Do you ever sit around with your buddies and talk about who the greatest starting five for your favorite NBA franchise is? We here at The Sports Drop do too.
This got us thinking; what is the best starting five in the history of each of the league’s 30 teams? Fortunately for us, CBS Sports did the thinking for us. So flip through the lists and see what we have to say about what they think.
Just a note on their selections: CBS Sports only chose players that represented their teams for 5 years or more. So, for example, KD doesn’t make the Warrior lineup even though he led them to 2 titles. Also, players can only be represented on one team. This is why LeBron shows up in Cleveland but not Miami.
With that, take a look and see if you agree. There are some pretty good lineups to look at here.
The lineup for the Hawks begins and ends with Dominique Wilkins. The “Human Highlight Reel” single-handedly gave that franchise relevance within the last 30 years. In his career, Wilkins was an All-Star, Slam Dunk Contest champion, a scoring champ, and finally in 2006 a Hall of Famer.
Let’s give “Mount Mutombo” and the other guys on this list some credit too. Despite the name recognition of the earlier mentioned men, Lenny Wilkens may be the most prolific name on this list, having been inducted into the Hall of Fame as a player, a coach, and as a coach of the 1992 Dream Team. What a legend.
Picking this list must have been a difficult task. With so many great names throughout the years, someone was going to be left off. And while there’s no arguing with the names they did select, let’s look at who they left off the list.
How about NBA Hall of Famer, Kevin McHale? Yeah, his number is retired but he and his 17,000 points for the franchise don’t get a spot. Neither does Sam Jones, who has the most NBA titles of any player besides his teammate Bill Russell.
The New Jersey/Brooklyn franchise has been around since 1967, yet they’ve never really hit the big time. Proof of that is in this lineup that features… zero Hall of Famers. We’ll see if Jason Kidd gets in a few years from now.
A few Hall of Fame names passed through New Jersey during their careers, but none of them stuck around long enough to make this list. Who knows: if Kyrie and KD stick around for a few years and win a couple of titles, all that could change. But knowing those two, it’s not likely.
Ok, this lineup isn’t great either, but it’s got a player from Space Jam in it! That’s right, the diminutive Muggsy Bogues holds it down at the 1 for the hornets. And hey, check it out: there’s Stephen Curry’s dad. In all seriousness, those guys were good solid professionals for a franchise in its infancy.
Maybe don’t show Hornets’ fans this lineup though, as the wound from Kemba Walker leaving to go to Boston may have not healed yet. Memories of Emeka Okafor and Larry Johnson patrolling the paint should make them forget their present troubles though, right?
This should have been easy; just pencil in the entire 1995-1996 Bulls roster, right? Alas, the Bulls have more history than that. Plus, Dennis Rodman only played 3 seasons in Chicago before taking the sideshow to the Lakers.
While Jordan and Pippen are no-brainers, Artis Gilmore is a Hall of Famer too, and some could argue Derrick Rose’s time on top was too short. But the 2011 League MVP was better at his peak than any other point guard the Bulls have had.
LeBron James’ inclusion is a no-brainer. However, we have a bone to pick with CBS for including Kyrie Irving over the fellow number 1 draft pick Austin Carr. For those of you non-Cavs fans, not only have the Cavaliers retired Austin Carr’s number, but also he’s the voice of the Cavaliers TV broadcasts and has been doing color commentary for them for years.
Think Irving will get his jersey retired in Cleveland? Not likely after the way he left Cleveland just when things were getting good. Austin Carr is far more beloved than flat-earther Irving, and probably always will be.
Take Dirk Nowitzki out of this, and you have a list of players only Mavericks fans would remember. It’s too bad Steve Nash featured in the Suns list, or he would be a great addition to this lineup.
If things keep going the way they are, Luka Doncic will feature on this list in about ten years. The second-year man from Slovenia looks like the next European star for the Dallas franchise. Who knows, if Kristaps Porzingis can stay healthy, maybe he joins this lineup too.
It’s a shame Mount Mutombo is taken by the Hawks, or he’d be a great addition to this squad. We’ll have to settle for Hall of Famer Dan Issel; not a bad trade-off.
Carmelo Anthony makes the list for the Nuggets, as this is where it all began for him. Denver is where he made his name in the NBA and where he was at his most dynamic. The Knicks years got a bit tedious and the weight of expectations weighed heavily on his time there. Also, a guy named Fat Lever plays the point in this lineup. Awesome.
Watch out, this is an all-time great lineup of all-time greats. It’s a “who’s who” of the late ’80s and early ’90’s NBA elites. And don’t forget, these are the guys who’d just as much rather elbow you in the mouth than dunk on you.
It is a shame none of the title-winning members of the 2004 team made it on this list, though. No Ben Wallace, Chauncey Billups or Tayshaun Prince? Come on! What about Rasheed Wallace, or Rip Hamilton? What a travesty.
