Building a Super Bowl Team out of NBA Stars
Forget about the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks.
Richard Sherman might as well have declared that he was the best in the world on his pee-wee team, because neither he nor any of the other players on the Super Bowl rosters would stand a chance against our team built from NBA stars.
OK, that's not true. This team would be absolutely smoked by people who are paid to play football and particularly by the men who have earned the right to play on the NFL's biggest stage.
But it's fun to pretend, right?
The NBA is filled with plenty of great athletes, and now it's time to figure out how they'd fit together in an NFL lineup.
We'll be using a traditional backfield and then two receivers and a tight end on offense. Defensively, we'll be running a 4-3 scheme with a standard secondary.
Nothing fancy here.
We're talking about basketball players, so we don't want to confuse them as they attempt to play a different sport.
Note: All stats, unless otherwise indicated, come from Basketball-Reference.com.
Quarterback: Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers
If a quarterback is a field general and a point guard is a floor general, then it only makes sense to throw out the best 1-guard the NBA has to offer.
Stephen Curry and a few other point guards might be making a run at Chris Paul while he recovers from the separated shoulder he suffered while driving against the Dallas Mavericks. But they haven't caught CP3 yet, and he remains the class of the position.
Of course, a quarterback's job is to distribute the ball around to the skill-position players while directing an offense, and no one in the NBA is better at that then Paul. He's constantly talking while on the floor, directing traffic and setting up plays.
And no one is better at passing, though a healthy Rajon Rondo can challenge him in that department.
CP3 is dishing out 2.2 more assists per game than any other player in the Association, and his 53.8 assist percentage leaves the rest of the league in the dust. Curry is ranked No. 2, and he's all the way back at 41 percent.
- Between his Eurostep and shifty moves, he's great at avoiding contact and working his way past defenders.
- Scoring is his favorite thing to do.
- He loves having the ball in his hands.
- Running backs actually do draw contact, and we could finally see what happens when Harden gets hit and doesn't just flop.
Running Back: James Harden, Houston Rockets
There are a few reasons I'd love to stuff James Harden's beard in a football helmet and see him go to work as our team's starting running back:
Fullback: David West, Indiana Pacers
David West is the consummate teammate, and that's exactly what you want at fullback. It's not a glamorous position, but it's an important one when running traditional offensive sets.
The Indiana Pacers big man thrives when he's allowed to be physical and do things that don't necessarily show up in a box score. He sets hard screens, passes the ball well and occasionally chips in with some offense of his own.
And he never complains. Ever.
Surely that translates to blocking talent and ability to do some dirty work for the offense.
Wide Receiver No. 1: Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers
Blake Griffin is going to be heading deep. A lot.
The constant recipient of alley-oop lobs has already proven that he has terrific jumping ability and a set of hands to boot. Few players could stop his combination of size and athleticism, especially if he just pretended that he was dunking the football.
On top of that, Griffin enjoys an established connection with our quarterback. He's caught quite a few passes from Paul throughout his time with the Los Angeles Clippers, and that wouldn't change even though we're playing a different sport.
Wide Receiver No. 2: Kyrie Irving, Cleveland Cavaliers
We already have a deep threat, so now I'm going to roll with more of a possession receiver.
When you watch Kyrie Irving play, a lot stands out. He's a great shooter, a great scorer, a great dribbler and an offensive wizard. But to me, his body control is the most impressive element of his game, especially at just 21 years old.
There's no doubt in my mind that Irving could be trained to run pinpoint routes, and I trust Paul to work with him and develop perfect timing. He might be small for the position, but Wes Welker is only listed at 5'9", 185 pounds, according to ESPN.
Irving is 6'3", 193 pounds.
Tight End: LeBron James, Miami Heat
This is the shoo-in selection.
LeBron James has been quoted on Twitter as saying, "I wanna play one NFL game before it's over," and he certainly could.
Mike Wallace, a wide receiver for the Miami Dolphins, agrees that he's more than capable, via Ryan Wilson of CBSSports.com. So too do Dez Bryant and Randy Moss.
You may have heard of those guys.
James played football up through his junior year of high school, and there's no doubt that he has the physicality, size, athleticism and instincts to make a big impact at this position. "The story here is the LeBron we'll never know, the professional football player," writes CBS Sports' Gregg Doyel. "The greatest tight end in NFL history. That's who he could have been had he not quit football."
