Here’s a basic tenet that should be familiar to every sports fan: grouping several of the best players together increases a team’s chances to win games.
Over the last three seasons, the Golden State Warriors have boasted 10 players who walked away with an All-NBA Team, an All-Defensive Team or both awards simultaneously. Yeah, it’s not a riddle as to why the current champions have won two of the last three Larry O’Brien trophies and should soon invite comparisons to previous dynasties at every turn.
Since the Pelicans/Hornets franchise relocated to Louisiana, only once has the organization had two recent All-NBA representatives on a team at the same time. The 2003-04 squad had Baron Davis (2004 All-NBA third team) and Jamal Mashburn (2003 All-NBA third team). If you remember your history though, the joy was incredibly short-lived as Mashburn played just 19 games due to a serious knee injury, wiping out most of that season and unfortunately the rest of his career.
After waiting for well over a decade, New Orleans can rejoice in the streets because for the first time in history they’ve got three dynamic game changers. The Pelicans will be starting the 2017-18 campaign with Anthony Davis, a two-time All-NBA First Team (2015, 2017) and two-time NBA All-Defensive Second Team (2015, 2017), DeMarcus Cousins, a two-time All-NBA Second Team (2015, 2016), and Tony Allen, a three-time NBA All-Defensive First Team (2012, 2013, 2015) and a three-time NBA All-Defensive Second Team (2011, 2016, 2017).
So, being the curious sort, I wondered how often do teams that possess at least two All-NBA representatives — those players who had won the award within the last three years — made the playoffs during the last 10 seasons.
The results loudly speak for themselves.
The vast majority, specifically 87 out of 94 teams, made the postseason. And those clubs who missed on advancing past the regular season were struck by key injuries to varying degrees. Below is a list of the unlucky seven who failed to meet expectation.
- 2016 Chicago Bulls: Fred Holberg’s first year at the helm didn’t go according to plan as the team finished out of the playoffs by two games. In the 15 games Jimmy Butler missed, the Bulls struggled to a 5-10 record.
- 2015 Oklahoma City Thunder: Kevin Durant was sidelined for 55 games and Russell Westbrook, 15. During a stretch of 14 games without both stars, the Thunder managed just four wins.
- 2014 New York Knicks: They started the season 7-17 as defensive stalwart Tyson Chandler missed 20 of those contests due to a broken leg. Upon his return, the Knicks still struggled initially as it took him some time to get his timing and conditioning back.
- 2011 Houston Rockets: Yao Ming appeared in just five games, this after not playing in a single game the prior season.
- 2010 Houston Rockets: Yao Ming missed the entire season.
- 2009 Phoenix Suns: Although they won 46 games, Steve Kerr trading for a 35-year old Shaquille O’Neal ultimately backfired for the 7 seconds or less offense. The Suns were also hurt by Amare Stoudemire missing the final 29 games due to a detached retina.
- 2008 Miami Heat: This squad was besieged by injury and a Pat Riley run-in with Shaq that led to the head coach trading away the Big Aristotle. Dwyane Wade missed 31 games, Udonis Haslem, 33, Dorell Wright, 38, and Alonzo Mourning played in just 22 games before tearing his patella tendon which ended his career.
Keeping a team’s core healthy is obviously a big deal, but I’m sure I don’t have to reiterate this to anyone who reads the website. However, there is hope for optimism. Davis played a career high 75 games last season but that number likely would have totaled 78 if New Orleans still had meaningful games left on the schedule. Cousins appeared in 72 contests and Allen, 71. If the trio stays relatively healthy again, history indicates the Pelicans are damn near a playoff lock.
Even if Tony Allen doesn’t pan out or slows dramatically in his age 36 season, realize it’s always been all about Fire and Ice. Two players in or approaching their prime. Despite a roster that was badly leaking oil following the All-Star break — a lack of willing and able three-point shooters, an apprehensive Jrue Holiday and numerous 10-day contracts playing key minutes — a Boogie/Brow-led team was noticeably better than the competition if allowed an adjustment period of one week following their unification.
|Offensive Rating||Defensive Rating||Net Rating||eFG%||opponent's eFG%|
|Games 1-20 (7-13)||101.1 (21)||103.2 (14)||-2.0 (18)||49.3% (23)||49.7% (12)|
|Games 21-40 (9-11)||101.3 (28)||103.5 (6)||-2.2 (19)||48.8% (28)||50.1% (7)|
|Games 41-60 (7-13)||103.5 (24)||108.5 (18)||-5.0 (25)||51.5% (16)||52.5% (25)|
|Games 61-78 (10-8)||108.1 (11)||103.0 (4)||+5.1 (6)||52.2% (12)||50.5% (8)|
Furthermore, if you remove All-Defensive Team members from our equation — an award more loosely based on eye-tests and reputations, 61 of 64 teams advanced to the postseason on the backs of two or more All-NBA teammates over the span of the last 10 years. With Davis and Cousins winning the award twice in the last three seasons, there is no doubting their ability to dominate the league on a nightly basis.
This fact — possessing two studs — is key according to Daryl Morey, the general manager of the Houston Rockets, and likely to the rest of the savvy executives around the league.
“Yeah, I mean the NBA is about the big game. If you don’t have a top, top player in the league — no NBA team really talks about this but — you may as well not play the game. I mean you have no shot if you don’t have at least one top player, and the reality is to win the title you generally need two, although there’s like two exceptions in 50 years. It’s all about big game hunting.”
The NBA is all about star power, and for the first time in a long time, New Orleans has two of the best of the best, three if you believe in Tony Allen and his defense, to kick off a season.
2018 playoffs, here we come?
History says yes.