Stephen Curry, Monta Ellis and 5 Other Duos That Need To Be Split Up
In an ideal world every starter on a basketball team would be a "five-tool" player; they would have the ability to create their own shot, defend their position, shoot, pass and rebound. But almost every NBA player has at least one hole in their game—be it a suspect outside shot, an inability to move their feet on the perimeter or a shaky handle.
As a result, "fit" is as important as talent in constructing a team. Building a championship contender is like assembling a jigsaw puzzle—sometimes two pieces, no matter how impressive they are individually, just don't fit well together.
The best teams don't just have the best players; they have the best pieces around them as well.
Offensively, a good front-court should have a player who can score at the rim and a player who can spread the floor. Defensively, one of your bigs should be able to defend on the perimeter and one should be able to protect the rim.
** The Dallas Mavericks' bigs are a great example of a "good fit." Dirk Nowitzki can score from anywhere on the floor, which means that Tyson Chandler's inability to do anything besides dunk isn't too relevant. And just as Dirk makes up for Chandler's flaws offensively, Chandler has Dirk's back on defense. Chandler can guard any type of front-court player, which allows the Mavericks to always hide Dirk on the other team's worst big man. **
On the perimeter, you need at least two three-point shooters, otherwise the defense can clog the middle of the floor and dare non-shooters to beat them from beyond the arc. To complement the shooters, you need at least one guy who can create his own shot off the dribble and create open looks for less talented players.
With the NBA's trading deadline approaching, here are six duos that, despite their impressive individual talent, need to be broken up because of a poor fit.
Golden State Warriors: Stephen Curry and Monta Ellis
The players: Monta Ellis is a lightning quick 6'3", 185 lb guard who averages over 25 points and five assists with an impressive 46.7 percent shooting percentage.
Stephen Curry has a similar build at 6'3", 175 lb, but is more of a traditional point guard. One of the most skilled young backcourt players in the NBA, he averages 19/6 and shoots over 40 percent from beyond the arc.
The problem: These two are as bad defensively as they are good offensively. Ellis doesn't have the size to guard shooting guards, while Curry doesn't have the size, foot-speed or frame to guard anyone.
The solution: Move one of the two for a defensive-oriented guard with the ability to guard 1's and 2's— someone like Philly's Andre Iguodala or Portland's Wesley Matthews.
Memphis Grizzlies: Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph
The players: One of the most skilled low-post scorers in the NBA at 6'9", 250 lbs, Zach Randolph has (somewhat) rehabilitated his image in Memphis, averaging a double-double in his two seasons there.
Marc Gasol has emerged from his older brother Pau's shadow, showcasing many of Pau's skills— shooting, passing and scoring—on a heftier frame that allows him to bang in the paint more comfortably than his more finesse-oriented sibling.
The problem: Neither player has great lateral quickness and neither is a natural shot-blocker. It's hard to win games consistently with poor interior defense, as a talented Memphis team is finding out. The Grizzlies have too much talent to be a below .500 team this late into the season.
The solution: Move one of these offensively-oriented big men for an athletic shot-blocker who can step out on the perimeter as well. Someone like Sacramento's Sam Dalembert or Dallas' Brendan Haywood.
Detroit Pistons: Richard Hamilton, Rodney Stuckey and Ben Gordon
The players: Rip Hamilton is one of the last remaining links to Detroit's 2004 championship team. A rail-thin 6'6", 185 lb shooting guard who loves to run around screens to get jumpers, he has struggled ever since the Pistons traded away Chauncey Billups, leaving the team without a true point guard.
Letting Rodney Stuckey play more with the ball in his hands was one of the primary justifications for the Billups trade. But the powerfully built 6'5", 205 lb guard is more a scorer than a distributor, averaging only four assists a game, despite a usage rating north of 25.
Ben Gordon was signed away from the Chicago Bulls last offseason with a $60 million plus contract. The 6'3", 200 lb guard and former Sixth Man of the Year is one of the best pure scorers in the NBA, with a career average of 17.2 points per game.
The problem: None of Detroit's guards are natural points; all are more comfortable scoring than setting up their teammates. The result is a stagnant offense with each player taking turns shooting the ball; hardly a recipe for success for a team without an All-NBA player.
The solution: Move the unhappy Hamilton for one of the many backup point guards in the NBA waiting for a chance to run their own team—someone like Cleveland's Ramon Sessions or Oklahoma City's Eric Maynor. This would allow the team to move Stuckey to the 2 and bring Gordon back to his more natural role as an instant-offense type off the bench.
Washington Wizards: Andray Blatche and Javale McGee
The players: A versatile 7' who can shoot, pass and rebound, Andray Blatche is one of the most talented young players in the NBA. A member of the last high school class ('05) to enter the NBA before the imposition of the age limit, he's been in the league for six years, but the Wizards are still waiting for the light bulb to go off.
One of the most athletic seven-footers in the league, Javale McGee has been a great rebounder and shot-blocker for Washington. With a preposterous vertical leap and an even more preposterous wingspan, he could actually defeat Blake Griffin in this year's dunk contest.
The problem: While these two "fit" on paper, in reality, their immaturity must be driving Flip Saunders (their coach) crazy. They reportedly came to blows outside of a DC nightclub earlier this season, proving the old adage that you can have one bad apple, but two spoil the whole bunch.
The solution: Move one of these young big men for a calming veteran influence like Utah's Mehmet Okur or Denver's Nene.
Utah Jazz: Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap
The players: Al Jefferson, a 6'10", 280 lb low-post scorer, was brought to Salt Lake City with the trade exemption the Jazz received for dealing Carlos Boozer to the Bulls in the offseason. The last of a dying breed, Jefferson has one of the most complete post-up games in the NBA.
Paul Millsap, a 6'7", 245 lb forward, has been a pleasant surprise for Utah ever since they plucked him out of Louisiana Tech in the second round of the 2006 Draft. Averaging 17/7 for the year, he has done a decent job of filling the void in the wake of Boozer's departure.
The problem: Utah has lost to the Lakers in the playoffs three straight times, primarily because they had no answer for the length of Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom. Playing an undersized 5 and an undersized 4 together isn't getting them over that hurdle.
The solution: Move one of their big men for a seven-footer capable of matching up with the Lakers who still has the skill to fit into Jerry Sloan's motion offense—someone like Portland's Marcus Camby or Sacramento's Jason Thompson.
Atlanta Hawks: Josh Smith and Al Horford
The players: Josh Smith, a 6'9", 225 lb forward, is one of the most underrated players in the NBA—he is one of the league's premier shot-blockers and is also surprisingly skilled too (averaging three assists a game for his career).
Al Horford, a 6'10", 245 lb forward, has been a consistent performer for the Hawks, and their rise out of the lottery has coincided with drafting Horford out of Florida.
The problem: While both are excellent defensive players, neither has the size to guard traditional centers like Orlando's Dwight Howard. In an embarrassing sweep last year, Howard shot an absolutely absurd 27-32 from the field.
The solution: Either one of these talented power forwards should fetch quite a bounty on the trade market, and Atlanta could use them to get themselves the point guard/center combo their team full of wings desperately needs—Portland (Andre Miller and Marcus Camby) or the Clippers (Chris Kaman and Baron Davis) would both be good trade partners.
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