Can the Wizards Win a Championship Without a Dominant Front Court?

Over the course of the last week, there has been a lot of terrific and vigorous discussion on the possibility of trading Javale McGee to Minnesota for the #2 Pick in the 2011 NBA Draft.   Much of the debate surrounded the actual value of a big men in today's NBA.  Due the number of superstar point guards and wings in today's NBA, many have begun to wonder whether a strong front court is required to win an NBA championship.  When drafting or trading, should a team give any special priority to Centers and Power Forwards?

There is no easy answer to this question.  The game is undoubtedly changing before our eyes.  But without a crystal ball, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at the finals since the year 2000 to determine if we can use the recent champions to help provide context and guidance for future discussions. 

Please note, this is not intended as a rehash of the Javale McGee trade discussion.  It is intended to provide a reference point for future discussions regarding the Wizards future front-court.

I decided to review the starting front court in the deciding game for all of the finals. I used this methodology because in some cases injuries or line up changes occurred during the series.  It seemed reasonable to use the championship game to provide the best visibility into the impact of the players.  I included both the center and power forward for each of the teams.  The following table provides an overview of the players using this criteria (winning team always listed first):


Year Team Center Power Forward
  Dallas Tyson Chandler Dirk Nowitzki
  Miami Joel Anthony Chris Bosh
  Los Angeles Andrew Bynum Pau Gasol
  Boston Rasheed Wallace Kevin Garnett
  Los Angeles Andrew Bynum Pau Gasol
  Orlando Rashard Lewis Dwight Howard
  Boston Kendrick Perkins Kevin Garnett
  Los Angeles Vladimir Radmonivic Pau Gasol
  San Antonio Fabricio Oberto Tim Duncan
  Cleveland Zydrunas Ilgauskas Drew Gooden
  Miami Shaquille O'Neal Udonis Haslem
  Dallas DeSagana Diop Dirk Nowitzki
  San Antonio Nazr Mohammed Tim Duncan
  Detroit Ben Wallace Rasheed Wallace
  Detroit Ben Wallace Rasheed Wallace
  Los Angeles Shaquille O'Neal Karl Malone
  San Antonio David Robinson Tim Duncan
  New Jersey Jason Collins Kenyon Martin
  Los Angeles Shaquille O'Neal Robert Horry
  New Jersey Todd MacCulloch Kenyon Martin
  Los Angeles Shaquille O'Neal Robert Horry
  Philadelphia Dikembe Mutumbo Tyrone Hill
  Los Angeles Shaquille O'Neal Robert Horry
  Indiana Rik Smits Dale Davis


I found the results very interesting.  In almost all of the cases, the team with the more dominating big man duo (better players, bigger contribution) won the championship.  In most of these cases, the superstar/dominant player on the opposing team was a wing or point guard (Miller, Iverson, Kidd, James).  The only time the dominant big men combo lost was in 2004. And in that case, there wasn't really a dominating player on the Pistons, although Chauncey Billups and Rip Hamilton were great.  Even in 2005, Duncan and Mohammed averaged more rebounds and points than the Wallaces.

Another interesting fact is only 3 of the winning big men were drafted by the championship team.

So what does this tell us? I think it is very simple.  To win a championship, a reasonable and talented front court is a requirement.  A dominating PG or Wing or combination thereof is rarely enough to get a team over the final hump.  Miami found this out the hard way this year.  Maybe this will change in the future, but it leads me to the conclusion that the Wizards better have a strong plan for their front court in mind if they want to win a championship. Building this core can be done through the current roster or draft or FA, but it should not be underestimated in terms of value.

Javale McGee may or may not be part of it and Derrick Williams could be a future all star, so this is not intended to make an argument one way or another about that trade. However, I think it does demonstrate that the Wizards should place a somewhat premium value of their front court and act accordingly.  I think it would be somewhat shortsighted to not have a 3-5 year plan in place for the Wizard's front court if the Wizards plan on making deep playoff runs.

This represents the view of the user who wrote the FanPost, and not the entire Bullets Forever community. We're a place of many opinions, not just one.

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