CBS Sports: 2004 Detroit Pistons are worst NBA champion since 2001 – Detroit Free Press
The NBA Finals is finally here and the Cavs vs. Warriors is already a series of historic proportions. Just look at the numbers.
USA TODAY Sports
Finally! The NBA Finals are here, with Game 1 tipping off tonight in Oakland.
If the Golden State Warriors win the title, they will undoubtedly become the greatest NBA champion this millennium, and arguably the greatest team of all-time. If the Cleveland Cavaliers pull off the upset again, well they’ll have to be in both discussions as well.
So, before we crown another champion, who is the greatest NBA championship team in the past 16 seasons?
CBS Sports NBA writer Matt Moore created a bracket to determine the NBA’s best champion since 2001, and, of course, the 2004 Detroit Pistons didn’t garner much respect.
In fact, Moore has the “Goin’ to Work” crew as a No. 16 seed against the No. 1 seed 2015 Warriors.
Moore explains himself, noting that someone has to be 16th:
“Look, I’m not counting out a team with the defense that squad had, along with Rasheed Wallace, Chauncey Billups, Rip Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince. But the Hall of Fame entrants here are few compared to the other champions on this list. Detroit went to seven games with the Nets in the second round, went six with the Pacers, before shocking the world by dismantling the Lakers’ “super-team” in the Finals 4-1. They won just 54 games, and didn’t even win their division. (Once again, a great team that didn’t necessarily care about the regular season.) Detroit was never dominant … those guys just won games. Time and time and time again. Their resume is never going to reflect how tough they were to actually play. That team went to six consecutive conference finals. Had the 2006 team not gotten beat by the Heat that year, and had they beaten Dallas as Miami did, they would land way higher.”
Moore’s seedings “were based on overall performance from the start of the regular season though the Finals, and factored league and opponent strength, resume, and historical relevance.”
Those 2004 Pistons featured Billups, the Finals MVP, and Hamilton in the backcourt, with Prince and Rahseed Wallace at the forwards and Ben Wallace, the Defensive Player of the Year runner-up that season, at center. Mehmet Okur, Corliss Williamson and Linsdsey Hunter were the top three bench guys.
The 2015 Warriors had a similar team to their current one, but with Harrison Barnes and Andrew Bogut instead of Kevin Durant and Zaza Pachulia. Safe to say this year’s version is better.
As for the matchup between the 2004 Pistons and 2015 Warriors? Reminder that Golden State went 67-15 that season, with Stephen Curry earning his first MVP Award, then defeated a banged-up Cavaliers team in six games in the Finals.
Here’s Moore’s breakdown of Pistons-Warriors, which he notes would be played under today’s rules:
“The Pistons boasted one of the fiercest defenses of the era, and this would be a fascinating matchup, particularly with the kind of floor spacers and positional versatility the Pistons had. They could combat the Warriors’ smallball as effectively as any team of this era. But it should also be noted the Pistons shot 30 percent from 3-point range in those playoffs, and 34 percent in the regular season. The “Math Problem” would have been huge for Detroit, which could play great defense and still find themselves in a 10-15-point hole. I wouldn’t count out Detroit; its ability to nullify what the other team did well was legendary, but I think the Warriors find a way in what is probably a longer series than you’d expect.”
Moore has the 2015 Warriors winning in six games.
Pistons fans, you can take solace in this: Moore says “if we’re looking at the most ‘lovable’ playoff runs,” he’d have the 2004 Pistons second, ahead of the 2016 Cavs and behind only the 2011 Mavericks, which upset the Miami Heat in LeBron James’ first year.
Here’s the entire bracket:
(1) 2015 Warriors
(16) 2004 Pistons
(8) 2016 Cavaliers
(9) 2002 Lakers
(4) 2013 Heat
(13) 2005 Spurs (defeated Pistons in seven games)
(5) 2012 Heat
(12) 2006 Heat
(2) 2014 Spurs
(15) 2007 Spurs
(7) 2009 Lakers
(10) 2003 Spurs
(3) 2001 Lakers
(14) 2010 Lakers
(6) 2008 Celtics
(11) 2011 Mavericks
(4) 2013 Heat over (1) 2015 Warriors in six games.
(2) 2014 Spurs over (3) 2001 Lakers in seven games.
Moore has the 2013 Heat over the 2014 Spurs in seven games. Remember, the Heat defeated basically the same Spurs team in seven games the previous season, with Ray Allen’s game-saving three sending Game 6 to overtime.
Moore’s explanation for crowning the 2013 Heat as the bracket champion: “They were a better team that season, and the Spurs in part became so great in 2014 because of that failure in 2014 motivating them. I don’t think the shooting was sustainable, I think most of the matchups play out the same way, and the 2013 Heat team always found a way with the best version of LeBron we’ve ever seen. It definitely goes seven, however.”
What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comment section.
Contact Marlowe Alter: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @MarloweAlter.