44 points on 21/22 shooting in the '73 NCAA Final. His deft touch on the low block on full display, with a variety of spin-moves, hooks shots and face-up jumpers to keep the defender on his toes. Some nice passing as well, Walton was excellent at finding cutters off the ball and delivering it to their sweet spots.
I can't stress his basketball IQ enough either, he had amazing court awareness. Quick decision-making when he had the ball, was great at moving and acquiring position off the ball, and he was tenacious on the boards.
High praise from various players he played with as well as the great John Wooden, key info on Walton's passing ability and big-time recognition for the outlet pass, which he was the master of.
Dr. Jack Ramsey, who coached Walton in Portland on the way to a title, talks a bit about Walton's selflessness and intangibles. Again, Walton's amazing outlet passing ability is touched upon with some clips as well. He'd snare a defensive rebound and turn around in the air on the way down, prepared to fire off to a streaking teammate on the other end of the floor before he even touched the ground.
“When he was healthy, which wasn’t for very much of his career, I don’t think there was ever anyone better,” says Dr. Jack Ramsay, who coached Walton and the Trail Blazers to the ’77 title. “He had probably the best across-the-board skills of any center ever; he was an excellent defender, he blocked shots and he had a great sense for directing the defense. On offense, he rebounded and got the ball out on the break-turning and passing while in the air-better than anyone. He could run the floor, he had great hands, he could finish the fast break, he had a great jump hook with either hand and a good spot-up jumper and he was a remarkable passer with an uncanny ability to find the open man and deliver the exactly perfect pass. In short, he was a very, very complete player and a joy to coach, a totally dedicated team player whose only concern was winning.”
Finally, while officially listed at 6'11, Walton was closer to 7'1 or 7'2, just as tall as Kareem when they went head-to-head. Much like how KG insists on being listed 6'11, Walton would also ask that he be listed shorter than his actual height due to some strange big man fear of being labeled a "seven foot freak". Also, while reading the book Breaks of Game focusing on the Blazers from the 70s, I came across a bit that touched upon his playing weight. Coming out of UCLA Walton had never spent much time working out (Wooden believed that muscles slowed down players, and speed was essential to UCLA's system), and didn't devote himself to the weight room till a few years into his career. Early in his career he was also a dedicated vegetarian and refused to eat any meat at all, thus his playing weight was around 215-220 at the most.
However, on the urging of the team trainer prior to the '75-76 season, citing a vitamin deficiency as a possible cause for his injury issues, he began to eat better (adding poultry and fish to his diet), and he also spent more time in the weight room working on getting stronger for the upcoming seasons. This paid off by the '76-77 season, where he came in around 250-260 pounds that season and led the Blazers to their only championship.
So he wasn't 6'11 and 210 pounds in '76-77, but closer to 7'1 and 250 pounds. I feel like this will be important when the actual game gets started up.
If anyone is like wtf is this, I'm just posting up highlights and stuff right now while I have time so I can refer to it when the actual playoffs start for this league. It's easier to gather up information right now for each player as I draft along than having to type up a ton of stuff per match-up and looking up details on every single player at the same time.
How many NBA players have multiple highlight packages dedicated to their defensive ability? Scottie Pippen is widely considered to be the greatest perimeter defender in NBA history by many people today. He could guard players from the 1 through the 4 equally as effectively with his combination of speed, length, and defensive tenacity. One night he could be picking up the likes of Mark Jackson or Magic Johnson across 90 feet, bumping and pressuring them all the way, not giving them any open lane to attack. Two days later he could be fronting the likes of Barkley and Webber on the low-block, denying them post-position and knocking away errant passes.
His greatest attribute defensively was probably the quickness with which he could intercept post-entry passes. Often times he'd give up slight position on the low block, enough to welcome a certain passing angle, before exploding forward and intercepting the pass. No one in NBA history was better than Scottie Pippen at intercepting entry passes, the combination of quickness, length and explosiveness was just too much.
His help defense was absolutely elite. Before LeBron made it a defining part of his game, Pippen was the best weakside help defender at the SF position ever. As a whole he's still superior to LeBron (due to his quick hands in the passing lanes), but LeBron is as good (if not better) with bringing weakside help and swatting away shots due to his superior athleticism.
Scottie Pippen had the entire package on the defensive end; speed, quick hands, length, athleticism and great instincts. The perfect perimeter defender.
Despite being in Jordan's shadow for the majority of his career and thereby underrated, Pippen himself was also an amazing athlete. Not as graceful or creative as Jordan, but he was more powerful and every bit as effective. He was a great athlete in his own right, one of the more physically gifted in the history of the league. Great end-to-end speed, nice vertical leap, and he was powerful on the break.
Last but not least, Pippen's passing ability was amazing for a guy his size. At 6'8, he had the advantage of looking over opposing defenses and finding open teammates cutting off ball or running baseline like few others in NBA history could. Off the top of my head, as far as perimeter players are concerned, only Magic, Bird, and LeBron had that same distinct advantage where they could orchestrate an offense from 25 feet out and find open players all over the court.
As many of you know, he was the one that directed the Bulls' offense on the way to 6 championships in 8 years. They were undoubtedly Jordan's teams, but until Pippen took up the reigns as the offensive conductor from '91 onwards and really cam, the Bulls didn't truly become a championship caliber squad. He was the man in the middle during fast breaks, the guy who found cutters off the ball or the roll man whenever he penetrated deep into the paint, and at times he could even get fancy by finding guys with no-look passes and behind the back trickery.
Way easier to find footage and make arguments for modern players. There are so many more sources available. I didn't have to try nearly as hard as I did with Walton, who I had already been researching prior to this game.
