This is the awkward part of the draft where we have to start weighing how early to pick current stars who may have only played two or three years in the league. How do you compare these 22-year-olds with 15 year veterans? well, we tried.
Round 7: New Blood
Pick 181: Indiana Pacers (Phil): Zion Williamson
Stats: 1x All-Star
Teammates: Michael Jordan, Robert Parish, Damian Lillard, Bob Dandridge, Spencer Haywood, Robert Horry
Zion Williamson has only played 85 games in his career but already looks like an all-time talent. If he can stay healthy, Zion could be the next Charles Barkley.
Pick 182: Miami Heat (John): Rudy Tomjanovich
Stats: 5x All-Star, Hall of Fame
Teammates: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Dennis Johnson, Vince Carter, Shawn Marion, Billy Cunningham, Fat Lever
A middle class version of Billy Cunningham as a player and a coach.
Pick 183: Denver Nuggets (Phil): Al Horford
Stats: 5x All-Star, 1x All-NBA, 1x All-Defensive
Teammates: LeBron James, Alonzo Mourning, Earl Monroe, Dan Issel, Mark Price, Kemba Walker
The most consistently B+ player of the last 15 years.
Pick 184: Utah Jazz (John): Larry Nance
Stats: 3x All-Star, 3x All-Defensive
Teammates: Magic Johnson, Bob McAdoo, Bernard King, Kevin Love, Glen Rice, Rip Hamilton
Magic, King, and Nance are officially the Showtime Jazz.
Pick 185: Charlotte Hornets (Phil): Rich Guerin
Stats: 6x All-Star, 3x All-NBA, Hall of Fame
Teammates: Bill Russell, James Worthy, Tony Parker, Yao Ming, Gail Goodrich, Eddie Jones
The third iteration of the mega-draft is where things get insanely difficult. The rest of this draft could devolve into a really boring game of “what about this guy”. The remainder of the draft also doesn’t have the established hierarchy that the top 100 does, which is what makes it fun. There’s 4,000 players that you could conceivably take in the 150-450 which will inevitably lead to taking huge reaches and guys who should have gone in the top 120 falling to 220. So sit back, relax, and don’t get pissed off at the next two rounds.
Round 5: The “should have been round three ” guys
Pick 121: Indiana Pacers (Phil): Spencer Haywood
Stats: 1x NBA Champion, 1x ABA MVP, 4x NBA All-Star (1x ABA), 4x All-NBA (1x All-ABA), 1969-70 ABA ROY, Hall of Fame
Teammates: Michael Jordan, Robert Parish, Damian Lillard, Bob Dandridge
Just give the Pacers their championship now as long as they keep him off of cocaine.
Pick 122: Miami Heat (John): Billy Cunningham
Stats: 1x NBA Champion, 1x ABA MVP, 4x NBA All-Star (1x ABA), 4x All-NBA (1x All-ABA), Hall of Fame
Teammates: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Dennis Johnson, Vince Carter, Shawn Marion
How did Hall of Famer Billy Cunningham fall to 122nd? Maybe we aren’t the best at this.
Pick 123: Denver Nuggets (Phil): Mark Price
Stats: 4x All-Star, 4x All-NBA
Teammates: LeBron James, Alonzo Mourning, Earl Monroe, Dan Issel
The original Steph Curry.
Pick 124: Utah Jazz (John): Glen Rice
Stats: 1x NBA Champion, 3x All-Star, 2x All-NBA
Teammates: Magic Johnson, Bob McAdoo, Bernard King, Kevin Love
Continuing the all offense no defense theme in Utah.
Pick 125: Charlotte Hornets (Phil): Gail Goodrich
Stats: 1x NBA Champion, 5x All-Star, 1x All-NBA, Hall of Fame
Teammates: Bill Russell, James Worthy, Tony Parker, Yao Ming
One of the most overlooked stars of the late ’60s and ’70s.
I have a prediction to make, these are the last two rounds that anyone will actually care about. The NBA is a relatively new league with far fewer players than say the MLB or NFL. That means there aren’t nearly as many all-time great players in the history of the NBA. Once you get around 100-150 the names begin to drop off from hall of famers to guys who were pretty good for like three years very quickly. That being said, there are still a lot of interesting decisions to be made. Do you value modern players with fewer accolades over old school guys who maybe won a few championships but missed out on the personal glory? Do you value guards over bigs? Which position will dry up first? and so on. One trigger warning I’ll make, this isn’t a list of the best players ever, it’s a draft where dozens of variables are taken into consideration to try to build the best teams. Your favorite point guard may fall 20 spots because all of the other teams already have point guards. Not to say we (John) didn’t make some huge reaches for guys who maybe wouldn’t have been picked this high, but that’s what happens in drafts and that’s why they’re fun. Without further ado, here are rounds three and four of our mega-draft.
Round 3: The Guys You Have Still Heard Of
Pick 61: Indiana Pacers (Phil): Damian Lillard
Stats: 6x All-Star, 6x All-Pro, 2012-13 ROY
Teammates: Michael Jordan, Robert Parish
It’s Dame time in Indianapolis. This team is going to mow everyone else down in the playoffs.
Pick 62: Miami Heat (John): Vince Carter
Stats: 8x All-Star, 2x All-NBA, 1998-99 ROY
Teammates: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Dennis Johnson
It’s been about 15 years since Vince Carter was a relevant NBA player, which is insane to think about because he just retired a year ago. Most people know him as the greatest dunker ever and It’s hard to remember how good Vinsanity really was during his prime in the early 2000’s.
Pick 63: Denver Nuggets (Phil): Earl Monroe
Stats: 1x NBA Champion, 4x All-Star, 1x All-NBA, 1967-68 ROY, Hall of Fame
Teammates: LeBron James, Alonzo Mourning
Earl Monroe has the coolest nicknames in NBA history. A smattering of the best on Basketball Reference include: The Pearl, Black Jesus, The Lord’s Prayer, Einstein, and Thomas Edison.
Pick 64: Utah Jazz (John): Bernard King
Stats: 4x All-Star, 4x All-NBA, 1x Scoring Champ, Hall of Fame
Teammates: Magic Johnson, Bob McAdoo
The Jazz are going to score 130 points a game, and give up 140.
Stats: 1x NBA Champion, 12x All-Star, 12x All-NBA, Hall of Fame
Teammates: Charles Barkley, Bill Walton, Tiny Archibald
Probably good to go by Dolph when your name is Adolph and you made your NBA debut in 1949.
Pick 99: Los Angeles Clippers (John): Jerry Lucas
Stats: 1x NBA Champion, 7x All-Star, 5x All-NBA, 1963-64 ROY, Hall of Fame
Teammates: Elgin Baylor, George Mikan, Hal Greer
This old timers team kinda kicks ass.
Pick 100: Sacramento Kings (Phil): Mitch Richmond
Stats: 1x NBA Champion, 6x All-Star, 5x All-NBA, 1988-89 ROY, Hall of Fame
Teammates: Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Kidd, Artis Gilmore
Mitch Richmond makes his long awaited return to the Kings to remind fans that he impacts winning 0% of the time.
Pick 101: Brooklyn Nets (John): Connie Hawkins
Stats: 1x ABA Champion, 1x ABA MVP, 4x NBA all-Star (1x ABA), 1x All-NBA (2x All-ABA), Hall of Fame
Teammates: David Robinson, John Stockton, David Thompson
Possibly the greatest basketball player of his era who got blackballed by the NBA until he was past his prime.
Pick 102: Toronto Raptors (Phil): Tim Hardaway Sr.
Stats: 5x All-Star, 5x All-NBA
Teammates: Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, Bob Lanier
Tim Hardaway and Kevin Garnett might be more exciting than Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen.
Pick 103: Chicago Bulls (John): Walt Bellamy
Stats: 4x All-Star, 1961-62 ROY, Hall of Fame
Teammates: Jerry West, Bob Cousy, Sam Jones
Gives the small core some much-needed big beef.
Pick 104: Cleveland Cavaliers (Phil): Nikola Jokic
Stats: 1x NBA MVP, 3x All-Star, 3x All-NBA
Teammates: Karl Malone, Walt Frazier, Pete Maravich
The reigning MVP adds a versatile point-center to pair with scoring machine Karl Malone in the frontcourt. Jokic, Frazier, and Maravich can all initiate the offense and create one of the most intriguing lineups so far.
Pick 105: Dallas Mavericks (John): Joel Embiid
Stats: 4x All-Star, 3x All-NBA, 3x All-Defensive
Teammates: Moses Malone, Elvin Hayes, Adrian Dantley
This team will grab every rebound that’s ever been available in the history of organized sports.
Pick 106: Golden State Warriors (Phil): Tom Heinsohn
Stats: 8x NBA Champion, 6x All-Star, 4x All-NBA, 1956-57 ROY, Hall of Fame
Teammates: Steph Curry, Rick Barry, Dwight Howard
A swiss army knife that will help fans forget about the grade A assholes that populate the roster.
Pick 107: Memphis Grizzlies (John): Blake Griffin
Stats: 6x All-Star, 5x All-NBA, 2010-11 ROY
Teammates: Julius Erving, Reggie Miller, Pau Gasol
Memphis just became the real lob city.
Pick 108: Washington Wizards (Phil): Chris Bosh
Stats: 2x NBA Champion, 11x All-Star, 1x All-NBA, Hall of Fame
Teammates: Oscar Robertson, George Gervin, Wes Unseld
Bosh was the third-wheel for two Heat Championships and might be the perfect fourth-wheel in Washington alongside beefy Wes Unseld.
Pick 109: Detroit Pistons (John): Kyle Lowry
Stats: 1x NBA Champion, 6x All-Star, 1x All-NBA
Teammates: Kevin Durant, Willis Reed, Luka Doncic
Lowry brings some added toughness to the backcourt and can take some ball-handling pressure off Luka Doncic.
Teammates: Hakeem Olajuwon, Gary Payton, Alex English
Reunites the ’96 Sonics dup that took Jordan’s 72-win Bulls to six games in the 1996 NBA Finals. The Wolves are finally back with one of the best first four picks in draft history.
Pick 114: Phoenix Suns (Phil): Joe Johnson
Stats: 7x All-Star, 1x All-NBA
Teammates: Larry Bird, Russell Westbrook, Dave Cowens
This is the official beginning of the “we don’t know what we’re doing” section of the draft.
Pick 115: Milwaukee Bucks (John): Dave Bing
Stats: 7x All-Star, 3x All-NBA, 1966-67 ROY, 1x Scoring Champ, Hall of Fame
Teammates: Wilt Chamberlain, Clyde Drexler, Dennis Rodman
Just has to get the ball to Wilt and stay far away from Rodman for this to work.
Pick 116: Charlotte Hornets (Phil): Yao Ming
Stats: 8x All-Star, 5x All-NBA, Hall of Fame
Teammates: Bill Russell, James Worthy, Tony Parker
Not sure if Yao is the perfect center to put next to Bill Russell or this is a horrible idea, but this frontline will get the people talking and made Charlotte the de facto most popular team worldwide.
Pick 117: Utah Jazz (John): Kevin Love
Stats: 1x NBA Champion, 5x All-Star, 2x All-NBA
Teammates: Magic Johnson, Bob McAdoo, Bernard King
Magic will love a big who can shoot threes who can also get him an in with the Beach Boys.
Pick 118: Denver Nuggets (Phil): Dan Issel
Stats: 1x ABA Champion, 1x NBA All-Star (6x ABA), 5x All-ABA, 1970-71 ABA ROY, Hall of Fame
Teammates: LeBron James, Alonzo Mourning, Earl Monroe
Scoring center who did most of his damage in the ABA should be an interesting fit next to Alonzo Mourning.
Pick 119: Miami Heat (John): Shawn Marion
Stats: 1x NBA Champion, 4x All-Star, 2x All-NBA
Teammates: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Dennis Johnson, Vince Carter
The Matrix gives the Heat an all-around presence who might have the wonkiest shooting motion of any borderline hall of famer.
