On that note, I’m going to disagree with the rest of your assessment of the Hornets. I’ve already made my affinity for a good one-two-three punch clear, so it should come as no surprise that I’m excited to see what Okafor can add to the Paul-West combo. I think Okafor is an improvement on Chandler in defense, and I think Posey still has a year of solid defense in him. It’s not a championship-winning combo by any means, and so I too feel bad for Chris Paul. He’s one of the few players in the league that you can build a team around, and there are only 5 or so players with that special brand of all-around talent in the NBA at any given time. (The other ones right now? I’d say LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, and Kevin Garnett. I’m tempted to add Carmelo Anthony to the list, but let’s wait to see what he does this year. Shaquille O’Neal and Tim Duncan used to be in that category, but Shaq could do more with less than Duncan. In any event, they’re both past that point now.) From my parenthetical remarks, it’s obvious that the key part of that sentence is build a team, as Wade hasn’t been able to reach the top without Shaq and Garnett needed Pierce and Allen. No matter how much I’m looking forward to the Hornets this year, David West and Emeka Okafor are no Paul Pierce and Ray Allen. I’ll bump them up to #7, but no further.
So who do I bump down? Here’s where T.O. Logic gets sticky. They say you never quite get over your first love. Well, I haven’t forgotten my first heartbreak. It was June 14, 1995. I was seven years old. It was Shaq’s third year in the league, and he had turned a previously dismal Orlando Magic—they had only exited for a few years before they drafted Shaq—into the most exciting team in the NBA. They were young, they were cocky, and they got swept by the veteran Houston Rockets led by future Hall of Famer Hakeem Olajuwon, who outplayed Shaq—the only time I admit that that happened to Shaq. It was Old School, and it was deserved, and Shaq learned his lesson. I’ve never liked the Rockets since.
Also, I consider Tracy McGrady overrated, which makes this choice even easier. He is not in the category that I described above. His skills are closer to Allen Iverson than Kobe Byrant. Good for one or two years as a team, but the rest of the career just looks good on the individual stats.
Coach, I think you’re displaying a little T.O. Logic yourself. Let’s try this analogy: Rick Adelman is to Coach as Larry Brown is to T.O. The thing is, my guy’s got a stronger history of success, and your guy used to look like this:
But don’t think I came to this decision lightly. Bumping the Hornets up 2 slots means bumping down my two Duke boys, Shane Battier and Carlos Boozer. Hopefully, this will motivate them to trade to teams that I can root for.
Hey, no argument from me on the Suns. They tried to fit Shaq into their uptempo game, and that ain’t how he rolls. They should have fit into his game because his game wins championships. But I’m glad they have their style back. It’ll be more fun to watch, and it won’t pose even a remote threat to Shaq’s Cavs.
I like where you’re headed, Coach. Bring on the Top 5!