Phil Jackson is perhaps the greatest coach in the history of team sports. He has coached 8 current or future Hall-of-Famers: Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman, Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal, Karl Malone, Gary Payton, and Pau Gasol and won 11 Championships. He was perhaps the best at getting big stars to buy into his system. Yet, Phil Jackson’s skills of comparing one player to another are seriously lacking.
After Steph Curry broke his own record for 3-pointers in a season (with 24 games remaining), tied the record for 3’s in a single game, and extended his record of consecutive games with at least one 3-pointer made, by going 12-of-16 from deep, (including a 35-foot game winner in overtime enroute to 46 points after going for 51 in the game before no less), you know who Phil Jackson said Curry reminded him of? That’s right, the great Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf. Yup, I can see that. The most dominant player in the most dominant season in recent memory also reminds me of players not good enough to average 20 points per game or ever to make a single All-Star Team. Maybe it was Abdul-Rauf’s 14.6 career scoring average or his 35.4 career 3-point percentage that reminded him of Curry’s brilliant record-setting game and season. I play this game with the guys I play church basketball with, only the other way around. I compare a broken-down-has-been (no offense guys) to past and present NBA players. We have a Russell Westbrook, an Antoine Walker, a Marc Gasol, and a Damian Lillard. Of course, the comparison is favorable to my buddies, but Phil Jackson plays this game in reverse and compares these stellar current players to solid, but not great, older players. So, here is my All-Comparison Team Phil Jackson-style, giving an extreme advantage to the older players (in an insulting way) to outstanding current players:
Steph Curry/Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf– Both make 3’s in bunches, handle the ball, and shoot lights out at the free throw line.
Key Stat: FT%
Curry-Best Season 93.4%, Career 90.1%
Adbul-Rauf-Best Season 95.6%, Career 90.5%
Kevin Durant/Cliff Robinson-Both long 6-9/6-10 guys who can shoot from deep and cause match-up problems on both ends of the court.
Key Stat: Best Season 3PT%
Lebron James/Toni Kukoc-Point Forwards who can handle the ball and are willing passers and had a knack for making big plays, but need high-level talent around them to be successful.
Key Stats: Assists and Rebounds per 32 Minutes (Best Season), Career 3PT%, FT% (Best Season)
Lebron-7.9 APG, 7.6 RPG, 33.7% 3PT, 78% FT
Kukoc-5.7 APG, 6.7 RPG, 33.5% 3PT, 77.2% FT
Key Stat: Best Statistical Season
Westbrook- 28.1 PPG, 8.6 APG, 7.3 APG, 42.6% FG, 83.5% FT
Johnson- 22.1 PPG. 10.5 RPG, 4.3 APG, 52.6% FG, 76.7% FT
Dwyane Wade/Jimmy Jackson-Both scoring two-guards who could do it in the mid-range and to-the-rim game without ever really developing a consistent three-point shot.
Key Stat: Best Statistical Season
Wade- 30.2 PPG, 7.5 APG, 5.0 RPG, 49.1% FG, 31.7% 3PT
Jackson-25.7 PPG, 3.7 APG, 5.7 RPG, 47.2% FG. 31.8% 3PT
LaMarcus Aldridge/Thurl Bailey-Long and thin forwards who are most effective facing the basket and shooting in the midrange. Length gives versatility on defense to guard multiple positions.
Key Stats: Points per 36 Minutes (Best Season), Career Shooting Percentages
Aldridge-23.8 Points, 48.6% FG, 79.9% FT
Bailey-20.7 Points, 47.3% FG, 81.2% FT
Chris Paul/Terrell Brandon-Attacking point guards who can effectively set up their own shots or their teammates.
Key Stat: Career Best Averages Per 36 Minutes
Paul 21.6 PPG, 11.1 APG, 5.2 RPG, 2.6 SPG
Brandon 20.3 PPG, 9.9 APG, 4.0 RPG, 2.2 SPG
Key Stat: Career 3PT%
James Harden/George McCloud-Chuckers from deep with very little motivation or desire to play defense.
Key Stat: 3PTA with low percentage
Harden-555 Attempts in 2014-15 at 37.5%
McCloud-678 Attempts in 1995-96 at 37.9%
Draymond Green/Derrick McKey-Forwards who could cause all kinds of match-up problems because of their combination of size, ball-skills, passing, and shooting ability.
Key Stat: Career Best Averages
Green 11.7 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 3.7 SPG
McKey 15.9 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 6.1 APG
Obviously, these comparisons are just as absurd as Jackson’s comparison of Curry to Abdul-Rauf, but really there is nothing like insulting superstars and perennial All-Stars by comparing them to average players of the past. I’m surprised that after MJ was well on his way to his 2nd MVP and 2nd championship he didn’t compare MJ to Michael Cooper or Norm Nixon.
Do you have a good Phil-Jackson-type comparison, share it below.