No new NBA games does not have to mean the end of NBA DFS action. We here at Awesemo are committed to bringing you contests while sports are on hiatus. And that continues today with Awesemo’s NBA2K Daily Challenge, featuring the 2000-01 76ers vs. 1986-87 Lakers. Here’s what we’re doing: over the next few weeks, we’re giving away $20,000+ in prizes in FREE TO PLAY contests based on simulated NBA games that will air on YouTube and Twitch streams involving your favorite Awesemo personalities. There will be Daily Contests where you are asked to predict aspects of the day’s simulated game. Get the most correct answers and you’ll be eligible for great prizes. Today’s is a GoPro HERO7!
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Now let’s get into the next matchup between the 2000-01 76ers vs. 1986-87 Lakers.
PG – Eric Snow
SG – Allen Iverson
SF – George Lynch
PF – Tyrone Hill
C – Dikembe Mutombo
On paper, the 76ers seem overmatched against one of the greatest teams in the history of the NBA. Philadelphia’s trip to the Finals was a standalone season of greatness, an outlier in a run of good, not great years. Between drafting Allen Iverson in 1996 and this 2001 run, Philadelphia did not finish in the top two of their division once. However, with Iverson leading the way and ultimately winning league MVP, the 76ers finished this year with the best record in the East, tied with the eventual champion Lakers for the second-best record in the NBA and gave the champion Lakers a stronger test than any other team that postseason run. So like they did in Game 1 of the 2001 Finals, this Sixers team could surprise people.
Though their reputation was built on their dominant diminutive scorer, the Sixers were better defensively. They allowed the fifth-fewest points in the league that year, while they ranked middle of the pack in both points scored and offensive rating. That defense mixed with Iverson’s game-breaking scoring allowed them to unseat the defending East champion Pacers in round 1 of the East playoffs before winning two extremely hard-fought series against the Raptors and Bucks. Both went seven games, and those long series may have ultimately kept the Finals from being more competitive. Philadelphia took Game 1 against the heavily favored Lakers but lost the next four to become the second of Los Angeles’ three straight title wins.
PG – Magic Johnson
SG – Byron Scott
SF – James Worthy
PF – A.C. Green
C – Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
A fortunate coin flip in 1979 changed the course of the NBA for over a decade. The Bulls and Lakers had a 50-50 chance to win the No. pick and the chance to draft Magic Johnson, and the coin went the Lakers’ way. And by pairing Johnson with the great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the Lakers owned the West for 12 years. They won the title in Johnson’s very first season, then again in 1982 and 1985, never winning fewer than 54 games and reaching the Finals five times in six seasons. In that time, the Lakers added another superstar, 1982 No. 1 pick James Worthy, and the unprecedented star power formed the fast-paced, flashy offense known as “Showtime.”
Despite 62 wins in the regular season, the Lakers were left out of the 1986 Finals after Ralph Sampson hit a miraculous shot with only a second left to knock Los Angeles off its Western Conference perch. The Celtics were threatening to take over the league for good, so the Lakers had to reach another gear. And in 1986-87, that showed itself in the form of Johnson stealing the title of league’s best player from Larry Bird. Johnson won league MVP (ending Bird’s three-year reign), Worthy and Abdul-Jabbar joined Johnson on the All-Star team and the Lakers won 65 games to secure the best record in the NBA.
Unlike the year before, this Lakers team would not let any team get close enough to keep them from the Finals. They won their first three series with ease, dropping just one game, and got the dream matchup with the Celtics in the Finals. The Magic-Bird duel took center stage and the two traded superstar performances, including Johnson hitting a game-winning skyhook in Game 4. That shot put the Lakers up 3-1 in the series. And though Boston would assert themselves with a dominant Game 5 win, the Lakers ran Boston off the floor in Game 6 to win their fourth championship of the ’80s.
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Allen Iverson – SG – 76ers
It may seem normal now, but small guards once were unable to be MVP. Stephen Curry broke the barrier in a sense, but his era emphasizes 3-point shooting, thus limiting damage Curry takes over stretches. In eras where the rim belonged to big men, Iverson still found ways to dominate inside. He was listed at six-feet tall, but most said he was well under that. Yet, he still went No. 1 overall in the 1996 draft, still scored at least 22 points a game from his rookie season to 2008, still led the league in scoring four times and still won league MVP in 2001. His lightning quickness, tremendous athleticism and shot release made him unguardable despite almost always being the smallest player on the floor.
In this 2000-01 season, Iverson averaged 31.1 points a game while playing 42 minutes every night. He had low efficiency (42 percent from the field), but Philadelphia put everything on Iverson’s shoulders. And you cannot say it did not pay off, as the 76ers finished with the top seed in the East and Iverson took the league’s top individual prize.
