As the NBA nears a return with 22 teams heading to a bubble in Orlando, Florida next month, the question has been raised: what are the other eight teams going to do?
The Golden State Warriors will surely be fine with taking some time off after some extensive playoff runs. Ditto for Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson of the Cleveland Cavaliers who are surely looking forward to a piña colada on the beach after a reduction in social distancing requirements. For the other six teams though, there are plenty of young players trying to figure out how to adjust to NBA life and become the best players they can be. Having extra games could help those players immensely.
But what if the NBA didn’t send every player home? What if two additional super teams were formed to compete for a title this season and round up the field to 24 teams? The only caveat: the players involved could only come from the following eight squads:
- Charlotte Hornets
- Chicago Bulls
- New York Knicks
- Detroit Pistons
- Atlanta Hawks
- Minnesota Timberwolves
- Cleveland Cavaliers
- Golden State Warriors
Zach Mikash and Ryan Blackburn got together to do just that. In this exercise, the two writers each drafted 10 players in a serpentine format to see whose team would advance furthest in the quarantine playoffs. At the end, the rosters are put together for everyone to vote on whose team is best. The only two rules that matter: there’s no salary cap, and every player is back to full health.
Zach’s team: Stephen Curry
Analysis: It’s an easy choice at number one as it’s basically a two horse race for the top pick between Steph and Karl-Anthony Towns. I’m going to go with the two-time MVP and greatest shooter to ever touch a basketball.
Ryan’s team: Karl-Anthony Towns
Analysis: Two easy choices for me following Zach taking Curry. Karl-Anthony Towns is the only other player who can realistically be the first option on a championship team as soon as this year. He’s an elite offensive player with a versatile skill set and will be able to score competently against any team in the NBA.
Ryan’s team: Klay Thompson
Analysis: The idea of positional scarcity sold this pick for me. There are no elite wings among the non-playoff teams, and because this draft assumes full health, Thompson is the only wing I feel comfortable defending opposing stars. He has championship pedigree and should cover for whoever I draft at starting point guard.
Zach’s team: Blake Griffin
Analysis: There’s not a ton in the way of wings to pair with Curry that warrant my second pick. So instead I went with Griffin. This exercise assumes everyone is healthy so I’m counting on getting 2018/19 Griffin and not the guy who struggled through 18 games this year. When healthy Griffin provides the team with a secondary playmaking option and the ability to have Curry off ball while the offense runs through Blake. He also can stretch the floor, which is going to be big from your forwards in any Curry offense.
Zach’s team: Clint Capela
Analysis: One thing Steph and Blake aren’t going to give this team is a ton of defense so I’m bringing in Capela to anchor that end and be the beneficiary of easy bucket s at the rim on the other end. It’s not too far off from what the Clippers did with Griffin and De’Andre Jordan in terms of the front court but now we’ve replaced Chris Paul with Curry. Lob City meets splashville
Ryan’s team: Draymond Green
Analysis: The key with a team featuring Karl-Anthony Towns is the need for versatile defense. After snagging an elite wing defender in Klay, I’m going after his running mate in Draymond Green. Another player with championship pedigree, Green is one of the most versatile defenders in NBA history, and him patrolling the back line defensively will help keep the playoff hopes alive.
Ryan’s team: Trae Young
Analysis: My Stephen Curry lookalike will get a similar supporting cast plus KAT. The numbers Trae put up with Atlanta this season were ridiculous, but there are questions with how he will handle a playoff environment. If he can’t be successful next to Klay and Draymond, while gettin Towns as a floor spacer and versatile roll man, he will never succeed.
Zach’s team: Zach LaVine
Analysis: The wings are rough and there’s not a ton of great options once Thompson is off the board. With Lavine I get another scoring option that can create for himself or work off ball. He’ll be able to shoot it from distance keeping the spacing to a maximum. Not exactly sure how much this team is going to defend but scoring won’t be a problem.
Zach’s team: D’Angelo Russell
Analysis: Just an embarrassment of riches at this point but Russell is the best player left on the board. He’s going to be my super sixth man on this team and give me versatility with a three guard rotation consisting of Curry, Lavine and Russell. Again, defense is concerning as I don’t have really much in the way of stoppers (see: none at all) but I’m going to win a lot of games 135 to 130.
Ryan’s team: Otto Porter Jr.
Analysis: Rounding out my starting five is Otto Porter, who dealt with injuries all season and looked like a shell of himself when he played. At his best, he’s a great complementary player who won’t be overwhelmed by anybody physically at 6’8. He isn’t a LeBron James or Kawhi Leonard stopper, but he will spend some time on those players while contributing on the offensive end.
Ryan’s team: Luke Kennard
Analysis: Kennard may seem like a player taken too high at this stage, but he secretly averaged over 15 points and four assists per game while shooting nearly 40% from three-point range. He’s a good player who took good steps this season as a wing who can play both on and off the ball. That versatility will help him in a playoff series if he needs to play next to (or without) Trae Young.
