attack.
Plus they both had a guy named Carmelo Anthony win them some games in the past.
Memphis Grizzlies and Colorado State Rams
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The Memphis Grizzlies and Colorado State Rams are both praised for their offensive discipline and toughness on the glass.
According to John Hollinger's advanced stats, the Memphis Grizzlies are ranked No. 2 in the NBA in rebounding rate, which can be attributed to the size and physicality provided by Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol.
This team also takes care of the basketball, currently top 10 in the league in turnovers per game.
Colorado State doesn't have much offensive firepower, but it dominates teams on the glass. With Colton Iverson inside, one of the strongest and toughest big men in the nation, the Rams lead the country in rebounding margin.
They're also No. 12 in the country in turnovers. Like the Grizzlies, the Rams rarely beat themselves and make teams play their best in order to come out victorious.
Minnesota Timberwolves and Providence Friars
The rosters of both the Minnesota Timberwolves and Providence Friars looked a lot better in the offseason heading into 2012-13.
The Wolves had signed Andrei Kirilenko and traded for Chase Budinger, and would be getting back Ricky Rubio to pair with Kevin Love. But Love missed the first nine games of the year with a broken hand. He then returned for 20 games before refracturing the same hand, which ultimately led to season-ending surgery.
Budinger also tore the meniscus in his knee early in the year, while Kirilenko has missed a handful of games for various injuries, most recently a calf injury.
Providence experienced similar roster troubles, although not all because of injury.
The Friars landed Ricky Ledo, a consensus top-25 recruit, but he was ruled a partial qualifier by the NCAA, which means he can practice with the team but can't play in any games.
They also landed Kris Dunn, another top-25 recruit who needed shoulder surgery before the year and missed the first month of the season.
Sidiki Johnson, a former highly touted recruit who transferred from Arizona, also had trouble staying on the floor. He left the team in February for personal issues.
Despite all the talent, neither Minnesota not Providence were given a shot to succeed this year.
Golden State Warriors and Ole Miss Rebels
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The Golden State Warriors and Ole Miss Rebels are two perimeter-oriented teams that feature a lethal shooter capable of sinking any ship or vessel.
Stephen Curry leads the NBA in three-pointers made and has the Warriors relevant in the West after years of nothing to cheer about. They won't be a favorite in the playoffs, but higher seeds will no doubt fear the perimeter firepower the Warriors bring to the table.
Marshall Henderson is Ole Miss's secret weapon, although I'm not so sure how secretive it is anymore. Henderson is second in the country in three-pointers made, and though nothing like Curry in terms of character, he's made Ole Miss a threat in the NCAA tournament.
These teams aren't top of the class fundamentally, but with unguardable perimeter scorers who can heat up faster than a microwave, every game is a winnable one.
Detroit Pistons and Arizona Wildcats
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Both the Detroit Pistons and Arizona Wildcats have similar identities.
Detroit has Brandon Knight, a talented offensive player but one who lacks a true position. His size and ball-handling say he's a 1, but his instincts and scoring arsenal say he's a 2.
Arizona shares a similar problem with Mark Lyons. A transfer from Xavier, Lyons is one of the toughest scoring guards in the country, averaging 15 points a game as the team's primary ball-handler. But he's not much of a facilitator, and despite his scoring prowess, the offense tends to struggle with Lyons pulling the strings.
Both teams also have young big men trying to find their spots. Detroit's Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond are still learning the ropes. Freshmen Brandon Ashley, Kaleb Tarczewski and Grant Jerrett are all highly touted frontcourt recruits looking to make an impact in the rotation.
Houston Rockets and Beltmont Bruins
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There are similarities between the Houston Rockets' and Belmont Bruins' offensive attacks.
Houston wins games with the ball in its hands. They push the tempo and have offense driven from the backcourt. James Harden and Jeremy Lin dominate the ball, getting to the rim or pulling up from three in transition.
The Rockets are tied for the NBA lead in points per game and are tied for the lead in three-pointers made per game.
Belmont also thrives behind the arc, ranking No. 13 in the country in threes made per game. But their offense is also generated directly from the backcourt.
Guards Ian Clarke and Kerron Johnson are the team's leading scorers, averaging a combined 32 points per game, with Clarke posing as the team's Harden and Johnson as the team's Lin.
Belmont also ranks No. 15 nationally in points scored per game.
Los Angeles Clippers and Memphis Tigers
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The Los Angeles Clippers and the Memphis Tigers are both oozing with athleticism and explosiveness. These teams have athletes so electric they could power the arenas with a slam or alley-oop.
The Blake Griffin-DeAndre Jordan frontcourt combo is as good as it gets in the NBA if we're talking about natural physical abilities. One of the Clippers' brightest strengths is their athletic front line, and they play to it well.
Adonis Thomas, Geron Johnson and D.J. Stephens are capable of bringing down the house with a few dunks of their own. While neither of these guys has a refined offensive skill set, they contribute by making plays driven by their athletic gifts.