I like to think of Scottie as a prototype LeBron. Same skillset, same great build for a small forward, just not as athletic or powerfully built. Much more complete defensive player, but LeBron has him beat in passing, post-game, power and finishing ability. Probably shooting as well, since LeBron has vastly improved in that facet of his game over the last two years.
Everyone knows about Shawn Kemp's prowess as an in-game dunker, but his game was so much more than just that. For the late 90s Sonics, Kemp and Payton were their defensive anchors as well as the focal points on the offensive end. If he were just a simple dunker, then all teams would need to do is close off the lane and crowd him to shut him out. Where Kemp did his damage was inside the paint, making use of his quickness and athleticism to punish defenders near the basket. His quick spin down the baseline often led to either a lay-up or a poster worthy jam on some unsuspecting victim.
In addition to all that, he had an excellent face-up game to 15 feet out, constantly putting defenders on their heels. Either give up the lane and risk being put on a highlight reel, or give him the space to face-up and stick a jumper right in your grill. Before the lockout happened and Kemp let himself go, he was one of the very best PFs in the entire league. A menace on the offensive end.
As far as defense was concerned, Kemp was great with the weak-side help and could hold his own on the block against the best PFs in the league. By no means was he a lockdown defender, but his presence in the immediate vicinity of the basket made players think twice about driving in. Payton was out there on the perimeter sticking on guys and earning his moniker of "The Glove", but Kemp was there on the baseline, ready to swat any anything that somehow got past Payton's smothering defense on the perimeter.
Finally, what Kemp analysis is complete without a dunk reel? The man was an athletic freak. Just ridiculous. Be it driving in, catching the ball off a lob, going straight up with two hands, or cutting off ball along the baseline, he could dunk on ANYONE at ANY time. No one was safe from the Reignan.
McHale is honestly one of my favorite players in the history of the league, and it's all due to his amazing low post skills from the 80s. He was an absolute terror on the block, just downright unstoppable. He had moves, countermoves, and counter-counter moves aplenty. His low post arsenal was basically the Dream Shake minus the athleticism and speed, but with much more technical brilliance. Fantastic footwork, awesome touch around the basket with either hand, and up-fakes and twists to keep defenders guessing all along. As far as low post offense is concerned, no one was more technically brilliant than Kevin McHale on the block.
Part of what made him so difficult to defend where the funky dimensions and length of his body. He had very long legs and arms, surprising quickness and agility for a man of his length on the low block, and of course he had excellent hands for catching all the post entry feeds and no-look passes from Bird he could handle. In addition to that, he had an excellent fade-away jumper on the low block spinning off his man to either the right or left and was great with the face-up game. Every big man coming into the league should study tape of McHale on the low block. Hakeem's Dream Shake may be downright impossible to emulate due to his unique balance of agility, balance and athleticism, but McHale's pure technical ability on the low-block is entirely skill-driven. No flash or flair, just pure basketball in it's finest form.
An extremely underrated part of his game was his defensive ability on the low block. McHale wasn't a premier defensive anchor or anything, but he had a surprising spring in his step (which allowed him to grab nearly 3 offensive boards per game for his career), as well as that ridiculous wingspan. A career average of 2 blocks per game, he anchored those awesome Celtics teams of the 80s along with Parish on the low block and made life difficult for any opposing PF.
Charles Barkley is quoted as saying that "Kevin McHale's the best player I played against because he was unstoppable offensively, and he gave me nightmares on defense." High praise from Chuck.
Finally, McHale's intangibles on those Celtic squads were so valuable to their success. Instead of butting heads with Bird over the alpha dog role, he willingly took up the mantle as the 2nd option and never complained about it. When the Celtics needed him to step into the 6th man role in his early career to give them firepower off the bench, he was more than happy to oblige. He was a consummate team player, a fierce competitor, and one of the most personable guys in NBA history.
My favorite pick so far, happy I was able to snag him in the 4th round. He's already got chemistry with Walton from playing alongside him on the way to the '86 title, and they were great on the block together. Walton was as selfless as ever, while McHale was as punishing in the post as anyone had ever seen him. He dominated the Rockets frontline of Olajuwon/Sampson, the lauded original twin towers duo, to the tune of 26/8 on 57% shooting in the '86 Finals. McHale alongside a prime Walton would have been nearly unstoppable.
This team is based around getting the ball out and sparking the transition game. We've got elite defenders on the wings, two very good defensive anchors in Kemp and Walton, and we've got athletes that can quickly run the floor in transition. Pippen, Johnson and Hardaway can all lead a break on their own and play any of the three transition lanes, while Kemp is adept at finishing as well. My team is built around forcing turnovers, getting stops, and running teams right out of the building with our transition game. As soon as Walton snares the defensive board, he'll be looking to outlet with the likes of Pippen, Hardaway and Kemp streaking down the floor.
In the half-court, we have a team full of unselfish players who can adapt the game plan as necessary. I made sure to pick up players that were perfectly capable of playing off dominant players and were unselfish in their careers. Primarily, we'll be running through Hardaway and Pippen on the wings in most games. When we have the clear size advantage, I'll be going through Bill Walton in the high post who can direct the offense and find cutters as they move all around the floor.
If we need to exploit a team in the post, we'll be subbing in McHale at center to play alongside Kemp or Walton (McHale down low, Kemp or Walton in the high post), while we spread the floor by bringing in guys like Peja or Bowen to make teams pay from the outside.
Defense is this teams forte, and we're stacked with capable wing defenders (Pippen, Bowen, Johnson), length in the paint (McHale, Walton, Kemp), and athleticism all across the floor. We're not much of a three point shooting team, but we have the personnel to make other teams pay if they decide to pack in the paint and cut off the driving lanes.
This is just the basic gist of this team, I'll have more detailed gameplans per individual match-up.