Pick 120: Indiana Pacers (Phil): Bob Dandridge
Stats: 2x NBA Champion, 4x All-Star, 1x All-NBA, 1x All-Defensive, Hall of Fame
Teammates: Michael Jordan, Robert Parish, Damian Lillard
A two-time champ who can be MJ’s new poor-man’s Scottie Pippen.
Draft beer, the NBA Draft, the movie Draft Day, conscription; ok maybe not the last one, but drafts (for the most part) are fun. Everyone has a good time, the people getting drafted (again non-military) get to usually fulfill a lifelong dream while the people drafting are having fun, joy, and merriment (or going fast if you’re racing). In sports the draft is the beginning of a career and the best way to make you team better. In everyday life, people use drafts all of the time. Friends get together for a fantasy football draft, podcasters may have a friendly movie draft, or parents have a kid draft (you don’t want to be last in that one), but for the most part these hypothetical “just for fun” drafts are short and unfinished. Let’s change that.
Most previous All time NBA lists or drafts are capped at 100 players. “The top 100 players in NBA history”, “Re-drafting the first round of the 1984 NBA Draft”, “one player every team should draft”, and so on. It’s usually a fun exercise but I’m usually left wanting more. who is the 121st best player ever? So we decided to take all 30 current NBA teams and using a snake-draft format, draft a full 15-man roster for each team. If you can do math at home that’s 450 players in total plus a head coach for each franchise. If your immediate reaction is ” I can’t even think of 450 NBA players”, well neither can I so that’s not an excuse to sit this one out.
This whole exercise started out as a podcast which you can listen to here for even more expert analysis and insight on each pick. The reason this also turned into a blog is because I thought it would be easier for the listeners to keep track of all of the picks if I write them down because god knows we could hardly keep track of them ourselves.
The rules of the game were fairly simple. We took all 30 current NBA franchises and put them into a randomizer to get the draft order. We flipped a coin to see who would get the first pick (me) and then alternated teams between the two of us. When it came to drafting players there were no rules. If you wanted to take Stephon Marbury first, then you’re an idiot and kind of ruined the project, but no one is going to stop you. You could construct a team anyway you saw fit. All-point guards, only Europeans, every player from the 1992 Timberwolves, whatever you wanted to do was legal. Like the purge but for NBA nerds.
Without further ado, here are rounds 1-2 of the All-Time NBA Mega-Draft. (Don’t @ me if your favorite players are eight spots lower than where you would have taken them in your 450 person hypothetical draft.)
Round 1:The Building Blocks
Pick 1: Indiana Pacers (Phil): Michael Jordan
Stats: 6x NBA Champion, 5x NBA MVP, 6x Finals MVP, 14x All-Star, 11x All-NBA, 9x All-Defensive, 1x DPOY, 10x Scoring Champ, 1984-85 ROY, Hall of Fame
An absolute no-brainer of a first overall pick. MJ is quite clearly the greatest basketball player of all time and sadly still has the best Space Jam movie ever made. The GOAT could take a team of high school players and probably make the playoffs against the rest of the mega-draft field. It makes me happy that the Pacers got him, because they fucking hate him.
Pick 2: Miami Heat (John): Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Stats: 6x NBA Champion, 6x NBA MVP, 2x Finals MVP, 19x All-Star, 15x All-NBA, 11x All-Defensive, All-Time Leading Scorer, 2x Scoring Champ, 1969-70 ROY, Hall of Fame
LeBron fans are coming for John for denying a Heatles reunion and allowing him to fall past the second pick but Kareem is arguably the best big man ever and at any point between 1946 and 2015 would be the slam dunk player you wan to build your team around. Unfortunately for him it is 2021 and we’ve finally figured out that versatile wings are the most valuable players in the game. Kareem does have one thing going for him, he’s a better actor and MJ and LeBron.
A gift from the dumbass gods, somehow LeBron falls to the Nuggets with the third pick. Some will argue that he should have been the obvious number one pick (those people are wrong), but LeBron is clearly the best player we’ve seen since Jordan (and the worst actor). He’ll somehow get knocked in this exercise for building a super team, but that’s kind of the point.
Pick 4: Utah Jazz (John): Magic Johnson
Stats: 5x NBA Champion, 3x NBA MVP, 3x Finals MVP, 12x All-Star, 10x All-NBA, Hall of Fame
Magic Johnson is going to fucking hate Salt Lake City. I give it about 16 games before he requests a trade to the Lakers or the Heat. His twitter handle will be a must follow during the season for all the obvious stuff he’s going to “notice” while he’s there. @MagicJohnson: Wow, sure is cold in Salt Lake City in February. @MagicJohnson: Awful lot of white people around me. @MagicJohnson (channeling his inner Eric Bledsoe): I don’t want to be here. He’ll still probably turn it into a party city.
Pick 5: Charlotte Hornets (Phil): Bill Russell
Stats: 11x NBA Champion, 5x NBA MVP, 12x All-Star, 11x All-NBA, 1x All-Defensive, Hall of Fame
Russell his going to bring his 11 rings to Charlotte and a franchise that doesn’t have a lot of experience winning. The best defensive player in NBA history is the perfect anchor for this smaller market team, and Russell will be a big part of the community as well. The perfect value/character pick at number five.
Pick 6: Milwaukee Bucks (John): Wilt Chamberlain
Stats: 2x NBA Champion, 4x MVP, 1x Finals MVP, 13x All-Star, 10x All-NBA, 2x All-Defensive, All-Time Leader in Rebounds, 1959-60 ROY, 7x Scoring Champ, Hall of Fame
Is it possible to have sex with every person in a city, because Wilt is definitely going to try it in Milwaukee bringing new meaning to the Cream City nickname. Wilt’s individual stats are legendary, but I’m worried how he’ll fair going up against the best of the best every night. Bill Russell owned him during their careers and Wilt never had anyone to match his height and athleticism. Now in a league with the likes of Shaq, David Robinson, and Giannis, it will be interesting to see how he holds up.
Pick 7: Phoenix Suns (Phil): Larry Bird
Stats: 3x NBA Champion, 3x NBA MVP, 2x Finals MVP, 12x All-Star, 10x All-NBA, 3x All-Defensive, 1979-80 Roy, Hall of Fame
The desert air will do wonders for Larry Legend’s back issues so Phoenix is the perfect landing spot for the three-time champ. The hick from French Lick can turn his good ole’ Midwestern persona into a modern day Wild West cowboy. Like Val Kilmer in Tombstone, Bird has a chance to walk around town spouting non sequiturs, calling people a daisy, and shooting the shit out of everyone he sees.
Stats: 2x NBA Champion, 1x NBA MVP, 2x Finals MVP, 12x All-Star, 12x All-NBA, 9x All-Defensive, 2x DPOY, Hall of Fame
What better way to replace Kevin Garnett in Minnesota than a wholesale upgrade to Hakeem Olajuwon. The Dream is one of the most well-rounded players in the history of the NBA. He’s one of the best defensive players to ever do it, a two-time Defensive Player of the Year, and he had an array of post moves and made David Robinson his bitch in the 1995 Western Conference Finals. He’s the perfect player to build around and should give Wolves fans hope that John didn’t totally blow it for them already.
Pick 9: Philadelphia 76ers (Phil): Shaquille O’Neal
Stats: 4x NBA Champion, 1x NBA MVP, 3x Finals MVP, 15x All-Star, 14x All-NBA, 3x All-Defensive, 1992-93 ROY, 2x Scoring Champ, Hall of Fame
Uh oh, 76ers fans just turned on Ben Simmons for missing a shit ton of free throws in the playoffs, and here comes Shaq, a career 52.7 percent free throw shooter that drops to 50.4 percent in the playoffs. Hack-a-Shaq will be in full force in Philly, but who the hell cares he’s the most physically dominant player of the last 40 years. Shaq can bully any other center in the paint whether he’s in shape or not (lay off the cheesesteaks perhaps) and is a slam dunk pick at 9.
Pick 10: Houston Rockets (John): Tim Duncan
Stats: 5x NBA Champion, 2x NBA MVP, 3x Finals MVP, 15x All-Star, 15x All-NBA, 15x All-Defensive, 1997-98 ROY, Hall of Fame
Rounding out the top ten is the big fundamental himself Tim Duncan. TD presided over a dynasty in San Antonio, winning five championships from 1999 to 2014. He might not be the flashiest player ever, but Duncan got the job done and is arguably the greatest teammate since Bill Russell. He’s a steal with the tenth pick as any team built around Duncan will compete for a title for the next 15 years.
Pick 11: Boston Celtics (Phil): Kobe Bryant
Stats: 5x NBA Champion, 1x NBA MVP, 2x Finals MVP, 18x All-Star, 15x All-NBA, 12x All-Defensive, 2x Scoring Champ, Hall of Fame
I may never be able to show my face in Boston after taking Kobe Bryant with the 11th pick. Kobe might be on the Mount Rushmore of most hated players in Boston sports history. He beat the Celtics in 2010 to secure the fifth championship in his illustrious career. If the Celtics can get over the fact that he’s a lifetime Laker, they’ll instantly fall in love with his tenacity and drive to win, but it’s going to be hard to win over the Boston fans who love grit and grind stars like Dave Cowens and Kevin McHale above the flash and celebrity that Kobe brought back to the Lakers.
Pick 12: Detroit Pistons (John): Kevin Durant
Stats: 2x NBA Champion, 1x NBA MVP, 2x Finals MVP, 11x All-Star, 9x All-NBA, 4x Scoring Champ, 2007-08 ROY
Detroit and Durant seem like a perfect fit. Everyone hated the Bad Boy Pistons in the ’80s, and everyone kind of hates KD today. He seems to be a natural shit stirrer a la Isiah Thomas back in the day. This exercise is tailor made for Durant, he gets to play with other all-time greats and build a super team and if people don’t like it, who cares because it’s not real. But mega-draft Twitter is real and KD will be the villain from day one.
Pick 13: Washington Wizards (Phil): Oscar Robertson
Stats: 1x NBA Champion, 1x NBA MVP, 12x All-Star, 11x All-NBA, 1960-61 ROY, Hall of Fame
It’s interesting that Washington just got rid of the new king of the triple double in Russell Westbrook and are bringing in the original triple double king in Oscar Robertson. The Big O averaged 30.4 points, 10 rebounds, and 10.7 assists per game over the first six seasons of his career. He didn’t win a championship until 1971 when he finally teamed up with Kareem, but Oscar is the ultimate Swiss Army Knife and the perfect point guard to build around.
Pick 14: Memphis Grizzlies (John): Julius Erving
Stats: 1x NBA Champion, 2x ABA Champion, 1x NBA MVP, 3x ABA MVP, 11x NBA All-Star (5x ABA), 7x All-NBA, 5x All-ABA, Hall of Fame
Memphis seems to be a small market that is actually built for Dr. J. He refused to go to Milwaukee in 1972, but Memphis is a bit cooler, jazzier than Memphis which fits the mythos surrounding Julius Erving. Arguably the sexiest player that ever lived both on and off the court, and will bring his fluid above the rim style of play to Tennessee, the Grit and Grind Grizzlies they are not. This will be the early favorite for the League Pass team of the year.
Pick 15: Golden State Warriors (Phil): Steph Curry
Stats: 3x NBA Champion, 2x NBA MVP, 7x All-Star, 7x All-NBA, 2x Scoring Champ
Had to do it. Steph Curry is Mr. Bay Area, they love him there. We’re going to sell a million jerseys and this is the first team that is prioritizing three-point shooting. Curry is the greatest shooter in history and will drag out old guards to the tree-point line and make them pick him up as soon as he crosses mid-court. Bob Cousy, Isiah Thomas, John Stockton and others are going to have a hell of a time chasing him all around the court for 48 minutes.