Zach’s team: Miles Bridges
Analysis: I need a big wing to round out my starting lineup. Ryan snagged Porter so I’m going with pretty much the last option for stout perimeter guys and thats Bridges. He’s not proven as a defender in the NBA yet but he certainly has the physical profile. On offense I won’t need him to do much but his athleticism and finishing ability will come in handy as another roll option and someone to help Capela and Griffin on the offensive glass.
Zach’s team: John Collins
Analysis: Once again there’s a glut of talent available in one position group and now its the forwards. Collins has no business coming off the bench but I like his fit as someone who will be able to play next to Griffin. He continues the theme of dunk contest participants on the roster and also bigs who can stretch the floor. Collins is in fact criminally underrated and getting him in the 7th round feels like a steal.
Ryan’s team: Wendell Carter Jr.
Analysis: The Bulls were really weird this season, but they have some pieces that make sense in a playoff context. Wendell Carter is one of them. He’s a versatile big man with good defensive chops who projects to space the floor. In this case, he would be asked to protect the rim and rebound when Towns and Green are off the floor.
Ryan’s team: Kevin Huerter
Analysis: Huerter reminds a lot of people of Klay Thompson, and that’s why I drafted him. His three-point shooting is lethal and would be very important coming off the bench. In addition, he stands at 6’7 and wouldn’t be taken advantage of defensively the way some smaller guards can be. He and Kennard will be interchangeable wings coming off my bench.
Zach’s team: Mitchell Robinson
Analysis: Robinson is the perfect guy to bring in for Capela and not really lose a step. In this rotation he’s probably getting about 15 minutes a game which is far fewer than he deserves but I know my team won’t be losing much in the way of the defensive anchor no matter which one of my centers is on the court. With wings who aren’t stopping much that center position making up for mistakes at the perimeter is a necessity 48 minutes a game.
Zach’s team: Malik Beasley
Analysis: Need to fill out the last parts of the rotation with some more shooting on the wings. Malik showed in Minnesota how capable he is when he gets an opportunity and while he won’t be getting starting minutes in this rotation, he’s still going to be a threat next to either Curry or Russell and keep defenses honest.
Ryan’s team: Kris Dunn
Analysis: The need for a guard stopper off the bench is prevalent with Trae Young as the starting point guard. Dunn has the ability to play next to him in certain situations, and he will take on tough defensive assignments for Luke Kennard and Kevin Huerter off the bench. He’s a good role player in this situation.
Ryan’s team: PJ Washington
Analysis: The last pick came down to Washington and Kevin Love, and while Love is clearly the better player, he doesn’t fit on the roster as well as Washington does. The need for switchability and versatility is high, and if Towns is playing 36 minutes a night, Love’s role just isn’t that important. When Draymond Green plays small ball center, Washington is the best candidate off the bench to play power forward next to him.
Zach’s team: Maurice Harkless
Analysis: I need a versatile defender to round out my bench and Harkless is pretty much the best option available. He’ll play somewhere between 8-12 minutes, pick up three fouls and overall be a general pest to the opposition’s scoring wings while knocking down a three or two along the way. That’s really all I need from the tenth man in this rotation.
Point Guard: Stephen Curry
Shooting Guard: Zach LaVine
Small Forward: Miles Bridges
Power Forward: Blake Griffin
Center: Clint Capela
Bench: D’Angelo Russell, Malik Beasley, Maurice Harkless, John Collins, Mitchell Robinson
So, no doubt this team is not the strongest when it comes to perimeter defense, but that’s their only weakness. I’ve got rim protection, all-time shooting, and ridiculous depth, not to mention a top 5 player in the NBA. Griffin is also a huge piece if he’s healthy and in form. It’s easy to forget he made third team All-NBA in 18-19 and has transformed from a high flying dunker/rebounder to a complete point forward with three-point range. Add in the duo of Collins and Russell as the leaders off the bench and I don’t think there’s a team in the NBA that could match this roster one through ten.
- Zach Mikash
Point Guard: Trae Young
Shooting Guard: Klay Thompson
Small Forward: Otto Porter Jr.
Power Forward: Draymond Green
Center: Karl-Anthony Towns
Bench: Kris Dunn, Luke Kennard, Kevin Huerter, PJ Washington, Wendell Carter Jr.
This team is my ideal version of the Golden State Warriors if I don’t get to select Stephen Curry. Trae Young fills that role better than almost anyone in the NBA, and Karl-Anthony Towns is the center version of Kevin Durant as a player who can work both inside and outside the Warriors’ system. Otto Porter rounds out the group, and the bench both complements the starters and forms a cohesive unit when those players sit. This team may not have a top 5 player on the roster, but the fit is seamless, and I trust the talent of Trae Young and Karl-Anthony Towns to shine through.
- Ryan Blackburn
Whose team would fare the best if added to the 22-team quarantine playoff field?
This poll is closed
Too close to call