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).
Over the next couple of weeks, as the basketball world waits patiently for the FIBA World Cup to begin, we will debate 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.
Today we kick things off with two Eastern Conference first round match-ups: Celtics vs Bucks and Pistons vs Nets.
You be the judge.
Boston Celtics (Ward)
PG – Rajon Rondo (2011/12)
SG – Paul Pierce (2007/08)
SF – Larry Bird (1984/85)
PF – Kevin Garnett (2007/08)
C – Bill Russell (take your pick)
6th Man – Tommy Heinsohn
This is not your conventional all-time Celtics team. I’ve picked this side to match the height and athleticism I anticipate the other teams like Philadelphia, Miami and LA Lakers will have. Rondo can guard any point guard and the Pierce, Bird combination should mesh perfectly between being able to create shots and stick it from the outside. Garnett over McHale was a tough choice but KG and Russell would be a dominant team down low defensively. There is no more passionate Celtics’ man than Tommy Heinsohn; he has played, coached and commentated on the club.
Vs Milwaukee: Looking forward to the 2nd round.
Milwaukee Bucks (Santamaria)
PG – Oscar Robertson (1970-71)
The Big O is arguably one of the top ten players of all time. He won his one and only championship as a member of the ’71 Bucks and the dynamic duo he formed with Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) was one of the best pairings of a perimeter player and big man the game has ever seen.
SG – Sidney Moncrief (1982-83)
Sidney Moncrief was a five-time All-Star, two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year, five-time All-NBA and five-time NBA All-Defensive Team selection. In ’83 he was Defensive Player of the Year and joined Bird, Dr J, Moses and Magic on the All-NBA First Team. Let’s be honest, you didn’t realize Sidney Moncrief was that good. Michael Jordan once said of Moncrief, “He’ll hound you everywhere you go, both ends of the court. You just expect it.”
SF – Marques Johnson (1978-79)
A four time All Star, Johnson was probably the first ever point-forward. In ’79 he averaged 25 points per game at 55% from the floor and was First Team All-NBA. That year, only Kareem had a better PER. (He was also in both White Men Can’t Jump and Blue Chips which doesn’t officially matter here but should!)
PF – Bob Lanier (1979-80)
Lanier was an exceptional Piston but he was a pretty darn good Buck as well. The Hall of Famer will be bringing his 20 & 10 power game from 79-80 to this squad, the perfect interior option next to Johnson’s perimeter prowess and Alcindor’s finesse game inside. More than happy to get his hands dirty against KG in the paint.
C – Lew Alcindor (1970-71)
As a Buck, Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (then known as Lew Alcindor) was a six-time All-Star, a five-time All-NBA selection, 1970 ROY, a four-time NBA All-Defensive Team selection, a three-time MVP and 1971 NBA Finals MVP. He is still the NBA’s all-time leader in points scored and is arguably one of the 5 greatest players of all time. His 32 points and 16 rebounds per game will be a massive headache for the strong Boston frontline.
6th Man – Andrew Bogut (2009-10)
This pick is a bit of homer, but it serves as homage to the Bogey Man and his breakout 09-10 season. Prior to the Amar’e shove which resulted in the dislocated elbow and broken hand), Bogut was averaging 15.9 points, 10.3 rebounds, and 2.6 blocks per game. His breakout season earned him an All-NBA selection – the first for an Aussie.
Vs Boston: You could throw three turkeys out there with The Big O and Kareem and you’d probably win the title – in fact that’s pretty much what the Bucks did in ’71. But Moncrief, Johnson and Lanier ain’t turkeys – nope – they’re two All-NBA first teamers and a Hall of Famer. What chance a first round upset?
Detroit Pistons (Santamaria)
PG – Isiah Thomas (1984-85)
Isiah was a 12 time All Star and was the best player on 2 championship teams (’89 & ’90). 21 points and 14 assists per game in ’84-‘85.
SG – Joe Dumars (1990-91)
Dumars was an absolute lockdown perimeter defender – he was named NBA All-Defense 5 years straight from 1989-93. Combine that with 20 points and 5 dimes (at great %’s) and you’ve arguably got one of the best shooting guards of all time.
SF – Grant Hill (1996-97)
Injuries hit Hill hard later in his career but try not to forget how good he was early on as a Piston. In 1997 he averaged 20/9/7 and was first team All NBA. 7 All Star games despite the injuries (compared to Manu’s 2).
PF – Dave DeBusschere (1967-68)
The Big D is certainly more well known as a Knick but for the first half of his career he was one hell of a Piston. He was an 8 time All Star and was named first team All-Defense 6 straight years. Had the All-Defense team existed earlier than ’69, DeBusschere probably would’ve made 6 more. He had 18 points and 17 rebounds as a Knick in game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals and was inducted into the Hall of Fame. Dave DeBusschere is one of the 50 best players to ever play the game. Go read about him.
C – Bob Lanier (1976-77)
Lanier had big feet and big game. 8 All Star games and a place in the Hall of Fame speak to his impact on the NBA. With 1977 numbers of 25 points and 12 rebounds per game (with 53% FGs and 82% FTs), Lanier is about to tear the Nets shaky Derick Coleman/Buck Rogers frontline a new one.
6th Man – Bill Laimbeer (1986-87)
So many options for the Pistons 6th Man. Dave Bing, Billups, The Worm and Big Ben were all unlucky to have missed out but in the end, Laimbeer gets the spot. Rodman was probably the closest but DeBusschere is providing this squad with the defense and rebounding the The Worm would’ve brought to the table. Laimbeer’s elbows will come in especially handy against The Doctor in round 1. Not to mention his 15 points and 12 rebounds.
Vs New Jersey/Brooklyn: The Nets have never won an NBA title. Their 2002 and 2003 Finals teams were some of the worst teams to make the NBA Finals ever. The Thomas/Kidd matchup in the backcourt will be fun to watch however Dumars will have Vince Carter on lock-down. Dr J will prove to be a tough cover but ’97 Grant Hill will make things tough and there will certainly be no aerial acrobatics once Laimbeer hits the floor. This is the playoffs folks and, despite the fact that it’s not pretty, defense wins playoffs matchups. Dumars, DeBusschere and Laimbeer form an uber-impressive defensive unit while Thomas, Hill and Lanier will keep the scoreboard ticking over at the other end. A tough matchup for the Nets in round 1. Too tough.
New Jersey/Brooklyn Nets (Ward)
PG – Jason Kidd (2001/02)
SG – Vince Carter (2006/07)
SF – Julius Erving (1975/76)
PF – Derrick Coleman (1993/94)
C – Buck Williams (1982/83)
6th Man – Jayson Williams (shotgun not included)
Vs Detroit Pistons: The Nets history isn’t littered with superstars but point guard Jason Kidd has a statistical record which matches the best players in league history. Vince Carter had some of his best years in a Nets’ jersey, excelling with Kidd feeding him the ball. It’s easy to forget Dr J was a big star for the Nets during their ABA days and his afro will fit in perfectly with Kidd and Carter – they would be a sight to see on the fast break. In his brief years in New Jersey, Coleman ranked among the best power forwards in the league while Buck Williams was ROY with the Nets, a 3-time All Star and helped the team to the playoffs before moving on. Jayson Williams was the heart of the Nets during his career and despite his legal problems will always be associated with the club. Don’t underestimate this underrated Nets lineup.
Who wins the Celtics vs Bucks and Pistons vs Nets match-ups? Cast your votes in the comment section below, on Twitter (@downtownball) or on Facebook and stay tuned for Part 2 of the Eastern Conference next.