The NBA needs to take a page from the NHL and make their NBA All-Star weekend more fan friendly and interesting. I dug watching goalies trying to score full length ice goals and Shea Weber shooing the puck 108.5 mph. It’s progressive and shows the league is trying to do things in the interest of the fans.
The NBA Slam Dunk contest for years has been a disgrace to Michael Jordan, Dominique Wilkins, and Vince Carter, and the Skills Competition is less exciting than watching baseball on TV. The NBA has some of the best athletes on the planet yet somehow they continually miss the mark when it comes to All-Star weekend.
Without question there is one way that Adam Silver can turn NBA All-Star weekend into a can’t miss spectacle. All he’s got to do is look back to the greatest basketball video game ever: NBA Jam. That’s right, hold an NBA Jam Two on Two contest.
I first came up with this idea back in 2013 and set the parameters and rules to the contest, as well as came up with the first 16 team bracket. If you want to read the nuts and bolts of how I’d set it all up then read that article. Right now I’m focusing on the 2015 version.
Previously I selected eight teams from each conference but with Adam Silver at the helm things are different. He’s more progressive and wants to see the best product on the floor, regardless of conference. That’s why we are going by straight win-loss record to seed the teams.
Our original rules allowed each team to only select two players in the interest of simplicity. With the way the NBA has emerged as a Big Three type of league this is definitely going to ruffle some feathers. Just like people calling for the college football playoff to expand to eight teams, stop being so damn greedy. I get it, the original NBA Jam gave you the option of three. The two players on each team that average the highest points per game will be chosen for the competition. Simple as that.
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, as of today (Jan 26, 2015) here’s what the brackets, seedings, and teams would look like for the 2015 NBA Jam Two on Two Contest.
UPDATE (Feb 9): Here’s a podcast where myself and Adam Jun go through each game and talk about the intriguing storylines plus who we think will win it and all who is a sleeper.
1 – Golden State Warriors: Stephen Curry/Klay Thompson
16 – Oklahoma City Thunder: Kevin Durant/Russell Westbrook
Like NASCAR starting the season with the Daytona 500, the NBA Jam Two on Two contest is going hard in the paint right out of the gate. The Splash Brothers vs the best one-two duo in the NBA. A chance to see history made with the first 16 seed beating a 1.
It’s clear that if the Warriors are going to go far in this contest it’ll be on the strength of their shooting. Klay Thompson is only 6’7″ so they are going to have a tough time on the defensive end against teams with a big man. They’ll need to turn missed shots by the opposition into mini-fast breaks. Remember, teams have to take the ball back to the three point line so with their quick releases they should be able to capitalize off it.
As for KD and Russ they can no doubt win it all, but it’s how the two alpha males work together as a team that will be the key to their success. You can see a scenario in which Westbrook shoots more than Durant in a game, the shots just don’t go down, and they get eliminated. This will just add more fuel to the Russell Westbrook shooting more than Kevin Durant drama that’s already out there. You can also see the scenario where no one can stop either of them and they breeze their way to the finals. Oh the fun this would be.
8 – Washington Wizards: John Wall/Bradley Beal
9 – Toronto Raptors: Kyle Lowry/DeMar DeRozan
This matchup is perfect for both teams as their lack of size is going to be a big problem in this competition. Anything goes on any given Sunday especially on Monday night so either team could win this game if their shooting is on (great analysis there Gruden). I’d slightly favor the Wizards due to John Wall elevating his game this year, and if there was any chance of them making a run at this they’d need the Warriors to upset the Thunder. I just don’t see any way they’d be able to stop Durant’s size/length.
5 – Houston Rockets: James Harden/Dwight Howard
12 – Phoenix Suns: Eric Bledsoe/Goran Dragic
Are James Harden and Dwight Howard the favorites to win it all? James Harden’s offense is second to none and Dwight Howard’s size and defense is a fantastic complement. On paper they seem to be the ideal combo, assuming of course James Harden’s defense, which is much improved this year, doesn’t resemble his former I don’t give a crap nature.
Bledsoe and Dragic don’t stand much of a chance in this one and a salacious third round matchup with the Thunder would be simply ravishing.
4 – Portland Trail Blazers: LaMarcus Aldridge/Damian Lillard
13 – Cleveland Cavaliers: LeBron James/Kyrie Irving
I would have loved the Aldridge/Lillard combo a lot more had Aldridge not torn a ligament in his thumb. He’s postponing surgery until after the season so chances are he wouldn’t play in an exhibition like this. Did I fail to mention that there is a $2 million prize to the winning team (a cool mill for each player)? FanDuel is continuing their relentless marketing and is ponying up the cash. As the Million Dollar Man Ted DiBiase said, “everybody’s got a price” and for LaMarcus Aldridge that number is a million bucks. He’s in.
