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, determine the winning franchise from each match-up by casting your vote in the comment section at the bottom of the page, on Twitter or on Facebook and the victors shall progress to the next round.
Today we continue with the top half of the Western Conference bracket, with Lakers vs Thunder/Sonics and Suns vs Jazz.
Los Angeles Lakers (Greer)
PG – Magic Johnson (1986/87)
It’s truly difficult to try and find a better player in all of history to pair next to Kobe Bryant in the backcourt. Magic averaged over 11 assists per game during his entire Laker career and played in 12 All Star games. I’m selecting the ‘87 Magic, who averaged 23 points, 12 dimes and 6 rebounds per outing. Oh yeah and he was the league MVP and finals MVP that season.
SG – Kobe Bryant (2005/06)
Kobe Bryant is now commonly acknowledged as the best Laker of all Time (Shaq, Jerry West have publicly acknowledged it). I’m not even going to select the 2008 MVP Kobe, I’m running with the 2005/06 MAMBA! The Mamba averaged 35 points a game while adding 5.3 rebounds and 4.5 dimes not to mention his 2 steals. In his ‘Book of Basketball’, Bill Simmons states that Kobe not winning the league MVP in ’06 was an “outright travesty.” I have to agree. During this season the Mamba was born and Kobe solidified himself as one of the most prolific scorers of all time; torching the Raptors for 81 and giving Dirk and the Mavs 62 over three quarters. Kobe could play alongside your sister, the pool cleaner and a couple of high school kids and would manage to get the win here.
SF – Elgin Baylor (1960/61)
Baylor was an unstoppable scoring force, from his running bank shot to his nose for the offensive put back. During the ’60/61 season Baylor averaged 34.8 points, 19.8 rebounds and 5.1 assists per game and set what was then, the single game scoring record when he dropped 71 points at 58% from the field (along with 25 rebounds) against the Knicks. Only five other players in the history of the NBA have averaged more rebounds in a single season… and Elgin is our small forward.
PF – James Worthy (1983/84)
Worthy played small forward for most of his career but his 6’9″ frame did allow him to play plenty of power forward for the Showtime Lakers as well (he was the starting PF for much of the ’83/84 season next to Magic, Scott, Wilkes and Kareem). His ability to face-up the bigger, slower power forwards and take advantage of his speed will help this Lakers squad run and play a high octane offense. Worthy is in this lineup not for these walk-over preliminary rounds, but for when the stakes get raised later on. We’ll see the best of Big Game James when the bracket gets down the pointy end.
C – Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (1975/76)
I’m not going to bother going into great detail about Kareem because the Seattle Thunders simply ain’t worth it. I will say this though; during his first season as a Laker, Kareem averaged 28 points 17 rebounds, 5 assists and 4 blocks a game. YIKES!!
6th Man – Chamberlain, Mikan, West, Shaq, Pau, etc…
Simply too many options here and I don’t feel anyone will deem it necessary to help them decide their winner.
Vs Seattle/OKC: The Lakers are playing against the Seattle Thunders in the first round and with typical Laker arrogance I think I’m going to let the names ride me to the win on this one. Once Shawn Kemp has been bounced from this tourney back to the real world of paying child support maybe we get some real competition up in here. The better question would be: could the Seattle Thunders beat the Lakers’ second unit led by Wilt and The Logo? I’m not sure they could.
Seattle Supersonics/OKC Thunder (Ward)
PG – Gary Payton (1999/2000)
SG – Russell Westbrook (2010/11)
SF – Kevin Durant (2013/14)
PF – Shawn Kemp (1995/96)
C – Jack Sikma (1981/82)
6th Man – Sam Perkins (1992/93)
Four players picked themselves when it came to this side; Kemp and Payton from the 1990s and current day duo Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Kemp and Payton made Seattle a title contender with their flare and stylish play, while Westbrook and Durant are doing the same in today’s NBA.
Truly Durant could land himself in the discussion for best small forward in NBA history when his career is said and done.
With two point guards and two forwards all that was left was the centre, so I went for 1980s star centre Jack Sikma.
I chose Sam ‘Big Smooth’ Perkins as 6th Man; his stylish hair and three-point shooting were awesome during his late career cameo with the Sonics.
Vs Los Angeles: I’ve scored no luck with the bracket here with my OKC-Seattle dark horses drawing the all-powerful Lakers in the first round. Durant will cause all kinds of trouble for whoever the Lakers put out in the 3 spot but I have to admit Magic Johnson will be too big for Gary Payton and too smart for Westbrook plus Kareem should dominate Sikma inside. Still my Sonic Thunders will give a good account of themselves then drop out of the playoffs, just as their teams do in the real NBA.