Pick 16: Dallas Mavericks (John): Moses Malone
Stats: 1x NBA Champion, 3x NBA MVP, 1x Finals MVP, 12x NBA All-Star (1x ABA), 8x All-NBA, 2x All-Defensive, Hall of Fame
Moses brings the big beef to Dallas as the fifth best rebounder ever. A three-time MVP, Malone finally took the 76ers over the hump when he was traded to Philly in 1982 and led them to the 1983 title. He doesn’t have much of a mid-range game, but can hold his own in the paint against bigger centers like Shaq and Wilt. Moses might be the most underrated and forgotten about inner-circle Hall of Famers and getting him at 16 is an absolute steal.
Pick 17: Cleveland Cavaliers (Phil): Karl Malone
Stats: 2x NBA MVP, 14x All-Star, 14x All-NBA, 4x All-Defensive, Hall of Fame
After just missing out on Moses, the Cavs have to settle for the other Malone, Karl. The Mailman was no slouch scoring 36,928 points in his career, second all time to Kareem. He teamed up with John Stockton to make two-straight NBA Finals in 1997 and 1998. Unfortunately, they ran into the Jordan Bulls buzzsaw and never got over the hump. Malone will need a good running mate, but can lead his team deep into the playoffs.
Pick 18: Chicago Bulls (John): Jerry West
Stats: 1x NBA Champion, 1x Finals MVP, 14x All-Star, 12x All-NBA, 5x All-Defensive, 1x Scoring Champ, Hall of Fame
Jerry West was so good he once won Finals MVP in 1969 for the losing team. The fucking Logo was a next level scorer who could have scored 40 points per game if there was a three-point line in the ’60s. West made the All-Star team ever year of his career and was every bit the face of the league as Russell, Wilt, Oscar, and Elgin Baylor were. The Bulls won’t get their beloved Michael Jordan, but they get the original great two-way scoring guard in Jerry West.
Pick 19: Toronto Raptors (Phil): Kevin Garnett
Stats: 1x NBA Champion, 1x NBA MVP, 15x All-Star, 9x All-NBA, 12x All-Defensive, 1x DPOY, Hall of Fame
Kevin Garnett is an absolute psycho and my favorite athlete ever, so I had to take him in the top-20 and give him to the Raptors. It kind of mirrors real life when he was drafted by the Timberwolves in 1995. Toronto is a newer franchise with little history in its side other than the Kawhi championship in 2019. Now, Garnett has a chance to go to a lesser franchise once again and become the face of sports in the city and bring his tenacity to build a winner in the frozen tundra. KG might be the most versatile player in the last 25 years. A 6’11” center with guard handles who can knock down mid-range shots in his sleep and step out to three all while being one of the greatest defenders of his era. The man almost took 34-year-old Sam Cassell and Latrell Sprewell to a championship. If he can do that, he can win in Toronto with anyone.
Pick 20: Brooklyn Nets (John): David Robinson
Stats: 2x NBA Champion, 1x NBA MVP, 10x All-Star, 10x All-NBA, 8x All-Defensive, 1x DPOY, 1989-90 ROY, 1x Scoring Champ, Hall of Fame
The Admiral better hope The Wolves are eliminated so he doesn’t have to see Olajuwon again in the playoffs, because we all know how that goes. Other than being Hakeem’s bitch, Robinson was one of the most physically gifted centers ever. A chiseled 7’1″ Adonis, Robinson was a dominant scorer before Duncan got there as well as a shut down defensive center. He’s a good building block but the nets will need to pair him with another all-time great in order to compete in the East.
Pick 21: Sacramento Kings (Phil): Dirk Nowitzki
Stats: 1x NBA Champion, 1x NBA MVP, 1x Finals MVP, 14x All-Star, 12x All-NBA
Dirk was a one-man wrecking crew when he led the Mavericks to a title in 2011. He can do it all on offese. The best shooting big-man ever (not counting Karl-Anthony Towns yet) he patented the one leg fade away that became so lethal. He’s proven he can win a championship on his own, and he might need to do it again in Sacramento.
Pick 22: Los Angeles Clippers (John): Elgin Baylor
Stats: 11x All-Star, 10x All-NBA, 1958-59 ROY, Hall of Fame
Baylor is the first player to really normalize playing above the rim. At 6’5″, 225-pounds, Baylor was a physical freak for the ’60s and no one could stop him from scoring at the rim. He averaged 27.4 points and 13.5 rebounds per game in his career as a small forward, and famously went 0-7 in NBA finals. He retired after nine games in the 1971-72 season in which the Lakers went on the win the championship. It’s fitting he goes to the Clippers, because he absolutely destroyed the franchise as their executive from 1986-2008. Let him play, but dear god don’t let him anywhere near the draft.
Pick 23: Portland Trail Blazers (Phil): Charles Barkley
Stats: 1x NBA MVP, 11x All-Star, 11x All-NBA, Hall of Fame
Charles Barkley is bringing on a new era of the Jail Blazers and it will be spectacular. He is not a role model, but he’s going to be the face of Portland and the driving force to keep Portland weird. Barkley is arguably the best player ever to never win a championship thanks in large part to Michael Jordan, but he’s got a real shot to advance far in Portland, just keep him off the golf course and out of the casinos.
Most people nowadays remember D-Wade as Robin to LeBron’s Batman, the sidekick of the Heatles super team that won two titles and went to four-straight finals. We forget that young D-Wade put the Heat on his back and willed them to a championship in 2006. Yea he had Shaq, but Wade put in a finals for the ages and is a bonafide winner. The Hawks might be a dark horse, but don’w count out any team led by Flash.
Pick 25: Oklahoma City Thunder (Phil): John Havlicek
Stats: 8x NBA Champion, 1x Finals MVP, 13x All-Star, 11x All-NBA, 8x All-Defensive, Hall of Fame
Most of the seven people who actually read this are probably wondering the same thing, who the heck is John Havlicek? Bill Simmons is probably furious that Hondo didn’t go inside the top 15. Havlicek was one of the most well-rounded players of his time. A teammate of Bill Russell’s on the ’60s Celtics, Havlicek won eight championships. It might be a tough ask to have him be the face of a franchise, but Hondo is undoubtedly one of the greatest team players in NBA history.
Pick 26: Orlando Magic (John): Allen Iverson
Stats: 1x NBA MVP, 11x All-Star, 7x All-NBA, 4x Scoring Champ, 1996-97 ROY, Hall of Fame
Holy shit Allen Iverson at 26 is easily the reach of the draft so far. AI is a legend, don’t get me wrong, but are you really trying to build a team around him? I understand that he dragged Theo Ratlif and Eric Snow to the finals, but he didn’t do a ton of winning outside of that one MVP season. Hopefully John has a plan and surrounds Iverson with responsible teammates.
Kawhi is on pace to have the wonkiest resume of any top 30 players in the NBA. He was the 15th pick in 2011, slowly improved year-by-year to become a two-time Defensive Player of the Year and the 2014 Finals MVP with the Spurs. Then he sat out for almost a year while clashing with the Spurs staff about his foot injury. Then he got traded to Toronto, led them to a championship, and left after one season for the Clippers of all franchises. Now he has a chance to win three championships and three finals MVP’s with three different franchises. Only LeBron James has done that. A weird career for fun guy Kawhi.
Pick 28: New Orleans Pelicans (John): Isiah Thomas
Stats: 2x NBA Champion, 1x Finals MVP, 12x All-Star, 5x All-NBA, Hall of Fame
Dude’s probably reading this like “I met the qualifications to be drafted in the top 20, but they didn’t pick me.” Zeke is a top-five point guard ever, a good scorer and even better playmaker who can lead a team to the promised land as he did in back-to-back seasons with the Bad Boys. He just seems to rub people the wrong way and MJ will probably make it his personal mission to make sure Thomas doesn’t sniff the playoffs with the Pelicans.
Pick 29: New York Knicks (Phil): Giannis Antetokounmpo
Stats: 1x NBA Champion, 2x NBA MVP, 1x Finals MVP, 5x All-Star, 5x All-NBA, 4x All-Defensive, 1x DPOY
This pick is looking a lot better now that Giannis is a champion. He’s a modern day Shaq who can physically dominate the competition in the paint. Giannis has taken it to the next level and can handle the ball and drive to the basket. He’s a three-point shot away from becoming the greatest offensive weapon in history. Knicks fans are going to love him, I hope they have Chick-fil-A in NYC.
Pick 30: San Antonio Spurs (John): Chris Paul
Stats: 11x All-Star, 10x All-NBA, 9x All-Defensive, 2005-06 ROY
Again, this pick looks a lot better now that CP3 finally made the finals for the first time in his 16-year career. Paul might be a bitch of a teammate, but is arguably the best two-way point guard of the modern era. He should be a perfect fit for the Spurs way of life, and a solid pick to finish off round one of the mega-draft.
Round 2: The Quickening
Pick 31: San Antonio Spurs (John): Patrick Ewing
Stats: 11x All-Star, 7x All-NBA, 3x All-Defensive, 1985-86 ROY, Hall of Fame
Teammates: Chris Paul
Patrick Ewing is the ultimate “almost but not quite there” superstars in the NBA. He led the Knicks to the finals twice only to be thwarted by Hakeem’s Rockets in 1994 and injured against Duncan’s Spurs in the lockout-shortened 1999 season. It only fits all too well that he’s paired with Chris Paul, the other premier player in the last 25 years who has gotten so close but never won a championship. they should trade for Barkley.
Pick 32: New York Knicks (Phil): Steve Nash
Stats: 2x NBA MVP, 8x All-Star, 7x All-NBA, Hall of Fame
Teammates: Giannis Antetokounmpo
Steve Nash was one Robert Horry hip check away from a finals appearance in 2007, and never got another chance at a championship. He transformed Amar’e Stoudemire into an All-Pro player and would do wonders with Giannis catching lobs and running the pick-and-roll. The Knicks are back!
Pick 33: New Orleans Pelicans (John): Scottie Pippen
Stats: 6x NBA Champion, 7x All-Star, 7x All-NBA, 10x All-Defensive, Hall of Fame
Teammates: (Checks notes) Isiah Thomas
Who the fuck is putting Scottie Pippen on the same team as Isiah Thomas? Zeke is probably sitting in his mansion thinking that this is a betrayal on levels that no one has ever seen! There are going to be nightly brawls in the locker room. I know every hates IT, but Scottie Pippen mega hates IT and is not afraid to remind everyone.
Pick 34: Los Angeles Lakers (Phil): Kevin McHale
Stats: 3x NBA Champion, 7x All-Star, 1x All-NBA, 6x All-Defensive, Hall of Fame
Teammates: Kawhi Leonard
Now this is a team I can get behind. Kawhi can initiate the offense and create his own shot and Kevin McHale can do a lot of the dirty work down low. He’s one of the best post scorers we’ve seen and can hold his own alongside Kawhi on the defensive end. Very few holes in this team early on.
Remember when I said AI was a bad pick unless you surround him with responsible teammates? Yea, James Harden isn’t that kind of teammate, he’s basically beef stew Iverson with a beard. This team will never practice, never play defense, probably get on each other’s nerves, but this is the number one pick of strip clubs everywhere. I don’t know what the club scene is like in Orlando, but they’re about to make a lot of money.
Pick 36: Oklahoma City Thunder (Phil): Bob Pettit
Stats: 1x NBA Champion, 2x NBA MVP, 11x All-Star, 11x All-NBA, 1954-55 ROY, 2x Scoring Champ, Hall of Fame
Teammates: John Havlicek
This team would win 19 championships if it was 1966. Alas, it’s 2021 so Hondo and Bullet Bob’s achievements have wasted away like those people on an M. Night Shymalan beach, but they’re two of the greatest to ever do it. Pettit made an All-NBA team every year of his career.
Pick 37: Atlanta Hawks (John): Anthony Davis
Stats: 1x NBA Champion, 8x All-Star, 4x All-NBA, 4x All-Defensive
Teammates: Dwyane Wade
John finally got his head out of his ass and made a good pick in the second round. AD is the perfect big to play alongside D-Wade. He dominated the Heat on his way to a championship with the Lakers and LeBron James in the bubble, and will form a formidable two-way duo with Wade.
