Tuesday, October 28, 2008

NBA Fantasy Land

I received a message from a reader named “Jack”. This is how it went…


My name is Jack... and I am looking for an expert. Last night a group of guys were supposed to gather for a Fantasy Basketball draft... but the website (yahoo) was not working, so instead we sat around the Novi Buffalo Wild Wings and talked sports. A heated argument broke out about who would be the top five players you could put on a court at one time to form a team. (ALL TIME)

So... in the end, we sat around BW's with no lists, no previous studying, and had an impromptu draft. I am looking for a ranking of who you might think is the best of these teams. Imagine that you take each player... and take him at the VERY peek of his game. (Tho some of these guys are obviously VERY young) Tell me which team you think is the BEST.”

Jack’s question comes at a perfect time. The basketball season starts tonight. I didn’t have a post topic in mind. And, I'm in the mood for a light-hearted post.

I don’t know Jack personally. I don’t know any of his comrades who took part in this draft. I don’t even know which team was drafted by Jack. I did not come up with the team names so please refrain from posting comments like, "Why did you name a team after Tim Duncan and not Bill Russell?" Some players are out of position. For instance, Larry Bird was a small forward but he is a shooting guard for “Team Bird.” Kobe is a shooting guard but he is a small forward for “Team Kobe.” Lastly, you may notice that Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Jerry West are absent. They failed a steroids test and were deemed ineligible. Or, they were just forgotten. I'll let you decide.

Without further ado, here are the teams…

Team Hakeem

PGJohn Stockton
SGClyde Drexler
SFLeBron James
PFChris Webber
CHakeem Olajuwon

Team Jordan

PGDwyane Wade
SGMichael Jordan
SFCarmelo Anthony
PFMoses Malone
CYao Ming

Team Kobe

PGDeron Williams
SGRay Allen
SFKobe Bryant
PFKarl Malone
CDavid Robinson

Team Shaq

PGMagic Johnson
SGJoe Dumars
SFScottie Pippen
PFDennis Rodman
CShaquille O’Neal

Team Wilt

PGAllen Iverson
SGOscar Robertson
SFJulius Erving
PFDirk Nowitzki
CWilt Chamberlain

Team KG

PGIsiah Thomas
SGReggie Miller
SFGrant Hill
PFKevin Garnett
CAmare Stoudemire

Team Duncan

PGChris Paul
SGPete Maravich
SFVince Carter
PFTim Duncan
CBill Russell

Team Bird

PGSteve Nash
SGLarry Bird
SFDominique Wilkins
PFCharles Barkley
CDwight Howard

This is how I would rank the above teams 1-8…

#1 Team MJ

Strengths: This team gets off to a strong start just by simply having the greatest basketball player of all-time in its lineup. Michael Jordan and Dwyane Wade are two of the greatest penetrators in NBA history. They would give the other defenses listed here fits. Carmelo—although I’m not a huge fan of his—is automatic from 15 feet. Jordan and MJ’s penetration would free up ‘Melo for easy jumpers all day. Yao can also knock down 10-12 footers with consistency. The combination of Yao and Moses Malone would be the biggest frontcourt of the eight teams. They are one of the few teams that could body-up Shaq and Wilt. In fact, this team is big at all five positions. This team is a behemoth and easily the best in my opinion.

Weaknesses: The only major weakness is the lack of a perimeter threat. MJ and ‘Melo are career 29% three-point shooters. Wade is even worse at 25%. Jordan and Wade are so good at getting into the paint that the perimeter game would likely not be an issue.

#2 Team Wilt

Strengths: This team is loaded. All five positions on the court can score. The inside-outside game of Wilt and Dirk would be lethal. Wilt would command a double team or dominate his defender. If he draws a double, then Dirk will make teams pay with his mid-range jumper or with his peak 42% three-point percentage. Dr. J would flourish in this offense. Iverson and Robertson are two of the great defensive guards to play the game. They also happen to be two of the great offensive guards to play the game.

Weaknesses: Allen Iverson is not your prototypical point guard. He is a scorer. I’m not sure that he meshes particularly well with a team full of superstars. This team would struggle from the perimeter. Iverson and Dr. J were not particularly good long-distance shooters. Robertson played before the three-point line but I don’t believe he was a better than average long-distance shooter, either.

#3 Team Hakeem

Strengths: The margin between Team Hakeem and Team Duncan is razor-thin. In fact, I've gone back and forth a few times. As I type this, I'm giving Team Hakeem the edge because of its major advantage at the three and four spots. LeBron and Clyde Drexler would hammer Pistol Pete and Vince Carter. Hakeem and Russell would be a wash. In fact, Hakeem might actually get the advantage. Hakeem was an equally good defender and had the greatest post moves in NBA history. Duncan gets the advantage over Webber. Chris Paul and John Stockton are close to a wash. The inside-outside game of LeBron and Hakeem would be a treat to watch. LeBron can get to the basket at will. Hakeem could finish like nobody’s business.

Weaknesses: Webber was a monster in his prime. People forget how much of a freak he was. However, I think he has a little bit of the “Iverson Syndrome”. He doesn’t mesh well with other superstars. Plus, his strength was in the post. Hakeem would be the post guy on this team which would push Webber away from the basket a bit. Since Webber was an average jump-shooter, that would not benefit this team.

#4 Team Duncan

Strengths: A frontcourt of Tim Duncan and Bill Russell would easily be the best defensive frontcourt in this league. They have eight MVPs between them and 15 NBA Championships. Chris Paul is well on his way to becoming the greatest small-man in NBA history. He breaks down his defender like no other point guard I have seen.

