Photo by Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images
You draft ‘em, I grade ‘em! John Voita here, a.k.a. Bright Side’s Mel Kiper, Jr., and this week I am grading the Burns & Gambo Phoenix Suns Dream Team Fantasy Draft! How’d they do? Let’s delve, shall we?
What-if scenarios, fantasy drafts, and re-drafts. These are the topics keeping fans of sport engaged during this strange period of absence and uncertainty.
Tune into the Suns JAM Session podcast (shameless plug) and you’ll hear Matthew and I talk about how Suns history could have changed if Ainge stayed on Paxson or if Richard Dumas avoided addiction. Tune in to Bill Simmons’ podcast (I know, I’m in the minority of Suns Nation who actually religiously listens to his pod) and listen to the “2007 Redraftables”, hearing Bill talk with Ryen Russilo on how it would have played out if we knew now what we knew then.
Yes, these topics are all the rage right now. And why not? We haven’t seen live basketball in months. We need a little creativity in our lives for a little fodder. We need something to talk about when we stand six feet apart, masks on, around the watercolor that has a “closed” sign across the front. It is fun putting together hypothetical super squads and debating which team is the best.
The Burns & Gambo Show on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM did just that. The show, hosted by Dave Burns and John Gambadoro, invited producer Jordan Byrd and anchor Sarah Kezele to take turns drafting Suns players to build their best 10-player squad.
Bright Side’s Fanning the Flames Podcast did something similar last month, and I was asked to put on my Mel Kiper hat to grade that draft. I am back to do the same. I am here to analyze the teams drafted and provide you with who, in my eyes, created the best team.
Here is how I approached grading each team, using objective statistics and subjective points to determine who won the draft:
- Grading on a Curve: I will take each lineup and add their career Suns totals in different offensive and defensive categories. Once these totals have been found, I will “grade on a curve”, with the top team setting the 100% mark (example: If Team 1 totals 175.0 ppg, and that is the highest mark of any team, and Team 2 totals 165.5 ppg, that is 94.57% for Team 2, which is an A).
- Offensive Statistics: Points-per-game, assists-per-game.
- Defensive Statistics: Rebounds-per-game, steals-per-game, blocks-per-game.
- Suns Statistics Only: You receive the Suns version of the player only. If you draft Shaq, you’re getting Suns Shaq, not Lakers Shaq.
- My Opinion: The sixth and final grade will be my subjective opinion of how the roster is built and how I think the team would perform. I will give a 7.5% differentiation between my top and bottom teams, with 2.5% in between each team, starting at 95% for my favorite team.
Add up all of the grades, divide by 6, and boom. You get your grade!
Seem like a lot? Perhaps. But it is as fair as I can be without using subjectivity as a prime factor. Why? Because each of these teams are fantastic! I know it isn’t perfect, and no one drafted simply based on statistics, but it is a good baseline.
Let’s see the lineups and grades!
My Opinion: Every one of these rosters are going to look fantastic. Jordan’s lineup is one of these reasons why I heavily relied on stats to assist in guiding me towards the “best” team. If you were to drop this lineup into the modern NBA, I’m not quite sure how’d they perform. Shaq and Charles would clog the paint, Dicky V wouldn’t excel from beyond the line, and spacing would be an issue.
Put this team in 2003, however, and I’m sure they would dominate.
Imagine those high pick-and-rolls with Kidd and Chuck. Imagine the fast-paced play of the bench, with Marbury dishing alley-oops to Michael Finley, Barbosa flying down the court at lightning speed, and a healthy Danny Manning mopping up the misses. Imagine Neal Walk..doing whatever Neal Walk did (he is quite a bit before my time).
A couple of fun facts about this team:
- You have two players in the starting five that are currently on TNT’s Inside the NBA. If only Kenny Smith had been a Sun…
- Two players in the starting five wore #32.
- The other 3 starters have numbers that are retired in the Suns Ring of Honor.
My Grade: A-
What the Stats Say: The starting lineup leads all of the squads with 35.2 rebounds-per-game, and with Shaq and Sir Charles roaming the paint, it is clear to see why. The bench rebounding, conversely, is the worst drafted, with 23.1 rebounds per game.
This is the most highly decorated team, earning 18 total player awards. You have players who, during their tenure playing in Phoenix, won multiple NBA All-Defensive Team awards:
- All-Defensive 1st Team: Jason Kidd (1999 & 2001)
- All-Defensive 2nd Team: Van Arsdale (1974), Majerle (1991 & 1993), and Kidd (2000).
As far as All-NBA Team selections are concerned:
- All-NBA 1st Team: Barkley (1993) and Kidd (1999, 2000, & 2001)
- All-NBA 2nd Team: Barkley (1994 & 1995)
- All-NBA 3rd Team: Barkley (1996), Marbury (2003), and Shaq (2009)
This team has one MVP (Barkley in 1993) and two Sixth Man of the Year winners (Manning in 1998 and Barbosa in 2007)
Stats Grade: A-
Team Byrd Overall Grade: A-
My Opinion: This is my favorite squad, and the numbers back it up. I just love these players. Nash at the point (the favorite of nearly every Suns fan under 30), Davis at the two (my favorite SG is Suns history. Keep working at it Book, you’ll get there), with Hawkins, Nance, and Ayton?! I honestly believe this team is era-less, that is, you can put this roster in any NBA era and they have the ability to, like Clint Eastwood says in Heartbreak Ridge, adapt and overcome.
Length? Check. Athleticism? Check. Finesse? Check, check. Nash would run this offense into a high-flying frenzy that would be posterizing the NBA and be stellar to watch. These guys had good stats without Steve dishing them the ball in their career; could you imagine their production with him? M-V-Steve makes everyone around him better, therefore every guy on this team would get a statistical bump.
