If you could select any player from any era to construct a starting five for each NBA franchise, which team would win it all?
Would a Lakers team with Magic, Kareem AND Kobe be too strong? How about pairing Bird, Russell and The Truth in Celtic green? Imagine MJ, Pippen and Rodman with an 11-time All Star manning the middle!
Downtown’s Tommy Greer, Liam Santamaria and Roy Ward snake-drafted 16 NBA franchises, divided them into two brackets (East and West) and randomly assigned their Conference seedings. Five starters were chosen along with one extra (either a Coach or a 6th Man).
Throughout August, as the basketball world waits patiently for the FIBA World Cup to begin, we are debating which franchise can construct the greatest starting five (plus one) of all time.
You, the readers, will determine the winning franchise from each match-up by casting your vote in the comment section at the bottom of the page, on Twitter (@Downtownball) or on Facebook and the victors shall progress to the next round.
Last week we kicked things off with Boston defeating Milwaukee and Detroit defeating New Jersey/Brooklyn in the opening Eastern Conference first round match-ups.
Today we complete the other half of the Eastern Conference first round, with Knicks vs 76ers and Heat vs Bulls.
New York Knicks (Ward)
PG – Walt Frazier (1969/70) and SG – Earl Monroe (1972/73)
Walt Frazier and Earl Monroe were stars with both style and talent, I’d love to see them playing in the modern NBA, I think they would still be major stars.
SF – Bernard King (1984/85)
King could score like few other players of his era and one wonders how much greater he could have been with better teams. He will give this group a special scorer in the low post and will open things up for others players on the floor. PF – Willis Reed (1969/70) and C – Patrick Ewing (1989/90)
Reed was fearless and relentless at both ends of the court while Ewing’s talent and his contribution to the rebuilding of the Knicks should be recognized.
6th Man – Carmelo Anthony (2012/13)
While we don’t know where Carmelo Anthony will rank among the Knicks’ best players, his talent and his accomplishments to date are undeniable. Melo will fit brilliantly between guards like Frazier and Monroe and bigs like Willis Reed and Patrick Ewing.
Vs Philadelphia: This game will be won in the low post, King, Ewing and Reed will have to face off with the likes of Barkley, Moses and Wilt. I have to admit, I think the Knicks might just fall short here, although I would hope that the super-styled combination of Clyde, The Pearl, King and Melo will at least make losing look amazing!
Philadelphia 76ers (Santamaria)
PG – Allen Iverson (2000-01)
In 2001 The Answer was NBA MVP, All Star Game MVP, First-Team All NBA, led the league in scoring and steals and led the undermanned 76ers to the Finals. Iverson was far from perfect but at age 25 he was damn near unstoppable.
SG – Julius Erving (1980-81)
The Doctor usually played SF but he was one of the most versatile players the game has ever seen and did play plenty of tick at SG. Erving won his title in ’83 but he was league MVP in ’81 when he averaged 25 & 8 at over 50%. Simply put, Dr J was one of the most talented players of all time.
SF – Charles Barkley (1987-88)
One of the greatest rebounders of all time. In 1983 Moses averaged 25 & 15 (at over 50%) with a steal and a couple of blocks, was 1st Team All NBA, 1st Team All Defense, Rebounding Champion, MVP, Finals MVP and led the Sixers to the promise land. Now THAT is dominant.
C – Wilt Chamberlain (1966-67)
The Big Dipper was a 13-time All Star, a 4-time MVP, a 7-time scoring champion and an 11-time rebounding champion. The numbers are ridiculous. He led the 76ers to the title in ’67.
6th Man – Dolph Schayes (1954-55)
There was a seriously strong pool to pick from here. 10-time All Star Hal Greer and the Kangaroo-Kid Billy Cunningham were both very stiff to miss out. Schayes, however, was a 12-time All Star and was named 1st Team All NBA a dozen times as well. He was the best player on the 1955 Championship team and is arguably one of the 50 greatest players of all time.
