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Adams: What every basketball contender needs

| Monday, February 3, 2020

Being a Kentucky Basketball fan, I’m like a Farmers agent, because I’ve seen a thing or two. Because of that, also like a Farmers agent, I know a thing or two. But enough with the free advertising.

The point I’m trying to make is, as a Kentucky Basketball fan, I’ve seen enough quality teams to recognize the pieces that are needed to build a championship contender. I also want to say that I am primarily using male examples, but the same is very applicable to the women’s game. With that said, here they are:


The fact of the matter is that not every team has a Lebron James who can basically be your point guard at the small forward position. Like every football team needs a good quarterback to distribute the ball (unless, ironically, you were Kentucky Football this season), every contender needs a guy who will, at the very least, take care of the rock and find the open man.

It’s a bonus if your point guard can create off the dribble, but being able to distribute is a foundational component of any championship-level point guard.


Typically, you’d like to have multiple guys who can knock down shots, but to be a REAL contender, you need a guy who can hit a big-time long-range shot, or at least draw some defensive attention away so somebody else can.

Look at Virginia last year. Kyle Guy and Ty Jerome were knock-down shooters. Or, look at Kentucky in 2012, when you couldn’t leave Doron Lamb open from three.

The same is true in the NBA. Even Michael Jordan needed John Paxson (shoutout Notre Dame alum) and Steve Kerr to each hit a huge shot in the NBA Finals.

We’ll get back to the Jordan of it all, but for now, the next piece is…

Rim Protection

If you want to be successful in basketball, the reality is that, while the name of the game is putting the ball in the basket, it helps a lot to be able to stop the other team from doing that. Three-point shooting has become increasingly prevalent in basketball, but very rarely can a team survive by only jacking up threes.

If you can make a team live and die SOLELY by the three by taking away easy inside buckets with a long, athletic shot blocker, you’re in a really good position. You also need solid rebounding to be able to bring the other team’s possession to an end, otherwise you’ll just wear yourself out defensively.

It’s a bonus if your front court guys can also get buckets in the post, or at a minimum get second chance points, but let’s be real, no team anymore wins a championship with a big man as their best player. Kareem, Russell and Wilt are long gone and now it’s all about guard play.

Lock-down Defender

Again, while having explosive offensive scoring ability is all well and good, you need to be able to stifle the other team. However, once you’ve taken away inside scoring opportunities, the next step is to make it difficult to score everywhere else. Plus, while the opposition may be balanced, chances are they have a key figure (again, getting there) that shoulders most of the offensive responsibility.

Whether it’s a lanky player that can tip balls and contest shots (e.g., Tayshaun Prince, Trevor Ariza) or a small, quick gnat of a defender (e.g. Rajon Rondo, Patrick Beverely) who will be physical with guys bigger than them, there has to be someone who can limit a strong offensive player. Speaking of strong offensive players…

Go-to Guard

We’ve come full circle. You don’t just need a go-to guy, but a ball-handler who can create for himself and get a bucket. A guy like Jordan or Kobe (R.I.P.) who can make shots through tough defense, get to the free throw line and who has a clutch factor.

Post-scoring is great, but a guard has got to be able to get them the ball period, so you need a competent backcourt scorer to either be able to beat the defense himself or draw enough attention to open things up for everybody else.

This is a lot to ask of a team, but it you’ve got these pieces, then you’ve got a chance to make a serious run come March.

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About Hayden Adams

Hayden is the former sports editor of The Observer. When he's not working toward his four majors (physics and film, television & theatre) and three minors (journalism, ethics & democracy), you can probably find him hopelessly trying to save his beloved Zahm House from being wiped out. He plans to attend law school at a TBD location after graduation.

Contact Hayden