NBA All-Time Bracket: Conference Finals

If you could select any player from any era to construct a starting five for each NBA franchise, which team would win it all?

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 past two months we’ve been debating which franchise can construct the greatest starting five (plus one) of all time and you, the readers, have been determining 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 with the victors progressing to the next round.

Now it’s time for the Conference Finals.

Boston and Philadelphia will battle it out in the East while Los Angeles and San Antonio will clash to decide who takes out the West.

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

Vs Philadelphia: The Eastern Conference Finals have arrived in the NBA All-Time Bracket and it seems fitting two of the most celebrated franchises have made it to the penultimate series.

Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers both feature incredibly accomplished rosters but I think the Sixers fall behind defensively at the point guard and small forward positions where Allen Iverson and Charles Barkley will surely be unable to stop Rajon Rondo and Larry Bird.

At shooting guard Paul Pierce and Julius Erving will have a memorable battle and the post pairings of Kevin Garnett and Bill Russell against Moses Malone and Wilt Chamberlain should end fairly even.

Russell had Chamberlain’s number for much of his career while Malone and Garnett will go elbow for elbow.

Erving may shade Pierce but if the good doctor gets a bit lazy on defence the Truth could find him out with a few trademark step backs or late head fakes.

This put the result of the match squarely on the perimeter defence of Barkley on Bird and Iverson’s beat-up legs behind able to keep in front of a rampant, penetrating Rondo.

Barkley may beat Bird in the paint a few times but he will struggle for room with Wilt and Mo filling up space.

For mine, the Celtics will be clear winners with Bird shooting the green machine into the NBA all-time finals.


Philadelphia 76ers (Santamaria)

PG – Allen Iverson (2000-01)

SG – Julius Erving (1980-81)

SF – Charles Barkley (1987-88)

PF – Moses Malone (1982-83)

C – Wilt Chamberlain (1966-67)

6th Man – Dolph Schayes (1954-55)

 Vs Boston: It is here, in the Conference Finals, that Ward’s selection decisions of Rondo over Cousy/Sam Jones and KG over Kevin McHale proves costly.  The Celts were pushed in the 2nd round by Detroit but made it through in what was a tighter series than most expected.  Unfortunately, it’s time to bring Boyz II Men on stage because this is the ‘end of the road’ for the Celtics. This absolutely stacked 76ers squad will be marching on to the Finals.

Let’s start in the backcourt where the Sixers have the upper hand in both positions.  In 2001 The Answer was MVP, led the league in scoring and steals and led the undermanned 76ers to the Finals.  Iverson was almost unstoppable at age 25 and Rondo, an All-NBA Third Teamer in 2011/12, is WAY out of his depth here.

The good Doctor, meanwhile, was league MVP in ’81 with averages of 25 & 8 at over 50% from the floor.  This is another matchup between an MVP and an All-NBA Third Teamer and it’s not going to be pretty. Sorry Paul Pierce fans, but sometimes The Truth hurts.

Bird will get the upper hand on Barkley at SF, no doubt about it, but best believe Sir Charles will get some work done on the offensive end against Larry Legend.  As Barkley so eloquently put it in 1991, “As long as Bird’s around, I’ll only be the second-worst defensive player in basketball.”

In ‘83 Moses averaged 25 & 15 (at over 50%), was 1st Team All NBA, 1st Team All Defense, Rebounding Champion, MVP, Finals MVP and led the Sixers to the promise land.  Anything is possible, but KG will likely take a beating of biblical proportions here.

Which leaves Russell vs Wilt; the age-old battle.  Of course I take Russell’s career over Wilt’s but in ’67 (the season I’ve selected for Chamberlain and I’ll ‘pick’ for Russell) The Big Dipper was absolutely dominant.  He was in the middle of three consecutive MVP seasons and led the Sixers to the title after demolishing the Celtics 4-1 in the Division Finals.  That series against Russell included Wilt’s ‘unofficial’ quadruple double in Game 1 and an NBA Playoff record 41 rebound effort in Game 3.

At first glance back in August we all thought this thing would end with Lakers vs Celtics.  But it won’t.  These Sixers are as tough as hell and have what it takes to represent the East.


Los Angeles Lakers (Greer)

PG – Magic Johnson (1986/87)

SG – Kobe Bryant (2005/06)

SF – Elgin Baylor (1960/61)

PF – James Worthy (1983/84)

C – Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (1975/76)

6th Man – Take your pick (Chamberlain, Mikan, West, Shaq, Pau, etc…)

Vs San Antonio: I would love to say that this matchup was going to be one for the ages… A series to remember, right down to the wire!  But I can’t. The Lake Show are going to plough right through the over achieving Spurs.

Magic is going to have his way with Tony Parker both in the half court and the open floor. He’ll post him up and when the Spurs finally throw a double, Magic will find the open man.

Kareem will dominate Robinson in the post, who will still be recovering from the schooling Hakeem gave him in the previous round.

Most of us have been lucky enough to grow up in the era of Kobe, we’ve been blessed to see one of the greatest scorers of all time in his prime… How many people are saying that about the Spurs famous 6th man Manu Ginobli?

Three out of the five positions on the floor will be dominated by the Lakers and that will be enough to get them across the line by a couple of lengths.


San Antonio Spurs (Greer)

PG – Tony Parker (2008/09)

SG – Manu Ginobili (2007/08)

SF – George Gervin (1979/80)

PF – Tim Duncan (2001/02)

C – David Robinson (1993/94)

Coach – Gregg Popovich

Vs Los Angeles: I have no doubt that George Gervin will give Elgin Baylor some headaches on the offensive end, however, his lack of enthusiasm and lets say ‘James Harden’ mentality on the defensive end will see that matchup playing out to a draw.

The Big Fundamental will need to have the series of his life in this one. Timmy will work over James Worthy on both ends of the floor but is the Spurs only real dominant player in any position.

Having Gregg Popovich on the sidelines will give this San Antonio squad the best possible chance of an almighty upset, even if it is extremely unlikely.


Who wins these Conference Finals match-ups?  Cast your votes in the comment section below, on Twitter or on Facebook and stay tuned for the Finals next week.


Eastern Conference Round 1: Part 1

Eastern Conference Round 1: Part 2

Western Conference Round 1: Part 1

Western Conference Round 1: Part 2

Eastern Conference Semi Finals

Western Conference Semi Finals


Author of the article

After leading my under-18 side in baldness and bench minutes I realised my basketball talents were best outside the court. I’ve covered basketball and other sports for Fairfax Media and Rural Press, I’m proud to have met and told the stories of many of Australia’s best basketballers both in country and overseas. I love basketball in all forms and all levels. Follow me on twitter: @downtownball

3 Responses

  1. SammyD at |


  2. Rueter at |

    Lake Show
    Pop as the sixth man???

    It’s all about the Jims and Joes, not the X’s and O’s!!!

  3. Scott the Astronaut at |

    Boston versus Philly: Selection methodology - “The Answer” was better than Rondo, Dr J was better than Pierce, Bird was better than Sir Charles, KG and Moses Malone are virtually a tie in my opinion, Bill Russell and Wilt are virtually a tie as well, but if I had to call it - Russell because of the titles. I am not even going to compare the 6th men as I never saw/read much about them so any comparison would be a waste of time. In the end, despite everything I wrote above - I will go with the Sixers, because I don’t want the Celtics in the Finals. Hows that for methodology.

    Lakers versus Spurs: Selection methodology: I bleed the purple and yellow so Lakers for me by the length of Sepulveda Blvd.

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