I’m the type of sports fan who looks at individual accolades and honors with a grain of salt or two. MVP awards, All (name the sport) First Team, Defensive Player of the Year, and the list goes on. One of the big reasons I don’t put too much stock in these awards is because often times the choices fly in the face of logic, reason, and statistics. Even when the awards are voted on by the “experts” of the major sports, bias creeps in and at times tarnishes the award. If the NBA MVP really represents the most valuable player or his team that year, how has Shaquille O’Neal, one of the most dominating athletes in all of sports, won the award just once? How did Miguel Cabrera land a first place vote for AL MVP this year when he clearly wasn’t even close to Mauer or the other candidates ahead of him? I’d like to say that the awards are given to the deserving candidate more often than not, but I’m not so sure that is the case.
I’m the type of sports fan who, outside of the pure entertainment purposes of the game, cares as much about any All Star game as I do a regular season WNBA game. I’m not saying that the experts get it right all the time (see: Miguel Cabrera’s one first place vote for the 2009 AL MVP), but if fan voting is involved, count me out.
There will always be guys who make the All Star team year in and out and are much deserving of the spot. On the flip side, there will be Yao Ming who could be voted in as a starter as a water boy. In fact, for the 2010 NBA All Star game, Tracy McGrady who has yet to play a single minute this NBA season but is still on the ballot, is currently in second place in total votes for Western Conference guards (thanks, China. To see what I mean, check out this link and this link).
After talking with a friend about the sham that the NBA All Star game has become, I said that I could assemble a roster of guys who have never been an All Star that could be an instant championship contender. After I started looking into the list of players who haven’t made an ASG, I was amazed at the level of talent out there. It was almost too easy to make this list so I made a few extra rules for myself when putting this team together and they are as follows:
1) The player can never have been on an All Star game roster.
2) 2009-10 rookies can’t be added since they haven’t had the opportunity to become an All Star yet.
3) I have to consider the player’s current salary for the 2009-10 year and stay under the league average of $70,675,724 for my team (salaries via Hoops Hype http://hoopshype.com/salaries.htm).
4) Assume that by having a player on my team, he is a “duplicate” and would still be on his actual team (prevents me from dismantling a few teams to boost my chances at a title).
5) I have to (to a reasonable extent) factor in team chemistry when assembling the roster. I can’t put four guys in my starting five who like to get twenty plus shots a game regardless of their individual talent level. Teams win rings, and that’s the goal of this.
It should be noted that I did this before the 2010 All Star game and I expect a few on my roster to be All Stars after this year.
With those rules in mind, here is my fifteen man roster who I think could contend for the title this year.
PG: Deron Williams
2010 Salary – $13,520,500
By all rights, Deron Williams should have been an All Star by now. In his fifth year in the league, Deron is a big, physical point guard who shoots well from the floor and has some great court vision. He can blow by defenders and take it to the rim or find the open man. I’ll take him as my floor general any day of the week, and over lots of other guys who have been All Stars in the past.
SG: Shane Battier
2010 Salary – $6,939,200
Battier could play at either shooting guard or small forward, depending on the matchup. He’s known around the league for his elite defensive skills, and at 6’8”, 220lbs he’s big enough to push around smaller guards and can contest shots with his length. He won’t wow anyone on the offensive end but he shoots a respectable percentage from three point land. (Editors note: I like Duke basketball about as much as I like the Yankees, but I’ll give credit where credit is due, Battier is solid and I’ll give him a pass)
SF: Kevin Durant
2010 Salary – $4,796,880
Obviously the offensive go-to guy on my team. Durant was born to score, and his height (6’9”) and ability to shoot from about anywhere on the floor makes for matchup nightmares. His defensive game needs a lot of work, but I’m not picking him to be on this team to be a defensive stopper. He’s got huge upside and will only improve with more experience. I think he fits in great on this team and while his salary is low right now, that will change in a few years for sure.
2010 Salary – $5,844,827
LaMarcus is having a good season this year and will flirt with a double double on any given night. He’s got a good jump shot and is a decent defender as well. I added him to the roster because he can gobble up some rebounds and gives my starting five some much needed bulk considering Kevin Durant can’t go outside when the wind blowing harder than twenty miles per hour. He stays out of foul trouble which may seem like an afterthought, but when it comes to big men this can be a make or break statistic.
2010 Salary – $5,854,000
Probably the least known out of my five, but not for a lack of talent. He happens to be stuck behind one Mr. Dwight Howard so his minutes are few and far between. That being said, those who have seen Gortat play know that he has the skills to be a starting center on a lot of NBA teams. There was a reason Orlando matched Dallas’ five year, $34 million offer for a guy who won’t get minutes. Gortat is a very good rebounder and has a good set of offensive skills down low. He won’t demand a lot of shots which fits in well here as I expect Deron Williams and Kevin Durant to take the bulk of the offensive load.
