Nobody should confuse this with Ray being on par with Kobe. 2 things make this interesting, though. Ray's 3 point shooting in particular have made me think of him as an ideal fit with Shaq, especially since he was a real threat off the dribble back then as well. And Ray was a star himself, but I don't see there being any question about the pecking order.
Is that enough to overcome the talent difference between Kobe and Ray? I have my doubts, especially since in 2001 and 2002, only prime Shaq and prime Duncan were better than Kobe which says a lot. The '01 Lakers have the best case for having had the 2 best players in the game aside from maybe the 2011 Heat and '69 Lakers. But more importantly, their games did fit. Kobe's incredible ability off the dribble was a great complement to Shaq's overpowering inside game.
I see the 2000 and 2001 Lakers having a very good chance. I don't see the historical dominance the '01 Lakers showed, but because they steamrolled the competition, you can have a significant dropoff and still win a title.
Originally Posted by StateOfMind12
2, possibly 3.
It seems like people forgot how much flat out more talent those Lakers teams had over everyone else. It wasn't just the Kobe-Shaq show, it was the case in 2004, and they got killed by Detroit.
The '98 Lakers? Yes, but the 3peat team? No. They never had a 3rd guy near all-star level, and I don't remember them being called the most talented team any of the 3 years like they were back in '98. In 2000, Portland was called the most talented by everyone, and in '02, it was clearly Sacramento.
The 2000 Lakers in particular had a lot of flaws. They were called a 2 man team, and this is before Kobe jumped up a tier from a guy hovering around top 10 to a top 3, or at worst top 5 player as he'd become in 2001 and 2002. The 2000 Lakers were 5th worst in 3P%(and only 1 legit 3 point shooter), were very weak at PF, 3 players in their rotation shooting below 40%(including Fisher at less than 35%), and 5th worst in bench scoring. They had some nice defenders and veterans, but a lot of guys weren't offensive threats at all, either as shooters or scorers, including 2 starters. We saw Portland exploit this. Shaq and Kobe were a lethal duo, and both Harper and Horry were nice role players, but just look at how Portland defended Shaq, or how much they leaned on Shaq in the 2000 finals and you'll see this team didn't have much talent after their 2 stars. Shaq and Kobe were the only 2 guys teams really worried about, look at the massive drop off after those guys, especially in the playoffs.
They got a bit more well rounded in 2001 and 2002, but still had similar casts. What people forget when talking about how Shaq had Kobe, or Kobe got to play with Shaq is that in the '01 playoffs for example, Shaq averaged 30/15/3/2, 56% and Kobe averaged 29/7/6, 47%. The vast majority of first options on championship teams don't produce like either of those guys, and both were playing elite defense during that run. If these 2 guys had so much around them, would they have been carrying that kind of load?
As far as 2004, well, I don't see how having Ray solves their problem. Does Ray prevent Malone from getting injured? Malone being unable to contribute in the '04 finals is really what sealed their fate. Payton also never fit in and was rapidly declining. He got worse as the playoffs on to the point where he was almost worthless for the postseason and played like a complete scrub in the finals.
Yes, the Lakers looked the best on paper that year, but that goes out the window with Malone injured and seeing how Payton was in 2004(not assuming he'd be the player he was prior to that.)
Originally Posted by StateOfMind12
They have very good role players and they
were key to the success.
Depends on the year, in 2000, it was Harper and Horry mainly. Rice was their 3rd most talented player, even then, but not very important, as evidenced by the fact that there were trade rumors all year, and they didn't offer him a contract after the season.
In 2001, they had more. Fisher, Fox, Grant and Horry.
In '02, it was Fox and Horry. Fisher in the regular season, but he was awful in the playoffs.
They good role players such as the players I mentioned in addition to Shaq to a lesser extent, but most contenders have a few good role players, and every team has multiple players better than the players I mentioned. Plus, everyone after the Lakers duo was a role player. Some teams literally have half a dozen scoring options and threats, the Lakers had 2, well, 3 in 2000 with Rice, but he was a 12/4/2, 41% guy in the playoffs who got benched for his defense and not moving without the ball late in games on a number of occasions in both the regular season and playoffs, including the famous incident in the finals.
The only team that was more deep/stacked than them was the Kings and they were the biggest chokers ever.
A lot of teams were deeper than the Lakers. Not many were more talented on the strength of their duo alone, but a few were with Portland and Sacramento being the obvious examples.
Spurs were never as good as the Lakers until like 2004 when the Lakers actually won. People seem to forget that Duncan's supporting cast from 2000-2004 was pretty weak, 2000-2002 especially.
2002 cast was pretty weak compared to contenders, especially once Robinson was injured. In 2000, Robinson was still capable of 20/10 and a top 5 defender, so really not much worse than Kobe at that time, but the Spurs weren't that deep either. But in 2001, while Robinson declined a bit, he was still a top 20 player and top 5 defender, while they added Anderson who was a threat to create off the dribble, shoot and make plays. He actually played at a borderline all-star level once he and the Spurs got going, and when he went down in the playoffs, Antonio Daniels who had averaged 12/6, 47 FG%, 44 3P% in the 23 games he started averaged 18/3/4, 51 FG% in the 6 games without him. And to complement the inside game, the Spurs led the league in 3P% at 41%. I can't call that weak, but the Lakers did expose a key weakness which the Spurs addressed by getting Bowen, and Anderson's injury hurt a lot as well.
2003 cast is notable for the lack of an all-star or 2 around Duncan for a championship team, but they were deep with a lot of guys who could contribute.
The early Spurs, before Robinson was a role player were somewhat similar to the Shaq/Kobe Lakers actually. Not the deepest team, but their duo gave them such an advantage and they had such a great coach.
In the Lakers case, it was the inside/outside duo, which has to be the best ever while in the Spurs case it was the two 7 foot defensive anchors which may be the best big man duo ever, at least for the first 3-4 years, and it's really unique and almost impossible to match up with.