It’s Getting Drafty In Here: 90’s 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 atthe 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 whatthe 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!
The 2000’s are available here. This time we’ll tackle the 90’s.
- PG: Gary Payton
- SG: Dennis Scott
- SF: Toni Kukoc
- PF: Derrick Coleman
- C: Elden Cambell
Snapshot assessment: A HOFer at the point and a force of nature when he was motivated at PF, but this squad is otherwise pretty thin. They’d put points on the board but would struggle to defend the 2-4 positions.
- PG: Terrell Brandon
- SG: Steve Smith
- SF: Larry Johnson
- PF: Dale Davis
- C: Dikembe Mutumbo
Snapshot assessment: Lots of size in this draft, leading to a pretty formidable front court. But who leads this team? LJ? Steve Smith? Both could fill the hoop but I’m not sure you want them to be your alpha dog.
- PG: Brent Smith
- SG: Doug Christie
- SF: Latrell Sprewell
- PF: Alonzo Mourning
- C: Shaquille O’Neal
Snapshot assessment: Wow! I forgot that Shaq and Zo came out the same year. What this draft lacked in the backcourt (I don’t even know who Brent Smith was), it made up for in the front court. Thankfully, Mourning played 18 games at PF for the Nets so I can squeeze him on the squad there. Christian Laettner, PJ Brown, and Robert Horry were all left off, though the last two were more about longevity than peak talent. Christie works as a 3-and-D guy and I opted for Sprewell over the superior Clarence Weatherspoon because this team needed a real wing player; Spoon’s skill set was obsolete with Shaq and Zo in the post.
- PG: Sam Cassell
- SG: Allan Houston
- SF: Penny Hardaway
- PF: Chris Webber
- C: Shawn Bradley
Snapshot assessment: This team stole the prior year’s backcourt depth! Cassell, Hardaway, and Webber would be a really fun Hoop-It-Up team (REMEMBER HOOP-IT-UP?!?!), Bradley offers with rim protection, and Houston is your spot up shooter. I think this team is the current favorite… maybe?
- PG: Jason Kidd
- SG: Eddie Jones
- SF: Grant Hill
- PF: Donyell Marshall
- C: Brian Grant
Snapshot assessment: This team works? Maybe? With Jason Kidd running the point, I feel this team is flexible and athletic enough to really put you on your heals when they’re on offense. Marshall is what we’d now call a stretch 4, Grant can crash the boards, and Jones and Hill can slash and cut with Kidd playing maestro. Right? Or maybe they give up 1000 points a game. By the way, if you ever want to get really angry, go look at Grant Hill’s numbers before injuries took him down. God fucking damnit!
- PG: Damon Stoudamire
- SG: Brent Barry
- SF: Michael Finley
- PF: Kevin Garnett
- C: Rasheed Wallace
Snapshot assessment: This team is good AND fun. Garnett and Wallace are shutting down the paint on defense. More importantly, this team is full of great stories. I mean, every story involving KG is phenomenal. Likewise for ‘Sheed. But my favorite ‘Sheed story is not about his technical-laden antics, but about his on-court brilliance. Supposedly in practice one day, his teammates ran a play incorrectly and he halted practice and walked every single player through exactly what he was supposed to do on the play. He knew the assignments for spots 1-5! Who does that? Psychos, that’s who. Also, Stoudamire was nicknamed Mighty Mouse and had the tattoo to match, Brent Barry won the 3 point and slam dunk contest, and a teenaged Michael Finley posed such a challenge to in-his-prime Michael Jordan in a game of HORSE that Jordan ended up tomahawk dunking just to beat the kid. Why do I know this stuff???
- PG: Steve Nash
- SG: Kobe Bryant
- SF: Peja Stojakovic
- PF: Marcus Camby
- C: Zydrunas Ilgauskas
Snapshot assessment: Not included: Ray Allen, Allen Iverson (can we combine them into Ray Allen Iverson and let them play the 3???), Jermaine O’Neal, Shareef Abdur Rahim, Antoine Walker, and Derek Fisher. I think this team would be good? But I feel like Kobe ruins everything everywhere all the time. Fact: Kobe has never won a championship without a super-elite offensive C (3 with Shaq, 2 with Pau). I actually think slotting Allen in at the 2 makes this team work better because he and Peja can space the floor for Nash who’ll work the pick-and-roll with Z and Camby crashes the boards. Either that or put AI at the point and let him and Kobe literally kill each other.
- PG: Chauncey Billups
- SG: Stephen Jackson
- SF: Tracy McGrady
- PF: Tim Duncan
- C: Scot Pollard
Snapshot assessment: Let’s be honest: Tim Duncan was the best player drafted this decade. Better than Kobe, better than Shaq. Best. Period. He’s easily a top 10 player all time and arguably top 6. Honestly, without relying on ‘tradition’, can you definitively say anyone other than Jordan absolutely must rank above him? Anyway, give him an elite PG in the mold of his Spurs running mate Tony Parker, an elite slasher/scorer on the wing, and a defensive minded center to help shoulder the load on that end of the court and this team is ready to go.
- PG: Mike Bibby
- SG: Vince Carter
- SF: Paul Pierce
- PF: Antawn Jamison
- C: Dirk Nowitzki
Snapshot assessment: These were probably the five best players in this draft. But, even if they weren’t, I’d select them because I’d love to see this team play games that routinely end 150-148. Tons of offense, NO defense! I considered putting Rashard Lewis at the 4 but that just felt mean.
- PG: Baron Davis
- SG: Manu Ginobili
- SF: Shawn Marion
- PF: Andrei Kirilenko
- C: Elton Brand
Snapshot assessment: This team is weird. There were some alternatives at each spot (Jet Terry and Andre Miller at the point; Lamar Odom at one of the forward spots; Rip Hamilton, Wally Z, Corey Maggette, Stevie Francis, and Ron Artest on the wing) but ultimately, this team ends up weird and probably not very good.
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:
1997: Duncan and Billups lead a team with few holes.
1995: This team trumps the next one because they have the size and defensive prowess to hang with the next one on the list.
1992: Hard to believe this team isn’ the best given Shaq and ‘Zo but I can’t find a way to make them such.
1993: Loaded with potential that we’ll assume is realized for this exercise.
1998: No holes… except everywhere on defense.
1996: I guess? Maybe my anti-Kobe bias is showing through, but I don’t think he’s made for this sort of exercise.
1999: This team’s weird makeup is probably just enough to beat the remaining deeply flawed squads.
1994: Kidd over Payton, Hill over Coleman and better running mates.
1990: They at least had some elite talent.
1991: Mutumbo gets the finger wag back at him.
Duncan and the ’97ers move on. Somewhat fitting that he and LeBron might meetup again. I will say that my intention was not to have the year with the best individual player selected win each decade. It just so happens to be the case thus far because both guys came out in particularly loaded years. The ’95 and ’92 teams can probably neutralize — or at least match — Duncan in the post but I’m not sure either has an answer for TMac and I think that makes the difference.