Player Focus – Kevin Garnett

When Kevin Garnett was drafted right after high school back in 1995 by the Minnesota Timberwolves, nobody knew what to expect from the tall but thin prospect. He was viewed as a project who would need years before developing into a productive player. Of course it all ended with him being the greatest player in franchise history and ranking first in almost all major statistical category. Let’s take a look at The Big Ticket’s game and how he revolutionized the power forward position.

 

Scoring

When it comes to scoring the basketball, you would expect your power forward to do it exclusively in the paint. Not KG. He could score from almost anywhere on the court. His combination of height and speed enables him to blow by most big defenders and muscle his way against smaller ones. His jumper is almost automatic from inside the arc and he has an array of post moves that would leave his opponents dumbfounded on how to defend him effectively.

 

Defense

Despite not having any stars to play alongside him during most of his time with the Wolves, Garnett has managed to lead the team to multiple playoff appearances because of his all-around skills, especially his defense. His length allows him to bother shots from anyone and he is also an exceptional one on one defender. He can defend post players and he can also defend perimeter players, cancelling out the advantages of players such as Dirk Nowitzki, who is a tough cover due to his size. This makes Garnett an invaluable asset to have on the defensive end.

 

Rebounding

He has magnet-like hands when it comes to cleaning the glass. Despite his thin frame, his long arms, quickness, and anticipation allows him to grab rebounds even against the biggest and strongest opponents. He almost always knows where the ball will end up after a shot. He uses his quickness to get around slower opponents and grab the ball. Of course it’s not only the physical gifts that makes him a great rebounder, but also his effort to get the ball. There are a lot of power forwards who shy away from rebounding, not Garnett.

 

Passing

When defending against Kevin Garnett, it’s not only his scoring that you should worry about, but his passing as well. Due to his height, he sees the floor so well that he knows when and where to pass the ball. This makes double teaming him a nightmare as he can find the open man with ease. Even on fast breaks, KG has proven that he could pass the ball as well as he could run the floor, making his opponents clueless on how to play against him.

 

The constant knock on KG has been his lack of success while leading his own team. Of course it could be argued that his talents are most suited to that of a team player with other great players, such as what happened in Boston where he teamed up with Ray Allen and Paul Pierce to win a championship. However when all is said and done, Garnett will be remembered as a great player and future Hall of Famer, whose unique talents revolutionized the power forward position.

Player Focus – John Stockton

A lot of people believe that the most difficult position to play in basketball is the point guard. You have to know where your teammates are at all times and at the same time you have to know the play that you are running. In addition to that, you are the head coach’s eyes on the court which means that he would need you to remember certain parts of the game. That sounds like a lot of work. However there are certain guys who have mastered the art of being a point guard that all of that seems effortless to them. One of these point guards is the great John Stockton. Let’s have a look at his game and how he has led the Utah Jazz to great heights for his whole career.

Passing

Perhaps the most popular thing about John Stockton is his almost perfect passing ability. He is the all-time leader is assists in the NBA and 2nd all-time in assists per game, second only to Magic Johnson. Of course it helps that you are playing for great coach in Jerry Sloan and playing with the likes of Karl Malone, making every pass to him a likely assist most of the time, but Stockton has the ability to find the open man every time. Whether in a slow play or in the open court, Stockton knows where to pass the ball for an easy basket.

 

Court Awareness

John Stockton’s passing ability is due in great part to his superior court vision. Even though he is often the smallest guy on the court, he can see everywhere and knows where his teammates are at all times, even his opponents. This uncanny ability enables him to push the ball where the Jazz have a high chance of scoring or getting defensive stops. This is why he played for Jerry Sloan for so long, as he is the great coach’s eyes on the court.

 

Basketball IQ

In relation to his excellent passing and court vision, is his basketball IQ. This may have been because he was coached by Jerry Sloan, Stockton knows exactly what play to run given the circumstances. He knows when to push the tempo or deliberately slow down the game to give the Jazz the advantage. His mastery of Utah’s offense is evident by the countless winning records that Utah had during his career.

