Monday, June 6, 2011

What Made the Twin Towers so Special?

I was reading this post about how Mike Brown may attempt to bring back the Two Towers in LA and while you do have two talented 7-footers on the Lakers in Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum (and possibly third 6-10 versatile forward in Lamar Odom), I'm pretty convinced, it won't be even close to the original iteration of Tim Duncan and David Robinson that won the 1999 championship.  Maybe I'm wrong about Andrew Bynum, but let's consider the skill sets that were in place to make Robinson and Duncan so successful, so far as winning two rings running a 3-man frontcourt rotation with Malik Rose.

1.) Dominant low-post threat that draws double teams

We can't deny that David Robinson was an explosively athletic player, and he had a solid low-post game to go with it.  For years, he single handedly carried the Spurs deep into the post season.  I've also heard tell that (in his prime) Tim Duncan in the low post is probably the closest thing you can get to an automatic two points (I want to say Chris Webber said that but I don't know).  So far though, this doesn't limit our options, because if we look at it, a lot of players had this skill, Shaquille O'Neal first and foremost, but I would posit that Shaq would not have brought a revival of the twin-towers.  So far though, for our comparison, let's say that both Pau and Bynum meet this requirement.

2.) Solid mid-range shot that demands respect

Essentially, this is the role of every single big man that played next to Tim Duncan after David Robinson retired.  Antonio McDyess does this admirably, but players like McDyess and Bonner and even Robert Horry don't give Duncan rest in the low post.  This basically is a way to show that the big man is still in it even if he's not in the low post.  Robinson had his 10 foot straightaway jumpers from the free-throw line and Duncan had his 12 foot wing bank shots.  You have to respect those shots.  Defenses are forced to choose between some pretty potent poisons when determining defensive matchups, I imagine it was quite a nightmare to figure out who to matchup against Duncan and Robinson, the Knicks in 1999 showed us that.  They got away without it with the savvy play by Fabricio Oberto, but you could hardly call him a second tower next to Duncan.  Pau for all intensive purposes meets this criteria, he's got a solid mid-range game (better, arguably than Duncan's).  Bynum's limited range limits the effectiveness of any matchups that can be exploited.  If the defense isn't worried about Bynum's mid-range game, then Pau Gasol's effectiveness in the low post becomes mitigated, because Bynum's man can roam and help.

3.) Ability to pass out of double-teams and find the open man

A lot of big men have fairly underrated ball-handling skills and passing games: Shaq, KG, Yao, C-Web, and I would posit that Duncan and Robinson are among those.  Robinson, I don't know if he had elite passing for a big man, but at the very least, it was good enough to get the job done.  Simply put, you can't punish double teams if the ball can't get to the open man.

4.) Defense - Shot blocking

This is pretty obvious, so it would seem, but essentially it's like two lines of defense, so many shot angles at the rim are taken away, it's hard not to get swatted.  I mean, we're talking a combined 5 blocks PER GAME average between Duncan and Robinson in the playoffs of their '99 championship run.  That doesn't count all the altered shots (but consider they averaged 21.4 rebounds per game in the playoffs, 15.8 of those defensive).

I don't know if I covered everything, but these are the basics for a Twin-Tower type offense to work.  Does Mike Brown have that to work with in LA?  Hard to say.  It helps that like Duncan, Gasol can guard both PFs and Cs so they can always keep one of the two big men on the floor, but can Bynum step it up and be the second piece of that?  Only time can tell.  My gut says no, but I could be wrong.

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