Bench (in no particular order):
SF: Trevor Ariza
2010 Salary – $5,854,000
On my fictional team, Ariza will likely split minutes 50/50 with Battier, staring certain games depending on the matchup as well as filling in for Durant as needed. Ariza had a great postseason for the Lakers last year and his clutch play and his ability to be a menace on the defensive passing lanes made it an easy choice for me. If you only saw him play in the 2009 NBA Finals, you would think he was a sure thing from downtown, but his stats don’t back that up and it seems as though that was an exception rather than the norm. Regardless, Ariza is athletic and can play both a complementary role as well as stepping in and hitting big shots.
SG: Leandro Barbosa
2010 Salary – $6,600,000
Barbosa will be a guy I bring in off the bench for an offensive spark. He’s fast and can push the ball up the court to get some buckets. He shoots well from the floor and is good for a couple of threes per game. There are more explosive scorers out there, but Barbosa is used to the “coming off the bench” role and he’s a nice asset to the team.
PF: Leon Powe
2010 Salary – $855,189
Powe has one of those great rags to riches stories that come along every so often. He’s a gritty, grind it out player who’s willing to take the charge and throw his body around. Physically he’s a beast who can muscle up bigger players if needed. If you saw him play with Boston, he showed flashes of some good offensive skills as well as solid rebounding. Considering the price tag is under a million as well, you can’t go wrong with a guy like Powe on your bench.
PG: Earl Boykins
2010 Salary – $752,189
Although he’s the size of the average seventh grader, Early Boykins can play some serious ball. He’s a solid point guard who can run the fast break with his speed and quickness. To say this guy flies around the court is an understatement. I think he provides a nice change of pace for my team when he comes in for Williams. Despite his size, he’s known to be a streaky scorer so he’s an offensive threat when he does come into the game. He’ll bring some veteran leadership to the team which is something I’ll need considering the relative youth of my team.
2010 Salary – $6,857,725
Pryzbylla has something in his game that is un-coachable: the art of shot blocking. In his career, Pryzbylla averages only about 20 minutes of playing time per game but has 1.6 blocks per game. Having a guy like him to bring in as the backup center gives you a guy who can defend the paint and make opponents who are looking to drive think twice. He won’t demand the ball on offense which is good and he’s a good rebounder as well. Solid back-up center, although his price tag is a bit higher than I’d like.
SF: Thaddeus Young
2010 Salary – $2,105,400
I picked Young because he is a young, athletic big forward with a knack for finding the rim. While he starts at power forward for his real time, I’d be more likely to bring him in off the bench to provide some offensive punch at the four spot. He’s decent on defense as well and he has a lot of upside.
2010 Salary – $4,140,000
Ronnie Turiaf is my team’s token hired gun. He, like Pryzbylla, is a shot blocker by nature and will go into the game for me to contest and defend the paint. He’s prone to foul trouble, but considering I’m using him as the hired gun to come in and make some physical, hard-nosed plays, I’m OK with him averaging as many fouls per game as he does rebounds.
PF: Hakim Warrick
2010 Salary – $3,000,000
I like Hakim Warrick because he’s long and very athletic. The guy can jump out of the gym and considering how few of shots per game he has averaged over his career, he draws a lot of fouls and gets to the line frequently. I want him on this team because I like having some contrast, and Hakim’s speedy athletic style provides a change up from the type of physical game guys like Turiaf and Powe bring off the bench.
SG: Keith Bogans
2010 Salary – $825,497
I think of Bogans as the Spurs attempt to replace Bruce Bowen. Bogans plays some lock down, tough defense and he’s a respectable three point shooter. He probably wouldn’t see a lot of minutes on my team, but the idea of bringing him in to give Battier a breather and not giving up a lot on the defensive side of the ball is appealing. If my team is matched up against a team with a good shooting guard I can alternate between Battie and Bogans to keep good defenders with fresh legs on that player. Bogans is a nice weapon to have.
SG: Ronnie Brewer
2010 Salary – $2,717,161
Brewer is another young, athletic player that I’m adding to my bench. Given some minutes, he’s good for double digit points and a few steals (he’s dangerous in the passing lanes). He shoots a career average 52% from the floor, and while I don’t think he’ll do that his entire career, having a guy who can come off the bench and hit about half his shots while providing some athleticism, I’m happy with that. His salary is a bit high, but considering how much money I saved with Bogans, Powe, and Boykins, I’ll live with it.
So there’s my team. Overall, I think I did a good job mixing in some veterans with some young players and finding a balance between athleticism and power players. In terms of overall budget, I managed to end up with $13,156 left over. I think I got a team that can go out and contend for the title, but what do you think? Did I miss somebody? Do you have a better lineup? Let me know – comment here, tweet, or email to let me know your thoughts!