Golden State Warriors
This lineup is so stacked it’s unfair. It includes the greatest center of all time (Wilt Chamberlain), the greatest shooting point guard of all time (Stephen Curry), and one of the greatest pure shooters of all time (Klay Thompson). That’s not even giving any credit to the incredible skill and talent of Rick Barry and Paul Arizin, two Hall of Famers.
Give Draymond Green a few more years and possibly a couple more titles and he could show up in this lineup. Every starting 5 needs a Swiss army knife, and few are better than Draymond.
The great thing about this Houston Rockets lineup is that is spans the generations. They’ve got a player from each decade from the ’70s to the 10’s. Something for the whole family to relate to, isn’t that great?
And yes, these Rockets were great. Look at that talent in the paint that includes Moses Malone and Hakeem Olajuwon. Thinking about driving down the lane? Think again. The only problem with this lineup is that there’s only one ball. T-Mac and James Harden would have some issues.
Reggie Miller is the greatest Pacers player in franchise history and one of the true legends of 90’s NBA basketball. Looking at this lineup, he’s got some pretty good running mates in blue and gold. Paul George has moved all-around since his days in Indy, but he’ll always be remembered for his dominating play there.
The only complaint we have with this list is there’s no Detlef Schrempf. No, he isn’t in the Hall of Fame, but he scored over 15 thousand points during his time in the league and was a three-time All-Star. Also, it’s fun to say his name.
Los Angeles Clippers
Chris Paul had to be on the Pelicans/Hornets list or they would have had no one to put there, otherwise, this would be CP3’s team. His “Lob City” partner, Blake Griffin, makes the list even though they recently shipped him out Detroit.
It’s a shame there was no room on this list for Elton Brand, a great servant to the club and an overall good guy. In spite of this Ron Harper and Danny Manning make a formidable core to this team.
Los Angeles Lakers
If this team were able to play together they would go 82-0. This team includes at least 2 of the top 10 players of all time and leaves off Hall of Famers George Mikan and James Worthy.
Talent, points and personal awards are one thing but trophies are another. This lineup has a combined 15 NBA championship rings. That’s insane. If only we had a time machine and could put all of these players on the court together in their prime. What a dream.
Sure, we’ll include the franchise’s Vancouver days in this list too, though none of those players feature in this lineup. The great thing about this lineup is that you’ve seen them all playing recently and can still see three of them playing today, albeit with different teams.
These Grizzlies teams were never great, but they always managed to the team talked about as the next up and coming challenger. Together this lineup has a combined 5 All-Star game appearances, which seems low for this group and is probably the lowest of any of the 30 teams.
Three of Miami’s greatest champions made the lists of other teams. We’re talking about LeBron James, Chris Bosh, and Shaquille O’Neal, of course. The constant through those teams though is here. Dwayne Wade is the greatest member of the Heat and a future NBA Hall of Famer.
Some people forget that before his health issues and his status as an Internet meme legend, Alonzo Mourning was a great player. He was perennially an All-NBA Defense performer. The rest of the starting five are solid, but unspectacular, performers.
Sure, we all think of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as a stalwart of the Los Angeles Lakers, but before he moved to the City of Angels he won 3 MVP awards in 6 seasons with the Bucks. Winning it three times in six years?!? That’s unheard of.
Ray Allen’s time in Milwaukee is also sometimes forgotten, as he became a gun for hire for multiple championship-winning teams in the latter stages of his career. There’s one thing about shooters, they’ll never be out of work as long as they are still sinking buckets. Despite this, he spent 7 prolific seasons in Milwaukee to start his career.
As cited in the CBS article, only 16 players have ever spent 5 or more seasons in Minnesota. This leads to pretty slim pickings when filling out a lineup. Kevin Garnett and early-career Kevin Love are obvious additions.
Wally Szcerbiak was a great shooter, scoring over 9,000 points in his 10-year career in the league. Despite this, he only earned one All-Star game nod. Doug West has a particularly sentimental value here as he was one of the original Timberwolves, having been drafted by the team in their first season in 1989.
New Orleans Pelicans
OK, this is a weird one, but you know the franchise history so we don’t have to go back through that. When put together this is a pretty great lineup. Imagine the lob potential with Chris Paul tossing alley-oops to Anthony Davis.
The real shame here is none of these players stuck around long enough to play together, despite all but David West being an active player. Jrue Holiday is the only one still in town as he attempts to link up with Zion Williamson.
New York Knicks
The indictment of the James Dolan era of ownership is made very clear in the selections here. None of the five players listed here have played this century. But can you imagine a more ferocious front-court than Willis Reed and Patrick Ewing?