I might not go that far, but LeBron would be pretty darn dominant.
Offensive Lineman No. 1: Kevin Love, Minnesota Timberwolves
On the offensive line, you want players who aren't going to budge. That means big, strong bodies with the ability to push players and hold off bull rushes from other large men.
In other words, you're looking at players who can box out.
Remember when Sports Science had Kevin Love withstand the force of a sumo wrestler charging at him? Yeah, he's going to be the leader of our offensive line.
Offensive Lineman No. 2: Nikola Pekovic, Minnesota Timberwolves
Love's partner in crime has to be included as well.
There may not be a stronger player in the Association, which makes Nikola Pekovic the perfect choice for the second spot on the offensive line.
The Montenegrin center has failed to improve much as a rebounder over the last few years, but he's still got the muscle to bully defensive linemen. Paul should feel more than comfortable with Pek protecting him.
Offensive Lineman No. 3: Zach Randolph, Memphis Grizzlies
It's amazing that Zach Randolph has been able to carve out such a lengthy career in the NBA, because he really can't jump. He's the NBA's version of an elephant: big, powerful and without a shred of leaping ability.
How has he succeeded?
He's crafty with the ball in his hands, and he's also an immovable object when he sets his feet and goes up for a rebound. It's the latter attribute that we're capitalizing on here by selecting him to the offensive line.
Offensive Lineman No. 4: Dwight Howard, Houston Rockets
Is there more of a physical specimen at the center position?
Dwight Howard doesn't dunk out of the post as often as he used to, but he's still a ridiculous athlete with quite a bit of strength. There's a reason that D12 has remained an elite rebounder year in and year out.
When Howard is in position to grab a board, he's going to haul it in. That's almost inevitable, and it's a large part of the reason that he's able to average over a dozen boards per game during his first season with the Houston Rockets.
Offensive Lineman No. 5: DeAndre Jordan, Los Angeles Clippers
DeAndre Jordan is the weak part of the offensive line, but I'm betting on his breakout as a glass-eater during the 2013-14 campaign.
The Los Angeles Clippers big man currently paces the NBA in boards per game, and it's a massive improvement from the numbers that he posted throughout the previous seasons of his career. Jordan grabs his rebounds more because of his athleticism than his boxing out, but we'll still take it.
Every offensive line needs a more versatile player, one who can drop back, pull over to the side and do more than push. Jordan is our guy.
Defensive Tackle No. 1: Kenneth Faried, Denver Nuggets
Every good defensive line needs a Manimal.
Kenneth Faried might not have all that much skill with the basketball in his hands, but he's a living version of the Energizer Bunny, complete with some awesome dreadlocks. Faried's motor simply never stops, and he's going to wear down any offensive lineman by the end of a game.
Throw in some athleticism that allows him to explode off the line and elevate into the air to knock down passes and you have the makings of a quality defensive lineman.
Defensive Tackle No. 2: Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons
Andre Drummond is a huge physical specimen who has already shown off his strength and relentless work during his two seasons in the NBA.
But what really makes him stand out is the quickness of his hands.
Drummond is averaging 1.4 steals per game, and that's not just because he's adept at jumping passing lanes (which helps here as well). He routinely uses his quick hands to swipe the ball away from guards, both while they're driving and on the perimeter.
While Faried is bull rushing, Drummond will be using the swim move to his heart's content.
Defensive End No. 1: Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans
The centerpiece of the defensive line, Anthony Davis is going to wreak havoc while exploding around the end of the offensive line.
"The Unibrow" is a special defender—even at only 20 years old—and it's primarily because of his versatility. Davis can swat away shots on the inside, but he also has enough lateral quickness that he can switch on any screen, hedge further than anyone else in the league and guard the most mobile big men in the league.
Davis might not have the strength we desire from a defensive end, but he has all the other physical tools.
Defensive End No. 2: Serge Ibaka, Oklahoma City Thunder
Serge Ibaka isn't quite as mobile as Davis, but he has a tremendous motor and closes out on spot-up shooters rather nicely. The Congolese big man has become so much more than just a shot-blocker as his career has progressed, and that pays off for our NBA/NFL squad.
