It is time to throw away the American inferiority complex with its place in the sport, where many blindly claim that technique should come above all in choosing and developing the best prospects and that the U.S. is not an international power because it cares too much about athleticism.
Jimmy Butler: What Went Wrong With The Minnesota Timberwolves
The Jimmy Butler/Minnesota debacle highlighted a theory I have had about the NBA for a number of years. Basically, there are three rules concerning players the like of Jimmy Butler, the players who have overcome impossible obstacles on their path to stardom. Players of this kind tend to be harder on teammates, coaches, and anyone who can stand to be around them. Jimmy Butler, Draymond Green, and Isaiah Thomas are some of the more popular players that fit this mold.
In a league where few make it, these are the top percent of the 99 percentile, the players who have the proverbial chip on their shoulder. These players have put in an unfathomable amount of work to beat their circumstances and they expect the same work ethic from their more naturally gifted peers. These players can be of value to any organization but only in certain circumstances.
1. The underdog cannot be the best player on the team (Jimmy Butler in Minnesota)
2. The underdog is most effective as the third or fourth best player on a team (Draymond Green in Golden State).
3. A team full of underdogs work well (2004 Detroit Pistons)
The problem with having the underdog as the best player on the team is the intensity that can come with a player like this. Jimmy Butler may have thought he was pushing Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns to become better players but in reality his intensity wore out his teammates. It's one thing for a star player like Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant to push their teammates to the extreme but when it comes from a player like Jimmy Butler, this motivational technique can be viewed negatively.
The best situation in which to have an underdog is as the third or fourth best option on a team; Draymond Green is one of the players that come to mind. Green was selected in the second round and the motivation that comes with being passed up by so many teams has fueled him into the star he is today. However, that fuel can often become toxic, evident by the altercation he had with superstar teammate Kevin Durant earlier in the season and the well-documented feuds with head coach Steve Kerr. However, Draymond Green, much like Dennis Rodman and Bill Lambier in the past, has turned into the heart of a championship winning team.
The last scenario and my personal favorite is to build a team comprised of underdogs and outcasted players. The 2004 Finals was supposed to be one of the most lopsided of all time. The Lakers were coming off three straight championships and fielded past and present NBA legends in Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O'Neal, Gary Payton and Karl Malone. The Pistons fielded a line up of: Chauncey Billups, a point guard on his fifth team in seven years, Tayshaun Prince, a forward in his second year who started just five games the year before, Rasheed Wallace, who was traded twice during the regular season and Ben Wallace, who is considered the most accomplished undrafted player in NBA history. On paper, the Pistons had no chance but not only did they win the series, they did so in a convincing five games.
Hopefully Jimmy Butler pans out in Philadelphia but if it doesn't, don't be surprised.
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