We're beginning to lose sight of what basketball is really all about . Then again, perhaps we did a long time ago.
Gone are the days of the "Dream Team" and the USA dominating in the Olympic Games. The days of the San Antonio Spurs winning games and titles with their crafty veterans and stingy defense are slowly fading away.
That Detroit Pistons team that upset the Los Angeles Lakers is starting to dwindle in our memories.
Now, and for quite some time now, it's all about LeBron James. Kobe Bryant and his heroics are the story. Carmelo Anthony is the Denver Nuggets. Dwayne Wade is carrying the Miami Heat.
That, and blah, blah, blah.
We're in a day and age where kids like to cheer on superstars, and not necessarily their teams. We award trophies to players on a brighter stage than we do the teams that actually win their conferences or the NBA Finals.
Well, maybe it's not to that extreme, but you have to admit, it's close.
Consider this an attempt to rectify those thoughts and beliefs. How about a team not filled with A-list players? How about a championship team that doesn't have LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, or Dwayne Wade?
Give me New Jersey with a full bankroll, wipe the roster clean, and let me go to work. Give me that, and you'll have a champion.
With five starters and three bench players (and some filler players), this team would win championships for years to come:
Note: All players and their abilities reflect on the current season and projections for 2010, and list only consists of active candidates. None of the following players made the 2009 All-Star game, and no players who did were eligible for this list.
PG Tony Parker
Parker is constantly living in the shadows of the other "elite" NBA point guards, almost completely because his offense doesn't demand him to have the ball in his hands and make plays constantly, and he's also never been asked to shoot more than 18 shots per game in any season throughout his career.
Still, he plays at an elite level, averaging at least 16 points and five assists in each of his past four seasons, while hovering around 50 percent shooting from the floor, and 30 percent from beyond the arc.
But as you may have guessed by now, Parker's relevance on this list has little to do with his numbers. The guy is a flat-out winner, and has been ever since he entered the league.
He has three NBA titles to his name, and is a clutch performer in the playoffs, as he has the ability to defend and score on any point guard he goes up against. The fact that he's done everything he's done playing in a conference as competitive as the West (and as point guard-loaded as it is), adds to Parker's already impressive resume'.
SG Stephen Jackson
Jackson carries the same great versatility that Turk does, but he's a much better scorer, and on this team, would slightly take over the role of "go-to" guy. However, with a full-blown "team" mind-set within this roster, he'd also be able to distribute the ball like we know he can, and he can play within himself.
If Jackson isn't forcing the issue and has some good pieces around him, he can really turn some heads. He's a huge reason why the Charlotte Bobcats are vying for a playoff spot this year (their first ever), and he's a welcome addition to any time trying to take the next big step.
SF Hedo Turkoglu
Turk doesn't come cheap, but he doesn't necessarily put the stats up that his contract would suggest, either. He doesn't get the respect he deserves, and he's often slighted as unathletic, over-rated, or a ball hog late in games.
On the contrary, Turk is one of the most decisive, clutch players in the fourth quarter (as evidenced by last season's playoff run), and is one of the more versatile players in the league.
He has an excellent handle for his size and is basically a point guard in a small forward's body, possessing great vision and passing ability, while also thriving on the drive. He's the type of player that can be quiet all game and then kills you one his only make of the game, while he can also light it up if you leave him open.
He's not the best defender in the world, but he gives effort all day, and he's proven in the past few years that he's one of the most elite players in the league, while not necessarily being regarded as one.
PF Luis Scola
Who works harder than this guy? There really isn't any explanation needed. Scola teamed with Carl Landry (until he was traded) to help most people forget about Yao Ming, and continues to produce at a very high level on both sides of the floor.
He's another one of those rugged, gutsy international players that is fearless and determined. He knows what it takes to win, and has the inside moves and demeanor to match his imposing will.
C Andrew Bogut
Bogut may have been shrugged off as an impact player a few years ago, but after he got through the injuries, inconsistency, and ball-hogging from the now injured Michael Redd, he's finally been able to show that he can be the go-to option in an offense.
He's a double-double machine that is just now scratching his full potential, as he hits the boards with a vengeance, blocks shots, and carries around a very solid inside game.
He can't stretch the defense like a Mehmet Okur with great range on his shot, but he can step out for a deep two-pointer, and plays much better, more consistent defense than Okur. He also has much better shot selection.
PG Kirk Hinrich
Hinrich's downside are his streaky shooting, unreliable percentages, and general inconsistency as a scorer. However, in every other facet of the game, he's exactly the type of player GM's crave.
He defends both guard positions on an elite level, gives 100 percent effort all game, is the consummate teammate, and can chip in with timely offense. He' athletic, has a great I.Q. on the court, and is a great team leader.
Need a guy to come off the bench to play defense, manage the offense, or get a quick three? Hinrich's your man.
SG/SF Mike Miller
Miller has a bad reputation for playing for horrible teams, and never really being much of a factor in the playoffs in his career. Well, when you're right, you're right.
But there's not much Miller could ever do about it. He was on bad teams, got traded to a different bad team, and then got traded to another bad team...
The point is, few players have the versatility and athleticism Miller does in such an unlikely frame. He's a very athletic and fluid guard who can handle the ball like a point guard, but can also bang down low for rebounds.
He has the tools to record a triple double on any night, and when he gets the green light, he can be absolutely deadly from beyond the arc.
Surround him with bright, hard-working plays (especially like Tony Parker), and watch him shine. He's a role player on this team, but he has the ability to impact games in so many ways, it's interesting to wonder how good he could have been if he ever played on a team with any actual talent around him.
SF/PF Lamar Odom
I firmly feel Odom should be starting somewhere, and arguably even with the Lakers. He lacks elite consistency, but has great range on his shot, and can truly be a difference-maker on defense.
Odom has excellent length and explosiveness for his position, and has an outstanding handle, as well as a natural feel on offense.
He hits the boards as hard as anyone, and is a true asset to any contending team. Having him on your bench means you have one heck of a starter ahead of him, and also means you'te incredibly lucky.
PF/C Troy Murphy
A lot like Miller in the sense that he possesses sick versatility, solid athleticism, and great range on his shot, Murphy is another guy who has never had the luxury of playing for a contender, and has never had great talent around him.
Murphy is constantly a double-double threat, is useful on defense, and can stretch the defense with his great shooting touch, allowing him to lure centers all the way out to the three-point line.
He hits the boards with tenacity and is a great asset on both sides of the ball, as he's one of those under-rated guys who does everything with all of his being, and doesn't get half the recognition he deserves.
He should be starting on most teams, but for this "Dream Team", I'm proud to say he's my top post reserve.
PG Delonte West
He's never going to be elite, but he does everything well. He' an extremely quick, smart, and versatile guard who can occasionally rise over defenders for a dunk, and can hit the three.
SF Kyle Korver
He's not very athletic or the most well-rounded player, but he'd deadly from beyond the arc, and is a much better defender that given credit for. He's also an excellent free throw shooter, and a fairly clutch player.
C Marcin Gortat
We haven't seen much of him this season because the Magic signed Brandon Bass and basically forgot about him, but we remember how solid he was in last year's playoffs.
Gortat is our project/potential gem who can help right away, but could also be the center of the future if he had time to grow.
This team doesn't have any of the guys that made the 2009 All-Star game. It's absent of all the major "elite" and hyped performers of today's game. Still, this team presents a strong argument as a title contender, no matter the conference, the coach, or the opponent.
And, unlike ridiculous teams consisting of LeBron Hames, Carmelo Anthony, and Kobe Bryant all being on the same team, it's actually realistic. Well, not that realistic, but you get the idea.
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