 

Physicality

Despite his size, Stockton is known as one of the most physical players in the NBA. He will use anything to gain an advantage, sometimes bordering on dirty plays. Playing with Karl Malone, another physical player, they make a terrifying combo, especially when you become a victim of their painful screen and rolls. Steve Kerr, former Bull which faced the Jazz in 2 consecutive finals, is on record saying that John Stockton is a dirty player. This is quite contrary to his schoolboy looks, which makes his physical forays really surprising.

 

John Stockton may not have been the fastest or most athletic player when he was playing, but he played bigger than his height and always gave it his all on the court. His consistency throughout his career as well as his loyalty to the Jazz has cemented his legacy as arguably the best pure point guard the NBA has ever seen. Magic Johnson was a freak of nature at the point guard position so you could see why he dominated the game, but Stockton is a small guy and looks ordinary which is why him being one of the greatest of all time is truly an inspiring achievement.

Player Focus – Dirk Nowitzki

Dirk Nowitzki came into the league with nobody knowing who he was. He was a tall, skinny European who looks like someone who wouldn’t last a few games in the NBA. Right after being drafted, he was dealt for Robert “Tractor” Traylor, which is one of the most lopsided deals in league history when looking back on it. Nowitzki has carved a great career and is known as one of the greatest NBA players ever. Let’s dive into his game and how he played the game of basketball.

 

Scoring

When talking about Dirk’s game, it’s impossible not to mention his greatest talent, putting the ball into the hoop. He can score from almost anywhere on the court. His signature one legged fade away has haunted countless opponents and is virtually unblockable. Due to his height, he can post up down low, making him a nightmare to defend. His outside shooting has a lot of basketball fans comparing him to the legend, Larry Bird. Being 7 feet and shooting accurately from 3 point land, you can’t imagine how opponents plan for him as there are but a few big men wo can guard him outside, and putting smaller defenders allows him to operate inside.

 

Rebounding

European players have a reputation of being on the soft side. Nowitzki may have not been known as a bruiser, however he has proven that he does not mind banging bodies inside when grabbing rebounds. Somewhat surprising because of his playing style, Dirk is a very good rebounder despite his thin frame. His long arms and uncanny anticipation allows him to crash the boards very well, especially on the defensive end.

 

Clutch Plays

The thing that led to most comparisons to Larry Bird is his ability to hit outside shots. However there is more to it than just that, as Nowitzki has made countless game altering shots, just like Larry Legend. When you need a bucket in the crunch time, everybody knows that you will go to Dirk for that go ahead basket. He has the ability to drown out all the noise and sink those pressure packed shots to help his team.

 

Throughout his long career, Dirk has gone from being labeled as a choker and being soft, to shattering those labels and silencing his critics. By leading the Dallas Mavericks to their lone title, against the LeBron James led Miami Heat no less, he has proven that he is not just a typical European NBA player and that he has the goods to lead and NBA team to the promised land. He may be the greatest European player to ever set foot in the NBA and will surely be inducted in to the basketball Hall of Fame once he retires.

Player Focus – Pau Gasol

Pau Gasol wasn’t always known as a great player in the NBA despite winning Rookie of the Year honors during his first season. This is because he initially played for the Vancouver/Memphis Grizzlies, a small market team that had trouble making the playoffs every year. When they hired Hubie Brown as coach, the culture of the team changed and they began fighting for post season positioning. This is when Pau somewhat became known, prior to his stint with the L.A. Lakers. Let’s take a look at his game and see why he was so important during LA’s championship runs.

 

 

 

Post Play

Pau has been causing havoc in the post for years. He is a very tough guy to defend because of his length, footwork, and post moves. While he is not as bruising compared to other big men in the league, he is very intelligent which enables him to outsmart stronger defenders and putting the ball in the basket. He has and endless array of post moves and because he is quick on his feet and his reaction times are great, he can leave defenders in the dust or fake them while going the other direction instead.

 

Offensive Awareness

Not only is Pau a scoring threat on the offensive side, but he can beat you in a lot of ways too. He is a great passer for a big man, which is why the Lakers where so successful running the triangle offense. He knows when to make the pass, and to whom. He can pass out of the post when double teamed, and within the flow of the offense that results n easy baskets. His off the ball movement is also top-notch as he knows where exactly he should be in order to maintain the flow of the offense.