Vs New York: The A.I. vs Frazier matchup is exciting and could potentially be a wash, but let’s face it, Dr J is gonna have his way with Earl the Pearl Monroe. Monroe only made one All-NBA team and 4 All Star teams for his career which just looks silly compared to The Doctor’s resume of 12 All NBA/ABA teams and 16 All Star appearances. The 76ers frontcourt of Barkley/Malone/Wilt will absolutely dominate King, Ewing and Reed, none of whom would even make this Sixers roster. Mark down an easy first round victory for Philadelphia.
Miami Heat (Greer)
PG – Tim Hardaway (1996/97)
Hardaway is matched up against the 2011 MVP Derrick Rose here. Now, Timmy never won himself a League MVP, that’s true. However this is not the whitewash you would originally think it was. Rose has only played one season at the level that earned the league’s Most Valuable Player award and two others where he was good but not among the league’s very top tear. Tim Hardaway is a 5-time NBA All Star, 1-time NBA First Team selection and 3-time Second Team selection. Derrick Rose will go on to greatness but surely it needs to be earned. One great season gives him the edge in this discussion but if that’s all he ever does then Timmy will be the more memorable player, and more importantly holds his own in this matchup.
SG – Dwyane Wade (2005/06)
Take a second to forget the D. Wade we watched limping around in the most recent NBA Finals. It’s not an easy thing to do I understand, but do me a solid and remember back to when Wade seemed to be everyone’s favorite player; Heat #3 jerseys were at every festival. He was a megastar and for good reason.
The reckless abandon in which Dwyane Wade streamed to the cup during his breakout season and championship run of 2006 is not going to be soon forgotten. Flash is the clear starting two for this Heat team with no challenger getting within a football field of him. He is a three-time NBA Champion, two-time NBA First Teamer, and one-time Finals MVP and NBA Scoring Champion, just to name a few of the ornaments hanging on his mantel.
D. Wade is going to be a tough cover for MJ as keeping him out of the lane may just be impossible. Even if the Bulls do manage to limit his on-court production, Wade’s fashion game at the postgame presser will definitely get the Heat the postgame W.
SF – LeBron James (2011/12)
There is no one, no one in the history of basketball that can be posted in the three spot that would deny LeBron ‘King’ James taking a victory here. Stronger, Faster more agile and skilled than anyone of his size ever before him. LeBron is the complete package. Not often we see a player that has it all, the determination to be the best….ever! MJ had it. Kobe has it, had it? And LeBron has it. Just having LeBron on this list brings the Heat into the discussion of progressing to the next round, because no one can stop him. That’s right, not even MJ! On the flip side if there was ever a player created in order to stop Michael Jordan, Lebron is it. His size, length and skill set is almost like it has been formulated in a lab in order to shut MJ down.
Compared to Magic Johnson in-terms of his passing ability for his size, he can take over a game both as a distributor and finisher. He makes his teammates better by bringing them into the game and by drawing doubles. He does not accept failure and certainly wont here.
PF – Alonzo Mourning (1998/99)
This Heat team is TOUGH. Capital T.U.F.F. Mentally and physically. If Chicago thought that the Bad Boys and Riley’s Knicks beat them up they have another thing coming. Zo had such determination and intensity in his game. He was a defensive pillar for years in South Beach blocking shots like Mutombo with Kevin Garnett’s intensity. Pair that with LBJ’s similar style and contrary to popular belief this Heat team will win this matchup.
C – Shaquille O’Neal (2004/05)
People forget that when Shaq first arrived on South Beach, The Big Aristotle was in his prime. The Heat claimed the best record in the Eastern Conference that year, no small part due to The Diesel. He averaged 22.9 points and 10.4 rebounds, made his 12th consecutive All-Star Team, and made the All-NBA 1st Team. Shaq was pipped at the post for the MVP that season by Steve Nash and many still wonder if the right player was awarded the honor. This is the Shaq I’m drafting, the questionable MVP of the 2004/05 season, Shaq in his PRIME. Good luck Artis Gilmore. This is one of those games that you shouldn’t invite your family too.
Coach: Pat Riley
Riley tried to beat up MJ when he coached the Knicks against the Bulls in the ’93 Eastern Conference Finals. Here he has gathered one of the most formidable frontlines ever assembled. The sheer size of LeBron, Zo and Shaq will not only wear the lightweight bulls down but also prove unstoppable offensively. The Godfather of the Miami Mafia does not go down without a fight and this squad has all the right ammunition for him to finally take his revenge on MJ.
