With NBA superstars such as Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Kevin Durant teaming up on Team USA and cruising through the Olympics, it got me thinking. What is the best 12-man roster you could possibly assemble?
But that’s almost too easy. All you have to do is name the best two players at each position, then add two role-playing specialists. Plus, there’s no way you could fit all those top-tier players under one salary cap.
So I decided to get a little more realistic. The NBA salary cap right now is about $58 million, but only eight teams are actually under that mark and avoiding the luxury tax. A better mark to go by is the average NBA team’s total roster salary, which is just under $66 million.
My aim was to create the best possible team whose 2012-13 salaries add up to right around that average. The following team is the result.
(All salary numbers credit to hoopsworld.com)
SF: LeBron James (2012-13 salary: $17,545,000; running total: $17,545,000) - If you’re making the best team possible, you’ve got to take the best player in the world and build off of him. So, my first pick is LeBron James. The best pieces to surround him with would be shooters, big men who can rebound and defend the rim, big guys who can hit mid-range jumpers and at least one guy who can create his own shot to help take off the scoring load.
C: Dwight Howard ($19,536,360; $37,081,360) – The combination of Dwight Howard and LeBron James would be the best possible one-two punch in the league. They would be an unstoppable rebounding force, and since they both draw tons of fouls and double teams, they could both get easy buckets in the post when needed and throw alley-oops to each other all day long. And that’s not even including the defensive side of the ball. Howard is a one-man team defense, which would allow LeBron to roam around and create turnovers with the safety net of Howard. You almost don’t even need anyone else on the floor if you’ve got these two.
PF: Luis Scola ($4,148,510; $41,229,870) – Luis Scola is one of the most underrated big men in the league. He doesn’t play outstanding defense, but you don’t need to when Dwight Howard is your fellow frontline partner. What Scola lacks in athleticism and height, he makes up for in smarts and craftiness. He can score down low, and his mid-range jumper is solid. He would make a great pick-and-roll or pick-and-pop partner with LeBron.
SG: Ray Allen ($3,090,000; $44,319,870) – A knockdown three-point shooter is a must-have to go along with James and Howard. Allen is the most reliable shooter in the league, and he can effectively create his own shot with his ability to run around the court until his defender finally gets lost through a forest of screens. He’s also an underrated defender and slasher, two qualities you always want in a starter.
PG: Stephen Curry ($3,958,742; $48,278,612) – Although he has injury problems, Curry is another deadly weapon when behind the three-point arc. He would feast off all the double teams drawn to LeBron and Dwight. He can also set up other players himself; he’s averaged 5.8 assists per game in his young career.
Sixth Man: James Harden ($5,820,417; $54,099,029) – He may have struggled in the NBA Finals, but James Harden is still only 22 years old. LeBron struggled in the Finals last year, and look where he is now. Harden is the perfect sixth man. He can slash to the basket, he can shoot and he can facilitate. He’s like a Swiss Army knife of offense. Plus, he’s not a bad defender.
Back-up big men: Serge Ibaka ($2,253,062) & Kenneth Faried ($1,348,800; $57,700,891) – These two rising stars would be great compliments to one another. Ibaka would be the Dwight Howard backup, cleaning up any defensive mistakes that his teammates might make. Faried is a great energy guy who is a tremendous rebounder. He ranked ninth in the NBA last year in total rebound rate, which measures the percentage of rebounds grabbed by a player while on the court. He created a lot of problems for the Lakers in the playoffs last year with his relentless effort on the boards. His energy would be a great spark off the bench.
Back-up guards: Avery Bradley ($1,630,800) & Ty Lawson ($2,544,529; $61,876,220) – Bradley emerged last year as one of the premier perimeter defenders in the league. His lockdown defense could be used to wear down opponents’ top-scoring guards. He’s also a solid shooter. Lawson has improved every year of his young career. His point averages have risen from 8.3 to 11.7 to 16.4, his assists from 3.1 to 4.7 to 6.6 and his steals from 0.7 to 1.0 to 1.3. He’s another energy guy who would light it up off the bench.
11th and 12th men: Greg Stiemsma ($2,575,000) & Gary Neal ($854,389; grand total of $65,305,609) – These guys wouldn’t play unless injuries occurred, so I decided to grab two cheapies who are great specialists—Neal is a terrific shooter, and Stiemsma can defend the rim as well as anyone.