It’s Getting Drafty In Here: 2000s Edition
Because I’m a basketball nerd, I sometimes look back at past NBA drafts and try to figure out how could a team I can create from a given year’s selectees. I then start to think about which year would produce the best team. But rather than waste time with such silly mental dalliances, I’ve decided to do a series of posts wherein I determine the best “team” per draft and, from there, the best draft per decade and, ultimately, the best draft team ever.
A few rules:
- I’m picking a 5 man squad. So if a draft ran 10 deep but lacked the super star power of a shallower draft, it will probably lose out. Dems da breaks!
- Each player will be assigned to a position he played at least part-time during his career. So Tim Duncan can play PF or C but John Stockton can only play PG.
- When we start to compare teams from different eras, we’ll assume each player played as the peak level exhibited during his career. So we don’t have to try to figure out how a 6-10 Bill Russell would fare against modern 7-footers or want the relaxed defensive rules would have meant for Michael Jordan.
- I’m picking the squads based on whatever criteria I damn well please. Mostly, it will be gut. Yes, I know advanced basketball analytics have exploded recently but this is more for fun than science. Deal wit it!
Without further ado, let’s start with the 2000’s (including players selected from the 2000 Draft through the 2009 Draft). I’m holding off on the current decade as most of the drafts are too recent to really judge.
- PG: Jamal Crawford
- SG: Michael Redd
- SF: Mike Miller
- PF: Hedo Turkoglu
Marcus CambyKenyon Martin
Snapshot assessment: Woof! Some great outsid shooting, but zero defense save for Camby’s rim protection, limited ball movement, and no true super star. The scary thing is there wasn’t much debate about which five to take.
- PG: Tony Parker
- SG: Joe Johnson
- SF: Shane Battier
- PF: Zach Randolph
- C: Pau Gasol
Snapshot assessment: This is a good squad. ZBo in the low post and Gasol at the elbow running pick-and-roll with Parker. Battier spotting up in the corner and Joe Johnson able to shoot from deep or drive-and-kick. A case could be made for putting Tyson Chandler at the 5 and sliding Gasol to the 4, but there ain’t no way I’m leaving ZBo off my squad!
- PG: Flip Murray
- SG: Caron Butler
- SF: Tayshaun Prince
- PF: Amar’e Stoudemire
- C: Yao Ming
Snapshot assessment: Ugh! I had to scrape the bottom of the bin to find a point guard. Who scores for this team? Stoudemire, I guess? But can he create his own shot? I’m tempted to put Jay Williams at the point based simply on his college career but this squad sucks no matter what. Moving on…
- PG: Kirk Hinrich
- SG: Dwyane Wade
- SF: Carmelo Anthony
- PF: LeBron James
- C: Chris Bosh
Snapshot assessment: This is the year that usually leads me to conduct this most important of mental exercises. The guys left off this squad are probably better than the ’00 and ’02 squads: Korver, West, Diaw, Josh Howard, Mo Williams, Barbosa, Perkins. I’m tempted to leave ‘Melo off for Korver since this team doesn’t really need him dominating the ball and loafing on defense, but, nah, that’s silly. This is the team to beat for the decade and arguably for the entire exercise.
- PG: Devin Harris
- SG: JR Smith
- SF: Andre Iguodala
- PF: Al Jefferson
- C: Dwight Howard
Snapshot assessment: This is an interesting draft. There were lots of quality second and third bananas… guys you’d be perfectly happy to have as core components of a championship caliber team but who you’d be hard pressed to win with as THE MAN. Most calls were pretty easy, though a case could be made for Luol Deng over Iggy at the 3. Iggy won me over with his behind-the-backboard dunk in the Slam Dunk Contest that one year, so I’m giving him the nod. Also, I’m a little giddy about the idea of JR Smith being involved in anything related to basketball history.
- PG: Chris Paul
- SG: Monta Ellis
- SF: Danny Granger
- PF: David Lee
- C: Andrew Bogut
Snapshot assessment: This is a stellar defensive team. With Paul pressuring the ball, Bogut protecting the rim, and Granger setting his sights on the opposing team’s best perimeter play, they can get away with Ellis and Lee. And all of these guys bring something on the offensive end as well. This is a good squad even if it seems to lack much star power. It is worth noting that this was the last draft that allowed American high school players to enter.
- PG: Rajon Rondo
- SG: Brandon Roy
- SF: Rudy Gay
- PF: Paul Milsap
- C: LaMarcus Aldridge
Snapshot assessment: I sorta cheated a bit here. Aldridge played some 5 his rookie year, so I snuck him in there. He and Milsap are probably the two best guys in this draft and given how thin it was, leaving one off with no other veritable center in the mix just felt wrong. Rondo over Lowry was a coin flip and I went with the former because I think he has more upside especially when surrounded by guys who can score. Roy had his career cut short by injuries but was a dynamic player when healthy. Gay about sums this team up… Meh…
- PG: Mike Conley
- SG: Aaron Afflalo
- SF: Kevin Durant
- PF: Al Horford
- C: Marc Gasol
Snapshot assessment: This team has a dominant front court, holy crap! Conley is a good distributor. I don’t know that the 2-guard really matters with the way this team is assembled, which is probably for the better given the options.
- PG: Russell Westbrook
- SG: Goran Dragic
- SF: Nicholas Batum
- PF: Kevin Love
- C: DeAndre Jordan
Snapshot assessment: This was a really deep draft. So much size! In addition to Love and Jordan, you also had Hibbert, Ibaka, the Lopez twins, and Omar Asik, all of whom are good to great players. You also had some point guard depth, with Derrick Rose and George Hill missing the cut and Dragic sneaking on at the 2. This team would wreak some havoc offensively.
- PG: Stephen Curry
- SG: James Harden
- SF: Chase Budinger
- PF: Blake Griffin
- C: Jordan Hill
Snapshot assessment: This draft produced three elite players — Curry, Harden, and Griffin — and not much else. Each of those guys have logged 50+ Win Shares in their career and could have made arguments for MVP consideration at different points (including Curry and Harden being the top two contenders this year). Unfortunately, things really take a tumble after that. There were some other nice pieces — Jeff Teague, Taj Gibson, Ty Lawson, Danny Green, DeMr Derozan — but they are all well behind the elite guys at the same positions.
With that done, let’s now rank the different squads. Here is how I have them, from best to worst, with a brief explanation why:
2003: Lots of teams had multiple great players, but this is the only one with multiple historical greats. Wade and LeBron are in that conversation, plus you have ‘Melo and Bosh. ‘Nuff said.
2009: The next few squads are pretty tightly packed, but this team would be impossible to defend.
2007: Held back by the week backcourt.
2001: Not as exciting as some other squads, but they’d get it done with a well-balanced attack.
2008: A very exciting team but I worry about chemistry.
2005: The Paul/Bogut combination on offense and defense sets this team apart.
2004: Lotsa good, little great.
2006: Aldridge leads a ragtag group but doesn’t get very far.
2002: At least they’d be popular in China.
2000: Sorry, this team just stinks.
So the 2003 squad moves on! Disagree? TOUGH NUTS! Take it to the comments!