 

Unselfishness

One of the qualities that best describe Gasol is his unselfishness. He is willing to do anything in order to let his team win. Despite his overwhelming talents, he often defers to team mates for the sake of preserving team chemistry. It has often been documented that his Laker team mate, Kobe Bryant always wants to be the leader of their team and as talented as Gasol is, he was willing to sacrifice stats in order for the Lakers to not have internal issues and ultimately win championships.

 

Leadership

Even though he often lets team mates with large egos act as the team leader, Gasol still shows leadership qualities. His maturity rubs off on young team mates who more often than not listens to him in the basketball court. Especially during his time with the Grizzlies, his brand of leadership is not usually the in your face, gung-ho type, but the calm and cool leader who does not buckle under pressure and will help you when you are feeling down.

 

Pau Gasol is a surefire Hall of Famer anyway you cut it. He has won in the NBA and the Olympics for Spain. He might not have been an A-List superstar in the NBA, but he has proven that he has what it takes to compete in basketball at the highest level and even excel. His contributions to the Lakers’ championship years will be well remembered when looking back at his legacy. His leadership and unselfishness are seen as vital contributions to very successful years.

Player Focus – Magic Johnson

No one during the 80s captured the hearts of both hardcore and casual basketball fans quite like Earvin “Magic” Johnson did. His Showtime Lakers helped bring the excitement of the game to the fans and marked the golden years of the NBA. The combination of flashiness, flamboyance, and competitiveness has made Magic one of the all-time greats and even arguably the best player during the 1980s. Let’s take a look at the best aspects of Magic’s game and how he changed the way basketball is viewed.

passing

Passing

It’s impossible to talk about Magic Johnson without mentioning passing. If you look at a highlight reel featuring the best plays of his career, almost all of them involve him passing to an open teammate. Whether fancy passes or low key passes, Johnson has mastered them all. He is not the all-time assists per game leader in NBA history for nothing. His passing ability is arguably unparalleled by anyone, in any era.

 

court-awareness

Court Awareness

Magic’s passing excellence is actually a by-product of his uncanny court vision. Most of the time, especially on fast breaks, it seems that he has eyes behind his back as he knows where everyone is throughout the basketball court. Standing at 6’9″, his height allows him to have a better view of the court compared to the typical shorter point guard. On defense, he might not be a good defender, but he can anticipate where the action is going which results in him pushing the pace immediately upon getting the ball and get easy baskets.

 

leadership

Leadership

When talking about the Showtime Lakers, the first thing that comes to mind is the fast breaks and flashy plays that Magic mostly instigated. Their team success almost takes a backseat to the highlight reels, and this team success wouldn’t be achieved without a capable and assertive leader such as Magic Johnson. He not only leads with his words and motivation, he does it by example also by showing his teammates just how hard he works on his game, as well as rewarding them on the court via his precise passes, giving them opportunities to contribute.

 

final-words

Mentality

When you see Magic Johnson, the first thing you would notice is a big smile coming from his face. Part of his charm with the fans is his very outgoing personality and he comes off as this friendly fellow. What isn’t that noticeable though, even on the basketball court, is his killer instinct. He will do anything to win but and this relentlessness has made him a very competitive opponent. You do not lead your team to multiple championships, in his case 5 titles with the Lakers, without being ruthless.

 

mentality

Magic is one of the most well-respected athletes not just in the NBA, but in every major sport. It was just an unfortunate event when he was forced to retire early due to being HIV positive, but this has enabled him to contribute to society in more ways than an athlete could imagine. His battles with Larry Bird and the Boston Celtics was the golden age of the NBA and put the league back on track as fans flocked to arenas to witness their epic battles. As colored as the history of the Lakers are, with several great players donning the purple and gold, Magic is arguably the best of them.

Player Focus – Scottie Pippen

There may not be anyone more underrated in NBA history than Scottie Pippen. It is understandable, however, since he played with the greatest basketball player of all time. It can also be argued that he has had the success he enjoyed since he played with Michael Jordan. Both scenarios can be true though, as Michael needed Scottie to win their six championships, and vice versa. Let’s take a look at Pippen’s game and how he helped the Chicago Bulls build a dynasty in the 90s.

defense

Defense

Perhaps the most well-known part of Pippen’s game, he has been known as a lockdown defender for most of his career. He and MJ made the 90s Bulls teams elite defensive units. The thing that makes him an elite defender is his versatility. He is fast enough to shut down guards and strong and long enough to guard bigger wing players. He has the capability to guard elite offensive players one on one while also providing help to his teammates who are in need.

