The 2004 Detroit Pistons literally shocked the professional basketball world when they won the NBA championship by dominating the Los Angeles Lakers in five games. It was so shocking, in fact, that the NBA literally rewrote pieces of the rulebook in response to the Pistons smothering on-the-ball defense (at least, that's how we Pistons fans remember it).
On top of that, the media struggled to fit those Pistons into the common narratives. On the one side, the Lakers were loaded with superstar players: Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O'Neal, Gary Payton, Karl Malone. On the other side...wait, who are these guys again?
As a team, the Pistons only scored a piddly 90.1 points per game and held opponents to 84.3. Not exactly great TV material. Their leading scorer, Richard Hamilton, averaged 17.6. Seven players averaged between 9 points per game and Rip's team-leading 17.6.
Even as someone who watched the Pistons night in and night out, it's easy to buy into the narrative that was spun to make sense of this surprise: The Pistons were greater than the sum of the respective parts. They didn't have a superstar.
Certainly, there's some truth here. As a unit, the Pistons were a joy to watch, and they were team rather than individual-oriented. Their offense - while not pretty - was predicated on people and ball movement, as opposed to being driven by one or two great individual offensive players. The "zoo crew" wreaked havoc with a full-court press that hasn't been matched in effectiveness since. And so on, and so forth.
But that narrative while true is only halfway so. Or at least according to Andre Alvarez who writes at the Wages of Wins Journal.
By the numbers, Ben Wallace was a true superstar, and he dominated two-thirds of the game: defense and rebounding. He just didn't score enough points to be labeled the star that he was.
The money quote:
In 2004 Ben Wallace had been the Wins Produced MVP in back to back seasons. He lost his crown to Garnett but was still second in the league. Let's also look at conventional wisdom. Ben Wallace made the All-Star game in 2003 and 2004. He was a two time Defensive Player of the Year winner. And guess what the Pistons were really good at? The answer is defense for those that missed the rhetorical nature of my question. How can anyone claim that Ben Wallace wasn't the star of the Pistons? How can anyone that pulls out the mantra "Defense Wins Championships" say that with a straight face? And I argue how Ben Wallace was a star mattered a lot too.
Make sure to click through to read the rest of the post here.
My only critique of Dre's post - or perhaps it's more an addition - is this: What Ben Wallace was to the Pistons' defense, Chauncey Billups was to the Pistons' offense. I would argue that together, those two players were the Pistons' superstar that propelled them to their championship and subsequent success.
And now, your thoughts?