Weaknesses: Russell was a great defender, no doubt. However, he would be overmatched by Shaq. Players like Dwight Howard, David Robinson, Amare, and Hakeem weren’t around in Russell’s day. It’s hard to tell how he would match-up against much greater competition. Remember, Russell was only 6'9. Vince Carter and Pete Maravich were turnover machines and struggled defensively. That is bad news considering these would be the guys guarding the all-time great offensive players like MJ, Kobe, and LeBron. This team would also struggle from the perimeter. However, I think the frontcourt and penetration ability of Paul would make this one of the better teams.

#5 Team Kobe

Strengths: The difference between teams 3-6 is pretty small. The Kobe-Mailman-Admiral combination would be killer. Malone is the second best power-forward in NBA history. Kobe is the second best shooting guard in NBA history. David Robinson is the 6th greatest true center of all-time. This team would be pretty solid defensively. Deron Williams and Ray Allen would be one of the more potent three-point threats in this league. Overall, this is a solid team that could beat any of these teams on a given night.

Weaknesses: Deron Williams and Ray Allen are two of the weaker players in this eight-team league. They would be a liability against some of the better backcourts. For instance, MJ and D-Wade would kill these guys. This would be a “scrappy” team but I don’t think it has enough to win in a league like this night-in and night-out.

#6 Team Shaq

Strengths: Magic Johnson and Shaquille O’Neal are two of the top five players in NBA history, in my opinion. Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman, and Joe Dumars were fantastic defenders. In fact, I think this would be the best defensive team in the league. The only other team that would come close defensively is “Team Duncan.”

Weaknesses: Unfortunately, this is just a badly-formed team. This is the worst shooting team of the eight. Rodman kills this team considering the other power forwards in the league. Shaq would get doubled by Yao and Moses Malone and Shaq would have to kick out to…Dennis Rodman. Magic likes to run but this team is hardly a “fast break” team. Still, Shaq—in his prime—was simply unguardable. Magic could physically dominate most of the point guards in this league (although I would expect that Kobe and LeBron would guard Magic when their teams matched-up). Team Shaq’s defense along with Shaq and Magic would keep this team from being the worst.

#7 Team Bird

Strengths: This team would easily be the best offensive team in the league. In fact, other than “Team Jordan”, this would be the team I’d want to watch play the most. Steve Nash, Larry Bird, Dominique Wilkins, and Charles Barkley are four of the greatest offensive players in NBA history. This team would score 130 points per game. Dwight Howard would lead the league in dunks and rebounds. Nash and Bird would easily be the best three-point tandem in the league.

Weaknesses: However, this team would also be the worst defensive team in the league. Barkley is 6’6, if that. He would struggle to defend some of the bigger power forwards. Bird was a good defender but he would be no match for Kobe, LeBron, and MJ. Nash would be OK against Stockton but he would get owned by everyone else. Howard lacks the post moves necessary to have success against some of the best defensive centers in NBA history. This team could beat anyone but would probably lose more than it wins.

#8 Team KG

Strengths: This team would have no problem scoring. All five players were scoring machines at their peaks. Grant Hill—much like Chris Webber—isn’t remembered as fondly as he should be. Hill was one of the five best players in the NBA during his prime with the Detroit Pistons. He was unstoppable off the dribble just short of the Kobe, MJ, LeBron class. Isiah Thomas was a scoring machine. Reggie Miller gives this team an instant perimeter threat. KG and Amare would probably make for the quickest frontcourt in the league.

Weaknesses: I just think this team comes up short in “talent” in a league with so many star players. KG and Amare would get pounded by some of the bigger frontcourts. Grant Hill, Reggie Miller, and Zeke are probably the weakest collection of ball handlers in this league.

I could certainly be persuaded to change my mind on a few of these teams. I initially thought Team Bird would be one of the better teams but the more I thought about it, the more I felt that they would struggle to stop teams. I'm also willing to admit that I may have overrated Team Kobe. I go back and forth between Team Kobe and Team Shaq. Interestingly, if Team Shaq, Team Bird, or Team Hakeem had drafted Kareem instead of Dennis Rodman, Charles Barkley or Chris Webber, then it would have easily been the top team in the league. Jerry West would’ve catapulted Team Duncan, Team Shaq, or Team Russell.


Jack Janigian said...

Hey man - Jack here.

Thanks so much for doing this for us. I will come clean and say that my team is team Kobe. (The guys did not name the teams... i just pulled the name of one guy from each team so you would not know which one was mine.)

I took Kobe with my first pick, and then followed in the middle of the second round with Karl Malone. My third pick (probably the only pick i really regret) was David Robinson. I wish I would have taken Hakeem or Kareem. Once I got to the fourth round, I saw I had my inside presence, and I had my guy who could take it to the hole with Kobe, I needed the guy they could kick out to. So I took Ray Allen, who has one of the top five jump shots (if not the best) in NBA history.

By the time I got to my last pick, I had to get a point guard. As all the top PG's were gone... I was left to decide between Gary Payton, Jason Kidd, and Deron Williams. Truth be told, I now wish that maybe I had taken Kidd, but I took the speed and unselfishness of Deron.

Once again - thanks so much, the guys were glad for a "third party" opinion. I am sure outside of Team MJ - none will agree - - - but with the time you took to evaluate, there is only so much they can say! That was great man.

dan s. said...

awesome post, awesome you'd do it for a reader


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