The juicy sub-plot with the Cleveland team is the noticeable absence of Kevin Love, who is third on the Cavs in scoring. You have to imagine that sitting on the bench in the fourth quarter AND being left off the NBA Jam Two on Two team is not sitting well with him. I’m sure the Swaggy P lead Lakers would love to have him on their squad next year.
Obviously anyone trying to guard LeBron one on one would be a major issue and on the defensive end he could guard most big men (not all). Kyrie has filthy handles and is tailor made for a competition like this. Just like with the Thunder, how LeBron and Kyrie work as a team will be the biggest issue. Too many Kyrie shots and not enough LeBron could result in a first round exit. The haters would love if that happened.
6 – Los Angeles Clippers: Blake Griffin/Chris Paul
11 – San Antonio Spurs: Kawhi Leonard/Tim Duncan
I’m inclined to think the Clippers wouldn’t do well in this format as Chris Paul’s playmaking ability would be less of an asset and being one of the smallest players wouldn’t help either. Blake Griffin’s athleticism also would be held in check as teams are more likely to allow him to shoot the outside J.
Can you see the scenario where the Spurs pull a Spurs and end up winning the whole thing? Kawhi could matchup up with any smaller guard and Tim Duncan is crafty like Ric Flair (WOOOOO!). With the way that Pop runs the Spurs these two could probably play blindfolded and advance a few rounds. It would be so Tim Duncan to add an NBA Jam Two on Two title to his already illustrious resume.
3 – Memphis Grizzlies: Marc Gasol/Mike Conley
14 – New Orleans Hornets: Anthony Davis/Tyreke Evans
The controversy with the Griz is the absence of Z-Bo, which I think is actually a good thing (he’s third on the team in scoing). Having Conley instead allows them to space the floor better as well as match up better with teams that have a dominant guard. A Marc Gasol/Z-Bo team would have been a blast, though, as they would have scored all their points down low, thus earning them the nickname Ground & Pound.
This is the Anthony Davis show and Tyreke Evans job is to not mess it up. Tyreke Evans is a bigger guard (6’6″) so that’s a positive, but I’m worried about how often he’d turn the ball over. In the event that Tyreke got hot and the Brow did his usual this would be one underdog team that would be a blast to root for. Of course that means that I’m putting faith in Tyreke Evans, but still.
7 – Dallas Mavericks: Monta Ellis/Dirk Nowitzki
10 – Chicago Bulls: Jimmy Butler/Pau Gasol
Queue Biggie because this matchup is Juicy. Before the game even takes place the media is going all 24/7 news cycle at the absence of Mr. Chicago Derrick Rose. With the emergence of Jimmy Butler as an All-Star calibre player and Pau Gasol balling out of his mind, the not yet back to 100% Derrick Rose just hasn’t scored enough this year to make the squad. And you know what, I think this Bulls squad is better with Jimmy Butler. He is an elite defender and offensively can create his own shot. He’s exactly the type of player that you need in order to win this competition. Someone who can guard multiple positions and score with the elite of the league.
I can see a very small scenario where the Mavs win it all. Monta Ellis is an irrational confidence heat check guy and there’s no one in the league that can consistently stop Dirk. Obviously defense would be the issue with their team but it’s not unfathomable for them to hit 90% of their shots en route to the title.
2 – Atlanta Hawks: Jeff Teague/Paul Milsap
15 – Milwaukee Bucks: Brandon Knight/Giannis Antetokounmpo
With the Hawks their team game works great in the five man game but not as much at two on two. Having Al Horford in there would have been nice, but I’m not really sure that it would change much. Milsap and Horford are only a few degrees off from each other and I think the lack of size would end up hurting them.
There’s not much to say about this young Bucks squad. Next year with Jabari Parker back will make them a lot more competitive in this competition. Most NBA fans don’t know who the Greek Freak is but it’ll happen soon enough.
After seeing those matchup’s you can’t tell me this wouldn’t instantly be the greatest thing to happen to the NBA since Reebok pumps. They could charge $250 for pay-per-view and I’d buy it in a heart beat.
This is how I’d handicap the teams:
Favorites (plus their seeding):
Could definitely win it all:
So you’re saying there’s a chance:
Too little too late (you said it was a good size):
Trail Blazers (4)
What’s all that one in a million talk?:
No chance (Vince & Shane McMahon style):