There have been so many injuries to good players this season that you could practically make an All-Star team from them. So let’s do it.
The game is to pick the best starting five out of players who have missed significant playing time this season. The goal is to compete as best you can for the next three years. Pretend all players are suddenly healthy, but all long-term ramifications (will Brandon Roy’s knees ever be okay?) remain. In this hypothetical world there is still a salary cap, luxury tax etc., and you have to fill out an entire roster, so be wary of taking every high-priced player out there. The candidates are:
Center: Andrew Bogut, Andrew Bynum, Nene, Nikola Pekovic
Power Forward: Kevin Love, Dirk Nowtizki, Amar’e Stoudemire
Small Forward: Danny Granger, Stephen Jackson, Kawhi Leonard, Brandon Rush
Shooting Guard: Chauncey Billups, Eric Gordon, Brandon Roy, Dwayne Wade
Point Guard: Kyrie Irving, Kyle Lowry, Steve Nash, Derrick Rose, Ricky Rubio, John Wall
Coach: Mike D’Antoni (we have jokes!)
Center: I think it’s Bogut. Even if that arm injury and repeated ankle surgeries takes away his offensive prowess, he’ll be a pretty above average post defender. The Warriors defense has allowed about four less points per game when he’s in.
Power Forward: I mean, obviously Love. A broken hand as a 24 year old sucks far less than degenerative knee issues for two 30-plussers.
Small Forward: Kawhi. Again, look at the injuries. Tendinitis can be treated. Tears and fractures have to be surgically repaired. And he’ll be a bargain up until his rookie-scale contract ends.
Shooting Guard: If D-Wade wasn’t on this list, this would be hard, but you can’t say no. I predict a structured, intelligent decline for D-Wade, who will become and improved shooter and ball distributor as he loses his explosiveness (or others become more explosive). Steep price tag, but he’s already coming at a bargain.
Point Guard: This is where things get a bit tricky. There are some really great guards here. I’m going with Rubio. The knee injury was severe, but I think his game will be less affected by it. I’m not sure we’ll ever see the D-Rose we knew again.
Center: Bynum. I don’t see a young up and coming big man in Andrew Bynum. All I see is a number, more importantly a number that’s off the books in a year. The value of his expiring contract is worth more than what he can do on the court.
Power Forward: Kevin Love. He is an incredible player. His injury isn’t an overuse issue or something that happened on the court. It was kind of a freak accident. Dirk only has a couple years left in him, then he can enjoy Octoberfest year round. Amar’e isn’t playing with Nash and isn’t what he used to be when he was a Sun.
Small Forward: Kawhi Leonard. Probably the best bang for the buck in the league. Quality role player. Good locker room presence. A glue guy. He’s an impact player. He understands his role on the team. He has great instincts. He has a nose for the ball. I actually don’t know if any of that is true, it just felt like the right moment to start using cliches. You can’t say enough about him.
Shooting Guard: Eric Gordon. I think all this stuff about his knee needing more rehab and he’s not ready is BS. He didn’t want to be a Hornet and still doesn’t. A healthy Eric Gordon was a beast, a clean-shaven man’s James Harden.
Point Guard: Kyrie Irving. I would build my team around him.
Center: Nene. I would want a tough, defensive-minded center in the middle that is contractually locked up for a few years. Although he hasn’t been healthy his entire career, he’s definitely not as injury-prone as Bogut or Bynum. Plus, I doubt Nene is an avid bowler.
Power Forward: Kevin Love. Really? Is there even a debate about it?
Small Forward: Kawhi Leonard. He’s great defensively and an unselfish player (courtesy of Gregg Poppovich). And he just turned 21, so he’s cheap.
Shooting Guard: I can’t decide between Chauncey Billups and Eric Gordon. On the one hand, Chauncey will provide the veteran leadership my young team so desperately needs. On other hand, he really needs the ball in his hands most of the time to be effective (which I see as potentially clashing with my PG). I have faith in Eric Gordon’s ability to come back, but he contract seems to high for my liking. But with a gun to my head, I guess I’ll choose Mr. Big Shot.
Point Guard: Derrick Rose. The dude was MVP a couple of years ago and a cornerstone for any franchise. How can I not choose him? I believe his freak knee injury is career-altering, not career-ending. He will come back more efficient and skilled with an old-man’s YMCA game and less reliant on his athletic ability…or so I hope.
Center: This one is maybe the toughest. Choosing centers based on how much you expect them to perform, well, as a Blazers fan… I don’t really want to talk about it. Too soon. It may always be too soon. But if I had to… Nene, with a backup strategy. Nene is quite consistent. I expect him to be well above average when he is on the floor and that I will have him for somewhere south of 3/4 of the games. Bynum had one amazing year and now he, well, who the hell knows with that guy. Actually, I think I’m gonna take Bynum because I want to watch him make amazing sartorial choices while sitting behind the bench.
Power Forward: Love. Duh.
Small Forward: Leonard. Turns out this one is not even close, his WP48 is INSANE.
Shooting Guard: Wade. He has been amazing for a long time and half a Wade is still worth more than both these guys right now. Gordon never really performed as well as his contract and suitors might indicate.
Point Guard: This one was close, but I will go Irving. Kyle Lowry would be my choice for right now. Very tough to decide whether to go all in with Wade’s last few years of amazing (assuming he gets back to amazing), but Irving has the chance to be pretty special. Also Rose is totes overrated.
Center: Bynum. Love and Bynum would be a sight to behold on both ends of the floor. When healthy, there’s an argument that both are the best offensive players at their respective positions… as for d, that’s another matter.
Side note: Pekovic doesn’t even really feel pain, despite the fact that he’s apparently injured. Apparently. Let’s take him off the table?
Power Forward: Love. What else is there to say about the best offensive power forward in the league. His defense is another matter altogether, but teaming him with any of the above options somewhat makes up for that.
Small Forward: Tempted to take Kawhi here, but does Pop’s system a baller make? I’m not sure, but with the Bynum and Love contracts I’ve already absorbed, I’m going with Leonard for the glue/defense.
Shooting Guard: Avery Bradley. With a Bradley and Leonard combo defending the wings, nobody’s going to be able to score on these guys.
Point Guard: Rubio. There were two huge knocks on Rubio coming into last year — One, he couldn’t shoot. Two, he wouldn’t be athletic or quick enough to play NBA level defense. We did see a couple of horrific shooting games from Ricky as he had his share of rookie struggles, but I think Rubio’s athleticism was what most shocked the doubters and haters. Plus if he’s in Minnesota, hopefully he has the Adrian Peterson people rehabbing his ACL… yaknowwhatimean?
Agree that Kevin Love is the best choice for PF? Can’t believe nobody picked John Wall for PG? Get at us in the comments.