 

play-making

Playmaking

Dubbed as the first-ever “Point Forward”, Scottie was tasked numerous times to run Chicago’s offense as to free up Michael Jordan of the duties and also when there was no suitable point guard. Phil Jackson always favored big guards which is why he was letting Pippen run the offense and Scottie did not disappoint. His length, vision, and decision making made the Bulls triangle offensive sets almost perfectly executed every time. This enabled the team to build the chemistry in order to win multiple championships.

 

basketball-iq

Basketball IQ

With his awesome defensive capabilities and playmaking abilities, it’s pretty obvious that Scottie’s basketball IQ is off the charts. He knows what play to make, when to pass, and where to place himself all throughout the course of the game. With this, MJ does not have to shoulder the burden of carrying the Bulls throughout the regular season and playoffs, as Pippen is the type of help that any legend would want to have. He is a lot of times the coach inside the court, as Phil Jackson trusts him with guiding the team because of his intelligence.

 

work-ethic

Work Ethic

Pippen did not become one of the all-time greats due to natural talent, he became one of the greatest players ever due to his hard working nature. One of the things that he and Michael Jordan have in common is there drive to be the best that they can be. You can see their intensity and seriousness during practices. When the season starts, you could see that Pippen has always kept himself in game shape so as to prepare his body for the punishing regular season.

 

final-words

While Pippen was a great player, he is after all named as one of the 50 greatest NBA players of all time, the fact that he was not able to lead a team of his own to greater heights has somewhat diminished his legacy. Not that his legacy is anything to laugh about, but playing with the greatest basketball of all time during the peak of your career will naturally convince people that he was great because of Jordan. Basketball purists, however, has recognized Pippen as a great player on his own.

Player Focus – Jason Kidd

One of the premiere point guards in the NBA during his career, Jason Kidd is a one of a kind player. He is known as having one of the greatest instincts inside the basketball court, which is a point guard skill, yet his all-around brilliance has allowed him to dominate the game in other ways too, as evident by his countless triple doubles. Let’s go back in time and see the best aspects of Jason Kidd’s game and what made him the best point guard in the NBA during his prime years.

 

passing

Passing

The thing that made Jason Kidd a very popular basketball player is his passing. He has perfected the art so that he could make any guy a better player. They say that great players make their teammates better. There are only a handful of players that can do a better job at this than Jason Kidd. He will almost, always find a way to find the open man. Not only does he rack up assists in every game, but he also makes the important passes which do not show up on the stat sheet but is every bit as important.

 

court-awareness

Court Awareness

During his time, there was perhaps no one who could rival J-Kidd’s court awareness and vision. He as the ability to know where everyone on the court is, including the opposing team. During fast breaks, he can spot anyone from what seems like a mile away and make the perfect pass or finish it himself. It sometimes appear that he has eyes in his back enabling him to see everything happening in the game. Coupled with his instincts, he makes the right decision almost every time.

 

defense

Defense

Not only was Kidd known for his ability to set up his team’s offense, but also for his skill in shutting down opposing guards. Due to his superior strength, size, and speed against most point guards, he can guard anyone which makes it very difficult for opposing teams to set up their offense and score. Of course, his superior physical gifts are not the only things that enable him to play lockdown defense, but his effort as well, something you won’t find lacking in him.

 

rebounding

Rebounding

Kidd was known to be the best rebounding point guard during his time, maybe ever. This is why he has a ton of career triple doubles. Adding to his all-around brilliance, he combines his strength, speed, and anticipation to snag boards. This is also why he is very dangerous in the open court. Since he can grab rebounds by himself, he can start the fast break immediately and either find the open man or score the basket himself.

 

competitiveness

Competitiveness

Everywhere Jason Kidd goes, his team instantly becomes a contender. This is because not only does he makes the players around him better, but his competitiveness rubs off on his teammates. His will to win is matched only by a few players in the NBA, and you can see this with every game he plays. Watch him play during the playoffs and finals, and you will see a man who seems possessed and will stop at nothing to win the game for his team.