Pick 38: Portland Trail Blazers (Phil): Bill Walton
Stats: 2x NBA Champion, 1x NBA MVP, 1x Finals MVP, 2x All-Star, 2x All-NBA, 2x All-Defensive, Hall of Fame
Teammates: Charles Barkley
The prodigal son returns 44 years after leading the Blazers to a championship in 1977. A foot injury wreck Walton’s career, but the biggest Dead Head on national television was one of the best centers in history during his short prime. He’s so high right now he probably thinks it’s still 1978, and is definitely going to keep Portland weird.
Pick 39: Los Angeles Clippers (John): George Mikan
Stats: 5x BAA/NBA Champion, 4x All-Star, 6x All-BAA/NBA, 3x Scoring Champ, Hall of Fame
Teammates: Elgin Baylor
Teaming the original GOAT with Elgin Baylor would be unstoppable in 1956. Mikan might have trouble matching up against the likes up Wilt and Shaq, but his fundamentals are unmatched and will bring a winning quality to this throwback team.
Pick 40: Sacramento Kings (Phil): Jason Kidd
Stats: 1x NBA Champion, 10x All-Star, 6x All-NBA, 9x All-Defensive, 1994-95 ROY, Hall of Fame
Teammates: Dirk Nowitzki
Jason Kidd won a championship with Dirk in 2011 so why not run it back. Kidd was one of the most versatile point guards in league history and will be the exact opposite of what the Kings have gotten used to over the last two decades. We’ll have to make sure he isn’t allowed to drink soda on the sidelines though.
Pick 41: Brooklyn Nets (John): John Stockton
Stats: 10x All-Star, 11x All-NBA, 5x All-Defensive, All-Time Leader in Assists, Hall of Fame
Teammates: David Robinson
This will be the least vaxxed team in the league. John Stockton was part of one of the most dynamic duos in the ’90s with Karl Malone, and has formed another dynamic duo post career teaming up with conspiracy theories. Stockton will not have many fans in Brooklyn.
Pick 42: Toronto Raptors (Phil): Ray Allen
Stats: 2x NBA Champion, 10x All-Star, 2x All-NBA, Hall of Fame
Teammates: Kevin Garnett
The biggest “what if” in Timberwolves history is finally answered by pairing KG with Ray Allen, just as god intended. The Wolves picked Allen with the fifth pick in the 1996 NBA Draft only to trade him to the Milwaukee Bucks for the fourth pick, Stephon Marbury. Marbury was a star alongside KG, but forced his way out of Minnesota after just 2.5 years. Ray Allen is one of the greatest shooting guards of all time and finally teamed up with Garnett in 2007 in Boston where the two won a championship and played in two NBA Finals. Oh, what could have been if they had been able to team up in Minnesota for a decade in the prime of their careers. Could they have won a championship? Possibly, KG took the Wolves to the Western Conference Finals in 2004 and was a Sam Cassell hip injury away from taking down the Lakers. Allen led the Bucks to an improbable run the the Eastern Conference Finals in 2001. It still haunts me to this day. I need answers, and that’s why I finally did it. Lets finally see what you could have done together.
Pick 43: Chicago Bulls (John): Bob Cousy
Stats: 6x NBA Champion, 1x NBA MVP, 13x All-Star, 12x All-NBA, Hall of Fame
Teammates: Jerry West
Jerry West and Bob Cousy would be your dad’s favorite team. Cousy was a baller even before teaming up with Bill Russell, and he can run the show while West racks up the points.
Pick 44: Cleveland Cavaliers (Phil): Walt Frazier
Stats: 2x NBA Champion, 7x All-Star, 6x All-NBA, 7x All Defensive, Hall of Fame
Teammates: Karl Malone
Walt Frazier might be one of the most underrated players from the ’70s but he led the Knicks to glory twice and is an NYC legend on par with Joe Namath. He’d pair well with Karl Malone and bring some glitz and glam to Cleveland.
Pick 45: Dallas Mavericks (John): Elvin Hayes
Stats: 1x NBA Champion, 12x All-Star, 6x All-NBA, 2x All-Defensive, 1x Scoring Champ, Hall of Fame
Teammates: Moses Malone
The beef boys are ready to grab every rebound in Dallas. Malone is third all-time in rebounds and Elvin Hayes is sixth. The lane is gonna be clogged, but no frontline will be able to matchup with this duo.
Pick 46: Golden State Warriors (Phil): Rick Barry
Stats: 1x NBA Champion, 1x Finals MVP, 8x NBA All-Star (4x ABA), 6x All NBA, 4x All-ABA, 1965-66 ROY, 1x Scoring Champ, Hall of Fame
Teammates: Steph Curry
If Steph Curry is the most beloved player in Warriors history, Rick Barry might be the most reviled. Barry was an asshole, but god dammit he could score. One of the best scoring forwards ever he led the Warriors to a championship in 1975. Fans will hate him (and his kids) but he and Steph would be unstoppable.
Pick 47: Memphis Grizzlies (John): Reggie Miller
Stats: 5x All-Star, 3x All-NBA, Hall of Fame
Teammates: Julius Erving
Memphis may have just skyrocketed towards the top of the League Pass rankings with this pick. Reggie Miller is one of the most fun players to love, and even more fun to hate.
Pick 48: Washington Wizards (Phil): George Gervin
Stats: 9x NBA All-Star (3x ABA), 7x All-NBA, 2x All-ABA, 4x Scoring Champ, Hall of Fame
Teammates: Oscar Robertson
The Iceman might not be the best fit alongside a high usage point guard in Oscar, but they will be one of the hardest backcourts to defend. The two Hall of Famers could each go off for 50 on any given night. The defense might not be amazing, but Gervin will sell tickets.
Pick 49: Detroit Pistons (John): Willis Reed
Stats: 2x NBA Champion, 1x NBA MVP, 2x Finals MVP, 7x All-Star, 5x All-NBA, 1x All-Defensive, 1964-65 ROY, Hall of Fame
Teammates: Kevin Durant
Willis Reed seems like a perfect fit in Detroit. He’s tough, plays hurt in game 7, and sounds like he should have been a Motown star. Reed’s motor and Durant’s scoring prowess will do damage and could be the perfect mid-pick pairing at 12 and 49 respectively.
Pick 50: Boston Celtics (Phil): Dominique Wilkins
Stats: 9x All-Star, 7x All-NBA, 1x Scoring Champ, Hall of Fame
Teammates: Kobe Bryant
Holy shit the Celtics just became the most exciting team ever assembled with Dominique and Kobe. Two of the best dunkers ever, the days of team play and fundamentals are over in Boston. Yes, Wilkins never won in the NBA and never got out of the second round, but that’s why you pair him with one of the best winners ever. Dominique can just run around and dunk on everyone for three quarters and then get the fuck out of Kobe’s way in the fourth. Boston might not be the best team out there, but dammit it’s going to be everyone’s favorite.
Pick 51: Houston Rockets (John): Tracy McGrady
Stats: 7x All-Star, 7x All-NBA, 2x Scoring Champ, Hall of Fame
Teammates: Tim Duncan
TMac returns to Houston to team up with Houston’s tormentor for 20 years in Tim Duncan. He’s the Riggs to Duncan’s Murtaugh.
Pick 52: Philadelphia 76ers (Phil): Paul Pierce
Stats: 1x NBA Champion, 1x Finals MVP, 10x All-Star, 4x All-NBA, Hall of Fame
Teammates: Shaquille O’Neal
Pierce is going to shit his pants the first time the 76ers fans boo him for only scoring 19 points in a big game. Hack-a-Shaq will be in full effect after watching Ben Simmons’ free throw meltdown in the playoffs last year. Things could get flushed down the toilet quickly in Philly.
Pick 53: Minnesota Timberwolves (John): Gary Payton
Stats: 1x NBA Champion, 9x All-Star, 9x All-NBA, 9x All-Defensive, 1x DPOY, Hall of Fame
Teammates: Hakeem Olajuwon
GP made the finals with Shawn Kemp in 1996. Olajuwon is a 5000% upgrade over Kemp, and should be able to take Payton to the promised land. This is the best defensive team in the league already and will play scrappy. David Robinson is going to have nightmares about this team.
Larry bird is going to throw hands with Westbrook the first time Russ dribbles up the court and takes a pull up three late in the shot clock without passing to anyone.
Pick 55: Milwaukee Bucks (John): Clyde Drexler
Stats: 1x NBA Champion, 10x All-Star, 5x All-NBA, Hall of Fame
Teammates: Wilt Chamberlain
This is a wonky fit in Milwaukee. Wilt is going to be distracted by the bustling Wisconsin nightlife so Drexler will have to carry the load day to day. The last pro player selected to the dream team could feel another slight falling to the 55th pick and work up a dark-horse MVP season.
Pick 56: Charlotte Hornets (Phil): James Worthy
Stats: 3x NBA Champion, 1x Finals MVP, 7x All-Star, 2x All-NBA, Hall of Fame
Teammates: Bill Russell
Two of the greatest winners ever form an interesting foundation to a team that might not be flashy but will do the little things to get the job done.
Pick 57: Utah Jazz (John): Bob McAdoo
Stats: 2x NBA Champion, 1x NBA MVP, 5x All-Star, 2x All-NBA, 1972-73 ROY, 3x Scoring Champ, Hall of Fame
Teammates: Magic Johnson
McAdoo has some big shoes to fill as he takes Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s spot as Magic’s running-mate. McAdoo is no Kareem, but was a dominate center in his own right in the ’70s.
Pick 58: Denver Nuggets (Phil): Alonzo Mourning
Stats: 1x NBA Champion, 7x All-Star, 2x All-NBA, 2x All-Defensive, 2x DPOY, Hall of Fame
Teammates: LeBron James
If he had two good kidneys, Alonzo Mourning would be 10-20 spots higher in this draft. After Shaq, Olajuwon, David Robinson, and Ewing; Mourning was probably the next best center during the heyday in the ’90s. He and LeBron create one of the most imposing frontlines in the league and will be nearly impossible to score on.
Pick 59: Miami Heat (John): Dennis Johnson
Stats: 3x NBA Champion, 1x Finals MVP, 5x All-Star, 2x All-NBA, 9x All-Defensive, Hall of Fame
Teammates: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Kareem gets the defensive-minded point guard who guided the Sonics to a championship before two championship runs with Larry Bird and the gang in Boston in the ’80s. John could have had DJ in the third round, but you can’t fault him for taking the three-time champ.
Pick 60: Indiana Pacers (Phil): Robert Parish
Stats: 4x NBA Champion, 9x All-Star, 2x All-NBA, Hall of Fame
Teammates: Michael Jordan
MJ gets his former teammate (Yea Parish finished his long career in Chicago) for another run at a title together. Parish is almost underrated because of his longevity and being overshadowed by Larry Bird and Kevin McHale, but he is one of the best centers ever and will pair beautifully with Jordan. What a steal with the last pick of the second round.
After a year of delays and pandemic related panic, the 2020 Tokyo Olympics are finally here in 2021. We’ve had an extra 365 days to think about the games and wait for our favorite athletes like Simone Biles and Katie Ledecky to remind us that America is fucking awesome (at least athletically).
There is absolute chaos surrounding the USA Men’s Basketball team heading into Tokyo. Three players (Khris Middleton, Jrue Holiday, and Devin Booker) are red-eyeing it to Japan after the NBA Finals, Kevin Love left the team because he wasn’t good enough to be there, Bradley Beal is gone thanks to Covid, and Zach LaVine isn’t in Japan yet because of health and safety protocols. That doesn’t even factor in their exhibition losses to Nigeria and Australia earlier this month in Las Vegas.
Any team that has to desperately ask Javale McGee to join the team at the last minute is in a heap of trouble. The Dream Team this is not.
