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Thursday, April 10, 2008

Rick Carlisle's Title Contender Formula

Former NBA Coach of the Year (2002) and current ESPN analyst Rick Carlisle uses a two pronged formula to determine whether or not a team is a legitimate championship contender. He says that such teams must either have three All-Stars or two MVP candidates. Few teams have three All-Stars in a single season; only Boston and Detroit accomplished that this year, with Detroit making the cut only after Boston's Kevin Garnett bowed out due to injury and was replaced by Rasheed Wallace. MVP candidacy can be a bit subjective once you get past the top few contenders; most people would probably agree that Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Chris Paul and Kevin Garnett are the leaders this season, though I would select Dwight Howard as an All-NBA First Team center and thus at least mention him in the MVP conversation. Carlisle did not specify how he determines which teams meet his two criteria but he did mention that he thinks that either San Antonio or Phoenix will win the West this year.

I'm going to take the liberty of supplying an exact recipe for Carlisle's formula and then applying it to several NBA teams. For the purposes of this discussion, an All-Star is any player who has been selected to the All-Star team in 2005, 2006, 2007 or 2008 and an MVP candidate is one of the five players mentioned in the first paragraph plus anyone who ranked in the top five in MVP voting in 2005, 2006 or 2007. Eight NBA teams have winning percentages of at least .667 going into tonight's action. Here is how they rank based on my adaptation of Carlisle's formula (teams are awarded two points for each player who has been an MVP candidate and one point for each player who has been an All-Star; remember that only All-Star selections from 2005-08 are being considered in these rankings, although certain other selections are noted in the comments):

1) Phoenix Suns (8 points): Two MVP candidates--Steve Nash (2005 winner, 2006 winner, 2007 runner-up), Shaquille O'Neal (2005 runner-up); four All-Stars--Nash (2005-08), Amare Stoudemire (2005, 2007-08), O'Neal (2005-07), Grant Hill (2005).

Comment: O'Neal is obviously not the same player that he was in 2005 but he was an All-Star as recently as last season and when he is healthy he still commands a double-team in the post. Hill is healthier this season than he has been at any time since his last All-Star appearance. Leandro Barbosa won the 2007 Sixth Man Award and he has put up All-Star caliber numbers the past two seasons.

2-4) Boston Celtics (5): One MVP candidate--Kevin Garnett (one of this year's top five candidates); three All-Stars--Garnett (2005-08), Ray Allen (2005-08), Paul Pierce (2005-06, 08).

Comment: Garnett won the 2004 regular season MVP.

2-4) San Antonio Spurs (5): One MVP candidate--Tim Duncan (fourth in 2005 and fourth in 2007); three All-Stars--Duncan (2005-08), Tony Parker (2006-07), Manu Ginobili (2005).

Comment: Duncan won the regular season MVP in 2002 and 2003, plus he won the Finals MVP in 1999, 2003 and 2005. Parker won the Finals MVP in 2007 (Carlisle specifically mentioned Parker as an MVP caliber player due to this accomplishment). Michael Finley is a valuable reserve who made the All-Star team in 2000 and 2001.

2-4) Detroit Pistons (5): One MVP candidate--Chauncey Billups (fifth in 2006); three All-Stars--Billups (2006-08), Richard Hamilton (2006-08), Rasheed Wallace (2006-08).

5-7) L.A. Lakers (4): One MVP candidate--Kobe Bryant (fourth in 2006, third in 2007, one of this year's top five candidates); two All-Stars--Bryant (2005-08), Pau Gasol (2006).

5-7) Orlando Magic (4) : One MVP candidate--Dwight Howard (one of this year's top five candidates); two All-Stars--Howard (2007-08), Rashard Lewis (2005).

Comment: Hedo Turkoglu had an All-Star caliber season this year.

5-7) New Orleans Hornets (4): One MVP candidate--Chris Paul (one of this year's top five candidates); two All-Stars--Paul (2008), David West (2008).

8) Utah Jazz (2): No MVP candidates; two All-Stars--Carlos Boozer (2007-08), Mehmet Okur (2007).

Comment: Deron Williams is an All-Star caliber player but he has yet to be selected to the team.

Here is how the teams rank based on total MVP candidacies and All-Star selections (two points for each MVP candidacy, one point for each All-Star selection):

1) Phoenix (19): four MVP candidacies, 11 All-Star selections.

2) Boston (13): one MVP candidacy, 11 All-Star selections.

3-5) Detroit (11): one MVP candidacy, nine All-Star selections.

3-5) San Antonio (11): two MVP candidacies, seven All-Star selections.

3-5) L.A. (11): three MVP candidacies, five All-Star selections.

6) Orlando (5): one MVP candidacy, three All-Star selections.

7) New Orleans (4): one MVP candidacy, two All-Star selections.

8) Utah (3): no MVP candidacies, three All-Star selections.

Obviously, these rankings do not take into account whether or not former All-Stars are still playing at an All-Star level, nor do they consider the fact that several of these teams rely heavily on strong performances from some very good players who have yet to make the All-Star team. Still, it is worth noting that only Phoenix, San Antonio, Boston and Detroit meet Carlisle's requirements by virtue of having at least three All-Stars.

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posted by David Friedman @ 9:06 PM

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