 

final-words

Combining passing, ability to control tempo, leadership, competitiveness, and all-around skills, Jason Kidd has been a pleasure to watch for all basketball fans. The 2 finals appearance of the New Jersey Nets during his time there is a testament to his leadership skills while his 107 triple doubles, which rank 3rd all-time behind Oscar Robertson and Magic Johnson, is to his all-around skills. The 2011 NBA Championship he won while being the starting point guard for the Dallas Mavericks was well deserved. Even though his skills weren’t what they once were, he was still an integral part of the team and coach Rick Carlisle’s voice on the court.

Player Focus – Larry Bird

Larry Bird is known as one of the greatest players ever, and rightfully so. MVP awards and multiple championship have cemented his place as one of the all-time greats. He is even part of the era that resurrected the NBA and granted the league the opportunity to be once again relevant. His battles against Magic Johnson and the Los Angeles Lakers are considered one of the most epic games ever, with their rivalry being arguably the most well known in basketball history. Today we shall take a closer look at Bird’s game at why he’s aptly called Larry “Legend”.

scoring

Scoring

Bird may not be the fastest or highest jumper, but he certainly knows how to put the ball through the hoop. He can score from almost anywhere on the court, from inside and outside. He can play inside the paint with an array of post moves which he uses combined with his excellent foot work and strong body. From the outside, he has a smooth jumper which he can drill from almost anywhere. He is one of the deadliest scorers ever, especially when the game is on the line, a situation which he thrives on.

 

intelligence

Intelligence

Larry Bird not only uses his body to help his team win, but also his mind. He has an uncanny ability of accurately predicting the play as it unfolds. This extraordinary anticipation gives Larry Legend an advantage that few players are afforded. He not only does this on offense, but on defense as well. While he is not known as a great one on one defender, he is an excellent help defender and often comes out of nowhere to force a turnover.

 

basketball-iq

Basketball IQ

Perhaps only matched by Magic Johnson during their time together in the league, Bird’s basketball IQ is off the charts. This is one of the reasons why most people want to play with him. He not only understands what needs to be done on the court during every play, but he also understands what his teammates should do. He sets them up for open shots and sometimes he’s set himself up to be open in order to bail out the play. This is also one of the reasons why he was so successful when he became the head coach of the Indiana Pacers, where they almost beat the Jordan-led Chicago Bulls in the 1997 season, but came short in the grueling series which reached 7 games.

 

passing

Passing

On the offensive end, it’s not only his scoring that you need to watch out for but his passing as well. Just as we just talked about his basketball IQ, it’s because of this that he is able to make the perfect pass and set up his team mates. He is not as great as say, Magic Johnson, but he knows when and where to pass the ball to his team mates. This enables him to make his teammates better players than they should be, truly a mark of an all-time great.

 

mindset

Mindset

With a player like Larry Bird, you can’t judge him with his basketball play alone, you have to include the mental aspect of the game, and in this, only a few can match him. Sure, he can do almost everything on the court, but it’s his mental toughness and mindset that sets him apart from the competition. He could trash talk his way into another player’s mind and beat him even before the game has begun. He also has a cast-iron will which does not allow him to accept failure against all opponents, whether it’s an opposing team’s 12th man, or other superstars.

 

final-words

Larry Bird is such a generational talent that you will struggle to find someone that has a similar game. Dirk Nowitzki has been compared to him sometimes, but it is mainly due to their similar size and shooting range. Bird can do it all in the basketball court, offense or defense. His basketball knowledge knows no bounds and his competitiveness what basketball players want to find with their leader. Magic Johnson said it best, there will never be another Larry Bird.

Player Focus – Dennis Rodman

One of the most controversial athletes of all-time, Dennis Rodman has been an enigma both on and off the court. While he is more known because of his off court antics than his basketball skills, he is considered one of the greatest players to ever play the game of basketball. He is unique in that while he does not have the talent to score baskets in bunches, he still impacts the game in other ways that help his team win. Let’s take a look at what makes The Worm one of the best basketball players ever.

defense Defense

While Rodman is a bit challenged on the offensive end of the game, he more than makes it up for it with his excellent defense. He excels at both team defense, and one on one situations. What’s more remarkable is his uncanny ability to defend virtually any position. He is fast enough to defend guards and strong enough to defend big men. Perhaps one of his most popular display of defensive ability was when he guarded Shaquille O’Neal. Despite weighing about almost 100 lbs. less, he more than carried his own and did a great job in defending Shaq.