Don’t fret over the current iteration of whatever this is. The United States still has the greatest conglomeration of basketball talent in the world. To prove it, we’re taking over Team USA and going all the way back through 75 years of NBA history to assemble the greatest basketball team in history: The Ultimate Dream Team. We’re inviting the best of the best to a top-secret training camp in a top secret location to battle against the best players from every era. The ultimate 12-man roster will emerge to take on the world and restore the good name of the US of A. Unlike the 1992 Dream Team and more in the vain of the 1980 Miracle on Ice Team USA Hockey Team, we’re not necessarily taking the 12-best players in history, rather the 12-players that play the best as a team. With that, here are the players we sent an invite to to join us at out top secret basketball camp.
Point Guard Camp Invitees:
Shooting Guard Camp Invitees:
Small Forward Camp Invitees:
Power Forward Camp Invitees:
Center Camp Invitees:
Coach Camp Invitees:
Before camp even begins, this team is undoubtedly built around two players: Michael Jordan and Bill Russell. MJ and Russell are the two fiercest competitors and best winners in NBA history. MJ led the Bulls to six championships and Russell has more than any other player with 11 rings. The greatest player ever and the greatest winner ever provide the perfect one-two punch, especially on the defensive end where Jordan is a nine-time All-Defensive selection and Russell is arguably the greatest defender in NBA history. They’ll serve as co-captains and will be the heart and soul of the team.
On the first day of camp, one player quickly asserts himself as the alpha of the group both on and off the court, Magic Johnson. A five-time champion and three-time MVP, Magic Johnson is one of the best leaders, and probably the best playmaker in the NBA’s 75-year history. He averaged 11.2 assists per game and had the versatility to play center in the NBA finals as a rookie.
After Magic, the team needs some shooting, enter Larry Bird. The “Hick from French Lick” won three straight MVPs from 1984-86 as well as three NBA Championships in 1981, ’84, and ’86. Bird is one of the most versatile players ever averaging 24.3 points, 10 rebounds, and 6.3 assists per game in his career while shooting 37.6 percent from three. He won the first three ever three-point shooting contests at All-Star Weekend from 1986-88 and is regarded as one of the first great shooters in the NBA.
After Larry Bird, we’re going to pick the player with the most unstoppable shot of all time, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Kareem’s patented sky hook was unstoppable during his 20-year career. The 7’2″ center won six MVP awards and six NBA championships, five of them coming with the Lakers and All-Time Dream Team teammate Magic Johnson. He was the NBA’s greatest player of all time before MJ came along, and will anchor the offense in the paint.
As camp gets into days three and four, LeBron James is beginning to grind down the rest of the attendees. King James used his 6’9″ frame and unrivalled athleticism to beat the crap out of everyone else. He’s one of if not the most well-rounded player in history, a four-time champ and four-time MVP LeBron is a great scorer, passer, rebounder, and defender who can post up and play on the wing with a decent enough three-point shot. It would be insane to leave the King off the ultimate roster, and we’re not going to make that mistake here.
Time to add some more shooting to the Dream Team, which means it’s time to reunite Steph Curry and Kevin Durant. Curry, the greatest shooter ever, has a career three point percentage of 43.3 while Durant is at 38.4. The two teamed up to win two straight titles with Golden State, while Curry already had a championship under his belt before Durant arrived. Both have won MVPs (Curry won back-to-back) and Durant is a two-time Finals MVP. Curry is the weakest defender on the roster to this point, but can run the offense when Magic sits, and Durant is a solid, if not quite an elite defender. Durant might be the best pure scorer in basketball and will be a key offensive cog with the ball in his hands.
The last two days of camp are here and we need to fill four more roster spots. Dennis Rodman and Wilt Chamberlain have already gotten bored and gone to Vegas to have some fun. Everyone voted to keep Isiah Thomas off of the team again and he took his ball and went home. Shaq and Barkley won’t stop eating and making fun of each other to impress the coaches and have essentially been benched during scrimmages.
Looking at the first eight players on the roster and one thing is clear, we need a few more big men. Tim Duncan has been quietly dominating practices since camp opened, and Kevin Garnett has been not so quiet but just as good. Duncan may have been the most unassuming superstar ever, winning five championships and two MVPs with the Spurs. He’s a lock to get you 20 points and 10 rebounds night in and night out, and a 15-time All-Defensive selection. The “Big Fundamental” might be a bit boring, but there are no holes in his game. Kevin Garnett is a psycho. A rabid dog let off the leash, he’s probably the most intense competitor the game has seen since Michael Jordan. Hell, he almost took the Timberwolves to a championship before finally winning one with the Celtics. Just watch this stretch during practice with the 2000 Olympic team and you can see why he made the cut.
Garnett was one of the most versatile players of his era, a 6’11” mega-athlete who was skinny but strong enough to battle in the post, had a devastating midrange game, and could handle the ball and shoot a bit from the perimeter. An MVP, DPOY, 15-time All-Star and 12-time All-Defensive selection, Garnett will be the heartbeat of the bench mob.
One player has been dividing coaches and evaluators all camp long, Kobe Bryant. In terms of individual talent, Bryant is one of the best in camp, but he’s had a hard time fitting into the team. At the end of the day his will to win and competitive drive put him over the hump and on the roster. Kobe won five championships and an MVP in his legendary career. Probably the closest thing we got to Michael Jordan, he was also a huge part of the 2008 Redeem Team that won Olympic gold. Kobe will not be the alpha on a team with Michael Jordan, but his leadership and attitude are integral to this team’s success.
The last roster spot was the hardest to pick. There were dozens of Hall of Famers, Champions, All-Stars, and legends that showed out at the top secret camp. However, one last player stepped up and rode his consistent play on both sides of the court onto the roster. The last player selected was the point god himself, Chris Paul. CP3 may not be the best or flashiest player in NBA history, but he’s consistent. Paul is an 11-time All-Star, nine-time All-Defensive selection, and just guided the Phoenix Suns to within two games of his first NBA Championship this season at the age of 36. He’s a pest and will get under the other team’s skin (while possibly rubbing some teammates the wrong way) and is the ultimate floor general at the point. He’s a career 37.1 percent three-point shooter and ranks fifth all time in assists and steals.
Picking the perfect team from a pool of the greatest players ever is no easy task and there are bound to be some huge snubs in the process. Shaq, Wilt Chamberlain, Charles Barkley, Moses Malone, Julius Erving, Scottie Pippen, and Karl Malone could be pretty butthurt by not getting selected over Garnett, Duncan, or Durant. Guards including Oscar Robertson, Isiah Thomas, John Stockton, Jason Kidd, Jerry West, Dwyane Wade, and James Harden would have made fine selections, but ultimately the players selected proved to be the most versatile at their positions.
The Ultimate Dream Team Lineup:
51 combined NBA Championships
163 All-Star appearances
139 All-NBA selections
78 All-Defensive selections
24 Finals MVPs
Head Coach: Phil Jackson
Assistant: Gregg Popovich
Assistant: Red Auerbach
Assistant: Chuck Daly
Assistant: Steve Kerr
GM: Pat Riley
35 NBA Championships
The Ultimate Dream team has no legitimate foe in the world. France, Germany, Slovenia, Serbia, Australia, and Nigeria could maybe come within 65 points, but have no where near enough depth to compete with the best the United States has to offer. If you pool all international players into one “world” team, they might have a chance to win one out of ten games.
The world roster would look something like this:
Pau Gasol and Yao Ming
A very fine team, but no match for 12 of the best players in the history of the sport. Once again the United States of America reigns supreme on the court with the Ultimate Dream Team ready to crush their enemies.
Solely because Bill Simmons and Ryen Russillo only did 40.
1.) Giannis Antetokounmpo
50 points in an NBA Finals closeout game gets you the top spot.
2.) Kevin Durant
Imagine having the worst injury possible for your profession, sitting out for a full year, then coming back like nothing happened and you’re still the fucking man. Durant is somehow better now than he ever was with a fully functioning achilles tendon.
3.) LeBron James
Yea man, it’s LeBron.
4.) Nikola Jokic
He’s a seven-foot bag of gravy who is somehow more coordinated than 99.9 percent of all other beings on the planet.
5.) Joel Embiid
Embiid is like if Shaq and Hakeem Olajuwon had a son and he was 92 percent as good as them.
6.) Luka Doncic
Everyone fell asleep and let a Slovenian Fuckboy take over the NBA.
7.) Kawhi Leonard
The Terminator went full T2 this season. He’s bruised, battered, and maybe got passed up by some young stars, but beat the hell out of the newer models in the end.
8.) Steph Curry
Steph almost dragged Andrew Wiggins to the playoffs.
9.) James Harden
Got fat and quit on Houston, but somehow turned into Magic Johnson?
10.) Damian Lillard
There is no scarier player to have to match up against on the perimeter.
11.) Anthony Davis
Had a bit of a championship hangover, and got injured, but is till one of the most dominant big men in the game and forced his way into Space Jam 2.
12.) Chris Paul
Cliff Paul finally left him alone so he can concentrate on his fucking job instead of insurance fraud and this is the result.
13.) Jayson Tatum
Tatum and the next three guys are basically in the same boat. They’re young, dumb, and full of endless potential and will probably beat the shit out of each other in the playoffs for the next 10 years.
14.) Trae Young
Became a superstar and supervillain in one playoff series.
15.) Devin Booker
Got hit by the Kardashian curse.
16.) Donovan Mitchell
Way too cool for Salt Lake City.
17.) Zion Williamson
Zion is like those great white sharks in South Africa that jump out of the water to bite the shit out of those poor seals.
18.) Kyrie Irving
There’s no way he’s vaccinated.
19.) Jimmy Butler
Can’t shoot but is still the man.
20.) Paul George
Can shoot and isn’t the man.
21.) Bradley Beal
Almost led the league in scoring and will still probably be the biggest trade target this offseason, as he’s been for like three years now. Dude must really like Washington D.C.
22.) Rudy Gobert
The Stifle Tower got dismantled by the Clippers.
23.) Bam Adebayo
Must love playing with Jimmy Butler.
24.) Julius Randle
The Knicks are going to overpay him for one great season and blow the offseason once again.
25.) Khris Middleton
24./6.3/5.3 in the NBA Finals does wonders for a man’s reputation.
26.) Deandre Ayton
27.) Karl-Anthony Towns
The ultimate great stats, terrible team guy. Thank god he has Anthony Edwards to drag him to the playoffs next year like a nice/respectful Jimmy Butler.
28.) Ben Simmons
Just going to forget that game 7 happened.
29.) Jrue Holliday
Those Finals didn’t help his stock much.
30.) Klay Thompson* (Didn’t play in 2020-21)
Dude’s just out living his best life while he recovers from his ACL injury.
Looking around the league, especially as the playoffs get knocked into 12th gear, it’s impossible not to notice that every team has at least one or two star players. There are legitimately 30+ players who fans would be comfortably calling their “franchise” player. You’ve got the all time greats in LeBron, Steph Curry, and Kevin Durant. The established superstars like Damian Lillard, Giannis, and Nikola Jokic. And then you have the young guns with Zion, Luka, and Trae Young leading the vanguard of the next generation with LaMelo Ball and Anthony Edwards nipping at their heals.
This type of breadth of talent has never happened before in the 75 year history of the NBA. There are currently 10 sure fire hall of famers playing at or near their peak (LeBron, KD, Steph, Harden, Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook, Kawhi Leonard, Anthony Davis, Giannis, and Lillard), with another five who need another couple of elite season to become locks for HOF induction (Jokic, Embiid, Paul George, Jimmy Butler, and Kyrie). When you account for the guys who are too young to be HOF locks but are well on their way towards enshrinement (Doncic, Zion, Trae Young, and Jayson Tatum), that’s now nearly 20 player who are potential hall of famers playing at the same time. This already leaves out young multi-time All-Stars like Devin Booker, Donovan Mitchell, Rudy Gobert, Ben Simmons, Karl-Anthony Towns, and Breadley Beal who could still put together a great career.