How many times have you seen Ibaka fight through traffic in order to grab a rebound?
The answer is "quite often," and it's not hard to imagine him doing the exact same thing as he fights his way to the quarterback.
Middle Linebacker: Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder
This is admittedly an unorthodox selection.
Kevin Durant is more of an offensive player than anything else, and he'd probably make a great receiver with his scoring instincts, size and athleticism. However, he's been a tremendously underrated defender all season long, and across the board, his defensive metrics are better than a certain LeBron James.
A middle linebacker is essentially the quarterback of the defense, and that's exactly where I want a player as intelligent as Durant. Not only does he have the brains to direct his teammates, but he also has the physical tools to bat down passes, drop back into coverage and pick up tight ends on any sort of route.
Unorthodox doesn't mean wrong.
Outside Linebacker No. 1: Nicolas Batum, Portland Trail Blazers
It's all about versatility for my outside linebackers.
I want a player who can cover receivers and tight ends, blitz the hell out of the quarterback and stop the run. Naturally, that means I'm going to seek out an NBA player who can easily guard multiple positions.
You know, one like Nicolas Batum.
Outside Linebacker No. 2: Andre Iguodala, Golden State Warriors
See that description for what I want out of my outside linebackers?
It applies to Andre Iguodala just as much as it does Batum.
Iggy is a tremendous defensive presence for the Golden State Warriors. He's a game-changing one, in fact, because his time on the court makes everyone else's jobs easier. Whether he needs to body up against a bigger player or shift over onto a guard, he's going to be up for the task.
The veteran swingman probably won't be much of a sack-generating machine, but he'll be fundamentally excellent in my linebacker corps.
Cornerback No. 1: Rajon Rondo, Boston Celtics
Rajon Rondo never makes scoring easy.
When his man has the ball, he's constantly hounding him. There's no give whatsoever, and Rondo isn't going to let anyone by him without a serious fight. He's established himself as one of the best defensive floor generals in the NBA for a reason, after all.
But Rondo also makes it tough for opponents to even get the ball, and he's one of the league's premier sources of steals. Aren't steals kind of interceptions?
Cornerback No. 2: Mike Conley, Memphis Grizzlies
Assuming steals are the equivalent of interceptions, the case for Mike Conley as the second cornerback is pretty simple.
The Memphis Grizzlies point guard has turned into one of the better defensive stoppers at his position—and point guard is the position du jour since you want your corners to be quick and agile. He's another elite source of thefts.
Kyle Lowry was a strong candidate for this spot in our secondary, but he doesn't have as much of a track record as a plus defender. Nate Robinson is another interesting candidate, but he's both out for the season and not a star anymore, so he's not going to qualify.
Safety No. 1: Paul George, Indiana Pacers
Now it's time to get bigger.
There isn't a better perimeter defender in the league than Paul George, who has spearheaded the historically excellent Indiana Pacers defense. He can lock down multiple positions, and he's an athletic specimen capable of turning a fast-break opportunity into a 360 windmill jam.
Not many players bring that type of combination to the table, which gives me confidence that PG24 will be excellent both in coverage and when he needs to deliver a bone-jarring hit.
The safety is often the last line of defense, but he can also serve as the enforcer. Rather than filling the spot with a quick point guard or big shot-blocker, it's best to get the hybrid.
And no player is a better hybrid than the young Pacers superstar.
Safety No. 2: Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat
Is it possible that Dwyane Wade is the best shot-blocking guard in the history of the NBA?
Let's turn to the numbers.
Basketball-Reference.com shows that only seven qualified seasons have been recorded in which a guard swatted away at least a shot per game. Hare are the players who make up those seasons:
- Kobe Bryant
- Dennis Johnson (twice)
- Dwyane Wade (four times)
Wade also has four of the eight seasons by guards in which a qualified block percentage was at or above 2 percent. No one else has done it twice.
The numbers don't lie.
I'll take the best shot-blocking 2-guard in NBA history, especially when he's also an insane athlete.
- Kendrick Perkins, 28.7
- Gerald Wallace, 28.4
- Ryan Hollins, 24.3
- Ricky Rubio, 24.0
- Jeff Ayres, 22.9
- Phil Pressey, 22.2
- Garrett Temple, 22.2
- Steven Adams, 21.7
- Kent Bazemore, 21.7
- Nazr Mohammed, 21.0
Kicker: Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
What's the job of a kicker?