 

rebounding

Rebounding

The most well-known aspect of Rodman’s game is his rebounding. He once led the league in rebounding for seven straight seasons. Imagine him doing that while only standing at 6’8″, battling towering centers and power forwards every night. He does t with his almost flawless timing and amazing athleticism and stamina. His 2nd jump is just as high as his 1st jump, giving him the advantage when relentlessly chasing rebounds.

 

final-words

Athleticism

The main reason that The Worm has dominated games with his rebounding and defense is his unbelievable athleticism. We’re not talking about jumping ability or strength, but speed and quickness. His vertical leap is not that high, but he can jump consecutive times with almost the same height. His speed has given him the ability to defend small and fast guards while his quickness allows him to get to the ball first in rebounding and loose ball situations. He is also a workhorse at the gym as his conditioning has always been top notch. Nobody has ever seen Rodman exhausted while playing.

 

basketball-iq

Basketball IQ

Another underrated skill of Rodman’s is his superior basketball IQ. Due to his off court antics and bizarre behavior, one would not think of Rodman as a highly intelligent human being. Surprisingly, he is, at least basketball wise. He has studied the game thoroughly and knows what to do in any given situation. He understands his limitations and tries to help his team win to the best of his abilities.

 

athleticism

Rodman may not have the talent for scoring as some of his peers, nor even the offensive skills, but he has more than made up for this with his rebounding, defense, basketball iq, and willingness to sacrifice his body each and every night. Probably the most amazing thing about him is that despite all the partying off the court, he still has the energy to give 100% every game without fail. This work ethic is why Rodman is one of the greatest payers to ever play the game.

Player Focus – Charles Barkley

One of the most dynamic players to ever lace it up, Charles Barkley is one of the most popular figures to come out of the NBA. He is known not only for his talents on the court, but also his personality off of it. There has been a lot of negative press resulting from his off court antics, but this has not deterred his accomplishments on the court. Let us take a look at what makes The Round Mound of Rebound one of the most feared competitors in history.

 

athleticism Athleticism

One of the most known knocks against Sir Charles has been his conditioning. Ever since he came in to the league, he has been having problems with staying slim. However, this has not affected his unbelievable athleticism which he has used to his advantage. Standing at a mere 6’4″ and weighing close to 300 lbs., he surprisingly plays the power forward position, where almost every opponent towers over him but his superior jumping ability, strength, and quickness has enabled him to punish everyone who plays against him.

 

offense

Offense

From inside to outside, Sir Charles can do it all on the offensive end of the game. He can post up, drive, and drain jump shots. The only thing missing from his arsenal is a reliable 3 point shot. Posting up means bodying up anyone who guards him. They might think that they can stop him due to his height, but he more than makes up for it with his strength and variety of moves inside. He can also penetrate and score at will in the open court. This makes him almost impossible to guard.

 

rebounding

Rebounding

Despite being one of the shortest power forwards in the league, Barkley has an amazing ability to get rebounds even when facing against towering power forwards and centers. Averaging double digits in rebounding for his career, he has an uncanny ability of getting rebounds even if the paint is packed full. Combining his strength and jumping ability with his knack for knowing where the ball would end up, Chuck has been among the league leaders in rebounds every year. Even when most of his athleticism has left him later in his career, he was still able to average double digits in rebounding.

 

clutch

Clutch

A lot can be said about Chuck and his relative laziness when it comes to getting in shape, but when the game comes down to the wire, you could be sure that he would demand the ball and take it upon himself to win the game. He understands that it’s ultimately the stars’ responsibility to carry their teams, and he has never shied away from attempting to seal the game using his judgement and abilities.

 

final

With countless accolades he has gotten throughout his career such as All-Star selections, All-NBA selections, MVP award, the only thing missing in his resume is a championship. He came close once but unfortunately he faced the G.O.A.T., Michael Jordan, preventing him from winning a championship. Despite this, he is still considered as one of the greatest NBA players the world has ever seen. With the way the game is being played today, there is also a good chance that we will never see another player that would come close to Charles Barkley.

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