Phoenix Suns (Greer)
PG – Steve Nash (2004/05)
In 2005 Nash averaged 23 and 11 at 52% from the field during the Suns playoff run. He will fit perfectly with Stod but also with the slashing styles of KJ and Shawn Marion. Nash, a dual MVP, will win the point guard battle and set the Suns up for the first major upset of the first round.
SG – Kevin Johnson (1990/91)
The explosive brilliance of KJ bursting through the lane will more than keep John Stockton’s hands full. KJ was a trailblazer for the athletic PGs we see today such as Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook and was intimidated by no one. KJ was the first player in history to average 20 points 10 assists while shooting .500 from the floor and is one of only three players to average 20 points and 12 dimes in a season along with Isiah Thomas and Magic Johnson.
SF – Shawn Marion (2005/06)
What’s the best thing about Shawn Marion’s 05/06 season in which he averaged 22, 12, 2 steals and 1.7 blocks at 52% from the field? That’s the same year his teammate Steve Nash won the league MVP. These guys have proven they can be effective together.
PF – Charles Barkley (1992/93)
Chuck was undersized his entire career and still managed to become an 11-time All Star, 5-time All NBA First Team selection, All Star Game MVP and MVP in 1993, when he averaged 21 and 11 with 5 dimes and almost 2 steals a game for the Suns. He was a charismatic, aggressive, competitive force. He will be undersized here against Malone but do you think that will bother Charles? Hell no! He’ll relish the opportunity and The Mailman will be scrambling to chase Sir Charles down on his plentiful coast to coast transition jams.
C – Amar’e Stoudemire (2007/08)
In the ‘o7/08 season Amar’e Stoudemire was a beast! He averaged 25 and 9 with 2 blocks at just under 60% from the field. The reason Stod was able to shoot such a high percentage was because he was running one of the most effective pick-and-rolls ever seen, with that’s’ right, Steve Nash (this team will have chemistry). The Mailman dunked with serious authority but Stoudemire dunked ON YOU with serious authority. I’m assuming Stod will find himself matched up against Mark Eaton? I hope so, because we all know how Steve Nash’s Suns teams like to run. Eaton better have the gurney waiting courtside, because this track meet is going to give him a heart attack.
6th Man – Tom Chambers (1989/90)
Chambers, aside from earning himself possibly the best dunk in NBA history, was a beast on the stat sheet. During the ‘89/90 season Chambers averaged 27.2 points per game.
Vs Utah: The Suns are a slight underdog here, but that’s it, slight! The chemistry of Nash, Marion and Stoudemire paired with the tenacity of KJ and Sir Charles will be unlike any other team in this competition. The fast paced, new age offence this Suns roster will implement will be too much for the heavy footed half court Jazz to keep up with. Can the Suns handle them in the half court will be the question. Whoever controls the tempo will win this matchup and tempo was one of Steve Nash’s specialties.
Utah Jazz (Santamaria)
PG – John Stockton (any year from 1988 to 1997)
Stockton leads the NBA all-time in assists and steals (both by considerable margins). One of the 5 best PG’s of all time (maybe only Magic ahead of him?). Can you imagine Stockton playing with Pistol, Dantley AND The Mailman? Ridiculous.
SG – ‘Pistol’ Pete Maravich (1976-77)
Pistol led the league in scoring in ’77 averaging 31 points per game. If he drops 40+ (which he did regularly, especially that year) the Suns are in trouble.
SF – Adrian Dantley (1983-84)
Another 31 points per game from the SF spot. You think Marion had a unique style? Dantley’s crafty low-post game and phenomenal scoring ability (2 x NBA scoring leader) made him a one-of-a-kind talent. Bill Simmons wrote in his Book of Basketball that “There might be another Jordan, but there will never, ever, ever, ever, ever be another Dantley”.
PF – Karl Malone (1996-97)
One of the greatest power forwards of all time. Two-time league MVP (’97 and ’99) and behind only Kareem in career points. That’s 2nd ALL TIME in points! How much offense is on this squad?!?!
C – Mark Eaton (1984-85)
Top 5 all-time for blocked shots. 5.56 blocks per game and Defensive Player of the Year in ’85. Will…. block.… lots…. of…. shots.
Coach – Jerry Sloan (1971-72)
Hall of Famer. Coached one team longer than anyone in NBA history. Will have this lethal squad playing together and advancing in the playoffs.
Vs Phoenix: If this bracket involved rosters of 10 the Jazz would not compete with the likes of Boston, LA & Philly. But this starting 5 is as tough as they come. Stockton and Malone form a dynamic duo and are each all-time greats at their positions. Add two guys in Pistol Pete and Dantley who, in their primes, scored at historic levels as well as one of the greatest shot blockers of all time in Eaton. In this format, the Jazz are not only going to march all over my beloved Suns in the first round – they’re actually going to make their 2nd Round matchup with the Lake Show worth watching.
Eastern Conference Bracket: