To win an NBA championship it takes more than most people realize. What fans see is just the final product, a culmination of many tiresome days, and long grueling nights.
When a general manager is putting together an NBA roster they are given 15 roster spots to work with. Now, most of us only see the eight to 10 players who are used in games, however all 15 of those roster spots are valuable to a general manager, and a franchise. As we get into this list of the best and worst players on the 10 most recent NBA champions, it is important to remember that every player on a championship team brought value to their respective team. What else is important to remember as you delve into this list is that we are basing each entry solely on their skills at the time they won the title.
With the evaluation process clearly explained and a brief understanding of the value each and every player has to a championship team, let's waste no more time. Here are the best and worst players on the last 10 championship teams. We will begin with the 2007 San Antonio Spurs and end with this past year's Cleveland Cavaliers.
20 2007: Best - Tim Duncan
The 2007 NBA Finals were an extremely lopsided affair. It pitted the wildly dominant San Antonio Spurs against the LeBron James led Cleveland Cavaliers. The Spurs had the Cavs dominated in pretty much every single area of the game, aside from the small forward position. However, the Spurs' biggest mismatch came at the power forward spot. Tim Duncan was in the prime of his career in 2007, and he was not going to be stopped by the likes of Drew Gooden and Scot Pollard.
19 2007: Worst - Michael Finley
Michael Finley was an incredibly talented player who spent 15 seasons in the NBA. During his prime he helped lead the Dallas Mavericks and Phoenix Suns to some fairly successful playoff runs.
18 2008: Best - Paul Pierce
One of the most un-athletic superstars the game has ever seen, somehow Paul Pierce was always able to get it done on the biggest stage. In 2008 Pierce led the Celtics big three to a title, winning Finals MVP along the way. Pierce, no doubt had some help getting there from Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen. But, Pierce's 22 points and 6.3 assists per game led the way for the Celtics.
17 2008: Worst - Sam Cassell
Sam Cassell had an amazing career. He may be the only player in history to bookend his career with NBA championships. When he broke into the NBA in 1994 he was lucky enough to join the incredibly talented Houston Rockets, which enabled him to win back to back titles in his first two NBA seasons. To wrap up his time in the league he joined the Celtics in 2008 just in time to be part of another championship run.
16 2009: Best - Kobe Bryant
For the basketball world, 2009 was supposed to be the year that Kobe Bryant and LeBron James matched up in the NBA Finals, however, LeBron was unable to lift his team past the Orlando Magic in the Eastern Conference Finals. Fans were disappointed with the matchup, but Kobe was thrilled. During the 2009 Finals Kobe Bryant put on a performance seldom matched in NBA Finals history. Kobe posted 32.2 points per game in the five games it took the Lakers to discard the Magic. Kobe also rebounded the ball extremely well for a guard, 5.6 per night. The cherry on top for Kobe was his 7.4 assists per game, which led all players in the series.
15 2009: Worst - Shannon Brown
Shannon Brown made a name for himself with his highlight slam dunks and his freakish jumping ability. But, in 2009 Shannon, for whatever reason, was unable to tally even a single point. He appeared in three of the six games during the finals, but his stat line was left with zeros across the board, aside from a single rebound he grabbed in Game 2.
14 2010: Best - Kobe Bryant
Kobe Bryant makes his second appearance on the list. In 2010 the Lakers got their chance at redemption against the Boston Celtics. The Celtics had beaten the Lakers in the finals two years prior, but this time Kobe would get the best of the Boston big three.
13 2010: Worst - Jordan Farmar
Jordan Farmar has a 2010 championship ring, but the truth is the Lakers won the 2010 title despite Farmar, not thanks to him. Jordan was the back up point guard, a very important piece to a championship team. Somehow he played in every single game of the seven game series, averaging over 12 minutes per, but was still only able to contribute only three points per game and less than one assist.
12 2011: Best - Dirk Nowitzki
In 2011 the Miami Heat created their super team with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh. The Heat were supposed to cut through the NBA like a hot knife through butter, and they pretty much did... until the Finals.
11 2011: Worst - Peja Stojakovic
Peja Stojakovic was one of the greatest shooters in league history, but during the Finals in 2011 he simply a shell of his former self. During his time with the Sacramento Kings, Peja was lethal from long range. He was a driving force in evolving the game into what it is today with all the three point shots and three point shooters. He was a true marksman.