And then there is the bench. The leadership of Grant Hill. The scoring of Charlie Scott. The Enforcer, Maurice Lucas, providing physicality (if you don’t know about him, read my short novel on the ’83-’84 Suns). J Rich scoring from the perimeter and dunking on any worthy challengers. And the lovable Mark West, just ready to be hugged.
My Grade: A
What the Stats Say: If Gambo doesn’t draft Mark West with his final pick, this team is the highest scoring team drafted. Oh well, the team is still explosive. It is clear that the offensive onslaught, coupled with the size, strength, and speed, would be troublesome for the opposition to defend. This roster leads the way in rebounding and blocks as well.
Need some All-NBA Team selections? Shockingly, this team is not as highly decorated as others. In fact, it is the least decorated, although it has the most MVP awards:
- All-NBA 1st Team: Hawkins (1970) and Nash (2005, 2006, & 2007)
- All-NBA 2nd Team: Davis (1978 & 1979) and Nash (2008 & 2010)
This team has a two-time MVP (Nash in 2005 & 2006) and a Rookie of the Year (Davis in 1978).
Stats Grade: A-
Team Gambo Overall Grade: A
My Opinion: I love ya Burnsy, but this is the squad I like the least. Again, it’s not bad. None of these teams are. But compared to the competition, it falls short in my eyes.
Why? I feel the back court is lacking (neither are premier passers) and I can’t see how this lineup effectively executes the offense together. Unlocking Amare would be a challenge as the guard position is inadequate to do so. Having the Chambers and Stoudemire playing next together would be intriguing, but would it be successful? Only if Mark Jackson is standing in the lane or Michael Olowokandi is playing defense.
What era could Team Burns be successful? The Era of Good Feelings, perhaps? I kid…we all know basketball wasn’t around in 1815. This team would excel in the late-60’s/early-70’s era of defense and mid-range shooting. You have Westy and Hornacek, both excellent shooters, with a bench designed to defend with D.J., Silas, and Tucker.
There are too many isolation players on this squad. Heck, the nickname of the small forward is “Iso Joe”.
If Burns had selected Marbury in the 4th round instead of Hornacek, I feel this team would gel better. Marbury driving to the basket, dishing to STAT and TC…now that could’ve worked.
My Grade: B+
What the Stats Say: This is the only team that does not lead at least one category.
In reality, they are a highly decorated bunch, especially defensively. I’ll still never understand why Colangelo let Dennis Johnson go for Rick Robey. 17 total player awards were earned by this squad (one less than Team Byrd).
Here are the awards bestowed up Team Burns’ players:
- All-NBA 1st Team: Westphal (1977, 1979, & 1990), D. Johnson (1981), and Stoudemire (2007)
- All-NBA 2nd Team: Westphal (1978), Chambers (1989 & 1990), and Stoudemire (2005 & 2010)
- All-NBA 3rd Team: Dragic (2014)
- All-Defensive 1st Team: D. Johnson (1981, 1982, & 1983)
- All-Defensive 2nd Team: Silas (1971 &1972)
This team has a Rookie of the Year (Amare in 2003) as well.
Stats Grade: B
Team Burns Overall Grade: B
My Opinion: Any team that has Shawn Marion automatically gets a gold star from me, as I am a known Shawn Marion supporter. Great start Sarah. Then you draft my favorite Sun as a kid in KJ?! Yeah, I’m loving this team. But then you hit the bench. I am personally own no stake on Bell or Gortat Island. They just were never my favorite Suns.
The back court trio of KJ, D. Book, and ‘Trix plays well any time, any era. Truck Robinson and Alvan Adams, as dominant as they can be on the boards, would be tough in the modern NBA however. They excel when they are close to the rim, so much akin to Team Byrd, spacing would be an issue.
I could see this team in the mid-80’s, competing with the Show Time Lakers. The defensive toughness, led by Bell and Robinson, would bring an interesting change of pace from the first team.
My Grade: A-
What the Stats Say: Here you have it, the highest scoring team of the draft. Every member of the bench had great offensive years while in Phoenix. The Matrix automatically makes any team better as he stuff the stat sheet like
This is the only team that does not have an All-NBA 1st Team recipient. Team Kezele’s players did win the following:
- All-NBA 2nd Team: K. Johnson (1989, 1990, 1991, & 1994)
- All-NBA 3rd Team: K. Johnson (1992) and Marion (2005 & 2006)
- All-Defensive 1st Team: Bell (2007)
- All-Defensive 2nd Team: Robinson (2000)
This team has a Rookie of the Year (Adams in 1976) and a Sixth Man of the Year (E. Johnson in 1989).
Stats Grade: A-
Team Kazele Overall Grade: A-
Vince Marotta, Tom Leander, Alvan Adams, and Jon Bloom provided their grades following the completion of the draft. Their winner? Team Byrd, followed by a tie between Team Gambo and Team Burns, with Team Kazele coming in last.
Based on my scoring system, here is how it played out:
- Team Gambo: 93.02% (A)
- Team Byrd: 91.8% (A-)
- Team Kazele: 91.63% (A-)
- Team Burns: 84.49% (B)
Three teams with at least an A. Again, what do you expect? These are Dream Team’s! You have to pick at the finest details to find any flaw with them. So that’s what I did, granting Team Gambo with the title of Best Suns Dream Team by mere percentage points.
What Do You Think?
Who do you think won the draft?
Shout out to myself for the lineup graphic design. Time consuming? Oh yeah. But worth every click.
Until next time, this is John “Mel Kiper” Voita, signing off.