Dikembe Mutombo – C – 76ers
It is a toss-up whether to label Mutombo here as a Stud or a Role Player. On the one hand, he won Defensive Player of the Year in 2001 and led the league in rebounds. On the other hand, he scored only 10 points a game on 7.4 shots that season and only joined the 76ers midway through the season because the Sixers lost Theo Ratliff to injury. Ultimately, Mutombo lands in the Studs section because he is a Hall of Famer and this version of him was still in his defensive prime, even if it was the back end of it.
Mutombo is unlike many superstars of this era because he was never much of an offensive presence. His best scoring mark came in his rookie year where he averaged 16.6 a game, and then he subsequently never exceeded 14 again. However, his defense and rebounding led to four Defensive Player of the Year awards, three All-NBA teams and eight All-Star appearances. Plus, if Philadelphia is to win this matchup with the Lakers, Mutombo protecting the rim and guarding Kareem is going to have to play a significant role.
Magic Johnson – PG – Lakers
Johnson was the first of his kind in a lot of ways. He was the first man his size to be a ball-dominant point guard, the first underclassman to be heavily coveted for the No. 1 pick, the first rookie to win Finals MVP, the first Lakers star to truly embrace his environment. And more subtly, he was one of the NBA’s first quietly cantankerous superstars. The big smile and affable personality has masked the fact that early in his career, Johnson earned the label of “coach killer.” He essentially ran Paul Westhead, the coach who won Johnson’s first Lakers championship, out of town, before settling into his flashy style with Pat Riley. Of course there were titles, awards and accolades to come under Riley, so it is hard to say Johnson was wrong. With a more apt offensive style and the added fire power of Worthy, Johnson became the face of the biggest attraction in Tinseltown.
At 6-foot-9, Johnson was massive for a point guard, but he was the game’s best ball handler and passer despite his size, so he played primarily point guard his entire career. For younger generations, the best way to describe Johnson is as a proto-LeBron James — a versatile point with unmatched skills while trapped in a power forward’s body. Johnson led the league in assists four times and steals twice and currently sits atop the all-time list for assists per game at 11.2. In fact, Johnson retired as the career assists leader and still sits fifth, even though his run lasted just 12 seasons. In those 12 years, he won five titles, made 12 All-Star Games, 10 All-NBA Teams, won NBA MVP three times and Finals MVP another three times. His career was unfortunately cut short by his HIV diagnosis, but Johnson retired on top, bringing the Lakers to the Finals in his last full year in the league.
Magic’s highlights are vast and he is one of the few players truly remembered as an all-time great to this day. To boil down his legacy, he was maybe the greatest passer ever, maybe the first true unicorn and certainly the player who most deserves the credit of making the Los Angeles Lakers a widely respected franchise to this day.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar – C – Lakers
Sports is littered with records and achievements that seem unreachable in this day. And yet, one can at least conceive of someone breaking those records eventually. Someone may get to John Stockton’s assist record. Someone may average more points for a career than Michael Jordan. But there are two achievements in the history of the NBA that will never be touched: no one will ever win 11 championships like Bill Russell, and no one will ever have a better, more unstoppable shot than Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
Kareem’s skyhook is as aesthetically pleasing a basketball skill that has ever existed. I will paint the picture: a 7-foot-2 man reaches up his oak tree of an arm straight in the air, ball cradled 10 feet above the floor, and with a quick flick of the wrist, the ball travels unabated to the hoop. That shot does not require young legs nor attuned senses, just the uncanny ability of one man to put his arm higher than everyone and toss the ball with unmatched accuracy. Abdul-Jabbar used that shot to score at least 20 points a game every year from 1969 to 1986. 17 years he dominated opposing big men with it. And though he only won two scoring titles, that ridiculous longevity at the top of the mountain places him first in points in NBA history.
Abdul-Jabbar was not a one-trick pony either. He had plenty of other moves in the post, he was a strong rebounder (11.2 a game in his 20-year career), a quality shot blocker (2.6 a game, four-time blocks leader) and great passer for his size. But through it all, his game always went back to the skyhook. It carried him along as age caught up with him, as he averaged 17.5 a game in 1986-87 at age 39, his 18th season in the league. The skyhook won him six MVPs, a record 19 All-Stars and 15 All-NBAs. It carried him through three completely different eras of the NBA, multiple Hall-0f-Fame running mates and even a name change. And now, 30 years after retirement, it lives on as the greatest shot the game will ever see.
James Worthy – SF – Lakers
After all that heaping praise for Magic and Kareem, Worthy’s section is going to seem awfully tame. And sure, his career does not remotely compare to those two. However, Worthy is a Hall of Famer, a seven-time All-Star, a three-time champ and a Finals MVP. He averaged over 20 points a game four times, 17.6 for his career, and most notably, was Johnson’s high-flying finisher on the Showtime Laker fast breaks. He would earn the moniker “Big Game James” in 1985 when he averaged 21.5 a game on 62 percent shooting in the ’85 playoffs. His reputation as a clutch performer would follow him from there until the end of his career, as he retired averaging 21.1 playoff points a game on 54.4 percent shooting.