The ’60s were dominated by Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, Elgin Baylor, Jerry West, and Oscar Robertson. Top line talent that could compete with any era. But the NBA only had a third of the amount of teams as it does now. The ’70s gave us Kareem, Dr. J, and a healthy group of stars, but with the advent of the ABA, the talent level plummeted. Then the NBA revitalization began in the ’80s with Magic, Bird, Jordan, Moses and Karl Malone, Hakeem Olajuwon, Charles Barkley, Isiah Thomas, and Scottie Pippen. The only other period that could rival the current state of the league is the 1990s. During the mid-to-late ’90s NBA fans got to watch Jordan/Pippen/and Rodman dominate the league. Patrick Ewing made the Knicks relevant. Gary Payton, Karl Malone, John Stockton, Charles Barkley, and Clyde Drexler were all privileged enough to lose to the Bulls in the finals. Reggie Miller was doing his thing. Young Shaq, Olajuwon, and David Robinson were dominating the paint. Grant Hill was the next chosen one before is injuries. And then the next generation of superstars: Allen Iverson, Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, Jason Kidd and Chris Webber were on the rise. The caveat to the ’90s argument is that this was over the course of the entire decade. At any given year during the decade only probably half of these immortals were actually at their peaks at the same time. This is different. Every single year there seems to be another 2-5 stars who are poised to take over the league down the road. The last three drafts alone have netted Luka and Trae in 2018, Zion and Ja in 2019, and Ball and Edwards in 2020 with Cunningham, Mobley, Suggs, Green, and Kuminga waiting in the wings in 2021.
So why 2021? Why is this arbitrary year the unofficial deepest year in the 75 year history of the NBA? The answer is two fold. First, the players are just better. Basketball is far more popular today than it was 40 years ago, and there are more and better athletes in the league today. Donovan Mitchell is a better basketball player than Bob Cousy. It’s just the natural progression of athletic and technological advances. Secondly, players play longer than ever before. LeBron James just finished his 18th season. Chris Paul might win his first championship in year 16. And Durant is only 32 years old and in his 14th season. This level of dominance for two decades was nearly unheard of previously. It’s only a matter of time until we’re talking about Giannis or Zion or Trae Young the same way we talk about Tom Brady in the NFL, playing at an elite level well into their 40’s.
This is the deepest the league has ever been and if the playoffs have proven anything it’s that the league is in good hands when LeBron and co. inevitably do retire, however many years in that future that turns out to be.
Fuck it, this season was weird as hell. Covid-19 sucked, the season started in December, there were only 72 games, and a doughy Serbian guy is the best basketball player on the planet. But we made it through the regular season with minimal casualties for the playoffs (RIP Jaylen Brown and Jamal Murray) and about eight different teams that seem to have a shot at the championship. A lot of dudes missed a lot of time during the regular season, but most are back for the playoffs. We have a play-in tournament this year which is fun unless your name is LeBron. And the Timberwolves sucked and are about to get screwed in the draft lottery. (Maybe it wasn’t such a weird season after all.) So here are my totally official (and not just some guy with an internet connection) awards picks that will be etched in stone for the rest of time, which after the pandemic is probably about 5-8 years give or take.
Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets
No matter what casuals like Nick “Wrong” think about Jokic and the legacy of the MVP award and those who win it, Nikola Jokic is the clear cut MVP this season. The Serbian center is unstoppable averaging 26.4 points per game, 10.8 rebounds, and 8.5 assists with a ridiculously efficient 64.7 true shooting percentage. To say he’d be the worst MVP since Dave Cowens is like saying LeBron is only the best GOAT since Jordan. It makes no damn sense, and it doesn’t even compel me. Out of every MVP season in NBA history Jokic would rank second in true shooting, 7th in BPM, 8th in PER, 11th in assists, three-point shooting, and win shares per 48 minutes, 21st in VORP, 33rd in scoring, and 35th in rebounding. I know those statistics are hard for small brains like Nick to wrap his head around, but Jokic is having a middle to top tier MVP season. By the way he’s doing it without his second best player. Jokic and the Nuggets are 13-6 since Jamal Murray tore his ACL and entrenched themselves as the four-seed in a loaded Western Conference. You can make the case for Embiid, who is having a Shaq-esque season, but missing 19 games puts his a step behind the Joker. Jokic is the best passing big man of all-time and probably the best passer in the NBA today period. It’s time to stop worrying about the legacy of a piece of metal, and the endless “what about this guy” that we play at the end of the season and appreciate Jokic for what he is, the most valuable player in the NBA.
Defensive Player of the Year
Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz
Jumbo sized Rudy is the best post defender in the NBA since Dikembe Mutombo, and is closing in on his third DPOY award. Gobert leads the league with a career high 2.8 blocks per game and is the anchor of the league’s third-best defense. The Jazz are 16.5 points per possession better when Gobert is on the court vs. off the court. The case could be made for Ben Simmons, probably the premiere wing defender in the league, but the award more often than not goes to a big-man for protecting the rim, which is Gobert’s best trait, so we won’t rock the boat too much this season. John Hollinger believes Gobert should get serious play in the MVP discussion, so that accounts for something right?
Rookie of the Year
LaMelo Ball, Charlotte Hornets
I’m going to catch a lot of flack from my beloved members of Timberwolves Twitter for this pick, but LaMelo Ball is the Rookie of the Year. I know, I know, Ball missed 21 games with a fractured wrist, and in that time Anthony Edwards went next level averaging 21.6 points per game, five rebounds, and three assists. But Ball has been the better player this year. The only other rookies in history to average at least 16.2 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 6.2 assists per game are Oscar Robertson, Magic Johnson, and the legend himself Michael Carter-Williams. That’s some rarified are Ball is playing in, and the same just can’t be said for Edwards. Ball has the upstart Hornets in the play-in tournament, while Edwards’ contributions to winning are more one dimensional at this point in his career. Ball earned the award before the injury, and now that he’s back and fighting for a playoff spot, it seems like the right thing to do to remember his awesome season.
Most Improved Player
Julius Randle, New York Knicks
Julius Randle’s breakout season is one of the best stories in all of sports. He went from highly touted recruit at Kentucky’s basketball factory, to breaking his leg mere minutes into is rookies season with the Lakers. He then spent the next several years as a high usage, stat packing role player before finally signing with the Knicks in an underwhelming move last year. Randle has blossomed this year as an all-around net positive for a franchise that hasn’t cheered for anyone this hard since Linsanity. He’s averaging career highs in scoring (23.9 ppg), rebounding (10.3 rpg), assists (5.9 apg), three-point shooting (41.3%), and he’s leading the league in minutes played (37.2 per game). ESPN’s Zach Lowe called Randle the Keystone for the Knicks this season, and he’ll likely make an All-NBA team (more on that later). The hardest thing in the NBA is to go from pretty good player to legitimately great player, and Randle has done that and more this season. Dude’s also about to get paid in 2022, which is pretty damn cool.
Coach of the Year
Tom Thibodeau, New York Knicks
Again, probably not going to make be too popular with Wolves Twitter, but who has done more with less this season than Thibs? On paper the Knicks were supposed to be a train wreck this season. Julius Randle was just another meh free-agent signing a few years ago. RJ Barrett was coming off of a roller coaster rookie season that had more dips than heights. And they still had guys like Reggie Bullock and Nerlens Noel ready to play heavy minutes in a talent poor rotation. But, uh, the Knicks found a way. Thibs has them playing the best defense in New York since Charles Oakley and Anthony Mason were allowed to punch dudes, and Randle has blossomed into an All-NBA playmaker and shot creator. The Knicks have the fourth best defense in the league, and have home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. ESPN had the Knicks 29th in its preseason power rankings, The Athletic’s Zach Harper had them 27th, and I (and Kurt Russell) had them 28th. What the fuck do we know anyway. Thibs is still screaming away and overplaying his starters, but it goes to show when the team actually buys in that shit works.
Sixth Man of the Year:
Joe Ingles, Utah Jazz
Joe Ingles is one of the most fascinating players in the NBA. He made his NBA debut at 27 from Australia. He’s 6-8 and has dunked just one time this season and only 23 times in his career. He’s sneakily one of the best three-point shooters ever, and he might not even be the best player off the bench on his own team. The Sixth Man of the Year award has been Jordan Clarkson’s to lose since for most of the season, but he might just get beaten out by his own teammate. Clarkson is built in the Lou Williams/Jamal Crawford mold, a microwave scorer who can keep the team afloat when they give their best players a break. He’s averaging 17.7 points off the bench with a true shooting percentage of 54.1. Ingles on the other hand is only averaging 12.3 points per game, but he’s the far more efficient player. Ingles is second in the league in true shooting (68.7%), fifth in three-point percentage (46.3), and the Jazz are 4.6 points per 100 possessions better with Ingles on the court vs off. The Jazz are actually 2.1 points per 100 worse with Clarkson on vs off. Ingles is the ultimate complimentary player, an older/less artistic Manu Ginobili, and should win over his flashier teammate.
All-NBA First Team:
G: Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks
G: Steph Curry, Golden State Warriors
F: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks
F: Jimmy Butler, Miami Heat
C: Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets
Four of the five spots on the first team are mortal locks. Jokic, Steph, Luka, and Giannis are all having MVP-Caliber seasons and will be on the first team when all is said and done. That leaves one forward spot that is wildly up for grabs. It’s possible due to the new rules about positional eligibility that voters will slot one of Jokic or Embiid at a forward spot, which seems fair since Embiid is the runner-up MVP he does deserve first team honors. If you do that, I won’t judge you, it’s within the rules. But I do think it is unfair to the legacies of centers throughout history. In the 60’s when there were only two teams instead of three, any center not named Wilt Chamberlain or Bill Russell had no chance of getting All-NBA honors. Similarly in the ’90s when the league had Shaq, Hakeem, David Robinson, Patrick Ewing, Alonzo Mourning, and other all time greats to battle it out for three spots. How many first team nods would Hakeem if he could have just been a forward? I understand that the league is shifting into a positionless landscape, but it seems a bit unfair to reward this generation when seemingly taking away some accomplishment of past greats. Embiid will have one of the biggest gripes in not making first team in recent memory, but it only seems fair to compare him against the Moses Malones of the world and not the Larry Birds or Charles Barkleys. So with that I chose Jimmy Butler at the second forward spot over LeBron, Kawhi, and Julius Randle. He’s quietly having the best season of his career, and the Heat are straight garbage (6-12) when he sits and would have home court advantage had he played the whole season. Also I know a lot of people are putting Luka at forward and slotting Lillard on the first team as the second guard. I don’t care what you have to tell yourself, Luka isn’t a forward.
All-NBA Second Team:
G: Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers
G: Chris Paul, Phoenix Suns
F: Julius Randle, New York Knicks
F: Kawhi Leonard, Los Angeles Clippers
C: Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers
Again, the second team has three locks this time: Damian Lillard, Chris Paul, and Embiid. That leaves both forward spots up for grabs. The contenders include: LeBron, Zion, Kawhi, Julius Randle, Paul George, and Jayson Tatum. I went with Randle for what he means to to upstart Knicks, and Kawhi because he’s all-around a top five or six player in the league having a great season.
All-NBA Third Team:
G: Kyrie Irving, Brooklyn Nets
G: Devin Booker, Phoenix Suns
F: Zion Williamson, New Orleans Pelicans
F: LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers
C: Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz
Unless a lot of people view Embiid or Jokic as a forward and throw a wrench in the whole system, Rudy Gobert will be your third team center. After that though things get murky. For guards do you pick Bradley Beal, the league’s second leading scorer who has had a much maligned season until the Wizards resurgence since the All-Star Break? Or do you go with Devin Booker or Donovan Mitchell, two explosive scorers on two of the best teams in the league? Or Kyrie Irving, a guy who left his team during the season twice for not the best reasons in the world, but has been worthy of the honor when he does decide to lace ’em up? Not to even mention the heater Russell Westbrook has been on the last two months or Trae Young’s blossoming leadership in Atlanta. I originally had Mitchell and Bookers pretty easily making the cut but now it’s much harder to leave off Beal and Kyrie. Trae Young doesn’t move the needle for me. Mitchell is an interesting case as the Jazz are actually better when he sits. Beal’s best games seem to come in Washington losses. I’ll go will Irving and Booker, rewarding both for having great individual seasons on great teams. LeBron bumps down to the third team simply because he’s missed almost 30 games, and Zion makes it ahead of Tatum because he is inevitable.