10 2012 Best - LeBron James
LeBron finally got his first title in 2012, as he put it 'about damn time." James led the Miami Heat to another appearance in the Finals, only this time he was able to play up to his potential and get the job done. He put up good numbers, not great for his standards, but good enough to put the Oklahoma City Thunder away in just five games.
9 2012: Worst - Joel Anthony
It is a little unfair to Joel to have him here because he was simply not given much of a chance to establish himself in the Finals, but frankly, he was just never very good. He only played 2.1 minutes in the entire series, obviously not tallying any kind of stats.
8 2013: Best - LeBron James
Two years in a row LeBron demonstrated why he was the greatest player on the planet on the biggest star the game has to offer. The 2013 Finals was the ultimate coming out party for LeBron, as he was finally able to prove to everyone, most importantly himself, that he was the best player in the world.
7 2013: worst - Juwan Howard
It is hard to knock a guy like Howard. He is the ultimate professional, a class act through and through, and an incredibly brilliant basketball mind. However, in 2013 Howard was 40 years old, and basically a coach in uniform. Howard suited up for the Heat in the 2013 Finals, but he never saw a single minute of game action.
6 2014: Best - Kawhi Leonard
At 23 years old, Kawhi Leonard was the Finals MVP above three future Hall of Fame teammates. Kawhi was tasked with the hardest job in basketball during the Finals; stop LeBron James. Now he didn't entirely stop LeBron, but he did do enough to enable the Spurs to pull out a pretty easy five game series victory against the Heat.
5 2014: Worst - Austin Daye
Austin Daye is the son of former NBA player Darren Daye who played five seasons in the NBA. Austin was a late season pick up by the Spurs in 2014, and the Spurs were hoping to turn the once highly touted youngster into something serviceable, as the Spurs often do. But they were not able to polish Daye into anything worth keeping.
4 2015: Best - Steph Curry
In 2015 Steph Curry and the Warriors flipped the NBA upside down. He turned each NBA arena into his own little video game court, with behind the back dribbles, 20 foot arching lay-ups, and half court shots. Steph made every NBA team reevaluate its vision of success.
3 2015: Worst - Brandon Rush
Rush comes from a family of NBA talent, including his brother Kareem who spent several years in the NBA. Brandon spent four seasons with the Warriors, which includes two different two year stints with the team. In 2015 he was the back up small forward to Harrison Barnes.
2 2016: Best - LeBron James
In 2016 LeBron was at the ultimate peak of his career. He found the perfect balance of physical dominance as well as the mental dominance he had gained from his prior successes and failures in the Finals. It also marked the sixth straight NBA Finals that James had appeared in, making it the longest such streak since the great Red Aurbach and Bill Russell led Celtics teams of the 1960s.
James found his team trailing three games to one in the finals, against a team that had beaten him the season before and parlayed that title win into a record breaking 73-9 regular season record. So to say the least, the odds were slim that Cleveland and LeBron would be able to capture the title. Yet somehow, LeBron was able to muster up the moxie to lead his team all the way back from a 3-1 deficit (something that had never been done before). James solidified his place in basketball's hierarchy with this feat and made it clear that he is now chasing the ghosts of the game, not his contemporaries. One other thing LeBron did in his Finals MVP performance that had never been done before was he led all players, regardless of team, in points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks for the entire series. This is especially impressive when you consider the series went to its full seven games as opposed to a simple blow out and sweep.
1 2016: Worst - Jordan McRae
Jordan McRae went on the ride of his life last spring, as he mostly sat and watched LeBron, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love and J.R. Smith lead the Cavs to a stunning comeback over Golden State while McCrae was riding the bench. McRae only got into 15 games of action in the 2015-16 regular season and only managed to start one game. His minutes were even fewer in the postseason as he only got into two games and averaged two mintues a game. His decent shooting skills allowed him to average 4.5 points per game in the playoffs, but he was really a non-factor in the Cavs breaking the Cleveland curse.
The Cavs decided to exercise their option on McRae's contract this past offseason. In the NBA Summer League, McRae put up some good numbers, averaging 24.3 points per game.
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