Forgotten in the Showtime Lakers era is the fact that Worthy was also one of the most versatile defenders in the league at that time. At 6-foot-9 with quickness, he could defend five positions reasonably well and was capable of shutting down opponents’ high-scoring forwards. In fact, Larry Bird said that Worthy was his toughest matchup throughout his career.
In 1986-87, Worthy was firmly ahead of Abdul-Jabbar as far as scoring goes. He averaged 19.4 and took two more shots a game than Kareem did, all while hitting at a 53.9 percent rate. At this time in their careers, Worthy was the true No. 2 for Johnson in the Lakers offense.
The Role Players
Tyrone Hill – Hill’s best years were behind him by this time, but he still provided a decent option for the Sixers, averaging nearly a double-double at 9.6 and 9.0 in 2000-01. He has the easier of the frontcourt matchups with A.C. Green, so Hill’s impact should be more on offense than defense.
Eric Snow – Snow was point guard in title only, as Iverson dominated the ball and brought the ball up more. In 2001, Snow started 50 games at point guard, averaging nearly 10 points and 7.4 assists. Assuming position-to-position matchups, he will likely have the unenviable task of defending Johnson.
Aaron McKie – McKie primarily came off the bench in 2001, but he was still the Sixers’ fourth-leading scorer and No. 2 assist man behind Snow. As a matter of fact, his consistent production earned him Sixth Man of the Year honors that year. For this matchup, with the dearth of 3-point shooting elsewhere, McKie will likely be the top catch-and-shoot option for the Sixers. He averaged 2.2 attempts per game in 2001, about half as many as Iverson.
Byron Scott – A lengthy and reasonably successful coaching career has more or less taken over Scott’s NBA legacy, but his run as a player for the Lakers was also very long and very strong. He played in Los Angeles for 10 seasons, serving as one of their leading scorers for most of that run, including averaging over 20 a game for a championship team in 1987-88. He averaged 17 a game for this 1986-87 team, making 43.6 percent of 3’s, so he will likely be a key catch-and-shoot factor for the Lakers.
Michael Cooper – Cooper joined the Lakers rotation with Magic Johnson in 1979, but did not become an indispensable piece for the Lakers until a few years later. By the mid ’80s, however, he was by far their most important bench player as the defensive stopper at guard. For the better part of a decade, no one in the league was better defending the perimeter. And Cooper was recognized for it with eight straight All-Defensive Teams from 1981 to 1988 and Defensive Player of the Year honors in 1987. All that came without ever being a full-time starter. In 1987, he would also lead the Lakers in 3-pointers, so that could also be a factor in this matchup.
A.C. Green – Green is remembered more as “the other starter” in a lineup of Hall of Famers and Byron Scott. He was a contributor, hovering around 13 and nine in the late ’80s and early ’90s. In 1987, Green played a lot, 28 minutes a game, and averaged almost 11 and eight on the season, so he is certainly capable of racking up some fantasy production against the 76ers.
MVP – Allen Iverson – $15,000
The 76ers’ roster makeup makes this fairly easy. In their play-in game, Iverson scored over 20 points on more than 20 shots, so presumably, he will dominate ball once again, regardless of matchup. The one sticking point could be when Michael Cooper checks in, as he would likely match up with Iverson. However, that never stopped Iverson from chucking in real life, and it sure did not stop him against the Sonics last week. With the Lakers spreading usage across three Hall of Famers, Iverson seems like the safest bet to be top producer in this game.
Star – Kareem Abdul-Jabbar – $14,500
While the trio of Laker stars is a bit tough to diagnose for 2K purposes, you can’t really short all three. It is unlikely we will see a repeat of the Cavs yesterday where usage spread exactly evenly across the stars; one of these Lakers players is going to separate from the others. While the tendency may be to lean Johnson because the ball will be in his hands the most, I am trending more towards Kareem, as I believe he is the strongest contender in this game for a double-double. Yes, he will match up with Mutombo which may make rebounds a little tougher. But Kareem has a virtually unblockable shot and my history of simming with the ’80s Lakers has featured them feeding Kareem a lot. I prefer him to Johnson ever so slightly.
Pro – Byron Scott – $12,000
You could just fully lean top-heavy and throw Magic or Worthy here and I would not blame you. But I like a bit of dark horse action in the Pro slot, and Scott is Los Angeles’ most capable 3-point shooter. We have seen in these sims how a peripheral player can put up points in a hurry by hitting their open 3’s — see J.R. Smith yesterday. And Scott fits that bill as a versatile scoring wing working with a great passer in Magic. Plus, his defensive matchup will be Iverson, who will have the ball a lot and that could lead to some steals for Scott.
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