The game of basketball is a lot easier if you have a player like Kevin Durant, LeBron James, Derrick Rose, or Kobe Bryant. But having a superstar or two or three on your team doesn’t always guarantee you success. Every team that is a favorite to make it to the NBA Finals has a playmaker or two, who they wouldn’t trade for anyone in the world.
When you look at the teams that have a legitimate shot to win an NBA championship, you have the Miami Heat, Oklahoma City Thunder, San Antonio Spurs, and Boston Celtics. The Chicago Bulls had a legitimate shot before Derrick Rose tore his ACL. And you might think I am crazy because I think the Celtics have a legitimate shot to win a title but they have the experience and play great defense.
Look at all these teams though and tell me what they have in common. I can tell you that each team has a future HOF. And I can also tell you that each team has a playmaker. The Heat is lucky to have two playmakers in LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. James is the ultimate playmaker while Wade is more of self-playmaker but can create for others at times, too. James is the best playmaker in the game. No matter who was on his team, he always got his teammates involved and created for himself when he needed to do.
Still, I wish the Heat had a true point guard. James hasn’t been able to get the job done in crunch-time and I think if they had a point guard, it would make the game easier for him and Wade.
The San Antonio Spurs have Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. While Ginobili is older and his playmaking skills are diminishing, somewhat, he can still create for himself and others. If the Spurs didn’t have him, they would be as good of a team. But if they didn’t have Parker, they might not make the playoffs. Parker has the ability to get into the lane better than any point guard in the league. His passing has improved immensely due to the fact that he played with the French national team and basically coached the team at the same time. Parker is one of the best playmakers in the NBA.
Even though they won Game 2 against the Atlanta Hawks, the Boston Celtics missed Rajon Rondo’s playmaking. In Game 3, Rondo finished with a triple-double (17, 14, and 12). He isn’t the greatest offensive player but he can get by his man and to the basket as well as anyone in the league. And his defensive intensity is something that frustrates opponents. He runs the show for the Celtics and might be one of the most underrated players in the league. He might not be a superstar player, but Rondo is a superstar playmaker.
Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant are two of the best players in the league. But one player who is overlooked is James Harden. Being the “third-wheel” isn’t the easiest thing (look at Chris Bosh), but Harden has embraced his role. He normally runs the point guard spot in the 4th quarter even though he is a two-guard. He can create for himself by getting to the basket and for teammates by driving and kicking it out. He helped the Thunder beat the Dallas Mavericks last night by scoring 29 points (15 in the 4th quarter and assisting on several other baskets. Harden is also one of the more efficient scorers in the league, averaging 1.66 points per shot during the regular this season.
Having a superstar or two is a nice thing. But it does you no good if you don’t have players who can make plays to set-up teammates for easy baskets and make the game easier for everyone.
The importance of having a playmaker should never be under-valued.