The starting lineups for the San Antonio Spurs and the Memphis Grizzlies accounted for three All-Star appearances and a Defensive Player of the Year award winner during the 2012-13 campaign, which makes it ironic that these NBA pros draw comparisons to recreation basketball league archetypes.
Both teams are well coached and disciplined on both ends of the court. They play fundamental basketball and trust their teammates, but neither of the two squads tends to wow you with athletic highlight reels.
For further evidence of that, look no further than this laughable jump ball between Zach Randolph and Matt Bonner in Game 2, courtesy of Tom Ley of Deadspin.
You won’t see obnoxious rec league stereotypes like the guy who always makes excuses for poor play, or the guy who repeatedly calls phantom fouls (like what we see in this sketch from College Humor). Still, if you’re going to compare someone in your pickup game to an NBA pro, the Spurs and Grizz provide for some interesting fodder.
It’s blasphemous to compare the greatest NBA power forward of all time to a rec league archetype. That's something small-time ballers would only do in jest, but when you run into someone with a similar skill set, good luck winning your pickup game.
Tim Duncan has become the ultimate old school, “quiet stats” guy. He routinely posts 17 points and 10 rebounds—even at the advanced age of 37 (often times without breaking a sweat). As far as a rec league comparison is concerned, Duncan is the ultimate fundamental winner.
Perhaps an older gentleman at the rec with a bulky knee brace is banking home stand-still jumpers. The younger players take him for granted because he’s seen as “too old” or “too slow.” But those assumptions fade away quickly when the ball gets checked in.
For you NBA Celebrity Game fans out there, making the comparison to another Duncan isn’t very farfetched. United States Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has played in two consecutive celebrity games. He made things look easy in 2012 when he posted 17 points and eight rebounds, but he did play professionally in Australia, so he’s clearly no slouch.
The Secretary of Education could easily dominate the Celebrity Game if he asserted himself and took the game seriously. However, with Kevin Hart running around cracking jokes every eight seconds, no one could honestly put big stakes on the contest.
Both Duncans are the overlooked rec ballers because of their age or their lack of a “look at me” attitude. Despite that, they could easily dominate the game if they chose to, but instead, they put up solid stats without being overly aggressive.
Tiago Splitter’s casual basketball equivalent is the tall guy in the gym you wish would assert himself more. At times, it's almost as if this archetype is unaware of his vertical advantage.
He does all things well: scoring from in close, rebounding, defense and even has a high basketball IQ. But in most cases, he may be too unselfish. He’s happy to pass the ball and deflect praise (and scoring opportunities) to others. That’s a great quality to have in the NBA, but the supporting cast in a rec league is rarely going to surround such a player with legitimate talent.
Case and point: Splitter’s Game 3 performance in the Western Conference Finals. He took five total shots and made all of them. If that were to occur in a rec league game, his teammates would be begging him to take more shots.
Concerning rec league stereotypes, the tandem of Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green are the hyper-athletic guys who swipe steals with ease while knocking down threes (rhyme not intended, but hey).
In a rec league, these types of players would spot up at the corners for outside shots on offense, while conserving their energy for the defensive end.
Although Leonard and Green both bring more to the table, those are their two biggest strengths. Expecting more than that from a casual rec league player is asking too much.
Tony Parker finished sixth in MVP voting for the 2012-13 season, but that doesn’t change the comparison that he’s the “all offense, limited defense” rec baller equivalent.
On offense, there’s close to nothing he cannot do. He can spot up for mid-range jumpers, take defenders off the dribble, set up teammates for easy buckets and shift into another gear.
On defense, it’s a different story. The quickness you see on the offensive end dissipates, and the same players getting torched on defense return the favor on offense.
In other words, Parker’s rec league equivalent is the point guard who always wants to play makers.
We have to play against this guy?
That’s always the question that comes to mind when playing against the rec ball archetype of Marc Gasol.
This guy is big, strong, has a sky-high basketball IQ and his offensive prowess is only eclipsed by his abilities on defense.
Not only that, but this rec baller is fun to play with (a rarity). He can spread the floor by shooting mid-range jump shots, and he’ll always find teammates when they cut to the basket for easy layups.
Overall, the Gasol archetype is poised to dominate each and every pickup game.
When the Zach Randolph archetype is playing in your pickup game, often times you fear for your well being.
Despite the distinct lack of athletic ability and three-inch vertical leap, the Z-Bo archetype is an old school interior bruiser who utilizes his brute strength (and sizeable rear end) to out-muscle opposing players down low.
Of course, if you defend well enough to force this player into a poor performance, be wary of the mean streak. In the NBA, former Phoenix Suns forward Lou Amundson learned that lesson the hard way.
Winning by 11 points in a high-octane first quarter, the Suns and Amundson managed to get under Z-Bo’s skin.
As the Los Angeles Clippers hoisted up and buried a three-pointer, Randolph swung Amundson to the floor while the two battled for position down low. Amundson took exception, didn’t back down and was on the receiving end of a punch in the face as a result.
Randolph has toned down his act in Memphis since his days in Portland, New York and Los Angeles, but nobody should assume the same scenario in a pickup basketball game.
Although the Tayshaun Prince archetype is always the skinniest player on the court, he’s also a wiry, lanky, underrated winner.
If you make this model of rec baller the fourth- or fifth-best player on a given squad, chances are they’ll pull off an easy victory. Of course, if he’s your best, second best or third best player, you’ll be poised for a losing record (like the Detroit Pistons from 2009-2012).
This player’s length and athleticism makes him a force on the defensive end, disrupting passing lanes and blocking shots from shorter players. He does a lot of things well, but has no overwhelming strengths that put him in the upper echelon of players.
With that said, he knows what it takes to win and gives his team a chance by contributing in a variety of different categories.
To find the polar opposite of Tony Parker’s rec ball archetype, look no further than the standard set by those similar to Tony Allen.
These rare ballers play phenomenal defense and take it personally when their matchup scores points. They relish the idea of guarding the opposing team’s best player and never back down from a challenge.
With all the great things that occur on defense, however, the offensive end is an ugly mess. This player’s shooting form is an enigma, he avoids getting the ball on offense and opponents dare him to shoot outside shots.
Good luck finding this archetype in a rec ball game, because most casual players would rather score points than prevent them.
In terms of finding an all-around basketball talent to build your rec team around, you could do far worse than a Mike Conley archetype.
This rec player is mature beyond his years and a solid leader who instills confidence in his teammates.
Yes, there are some weaknesses in his game that can be exploited. Weak outside shooting touch and less-than-ideal shooting efficiency are two that come to mind, but the good more than outweighs the bad.
This player rarely dominates a game in obvious fashion, but his contributions are always a major X-factor in wins. Steady offense, solid defense and great leadership are the qualities that define this rec league archetype.