Who would win a best-of-7 series between a team filled with scoring champions and a team filled with Defensive Players of the Year winners? Scoring champions are tremendous athletes because capturing scoring titles is not an easy thing to do in the NBA, because it requires a ton of mental and physical fortitude to accomplish. The players lining up for the Scoring Champions are 4-time scoring champion Allen Iverson, 2-time scoring champion Kobe Bryant, 2-time scoring champion Tracy McGrady, 4-time scoring champion Kevin Durant, and 2-time scoring champion Shaquille O’Neal.
Meanwhile, for the Defensive Players of the Year winners, “The Glove” Gary Payton starts alongside the greatest two-way player ever in Michael Jordan in the backcourt. Kawhi Leonard, a back-to-back Defensive Player of the Year winner, will be tasked with defending Tracy McGrady and Kobe Bryant throughout the series. In the frontcourt, Giannis Antetokounmpo brings his superstar athletic ability alongside an all-time great defensive center in Hakeem Olajuwon.
Clearly, both sides have 5 superstar players who are all Hall of Fame talents. It is also obvious that this series will go the distance, because both sides do what they do best (scoring and defending) respectively, but they also contribute in other areas of the floor. It is time to go through a player-by-player analysis of the stars and decide which team comes out on top in the end.
Allen Iverson vs. Gary Payton
Allen Iverson is one of the greatest scorers of all time, winning 4 scoring titles in his career and dominating most of the opposition regardless of their defensive ability. The Answer will not have it easy with Payton, a player who will play dirty as required, but he will still average 26 PPG albeit with poor efficiency (41%). Iverson will take his shots even when playing alongside other dominant offensive players. This will be an exciting matchup for sure.
Gary Payton will go up against a dominant offensive player in Allen Iverson with his tenacity and defensive prowess in what may be viewed as the ultimate duel of two very different players. Payton was recognized for his ability to steal the ball from smaller opponents and score in the post, earning him the title of Defensive Player of the Year in 1996. Payton is also a bigger player and will try to make it rough for The Answer.
Kobe Bryant vs. Michael Jordan
Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant will square off for the majority of the series in what will undoubtedly be the matchup that steals the show when it comes to skill and will. Bryant will generally match MJ throughout the series because of how similar their offensive and defensive styles are. Despite shooting at a lower percentage than MJ, Bryant will make more three-pointers than MJ. Since the entire stadium of players will be feeling the competitive fire, this game will undoubtedly be eagerly anticipated.
Jordan will set the tone for his side in the series and display his GOAT-like style of play against Kobe Bryant, another exceptional guard, and a lockdown perimeter defender. But it will be argued that Jordan has the edge because he is more efficient and has the benefit of playing alongside two other elite perimeter defenders to allow him to focus on dominating on offense. Jordan will average 30 PPG in the series.
Tracy McGrady vs. Kawhi Leonard
Tracy McGrady is one of the most dominant offensive players of all time because he has the unstoppable scoring ability from the perimeter and also elite playmaking. Known as T-Mac, the superstar scorer will handle ball-handling duties alongside Allen Iverson and will set his teammates up extremely well. Expect McGrady to average 24 PPG and 8 APG, although he will also struggle to be efficient across from a 2-time Defensive Player of the Year winner in Kawhi Leonard (39.5%).
With a field goal percentage of 47% and averages of 24 PPG and 7 RPG, Leonard will have a strong series on both ends of the court. While also serving as Michael Jordan's backup defender, The Claw will be charged with guarding the greatest player on the opposition squad which will be Kobe Bryant. Leonard is an extremely dominant athlete, standing 6'7" and weighing 225 lbs. He will bring this level of physicality to the court when playing across McGrady, a player who is unstoppable to defend against when he heats up from the perimeter. This matchup will also be another exciting one to watch.