Vs Chicago: This matchup is not only closer than you think, the Heat are actually going to win it. Derrick Rose will win the PG battle and MJ will have his way with D. Wade offensively (even though ’06 Flash will keep His Airness’ hands full down the other end). That is where the advantage begins and ends for the Bulls. Scottie Pippen is rated as one of the best wing defenders in the history of the game, however he never encountered a juggernaut the likes of LBJ. I have said it before and will say it again: there is not a player present or past that can stop LeBron (except himself). Dennis Rodman will rebound, no doubt about it, and his theatrical style will be fun for the kids to watch but it will only take him so far. Alonzo will not have to guard Rodman which will free him up to lurk around the paint waiting for opportunities to shove basketballs down people’s throats. Advantage Heat. Zo is one of the game’s all-time leaders in blocks and he will anchor this Heat defense with his physical, shot-changing play. Finally to the C position… For mine, this is where the Heat streak ahead. ARTis Gilmore will end up as exactly that, ART. After The Diesel has his way with Gilmore, we may as well hang him on a wall under some dimly lit lights.
The Bulls have one unstoppable force – the Heat have two; LeBron, who is unstoppable offensively and has proven his ability to shut down Derrick Rose down the other end, and Shaq, who literally changed the game with his size and dominance in the middle. Anchor that by adding one of the best defenders in the history of the game and even the most stubborn of Bulls fans would be beginning to question their right to progress.
It’s a tough pill to swallow, but take your Bulls goggles off for just one second and ask yourself ‘how the hell are my Bulls going to stop that frontline?’
Chicago Bulls (Santamaria)
PG – Derrick Rose (2010/11)
Rose was the MVP in 2010/11 – a year when LeBron, Durant and Chris Paul each played 78 games or more. He is the youngest player ever to win the award (22) and will dominate Tim Hardaway. For fans of the Killer-Crossover, this matchup will be hard to watch.
SG – Michael Jordan (1990-91)
The GOAT. Period.
SF – Scottie Pippen (1993-94)
The Worm was huge for the Bulls during their second 3-peat. 16 boards per game in ’96-‘97. Importantly, Rodman will lead the series in rebounds (ahead of Shaq and Mourning) which puts the Heat very much behind the 8-ball.
C – Artis Gilmore (1980-81)
Hall of Famer. 11-time All Star (ABA & NBA). Averaged almost 20 & 10 with 2.5 blocks per game for his career. NBA’s all-time leader in career FG% (59.9%). Here’s a fact – 99% of us are unfamiliar with how good The A-Train really was.
6th Man – Chet Walker (1971-72)
I considered Luc Longley (for nationalistic reasons), Jerry Sloan Toni Kukoc, Horace Grant and the ’13/’14 version of Joakim Noah as the Bulls 6th Man but went with 7-time All Star Chet-the-Jet instead. Chet’s giving this squad 22pts a game at over 50% from the floor (and 85% from the line). Huge off the bench.
Vs Miami: The Heat will prove to be a slightly tougher first-round matchup than the Bulls were hoping for. However Chicago did not lose a single game in the first round of any of the playoffs in Michael and Scottie’s 6 Championship years. Read that sentence again. That does not bode well for the upstart Heat. The ’97 Bulls were arguably the greatest team of all time (along with the ’86 Celts and the ’87 Lakers) and this Bulls group slots an MVP into the PG spot, replaces Kukoc and his zero All Star appearances with Walker and his seven and drops the A-Train into the middle in place of Longley. Sorry, LBJ, Shaq and Wade… thanks for making the first round worth watching (and congrats on winning the postgame press-conference fashions on the field) but it’s a first-round exit for you. It was just unfortunate you had to draw MJ’s Bulls first up.
Who wins the Knicks vs 76ers and Heat vs Bulls match-ups? Cast your votes in the comment section below, on Twitter (@downtownball) or on Facebook and stay tuned for the first round of the Western Conference next.