We’d like to add Charles Oakley, but just for the fun of seeing Dolan squirm. Also, it’s a shame Allan Houston didn’t get an inclusion, he’s one of the best Knicks of the 21st century. Who could forget about Walt Frazier and that ever-dark beard? Well, at least now we know his secret to that.
Oklahoma City Thunder
We are thrilled that the CBS team felt it necessary to include Seattle Supersonics legends into this lineup, and not just because Nick Collison doesn’t need another honor just for sticking around a long time. Gary Payton and Russell Westbrook for the angriest backcourt in NBA history but there’s no doubting their immense talent and performances.
Shawn Kemp and Jack Sikma make up the front-court and quite frankly we would have liked to have seen Rashard Lewis and his 15, 000 points ahead of Sikma. We get it, but it’s just one more blow to 21st-century Sonics basketball.
It’s a shame that the franchise’s two best players, Shaquille O’Neal and Tracy McGrady, made the list for other teams. But that’s how it goes in Orlando, doesn’t it? At least this list still has Penny Hardaway and the bespectacled Horace Grant.
Dwight Howard made the list too, but he left once he won his MVP also. He’s never been the same since. It feels like Jameer Nelson only made it onto this list because he played there for ten years. We’d have rather seen Darrell Armstrong. But, to be fair the list of worthy candidates isn’t that long.
This 76ers lineup has some character with A.I., Dr. J, and Charles “The Round Mound of Rebound” Barkley. These are all icons of there day for the way they played. Dr. J’s elegance and smooth play. Iverson working his trademark crossover. Sir Charles with his versatility and all-around game.
All five men in this lineup are Hall of Famers, but Dolph Schayes may be the earliest player in any of these selections as he began playing in the NBA in 1948. The game was a bit different back then, highlighted by his career as a dominant center at just 6-foot-8.
Is Steve Nash the greatest player in Phoenix Suns history? Maybe, especially if you count Charles Barkley on the 76ers, as CBS does. Nash is the greatest player on this team, and has two MVP’s with the Suns to the one for Barkley.
Nash, Amar’e Stoudemire, and Shawn Marion formed one of the fastest and most exciting offenses when they played together coached by Mike D’Antoni Despite Barkley’s team making the NBA Finals, those years with Nash and company were likely the most exciting Suns’ teams in their history.
Our biggest issue with this list is that Rasheed Wallace is left off again, snubbed by both Detroit and Portland. Could you imagine the conversations in the locker room between ‘Sheed and Bill Walton? Incredible.
Damian Lillard and Clyde Drexler would also have been fun to watch play together. Combined they have 14 All-Star game appearances. The Rose City has enjoyed some stellar guard play throughout the years with those two handling the ball.
Despite having never won an NBA title in the modern era, the Sacramento Kings franchise has had some true legends of the game wear their jerseys. Until recently, Oscar Robertson was the only man to average a triple-double for an entire season.
Jerry Lucas and Chris Webber were both dominating in their time, with their averages combining for a double-double for their careers. Peja Stojakovic could not be left off this list as his contribution to Europeans in the NBA and the Kings teams of the early 2000’s were immense.
San Antonio Spurs
All of these choices but one are no-brainers as the Spurs have dominated the 21st century as one of the NBA’s best teams. This is thanks, in large part, to their core of Parker, Duncan, and Ginobili.
The only question mar here is George Gervin or Kawhi Leonard. Spurs fans will probably tell you Gervin after the ugly divorce Kawhi and Uncle Dennis forced from the team. However, his Finals MVP when they beat the Heat is as unforgettable as his two Defensive Player of the Year Awards.
This is another team full of 21st-century stars. Start with Vince Carter, the man who taught a generation of kids how to “posterize” poor, unassuming defenders. Vince is somehow in the league, but he was never better than during his days in Toronto. No one had hops like Vince and no one has since.
The dynamic duo of Lowry and DeRozan had tremendous regular-season success together but never could quite get over the hump in the playoffs. Neither could Chris Bosh, who had to leave town to achieve playoff success.
Stockton-to-Malone was the famous call as the duo dominated the 1990’s with their unstoppable pick-and-roll combination. Unfortunately for them, they ran into the buzz saw of Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls and were never able to win it all.
“Pistol” Pete Maravich personified his team’s nickname more than any player ever has. His flashy and smooth dribbling left onlookers speechless. Unfortunately for all of us, injuries limited his playing career to just ten years, but in those ten he was peerless.
Wes Unseld led the Washington franchise to it’s only title in 1978, so he’s an obvious choice for this list. Unseld averaged 10 points and 14 rebounds over a 13-year career just playing for the Bullets, as they were known then.
John Wall is probably also an easy choice despite not living up to expectations. Gilbert Arenas is the addition we would have like to see on this list. Yes, it ended poorly in Washington for Arenas, but when he was focused and playing well, he was equally as good as Wall.