These are teams that may not have the talent to match up with those at the top of the class, but they can pose serious mismatch problems against physically inferior lineups.
Tornoto Raptors and Illinois Fighting Illini
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The Toronto Raptors and Illinois Fighting Illini are both underachieving teams who rely heavily on a go-to scorer and a perimeter-oriented attack.
Rudy Gay has been the guy for the Raptors, the way Brandon Paul is for the Illini.
Both of these teams also rely on a one-two-three attack, with Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan and Gay as the top three options for Toronto, and guards Tracy Abrams, Paul and D.J. Richardson the top-three options for Illinois.
Ultimately, these types of teams can either beat the best or go down to the worst.
Neither team has the greatest option for points in the paint, and they rely on their go-to scorers and supporting guards to provide the offensive firepower.
New Orleans Hornets and UNLV Runnin' Rebels
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The New Orleans Hornets added one of the top newcomers in the game in Anthony Davis. The UNLV Rebels added Anthony Bennett, a top high school recruit and now a top prospect in the country.
Davis adds a new dimension of both offense and defense to New Orleans' rotation. The transition from college to the pros has gone smoother than anyone could have anticipated.
The Hornets also have solid weapons at every position on the floor, with Greivis Vasquez's emergence at point guard, Eric Gordon's return and Ryan Anderson now on the wing. But despite all the talent, it hasn't translated to on-court success.
UNLV had the same problem throughout the year. Like New Orleans, they added a new wing in Bryce Dejean-Jones (transfer from USC) to pair with Anthony Marshall, freshman Katin Reinhardt in the backcourt and Mike Moser up front.
Despite Bennet's presence in the lineup, along with a talented supporting cast, UNLV was bounced in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
These are two teams with skill players at every position, struggling to put it all together. For the Hornets, there's time. Unfortunately for the Rebels, there isn't, with Bennett likely to declare and Marshall set to graduate.
Milwaukee Bucks and Michigan Wolverines
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The Milwaukee Bucks and Michigan Wolverines share similar roster balance and offensive approaches.
With a Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis backcourt, you know the ball is going to be dominated by the guards. The offense starts with them, runs through them and ends through them.
It's not common to find both starting guards leading the team in scoring. It's also not common to find a ball-dominant backcourt that actually takes care of the ball.
Only two teams turn the ball over less than the Milwaukee Bucks.
Which is funny, because Michigan leads the country in ball security. Trey Burke leads the nation in assist-to-turnover ratio, and the Wolverines rank No. 1 nationally in terms of least amount of turnovers.
Between Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr., Michigan's backcourt fuels the offense as the top two scoring options, yet does so efficiently.
Oklahoma City Thunder and Indiana Hoosiers
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The Oklahoma City Thunder and Indiana Hoosiers are your respective offensive powerhouses of both the NBA and NCAA.
Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are the NBA's most potent scoring duo in the league. But it's not just them. This team has role players and gap-fillers who can all put the ball through the hoop.
The Thunder are tied for No. 1 in the NBA in scoring offense and No. 3 in the NBA in field-goal percentage.
The Hoosiers' top duo isn't too shabby, either. Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo have been one of the top one-two punches in the nation, while the supporting cast of Christian Watford, Yogi Ferrell, Will Sheehey and Jordan Hulls are all reliable offensive contributors.
Indiana ranks No. 3 in the country in points per game and has earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.
Oklahoma City and Indiana are two elite teams in their leagues who win games with offensive firepower.
Orlando Magic and Baylor Bears
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The Orlando Magic and Baylor Bears both lost key signature players, and it has negatively impacted their seasons.
The Magic of course lost the face of the franchise in Dwight Howard after being forced to deal the big man before he hit the open market. The Magic also lost Ryan Anderson to free agency and included Jason Richardson in the Howard deal.
To no surprise, the Magic have one of the worst records in the league and will be left out of the 2013 NBA playoffs.
Baylor lost its top player in Perry Jones along with starting big man Quincy Acy and swingman Quincy Miller all to the NBA draft.
With them, they were a No. 3 seed in the NCAA tournament. Without them, Baylor will be contending in the NIT tournament.
Both teams were left with their point guards, Jameer Nelson and Pierre Jackson, who have struggled to keep their teams afloat.
Philadelphia 76ers and Xavier Musketeers
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Both the Philadelphia 76ers and Xavier Musketeers lost key members of their rotations without doing much to replace the lost production.
The 76ers ended up dealing Andre Iguodala, Nikola Vucevic and Moe Harkless, only to get back Andrew Bynum and Jason Richardson. Bynum, as you know, hasn't played a single game this year and was recently ruled out for the season with a lingering knee injury. Jason Richardson had season-ending surgery earlier this year.
Xavier expelled its promising young scoring guard Dezmine Wells for an alleged sexual assault crime he was never even charged for, while starting point guard Mark Lyons transferred to Arizona.
