NBA All-Time Bracket: East Part 1


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.

East Bracket

Celtics vs Bucks

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

russell bird pierce

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?


Pistons vs Nets

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)

Dr J

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.

Author of the article

11 Responses

  1. Aimon at |

    Celtics over bucks.

    No love for Cousy or Jo Jo White in the celtics starting 5?

    Pistons over Nets.

  2. Ash Rose at |

    No Big Dog in Bucks starting 5? Thought that’d be a lock

  3. Tony at |

    Celtics defeat Bucks
    Pistons defeat Nets

  4. Easton at |

    Kevin McHale as the 6-man don’t you think? Boston wins.

  5. Alex Emery at |

    I’ve got Celtics and Nets

  6. DCT at |

    Celtics over the bucks! 17 championships between those 6 guys + they’ve got no one to stop Larry. Is Tommy wHo your way of evening things up?

    The nets would be entertaining but they’re not getting past the gritty pistons. How can you not have rodman in that team?

  7. Eric at |

    Ok fellas, not to be a nit picky bastard here but I have some disagreements with your Celtics lineups.

    Start out with the Celtics. I love KG, but no way I take an 07/08 KG over a prime season from McHale (86/87 26.1ppg, 10rpg, 2.2 blocks, 2.6 assists, 83% FT and over 60% from the field) or if you wanted to play a lineup that could be geared to mute Jordan, you might slide Bird to the 4, Pierce to the 3 and insert Reggie Lewis as a big guard. Reggie (and Mitch Richmond) were two guards that Jordan admitted were the most challenging to play. Bird would not be a rebounding downgrade at the 4 and he would terrorize small forwards from any era with his shooting.

    Not sure I’d go with Rondo at the 1 over Cousy either. Cousy was as good a distributor and scorer as Rondo, but not the liability from the free throw line that Rondo is. Sam Jones also played 3 positions (PG-SF) and was a much better scorer at nearly 26ppg in ’65 also better than Rondo and Cousy from the field and stripe, also averaged 5 apg. On this team, considering you have one of the great passing forwards in the game (Bird) and will probably run the offense through him, you probably don’t need a pure distributor at the one. Imagine this lineup:

    PG: Jones
    SG: Lewis
    SF: Pierce
    PF: Bird
    C: Russell

    6th: McHale.

    It has passing, shooting at every position (except center). Solid defensively

  8. Eric at |

    oh and for NJN. You have to take Buck Williams over Jayson Williams. jayson never has a season as good as Buck who was a better scorer and way more consistent in his efficiency from the field, but otherwise that lineup is pretty good.

    Shame about Michael Ray Richardson and cocaine, that guy could have been really good.

  9. Eric at |

    For the Bucks, please take out Bogut, Vin Baker, Ray Allen or Ricky Pierce would all be better selections.

  10. Eric at |

    For NJN: my bad I missed Buck Williams at center. Sorry should read more closely. This is a fun exercise, you can debate this stuff for hours.

    The Pistons Nets is an interesting battle. While Thomas and Dumars are no slouches offensively or defensively (and would fight if necessary) the Nets backcourt is bigger and athletically superior to the Pistons. However the Pistons frontline is brutal, especially with Laimbeer coming off the bench and controlling the boards might be key, especially considering perimeter shooting is not the Nets forte. In this matchup the Pistons might have an even stronger upper hand if they had Rodman, who would hound Dr J. Nevertheless I think the Pistons take it.

    Celtics Bucks is also a good speculation. Kareem was a beast in 71 – that was the year the Bucks won the title and with a prime Oscar, this team is solid at the two most important positions. The only matchup where I tend to think there is a clear winner here is at SF, and that’s significant because Bird getting going could tear the games apart. While the frontcourt of the Bucks is good, the Celtics defensively should make them work enough and will return enough fire to make the Bucks frontline have to play on both ends. Moncrief could also get muscled around by Pierce a bit, who is roughly 4 inches taller and quite a bit heavier. I could see them using Pierce in the post to cause damage. If you had McHale of the bench this thing is over, but Boston probably wins in a close on without him.

  11. Michael at |

    …better give Eric a column, he’s good.
    Pistons beat Nets. Isaiah burns Kidd even though he was a good defender – even Coop at 6’7 couldn’t handle Zeke. Dumars used to battle MJ as good as anyone, so Vince would be a snack (esp since VC would dedicate himself to taking 12 off-balance 30-footers per game).

    Celts over Bucks. Sam Jones for Rondo and McHale for KG, without these changes they still win. Prime Bill Vs Cap would be great. Bird abuses Johnson at SF.

Please comment with your real name using good manners.

Leave a Reply