Basketball is done, hockey is finished, baseball’s got 70 games in the books….with only 92 left, and football is in the throes of a full-blown labor war (which looks to be subsiding, I might add) so what is a sports blogger to write about? Sports Illustrated is apparently going through the same problem as they put together a fantasy mega-draft covering the history of the NBA, and then simulated the entire regular season and postseason.
It was a typical snake draft, with each pick flip-flopping every round so the owner picking first would pick last in the subsequent round and so on and so forth. According to SI, when the season was simulated injuries were taken into account as well as off-years and stats were adjusted for time period.
Luckily for you, I’m here to break down the draft round by round, team by team. I’m not crazy, right? You can see the draft in its entirety here.
Rounds 1-6 Analysis
Best Pick: Tim Duncan
Round one was pretty uneventful as almost everyone made the obvious pick…like taking Michael Jordan first overall. But Tim Duncan—the greatest power forward of all time—at number ten is a steal. Richard Deitsch, who picked Duncan, said it best, “Nabbing the best power forward in history at No. 10? Fools.”
Worst Pick: Shaquille O’Neal
I said almost everyone made the right pick in round one. How can you take Shaq, who was in shape and playing his best ball for two-three years, over Hakeem Olajuwon, who put up 22 points, 12 rebounds, 1.7 steals, and 3.1 blocks over an 18 year NBA career during the most competitive era of professional basketball EVER?
Best Pick: Hakeem Olajuwon
Hakeen and Duncan on the same team? Really? This should have never happened. During their primes, Duncan and Olajuwon combined for 7.5 blocks a game. Oh, and did I mention that both players combined to play 75+ regular season games 18 times?
Worst Pick: Bill Walton
Bill Walton was healthy and at his peak for one and a half seasons before his mangled feet forced him to become an (albeit) excellent role player for the 80’s Celtics. Don’t misunderstand, during that incredible 1977 championship season Walton was the best big man in basketball, and is probably the best passing center ever. But then the doctors realized his feet just couldn’t support his body and he was never the same again. So yeah, pick 14 was a MASSIVE reach.
Best Pick: Charles Barkley
You can’t go wrong with arguably the best scoring forward of all time—especially in the third round of a giant fantasy basketball draft. Now consider that he’ll be paired with LeBron James at small forward, and Bill Russell at the five to cover for Barkley’s lack of defensive prowess. Mouth. Watering.
Worst Pick: Dwyane Wade
Not that he’s not great, but Wolff drafted Wade along with Michael Jordan, meaning he’s got two very similar players at the same position—one of which was an indestructible force of nature so competitive The Jordan Rules author Sam Smith once wrote, “He’d play games of cards with the ferocity of Mike Tyson going for a knockout”. Not ideal. Any time your best player approaches recreational activities like the fiercest and craziest fighter of all time approaches punching other people into submission, you probably shouldn’t draft a nearly identical player at the same position. Just sayin’.
Best Pick: Kevin Garnett
So now Deitsch has Garnett, Duncan, and Olajuwon—probably the three greatest two-way big men of all-time on the same team. And simply for comedy’s sake, how great would it be to see Duncan, always emotionless, always calm, and Garnett, the most intense human being I have ever seen, play together and interact on a daily basis? This needs to happen now.
Worst Pick: Reggie Miller
I thought the debate was settled for good last season: Ray Allen is better than Reggie Miller. Allen’s shooting percentages this year (field goals, three-pointers, free throws): 49%, 45%, 88%. Reggie Miller’s percentages at the same age (35): 44%, 37%, 93%. Just like a fine chardonnay, Jesus Shuttleworth is getting better with age.
Best Pick: Dirk Nowitzki
The draft was conducted before Nowitzki’s magical run to the championship (and I stress the word magical) and the benefit of hindsight is a beautiful thing, but really, Dirk in the fifth round? Below Reggie Miller?
Worst Pick: Joe Dumars
Wolff already had Michael Jordan and Dwyane Wade, two of the five best two-guards ever on his squad. And then he picked Joe Dumars with his fifth pick…ahead of guards Gary Payton, Ray Allen, and Kevin Johnson. Can someone explain this to me?
Best Pick: Dwight Howard
With Howard and Chamberlain, Posnanski’s got the best offensive center of all time, and at 26, one of the best defensive ones. He’s also got two of the least intense, most fun loving passive-aggressive players of all time playing together. On second thought, maybe this is a bad idea.
Worst Pick: Allen Iverson
For pure hilarity, this is the MVP pick of the draft. Just imagine for a moment Iverson coexisting with Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, Hakeem Olajuwon, Gary Payton, Bob Cousy, and Sam Jones. Then imagine Iverson being the third point guard playing 20 minutes a night. He’d be shipped off to the Italian League before you could spell “practice”.
This one goes to Chris Ballard and his starting five of Bill Russell, LeBron James, Charles Barkley, Reggie Miller, and Chris Mullin. He’s got floor spacing in Miller, Mullin, and James, a terror in the paint and on the break known as Charles Barkley, and the greatest defensive force ever in Bill Russell. Ballard’s even got the most productive rebounder since the ABA-NBA merger on his squad in Dennis Rodman, Deron Williams coming off the bench to back-up LeBron at the one spot, and Carmelo Anthony just cause’.
The trio of Bill Russell, LeBron James, and Charles Barkley in particular is quite terrifying. All three would mesh together perfectly. James and Russell would form perhaps the greatest defensive duo ever with Russell locking down the paint and James defending the opponent’s best scorer. Both Barkley and James can handle the ball and both are absolute monsters in transition. With Reggie Miller nailing wide-open looks from distance this team has the feel of the 2011 Miami Heat on crack.
Lee Jenkins steals this one, after building the greatest all-offense no-defense team in league history. Think about it, his starting five is Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Jason Kidd, Karl Malone, George Gervin, and James Worthy. Excluding Kidd, that’s four truly poor defensive players starting, with Worthy and Gervin being among the worst defensive players ever. Then, off the bench, Jenkins has “Pistol” Pete Maravich, David Thompson, and Alex English. That’s like eight Mike Bibby’s on defense, only imagine one of them was over seven feet tall and owned an unblockable shot.
Some other thoughts…
This, of course, was an exercise in futility. It’s impossible to know, or even conceptualize how players would translate to different eras, or even how their careers would change depending on the team they were drafted by. In a sport rife with variables, we’ll never know how productive, for example, Bill Russell would be against the freakish athletic big men that dominate the modern game. But that’s what is so fun about stuff like this, and why someone inevitably does a big historical fantasy draft every year.
I would love to hear everyone’s opinions. What are your thoughts on SI’s draft and my analysis of the first six rounds?