Biggest snubs: Jayson Tatum, Bradley Beal, Donovan Mitchell, James Harden, Kevin Durant, Bam Adebayo, Trae Young, Paul George, Russell Westbrook, Clint Capela.
All-Defensive First Team
G: Ben Simmons, Philadelphia 76ers
G: Jrue Holliday, Milwaukee Bucks
F: Jimmy Butler, Miami Heat
F: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks
C: Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz
Simmons and Gobert are locks. Jrue Holliday is reminding everyone that he’s a top-25 guy in the league, and Jimmy Butler is working hard and being the man. Giannis is Giannis so there’s not a lot of holes to poke in this first team.
All-Defensive Second Team
G: Matisse Thybulle, Philadelphia 76ers
G: Lu Dort, Oklahoma City Thunder
F: Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors
F: Bam Adebayo, Miami Heat
C: Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers
Got a little funkier on the second team with the most fun defender in Dort, the self appointed GOAT defender in Draymond, and putting Bam at a forward, but these guys are all great so shut the hell up.
All-Rookie First Team
LaMelo Ball, Charlotte Hornets
Anthony Edwards, Minnesota Timberwolves
Tyrese Haliburton, Sacramento Kings
Jae’Sean Tate, Houston Rockets
Immanuel Quickley, New York Knicks
Ball, Edwards, and Haliburton should all be unanimous and have had stellar seasons in different ways. Edwards is a bulldozer getting to the rim had and will be a super scorer in the league. Ball is a playmaking magician and can follow in the footsteps of other tall point guards like Magic and Penny. And Haliburton is a do-everything facilitator who can shoot threes and defend. I rounded out the first team with Tate and Quickly. Tate is an all-around stud who, even though he’s a 25-year-old rookie, still has a super bright future. Quickley has been a bright spot for the Knicks who thought Obi Toppin would contribute right away. Instead it’s Quickley who already has one of the deadliest floaters in the game.
All-Rookie Second Team
Saddiq Bey, Detroit Pistons
Patrick Williams, Chicago Bulls
Isaiah Stewart, Detroit Pistons
James Wiseman, Golden State Warriors
Cole Anthony, Orlando Magic
Wiseman was a bit of a disappointment in his rookie campaign, but was put in an impossible situation trying to compete right away with Hall of Famers like Steph and Draymond. He should be eased back into the rotation next year and given time to figure things out with the second unit. The Pistons have a surprisingly bright future thanks to their 2020 rookie crop of Bey, Beef Stew, and Killian Hayes. Hayes missed too much time to be considered but Bey can get his shot and beef stew is one of the chunkiest guys in the league, in a good way. Patrick Williams has shown that he can be a high level defender for years to come, and Cole Anthony has stepped up on the depleted Magic and shown that they have some future pieces to work with.
As the NBA season winds down, some players are finally realizing that not being the best super team in the league kinda sucks. LeBron James and Luka Doncic are two of the biggest NBA superstars, and also two of the play-in tournament’s biggest enemies. The Play-in tournament is new this season to help ease the effects of COVID-19. The basic premise is that the top six teams in each conference make the playoffs like normal, but the seventh through tenth seeds in each conference will have to compete in a short play-in to secure the seventh and eighth seeds. Seven plays eight and nine plays ten. The Winner of the first game is the seventh seed. The loser of that game then plays the winners of the nine ten game for the eighth seed. Simple right? Apparently it’s too tough for the most highly tuned athletes in the world to play one or two extra games in a season that has already axed ten games from its schedule. So to appease LeBron, let us look at some alternatives to the play-in tournament.
Imagine Russell Westbrook standing on a stage with the playoffs on the line and he has to spell Antetokounmpo? He’d fucking nail it wouldn’t he?
Who is the strongest player in the NBA? LeBron? Dwight Howard? Zion? Steven Adams? Yeah, it’s probably Steven Adams.
LeBron and the Lakers are obviously the Globogym Purple Cobras, but who is Average Joes? The Spurs? Does that make Pop Patches O’Houlihan? If so, avoid strolling through the casino floor there Gregg.
We could get Aaron Rodgers to host.
Sharks and Minnows
You remember the game we played as kids. Everyone stands on one side of a field with one kid in the middle. All the kids take off running and if you get tagged before you get to the other side you go from being a minnow to a shark. Yeah, that game. Well wouldn’t it be fun watching a bunch of seven-footers running around like chickens with their heads cut off. Who is the fastest? Westbrook? Would Kawhi be the terminator of sharks and minnows? Probably. What a time to be alive.
Call of Duty
It seems like everyone in the league plays Call of Duty, so what better way to decide the playoffs than to have a Call of Duty battle royale? If this happens Andrew Wiggins might actually affect the game.
Better hope Miami isn’t in the play-in because Jimmy Butler doesn’t fuck around when it comes to dominoes.
This would be perfect since LeBron never entered a dunk contest in his career. What better way to make it up to the fans while also allowing LeBron to do one of the things he does best.
Imagine Draymond Green running as fast as he can at you with the sole intent to break your arm into a million pieces. Oh wait, that’s just him playing basketball.
You know that game. You and a friend (or enemy) lock hands and try to twist the others’ wrists until they yell mercy. LaMelo is out after breaking his wrist, but Miles Bridges steps up and breaks the shit out of Time Lord’s wrists while Hornets play-by-play guy Eric Collins loses his mind in the background.
The Celtics will lose (or win depending on how old you are) because they’re obligated to sing Sweet Caroline. Tyler Herro is a rap song but I doubt that means he can sing. My money is on Luka pulling of a perfect rendition of Cry Me a River to propel the Mavericks into the playoffs.
Obviously Steph is going to win this one so there’s no way LeBron would approve it.
Getting British with it with the only good thing to come out of Great Britain since Princess Diana. I bet Lillard would get the first Paul Hollywood handshake for his giant cake replica of his character from Space Jam 2.
The Lakers need to bring back their ringer Mark Madsen.
Hmmmm, I wonder who that could be.
LeBron just says the Lakers are in
Seems like the most fair option.
Two players from each team go back to the Disney World bubble, and the last one to leave wins. Whatever you do Hawks, don’t send Lou Williams, just send him there with all the Magic City wings he can carry.
That thing where people put their hands on a car
It all comes down to who has the most patience, or who has the most annoying teammate.
My prediction is this would come down to Draymond vs. Westbrook, and they’re both so stubborn it would never end.
Minnesota is known as the State of Hockey. Well, not anymore, it’s the state of basketball. Since the Men’s and Women’s NCAA Basketball Tournaments this season featured two huge stars from the Land of 10,000 Lakes, Jalen Suggs and Paige Bueckers, Minnesota has been at the forefront of the basketball conversation. So, with the Eye of Sauron fixed on Minnesota for the time being, I thought it would be a great chance to remember the greatest players in Minnesota history. A few quick stipulations. First, they either have to have been born in Minnesota, or spent a majority of their childhood in Minnesota. No Gophers, Timberwolves, Lakers, or Lynx stars who don’t actually hail from the state were consider as much as I wanted to slip Mychal Thompson and Seimone Augustus in here. Secondly, we’re going both men’s and women’s players, but just a heads up it’s not going to be even as there are far more men from Minnesota to go on to the pros. That being said we’re taking into account everything from high school, college, and NBA/WNBA careers and will be weighted in the reverse order that I just listed them (I don’t care/wasn’t going to look up what you did in Europe so don’t cry when Ben Woodside doesn’t make the list).
A few honorable mentions before we crack on with the top 20. Sam Jacobson was Minnesota’s Mr. Basketball in 1994, was a huge part of the Gopher’s 1997 Final Four team that must not be named, and was drafted in the first round of the 1998 NBA Draft. If I had counted coaches instead of players I would have added Dave Joerger from Staples who played at MSU Moorhead and was the head coach for the Grizzlies and Kings. The better Minnesotan coach though is John Kundla who coached the Lakers to their first five championships in Minneapolis. But alas this is the best players in Minnesota history, not best people who are involved with basketball in some way. So without further ado, here are the top 20 basketball players from Minnesota.
20.) Chet Holmgren
High School: Minnehaha Academy, 2021 Mr. Basketball
For the last spot on the list I look to the future with a bet that Chet Holmgren is going to be at least a serviceable NBA player going forward. He just won Mr. Basketball, his fourth state title, and is the number one prospect in the 2021 recruiting class according to ESPN and Rivals. Holmgren is said to be following in his former teammate Jalen Suggs’ footsteps and likely to declare his intent on playing for Gonzaga next season. Some think he could potentially be the first pick in the 2022 NBA draft, and if that all happens he will shoot up this list. For now we’ll save the last spot for the unknown potential of a budding superstar named Chet.
19.) Jim Petersen
High School: St. Louis Park High School, 1980 Mr. Basketball
College: University of Minnesota, 96 games, 5.6 ppg, 4 rpg, 1 apg
NBA: Three teams from 1984-92, 51st overall pick in the 1984 NBA Draft, 491 games, 6.9 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 1 apg
Most people my age know Jim Petersen as the longtime Timberwolves color commentator. Most forget that the 6’10” St. Louis Park native averaged 5.2 points and 7.2 rebounds in the 1986 NBA Finals for the Houston Rockets alongside Hakeem Olajuwon, losing in six games to the Boston Celtics. Or that he was the fourth member of Run TMC with Golden State. Like most players on this list, Petersen wasn’t the sexiest or flashiest, but he got the job done and was trusted to hold down the fort during some of the biggest games of his career.
18.) Joel Przybilla
High School: Monticello High School, 1998 Co-Mr. Basketball
College: University of Minnesota, 49 games, 9.9 ppg, 6.9 rpg, 3.4 bpg
NBA: Four teams from 2000-13, ninth overall pick in the 2000 NBA Draft, 592 games, 3.9 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 1.4 bpg
Przybilla is the poster boy for what people think Minnesota basketball is. A bunch of seven-foot farm boys who just stand around and block the shit out of any shots around the rim. It’s a miracle he stuck around in the NBA for 13 seasons, but he did mostly play for some pretty bad Bucks and pre-Lillard Trail Blazers teams.
17.) Randy Breuer
High School: Lake City High School, 1979 Mr. Basketball
College: University of Minnesota, 2x First Team All-Big Ten, 119 games, 14.9 games, 6.1 rebounds, 1.5 apg
NBA: Four teams from 1983-94, 18th overall pick in the 1983 NBA Draft, 681 games, 6.8 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 1.1 bpg
Another seven-footer from a small town in Minnesota, Breuer was a force for the Gophers nabbing two First Team All-Big Ten honors before becoming a first round pick. In the NBA he was a key component of the ’80s Bucks teams led by Sidney Moncrief that made the Eastern Conference Finals in 1986.
16.) Kris Humphries
High School: Hopkins High School, 2003 Mr. Basketball
College: University of Minnesota, First Team All-Big Ten, 29 games, 21.7 ppg, 10.1 rpg, 0.7 apg
NBA: Nine teams from 2004-17, 14th overall pick in 2004 NBA Draft, 800 games, 6.7 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 0.7 apg
More famous for his 72 day marriage to Kim Kardashian than his actual basketball career, Humphries was actually kind of good. It seems like he’s been out of the league forever, but he last played for Atlanta during the 2016-17 season, retiring just under four years ago. Anyways, his place in history will always be as the jackass that didn’t get along with Khloe and made yee-haw Minnesota (AKA Lake Minnetonka, the nicest part of the state) a thing people say.
