The Chemistry Experiment


J.A. Adande says it’s hard for Allen Iverson to find great chemistry:

The Detroit Pistons became the NBA’s greatest chemistry experiment when they traded Chauncey Billups to Denver for Allen Iverson in November. General manager Joe Dumars wanted to get with the trend of clearing salary cap space for the free-agent bonanza of 2010, only he couldn’t sell a Knicks-like stripping of the roster to a fan base that has seen the Pistons reach the Eastern Conference finals for six consecutive years. It’s not too often you can dump salary and get an eight-time All-Star and former MVP in return. Of course, there isn’t a single player as difficult to incorporate into a new system as Iverson.

His most successful season in Philadelphia came after the Sixers got rid of Jerry Stackhouse, Derrick Coleman, Larry Hughes and Jim Jackson. They let Iverson have the offensive stage to himself, while everyone else played defense and grabbed rebounds. The experiment with Carmelo Anthony in Denver didn’t work out. He dominated the ball too much, played at a speed no one else could keep up with, and didn’t do enough to get everyone else involved.

An alternative explanation to these chemistry-based accounts would note that Iverson simply isn’t that effective as a basketball player. Given his small size, it requires extraordinarily unusual skills for Iverson to be as effective as he is, but the fact remains that “effective as he is” just isn’t as effective as his superstar status would warrant. The successful 2001 Philadelphia 76ers team that went to the NBA finals was, at 56-26, a pretty weak Finals contender. What’s more, the Iverson-led offense wasn’t very good—13th most efficient out of 29 teams in the league. Their strength was defense, where they ranked as fifth-best, and I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone argue that Iverson (as opposed to, say, Dikembe Mutombo) was the lynchpin of that defense.