So I got to thinking about this when we were discussing Kobe's place among the greats. Then later that day a post popped up in my feed with star players past and present naming their all time starting 5. I thought I'd have a go.
The rule changes in 2001 make it a little tricky. I think all players I'd consider are great no matter what, but some are going to be better in one era or another. I think both Lebron and MJ suit the 90s better, I think Magic would have been even more effective playing today.
So my first pass delivered
1. Paul. As a point guard he has no weakness. He rates in the top 5 at everything, arguably in the most competitive era. It's really his steals rate that sets him apart as he's untouched in the no hand check era. The biggest obstacle to this one is a choice of team play style on both ends a quick look at the name below and you'll see what I mean.
Other candidates Jordan, Magic, Curry, Harden, Lebron.
2. Curry. Probably the easiest pick of all. No one warps a defence the way he does. Almost everyone else I considered demands 2 defenders on the ball either immediately or beat one and draw the second. That may be a little less true of Curry, but he's the only guy who almost gets doubled off the ball. Even off ball screen he demands a switch and in the confusion he often draws 2 as you don't leave Steph alone ever.. His defence is ok and his playmaking underrated.
Other candidates Jordan, Harden, Lebron, Magic, Kawhi,
3 Magic: Funny choice, but I struggle to see how a tall athletic guy with vision doesn't succeed. I also considered the era and how his shot developed and I struggled to see him not being able to shoot now. Not the strongest defender, but adequate for the time and I think his defence translates better to the modern game. Obviously extremely efficient as a passer and scorer in his day I see little reason it doesn't persist or even improve.
Other candidates Lebron, KD, Bird, Barkley Jordan, Harden
4. Kawhi: This one might seem strange, and there were lots of choices, but when I broke it down he seemed to fit best. Most efficient scorer combined with best defender. Again a tough call as he'd be well down my list for best player at the position, but with Robinson as a non 3P threat I shied away from another and of the relatively few guys left Kawhi was the best defender.
Other candidates Giannis, Davis, Lebron, Durant, Barkley, Bird, Magic, Kawhi
5. Robinson: On offence. Good screener, roller, cutter, post player, could hit a FT and make the obvious pass. He could dribble competently in the open court. On D he shone. Rarely gave up position and used his length and athleticism to rack up blocks and rebounds. Also had a knack for getting his hands in passing lanes and could hold his own on the perimeter. Had an excellent second and third jump and he didn't block guys into the stands, but often blocked and gained possession. Strong enough to deal with Shaq(as well as anyone did).
Other candidates Shaq, Jokic, Davis, Giannis, Barkley, Lebron. I've a feeling give this another year or 2 and Giannis takes it.
Some big names who didn't get a spot. Lebron, MJ, Kareem and Wilt. The whole team can score and so volume took a hit in favor of efficiency as playmakers and scorers. Shaq was the most efficient guy I looked at, but I questioned his utility in the modern game. There's an excellent case for Giannis over Robinson and I suspect by the time he finishes playing he'll have that spot...unless Jokic does, if Jokic has the 5 Giannis is likely at the 4.
I think that's as good a team as I can make. Does this mean I think these players are the best at their position? No. You can't just optimise 4 positions and choose all time greats. At some point you're going to have to play a vet min or 2 and so maintaining efficiency on volume matters and is likely the most important thing. Wilt, Kareem, Jordan and Lebron deserve their place a top the greats.
So who've you got? Is there are way to have one of the greats one on one take advantage of the lack of size in my back court? Should I have added another threat at the rim? Should I have gone 5 shooters? Who's the biggest snub? Worst inclusion?