15.) Devean George
High School: Benilde St.-Margaret’s
College: Augsburg University, 2x DIII National Champion, 2x MIAC MVP, 2x DIII All American, 96 games, 25.5 ppg, 9 rpg, 1.6 apg
NBA: Three teams from 1999-2010, 23rd overall pick in the 1999 NBA Draft, 3x NBA Champion, 630 games, 5.6 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 0.9 apg
Deavean George is one of the only DIII players to ever make it in the NBA. He was a beast at Augsburg and a key member of the Shaq/Kobe Lakers dynasty of the early 2000’s.
14.) Troy Bell
High School: Academy of Holy Angels
College: Boston College, 2x Second Team All-American, 3x First Team All-Big East, 2x Big East Player of the Year, 122 games, 21.6 ppg, 4 rpg, 3.5 apg
NBA: Memphis Grizzlies 2003-04, 16th overall pick in 2003 NBA Draft, six games, 1.8 ppg, 0.7 rpg, 0.7 apg
I’m going to be honest, when I set out to do this I had no idea that Troy Bell was from Minnesota. There are Minnesotan’s who didn’t make the list who had way better NBA careers than Bell, but the reason he’s here is because he balled out in college. At Boston College he was a two-time All American, and twice took home the Big East Player of the Year award. You could make the argument that Bell had the best college basketball career of any Minnesotan in history.
13.) Tayler Hill
High School: South High School, 2009 Miss Basketball
College: Ohio State University, 2x First Team All-Big Ten, 3 Big Ten All-Defensive Team, 132 games, 15.2 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 2.6 apg
WNBA: Washington Mystics 2013-18, Dallas Wings 2018-19, 4th overall pick in 2013 WNBA Draft, 145 games, 8.9 ppg, 1.7 rpg, 1.7 apg
His was. two-way force at Ohio State and worked her way into becoming the fourth overall pick. She had a breakout season in 2016 averaging 15.4 points for the Mystics. The one knock is that she’s in a relationship with David Lighty which is unforgivable.
12.) Mark Olberding
High School: Melrose High School
College: University of Minnesota, 26 games, 16 ppg, 8.2 rpg
ABA/NBA: Four teams from 1975-87, 1976 ABA First Team All-Rookie, 946 games, 9.5 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 2.5 apg
Olberding was a solid contributor to the late-’70s/early-’80s Spurs teams and got to play alongside George Gervin, which is pretty cool. In 1979 the Spurs lost game seven to the Washington Bullets in the Eastern Conference Finals, marking the closes he ever got to playing for an NBA Championship.
11.) Whitey Skoog
High School: Brainerd High School
College: University of Minnesota, 2x All-Big Ten, 65 games, 15.2 points
NBA: Minneapolis Lakers 1951-57, 3x NBA Champion, territorial selection in 1951 NBA Draft, 341 games, 8.2 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 2.6 apg
Whitey Skoog is the most ’50s white guy Minnesota basketball name anyone could ever come up with. He won three championships with the Lakers and gets pushed out of the top ten because he rode George Mikan’s coat tails to glory.
10.) Rachel Banham
High School: Lakeville North High School, 2011 Miss Basketball
College: University of Minnesota, 4x All-Big Ten, 2016 Big Ten Player of the Year and First Team All-American, 8th leading scorer in NCAA Division I women’s history, 144 games, 21.5 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 3.6 apg
WNBA: Connecticut Sun 2016-19, Minnesota Lynx 2020, fourth overall pick in 2016 WNBA Draft, 127 games, 4.5 ppg, 1 rpg, 1.2 apg
The Maroon Mamba caught Kobe’s attention after dropping 60 points in a game. The two cultivated a relationship for years to come after words and Banham ended her college career as the second best Gopher Women’s basketball player in history. She’s the 8th leading scorer in NCAAW history and has since had a solid WNBA career.
9.) Khalid El-Amin
High School: Minneapolis North High School, 1997 Mr. Basketball
College: University of Connecticut, 1999 National Champion, 3x All-Big East, 106 games, 15.3 ppg, 3 rpg, 4.4 apg
NBA: Chicago Bulls 2000-01, 50 games, 6.3 ppg, 1.6 rpg, 2.9 apg
Khalid El-Amin is a legend for Minnesota basketball fans growing up in the ’90s. He led Minneapolis North to three straight state titles in 1995, ’96, and ’97. In College Khalid El-Amin led UConn to a National Championship in 1999 as a sophomore. He made wearing super baggy shirts under a basketball jersey cool and along with KG, and the shamed Gopher Final four team that must not be named, were part of a basketball revolution in Minnesota, and made kids like me want to play basketball.
8.) Jalen Suggs
High School: Minnehaha Academy, 2020 Mr. Basketball
College: Gonzaga University, Second Team All-American, First Team All-WCC, 2021 Final Four, 30 games, 14.4 ppg, 5.3rpg, 4.5 apg
Some might say that this is too high for a 19-year-old kid who has one year of college basketball under his belt. To that I say it was a pretty damn good year of college basketball. Suggs is perhaps the Khalid El-Amin for this generation. He led Minnehaha Academy to three straight state titles and was a consensus top-15 recruit who ended up at Gonzaga. Suggs became a household name when he banked in the game winning three against UCLA to send the Zags to the National Championship. Unlike El-Amin, Suggs lost in the title game but does have a brighter NBA outlook. He’s likely to go somewhere between 2-5 in the upcoming NBA draft and is pegged as a budding star for the next decade and a half. If I redo this list in 2035 there’s a good chance Suggs breaks into the top four.
7.) Tyus Jones
High School: Apple Valley High School, 2014 Mr. Basketball
College: Duke University, 2015 National Champion, NCAA Tournament MOP, Third Team All-ACC, 39 games, 11.8 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 5.6 apg
NBA: Minnesota Timberwolves 2015-19, Memphis Grizzlies 2019-21, 24th overall pick in 2015 NBA Draft, 364 games, 5.8 ppg, 1.7 rpg, 3.6 apg
Tyus Stones rises above the likes of Khalid El-Amin and Jalen Suggs because he won the 2015 National Championship with Duke, but mostly because he was named the Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player. Jones turned his one-and-done season into a serviceable NBA career so far as the perfect back-up point guard. He’s still the gold standard for Minnesota men’s point guards until Suggs proves he’s better in the pros.
6.) Coco Miller
High School: Rochester Mayo, 1997 Co-Miss Basketball
College: University of Georgia, 4x All-SEC, 1999 Final Four, 130 games, 16.4 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 3 apg
WNBA: Three teams from 2001-2012, Ninth overall pick in 2001 WNBA Draft, 2002 Most Improved Player, 352 games, 5.8 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 1.4 apg
A dominant player at Georgia and a solid contributor in the WNBA, Coco was just 2% worse than her twin sister.
5.) Kelly Miller
High School: Rochester Mayo, 1997 Co-Miss Basketball
College: University of Georgia, 2x SEC Player of the Year, 4x All-SEC, 1999 Final Four, 131 games, 16.6 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 4.9 apg
WNBA: 7 teams from 2001-2012, Second overall pick in 2001 WNBA Draft, 2007 WNBA Champion, 2004 Most Improved Player, 364 games, 7.1 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 2.6 apg
Gets the nod over Coco because Kelly was the one who was a two-time SEC Player of the Year and the second pick in the draft. She won a championship and had a slightly better overall career than her sister, but this is about as close as it gets for twins in professional sports.
4.) Dick Garmaker
High School: Hibbing High School
College: Hibbing Community College, University of Minnesota, 2 First Team All-Big Ten, 1955 First Team All-American, 44 games, 22.9 ppg, 7.7rpg
NBA: 4x All-Star, 1956-57 Second Team All-NBA, 13.3 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 2.6 apg
If you split everyone on this list into two teams and had those teams play each other, all in their primes, Dick Garmaker would likely get destroyed by some of the players behind him in the rankings. He’s likely not the fourth best actual basketball player, so why is he here. Garmaker is all the way at number four because of what he did in the early days of the NBA. He was a four-time All-Star a made an All-NBA second team in 1957. Garmaker came into the league just after the Minneapolis Lakers won five championships, but he cemented himself as an early great with his all-around game. Garmaker is unbelievably fourth on the list, but (spoilers) only the second best player from Hibbing, Minnesota. Hibbing is pound-for-pound the greatest talent producing city in the world.
3.) Paige Bueckers
High School: Hopkins High School, 2020 Miss Basketball
College: University of Connecticut, 2021 First Team All-American, AP Player of the Year, 2021 Final Four, 29 games, 20 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 5.8 apg
I get it. She just finished her freshman year of college. No championship, no WNBA accolades, just one year making the Final Four. If her career ended today (knock on wood that it doesn’t) Paige Bueckers probably wouldn’t be the third best player ever from Minnesota. But she’s definitely going to end her career at the top of this list. Bet on it. She was the consensus number one recruit in the 2020 class. Bueckers became the first ever freshman to take home the player of the year honors. And if it wasn’t for a stupid rule, she would have been the number one pick in the WNBA draft, and is almost guaranteed that spot when she’s eligible in 2023. When her career comes to an end sometime in the 2030’s she has a chance to be one of the greatest basketball players of all time, male or female.
2.) Kevin McHale
High School: Hibbing High School, 1976 Mr. Basketball
College: University of Minnesota, 1979-80 First-Team All-Big Ten, 112 Games, 15.2 ppg, 8.5 rpg
NBA: Boston Celtics 1980-93, 3rd overall pick in 1980 NBA Draft, Hall of Fame, 3x NBA Champion, 7x All-Star, 6x All-Defensive, 1986-87 All-NBA First Team, 2x Sixth Man of the Year, 971 games, 17.9 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 1.7 bpg
Most people might be surprised to see Kevin McHale at number two on the list and not at the top. He’s a Hall of Famer, three time NBA Champion, and one of the 50 greatest players in NBA history. A menace on offense and defense, McHale had one of the most diverse assortments of post moves ever seen on the court. He was Larry Bird’s right hand man when battling the Lakers in the ’80s and will always get points for beating the shit out of Kurt Rambis.
All-in-all Mchale had one heck of n NBA career. We went on to both save and then destroy the Timberwolves as a member of the front office. While that doesn’t factor into his demotion to second place, it’s important to note in the history books of Minnesota basketball. McHale has been the gold standard for Minnesota basketball for the last 35 years, but there is one player who finally eclipsed what he accomplished on the court.
1.) Lindsay Whalen
High School: Hutchinson High School
College: University of Minnesota, 3x All-American, 3x All-Big Ten, 2002 Big Ten Player of the Year, 2004 Final Four, 113 games, 20.2 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 5.1 apg
WNBA: Connecticut Sun 2004-09, Minnesota Lynx 2010-18, 4x WNBA Champion, 5x All-Star, 3x All-WNBA First Team, 2x All-WNBA Second Team
Team USA: 2x Gold Medalist (2012, 2016)
Lindsay Whalen is the best basketball player ever from the great state of Minnesota. She’s the greatest Gopher of all time, probably the second greatest player in Lynx history, and anywhere from 10-20 on the list of greatest WNBA players ever. Whalen made women’s basketball appointment viewing in Minnesota in 2004 when she and Janel McCarville led the Gophers to a surprising Final Four berth. She Ranks third all-time in the WNBA in career assists, fifth in games played, 17th in scoring, and seventh in win shares while steering the hometown Lynx to four WNBA Championships. After her playing days were done, Whalen became the head coach at her alma mater, guiding the Gophers to 21 wins in her first season (and only eight in her second, but we don’t talk about that). Whalen has been the face of Minnesota basketball for the better part of the last two decades. Only time will tell if Suggs, Holmgren, or most likely Paige Bueckers will ever get the chance to knock her off the number one spot, but for now let’s marvel at the small town baller turned larger than life figure across these here 10,000 lakes.