He's supposed to score a lot, and he typically scores from really far away. Kinda sounds like what Stephen Curry does for the Golden State Warriors, right?
Few players in the NBA are better at putting up points, and Curry does the majority of his work a long way away from the basket. If any player has the chops for looking at the uprights, seeing how far away they are and then drilling the attempt, it's the baby-faced assassin.
But a kicker also has to be able to thrive under pressure.
That's not a problem for Curry. This is the same shooter who told ESPN The Magazine's Sam Alipour that only Michael Jordan was a better choice to take a shot with the game on the line: "Jordan's No. 1. I'm No. 2. Then you go Ray, then Reggie, then Kobe. Three-pointer or not, same answer."
I think he has confidence.
Punter: Ricky Rubio, Minnesota Timberwolves
Take a look at the worst turnover percentages among qualified NBA players:
Rubio is the only player on that list I would even dream of calling a star. Sorry, Kendrick Perkins.
So, why does that make him a punter?
The job of this position is to give the ball to the opponent. No star in the NBA is better at that than the Spanish floor general currently playing for the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Kick Returner: John Wall, Washington Wizards
Of the remaining players, I'll take John Wall to run the coast-to-coast fast break over everyone else in the pool.
The Washington Wizards point guard is lightning-quick with the ball in his hands, and his straight-line acceleration is absolutely unbelievable. Even though defenders know he's going to make a dash for the rim, they still can't stop him from getting into the paint.
Hopefully the same thing applies when Wall's target is the end zone.
Punt Returner: Ty Lawson, Denver Nuggets
Ty Lawson is another speed demon, but he brings one more necessary element to the table.
In the past, he was unable to thrive with the Denver Nuggets because he only worked in a straight line. He was good, but not great. Even when he used a good screen, he had trouble changing direction and throwing a defender off guard.
However, that's no longer the case.
The speedy and diminutive floor general can stop and turn on a dime, and that'll aid him greatly as he attempts to dash past the other team's gunners.
Head Coach: Gregg Popovich, San Antonio Spurs
Let's be real here.
This is very much a makeshift roster. Few of our players had successful football careers before they decided to play basketball full time. So we're working with a talent deficit, even though the team is brimming over with athleticism.
No one is better at winning with less than Gregg Popovich. Though the trio of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili certainly helps, he's made a career out of emphasizing the talents of role players. Everyone who works with the San Antonio Spurs seems to excel, and the team is competitive even when the stars sit out.
The best coach in the NBA is the natural fit on the sidelines for our squad.
Offensive Coordinator: Mike D'Antoni, Los Angeles Lakers
You could make an argument for someone like Rick Carlisle here, but Mike D'Antoni is the clear-cut favorite to land the offensive-coordinator gig.
MDA has made a career out of his offensive genius, after all.
Whether it's the gimmick "Seven Seconds or Less" offense he employed during his tenure with the Phoenix Suns or his three-point shooting advocacy and up-tempo pace with the Los Angeles Lakers and New York Knicks, D'Antoni has always been a coach who likes to put up points.
The mustache doesn't hurt either.
Defensive Coordinator: Tom Thibodeau
Not only is Tom Thibodeau the best defensive coach in the NBA—no disrespect meant to Frank Vogel, who is so hard-nosed on the sideline that he was strongly considered for the premier coaching spot—but he created a system so influential that it changed how basketball teams prevented points.
Thibs was the driving force behind a league-wide trend to pack the paint and dare referees to whistle players for three-second violations. It's now a system that is employed by more coaches than any other style of play.
Plus, we know that Thibodeau will have no trouble with the fact that there are no subs on the team. He's never hesitated to leave players on the court for an entire game.
Special Teams Coordinator: Jeff Hornacek
Jeff Hornacek has done a fantastic job during his rookie season, and he's truly got his guys flying around the court. Both on defense and offense, the pedal is always pushed firmly against the metal.
Isn't that what you want on special teams?
Guys flying around is beneficial, because you can cover punts and get down the field quickly to down the kick returner before he advances too far out of the end zone.