As a result, Xavier missed out on a bid to the Big Dance, while the 76ers are slated to miss the NBA playoffs.
Phoenix Suns and West Virginia Mountaineers
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Both the Phoenix Suns and the West Virginia Mountaineers lost their long-time point guards in the offseason. To make up for it, the Suns signed a bunch of free agents and the Mountaineers landed a couple of high-profile transfers.
But neither strategy worked.
The Suns were forced to deal Steve Nash in a sign-and-trade. To fill his shoes and to add to its supporting cast, Phoenix signed Goran Dragic, Michael Beasley and Luis Scola.
While Dragic has played up to par, Beasley has already lost his spot in the rotation and Luis Scola has essentially been a non-factor. Despite the acquisitions, Phoenix has one of the worst records in the league.
The Mountaineers ended up losing starting point guard Darryl "Truck" Bryant to graduation, but brought Juwan Staten, former Dayton guard, to help fill his void. Staten, known as a scorer, was underwhelming in his first year at West Virginia, averaging only 7.6 points on 37 percent shooting and didn't make a three all year.
West Virginia also brought in Aaric Murray, the 6'10'' big man who averaged 15 points and nearly eight boards a game for La Salle. As a Mountaineer, he averaged less than nine points and six rebounds.
Like the Suns, the Mountaineers were brutal for most of the year, finishing 6-12 in the Big 12 and missing the NCAA tournament.
Portland Trail Blazers and Arizona State Sun Devils
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Both the Portland Trail Blazers and the Arizona State Sun Devils have given the ball to brand-new inexperienced floor generals.
Damian Lillard has been thrown into the fire immediately, starting for the Blazers and controlling the offense in his first year as a pro.
Arizona State looks to Jahii Carson to conduct the offense. For those who haven't seen Carson, he's one of the most exciting young players in the country with the ball in his hands.
Both Lillard and Carson have been given complete control of their teams on the first day on the job. And both have exceeded expectations despite their teams' so-so records.
Sacramento Kings and Connecticut Huskies
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The Sacramento Kings and Connecticut Huskies both have talented rosters without any balance.
While Isaiah Thomas, Tyreke Evans, Jimmer Fredette and Toney Douglas all might be talented offensive players, none of them are true point guards. They each have their own strengths as scorers, but without any of them possessing the instincts of a true facilitator, the offense is never fluid.
Connecticut has the same problem in Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright. These are talented scoring combo guards, but neither has the skill set to efficiently run half-court sets.
Despite talent on the roster, the Huskies matched every impressive conference win with a head-scratching loss. And with all sorts of offensive weapons, the Kings play with minimal efficiency.
Los Angeles Lakers and North Carolina State Wolfpack
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The Los Angeles Lakers and North Carolina State Wolfpack have both underachieved.
After assembling a video-game roster by acquiring Steve Nash and Dwight Howard, you wouldn't expect the Lakers to be battling for the No. 8 spot in the West. Despite the star power and talent on the roster, the lack of cohesion has resulted in one of the more perplexing and disappointing seasons in Lakers history.
Meanwhile, many had projected North Carolina State to finish atop the ACC rankings. They entered the season with a star junior point guard in Lorenzo Brown, a potential first-round pick in C.J. Leslie, an elite shooter in Scott Wood and one of the most reliable big men in the country in senior Richard Howell.
They then added T.J. Warren and Rodney Purvis, two highly touted recruits.
But the team finished fourth in the conference and earned a disappointing No. 8 seed in the dance, where they were knocked out in the first round.
Neither the Lakers' nor the Wolfpack's record reflects the talent on their rosters.
Utah Jazz and Michigan State Spartans
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The Utah Jazz and Michigan State Spartans rely heavily on their frontcourt duos to generate half-court offense.
Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap are Utah's top two options with the game slowed down. Jefferson is more of your back-to-the-basket big man, while Millsap is a little more versatile with the ability to face the rim and step outside the paint.
Derrick Nix is Michigan State's Al Jefferson. He uses his monstrous body to position himself down low for easy baskets in the post. Adriene Payne is your Paul Millsap, who can bully defenders inside or play out on the perimeter.
Both teams' strengths center around their frontcourt offense and rely on it to give the team an offensive advantage.
Washington Wizards and Virginia Cavaliers
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The Washington Wizards and Virginia Cavaliers share a common theme: They both stink on offense yet excel on defense.
Despite Washington's uninspiring record, it's actually one of the better defensive teams in the league. The Wizards rank No. 4 in the NBA in opponent field-goal percentage and No. 6 in the NBA in points allowed.
Offensively is a different story, where they score the third-fewest points per game of any team in the league, and according to John Hollinger's advanced stats, they rank dead last in offensive efficiency.
Virginia gives up the the fourth-least amount of points per game of any team in the country, which gets completely negated by the fact they rank No. 259 in points scored offensively.
The slogan "defense wins championships" doesn't apply to teams who can't play offense.