Kevin Durant vs. Giannis Antetokounmpo
Kevin Durant is a superstar with supreme offensive ability, winning 4 scoring titles in his career. Even right now, Durant is considered the best player in the world alongside Giannis Antetokunmpo. KD will average 29 PPG in the series, although he will not be able to do much when it comes to rebounds (4 RPG) and assists (2 APG). KD will be the primary shot-maker from the perimeter and will play off Kobe Bryant very well due to his willingness to share the ball.
Giannis Antetokounmpo won a Defensive Player of the Year award due to his elite size and athleticism because, at 6’11’ and 242 lbs, he can defend bigs while also dealing with quick players such as Kevin Durant due to his tremendous athleticism. The Greek Freak will post 26 PPG, 15 RPG, and 7 APG while shooting a very efficient 52% from the field. But he will not be able to stop Durant from averaging 29 PPG, although he will make up for it with elite all-around ability. This is yet another all-time great classic matchup between two players who are neck-and-neck in the league right now.
Shaquille O'Neal vs. Hakeem Olajuwon
Shaquille O’Neal is the most dominant player in the series in terms of raw size by far. He is a behemoth when he has the ball down low and will score the ball rather efficiently. He will average 29 PPG in the series on 51% shooting, although he will only shoot 51% from the free-throw line. Shaq will be fed the ball often by McGrady and Bryant, and he will come through on most occasions with a jump hook or dunk. But he will have a tough time handling Olajuwon, a quick and agile center with better post moves.
Hakeem won't be dominated, no matter how dominant Shaquille O’Neal is. On both ends of the court, the production of the two centers will closely resemble one another. Olajuwon will average 28 points on 47% shooting through the series while also contributing 12 RPG and 2 BPG. The Dream will be required to score against Shaq, but will also be required to defend the big man with intelligence and agility. At times, Olajuwon will shock O’Neal with nice moves although their impact will be similar.
Team Scoring Champions Advantages
The Scoring Champions can score the ball, obviously. Their offensive versatility is off the charts great, because they can score from the perimeter and inside the paint. Allen Iverson can break down any point guard with his handles and quickness, and Kobe might be the best scoring talent ever outside of Michael Jordan. Having Tracy McGrady, an efficient scorer and passer, alongside them make this overkill.
But they also have the best possible teammate for Shaquille O’Neal with Kevin Durant spacing the floor for the big man. Shaq dominates the paint better than any other player ever in terms of size and strength, and Durant is one of the 10 greatest floor spacers ever. That makes Team Scoring Champions virtually unstoppable on offense on paper, although the Defensive Player of the Year winners has something to say about that.
Team Defensive Players Of The Year Advantages
This team has the better defenders, and it isn’t close. Gary Payton locks down most point guards, and while he won’t shut Iverson completely down (because no one can), he will make it hard for the scorer to get his shots up efficiently. Jordan is arguably the best defensive shooting guard ever, and he will take his game to another level when he sees Kobe Bryant gunning for him. This duo is a nightmare to score against because they will pick you up the length of the floor.
Alongside them is Kawhi Leonard, one of the best perimeter defenders in NBA history due to his IQ and incredible physical gifts. Like Jordan, Leonard has massive hands that he uses to poke the basketball away and also come up with steals. In the paint, there is Giannis and Hakeem Olajuwon who have a knack for dominant the paint with incredible size, length, and basketball IQ. Offense is extremely important, but having a superior defense could prove to be the difference.
Who Wins A Best-Of-7 Series?
This series will go down to the wire, although the first 2 games are blowouts. Games 1 and 2 go to the Defensive Players of the Year winners because the trio of Payton, Jordan, and Kawhi work unbelievably well against the opposing offensive players. The scorers will have a very tough time scoring against that trio from the perimeter, while Michael Jordan will make a living coming off Olajuwon’s screens on the other end. Game 1 ends 101-89, with Jordan, Payton, and Leonard combining for 10 steals. They force the scorers to rush moving the ball, and they cannot keep a handle. The DPOY winners also control the pace of the game, keeping it slow and methodical on the other end. Game 2 is similar, with only Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal showing up (combined 60 points). This time, Jordan and Giannis have big games on offense while also forcing the scorers to shoot only 42% from the field as a whole. The game ends 115-102.
As expected, the Scoring Champions adjust. Shaq puts his head down and dominates Game 3, posting 40 points and 12 rebounds against a helpless duo of Giannis and Hakeem. With the game down to the wire at the end of the game, a Kobe Bryant game-winning pass to the big man with 5 seconds left kills the game. Bryant comes off a screen and pump fakes a shot, forcing Kawhi to jump, and the shooting guard slings a pass to Shaq who throws down a dunk and a foul. Amazingly, Shaq drains the free throw and the game ends with a 1-point victory. Jordan tries to draw a foul, but Kobe lets him shoot a three-pointer at the buzzer with no timeouts remaining and it goes in. The game ends 105-104.
In Game 4, Iverson and Durant have their best games of the series. The Answer cooks Payton, scoring 30 points including a massive 14-point 3rd quarter that kickstarts a 20-6 run. Durant continues the streak, posting 13 points in the fourth quarter including 4 three-pointers including one in which he is fouled. Durant goes 5-5 from the free-throw line, 6-12 from three, and 10-17 from the floor overall. He sets up at the three-point line, waiting for passes from Shaq (6 assists) or McGrady (10 assists). The game ends 120-110, with the DPOY winners looking for a way to tone down the offense from the opponent and instead focus on slowing the pace down.
Game 5 is all about Michael Jordan. The GOAT drops 37 points, going toe-to-toe with Bryant who manages 38 points of his own. The shooting guard battle goes down to the wire in the 4th quarter, but O’Neal struggles with the “Dream Shake” all game long which forces a late double team. Hakeem dishes out to Jordan, who takes a quick jab step before nailing a buzzer-beater to win the game. This was a typical big-game performance by the GOAT, as he knew Game 5 had to be taken to gain a massive advantage heading into Game 6. The DPOY winners deserve this victory because, besides a late barrage from Kobe Bryant, they held a lead for the majority of the game.
Once again, Jordan has an incredible game in Game 6 but it goes to waste. Jordan scores 40 points and gives his side the lead with 10 seconds remaining with an incredible fadeaway jumper over Tracy McGrady. But the Scoring Champions create a switch where Payton defends Kobe Bryant, with the shooting guard pump faking and drawing a foul from the three-point line. Payton is shocked by the foul, but he does hit Kobe’s head from deep. As expected, Bryant drains all three free throws which give his side the lead. Michael tries to receive the pass in the post again, but Leonard misplaces the pass and it falls to Allen Iverson who steals the ball and chucks up the shot to run out the clock. The DPOY winners had a chance to get a stop and also score but failed to do so. They quickly shake off the loss, because a critical Game 7 is coming up where the stars will show up to play.
In a pivotal Game 7, all players play up to par. The first half ends 55-55, with players finding their shots and neither side shoots under 46% from the field. But the game is all about the second half, where the DPOY winners come up with a magnificent victory. Game 3 ends with a massive 16-4 run by the DPOY winners, led by Michael, Hakeem, and Giannis. The trio dominates on defense, preventing the opposition from scoring for 3 straight minutes while scoring the ball each time on the other end. The 3rd quarter ends 84-70, in a putrid shooting performance by the Scoring Champions.
They cut the deficit in the fourth, but with 3 minutes to go, the dynamic trio of Jordan, Hakeem, and Giannis take over by kickstarting a 12-4 run to end the game. Their defense is suffocating, and Kobe is constantly denied the ball by Jordan. Without Bryant finding a way to impact the game, the scorers fail to generate enough offense against the opponent’s elite defense with McGrady scoring the 4 points during the run. In the end, Jordan wins Finals MVP as he leads his side to victory with s spectacular series.
Final Result: Team Defensive Players Of The Year vs. Team Scoring Champions 4-3
Finals MVP: Michael Jordan