Big 12 Basketball: Kansas Tops List of Each School's All-Time NBA Starting 5s
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Paul Pierce, Kirk Hinrich and Wilt Chamberlain playing on an NBA team together?
From H.G. Wells to Stephen King to Mark Twain, creative minds have pondered the possibility and implications of time travel since as early as the fourth century. But the potential of such scientific hypothetical situations was never met until 1989, when a film about two future revolutionaries who stumbled upon a time machine and used it to nail down a high school history report opened to the world.
If you haven’t seen Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure then you probably don’t have a television, and if you don’t have a television you probably don’t follow sports, and if that’s the case, what are you doing on this website? After my 8,534th viewing of the film, my inner sports geek summoned me to apply this plot to the sports world.
If we could travel back in time to gather the best basketball players from every college, who would have the best NBA starting five? Let’s examine this school by school, conference by conference, starting with the Big 12.
First, a few ground rules: I’m going to try my best to field actual teams, rather than just picking the five best players from every school. Sometimes we’ll have three guards on a squad or be missing a center, but given the diversity of NBA lineups nowadays, this shouldn’t be an issue. Also, some of the picks will be based on need. For instance, if the fifth spot on a team is up for grabs and the team desperately needs three-point shooting, I’ll be more inclined to take a shooter.
Hopefully this will spawn some serious debates about which players deserve to make each team and ultimately which teams prove to be the most formidable.
I’ll present each team in alphabetical order, and the last slide will be my rankings of the teams. As fun as this sounds, I hope the rankings are enough to incite some fanatical alumni to write sprawling, hateful comments in response to the list and spurn some real debate.
As Ted says, “I believe our journey through time has taken a most serious turn.”
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Michael Williams, Point Guard - Best Season: 1992-93, Minnesota Timberwolves - 15.1 ppg, 8.7 apg, 2.2 spg
David Wesley, Point Guard - Best Season: 1996-97, Boston Celtics - 16.8 ppg, 7.3 apg, 36.0 3pt%
Vinnie Johnson, Guard - Best Season: 1982-83, Detroit Pistons - 15.8 ppg, 3.7 apg, 51.3 FG%
Brian Skinner, Power Forward - Best Season: 2003-04 Milwaukee Bucks - 10.5 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 1.1 bpg
Ekpe Udoh, Center/Forward - Current Rookie: 2010-11 Golden State Warriors - 3.9 ppg, 3 rpg, 1.3 bpg
Already, we have our first bit of controversy in leaving out guard/forward Terry Teagle and his 16.1 ppg 1989-90 season in favor of untested rookie Udoh. The 23-year-old former Bear makes the squad solely because of the team’s thin front line (seriously, no big men other than Skinner have come out of Baylor to play more than 90 NBA games) and because of his staggering 74 blocks in only 942 minutes played (about 2.8 blocks per 36 minutes). Vinnie “the Microwave” Johnson takes his bench-scoring energy to this starting lineup that features two point guards in Williams and Wesley that have no problem sharing the ball.
Strengths: guard scoring, interior toughness
Weaknesses: three-point shooting, interior scoring
University of Colorado
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Chauncey Billups, Point Guard - Best Season: 2005-06 Detroit Pistons - 18.4 ppg, 8.6 apg, 43.3 3pt%
Jay Humphries, Guard - Best Season: 1990-91 Milwaukee Bucks - 15.2 ppg, 6.7 apg, 50.2 FG%
Chuck Williams, Guard - Best Season: 1972-73 San Diego Conquistadors (ABA) - 17.7 ppg, 7.0 apg, 47.8 FG%
Scott Wedman, Small Forward - Best Season: 1979-80 Kansas City Kings - 19.0 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 51.2 FG%
Jim Davis, Center - Best Season: 1969-70 Atlanta Hawks - 13.7 ppg, 9.7 rpg, 2.9 apg
We had to get in our phone booth time machine and travel all the way back to 1969 to find a former Buffs big man to run with three guards and “The Incredible Hulk” Wedman, a 6’7” swing man. That 1969-70 season was far and away Davis’ most productive and the only one in which he averaged double figures in scoring. Like Baylor, this team is guard-heavy but unlike the Bears they lack shot-blocking up front. Of course, it never hurts to have a five-time All-Star and former NBA Finals MVP in Billups as your floor general.
Strengths: backcourt scoring, team speed
Weaknesses: frontcourt defense, low-post scoring
Iowa State University
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Jamaal Tinsley, Point Guard - Best Season: 2006-07 Indiana Pacers - 12.8 ppg, 6.9 apg, 1.6 spg
Jeff Hornacek, Guard - Best Season: 1991-92 Phoenix Suns - 20.1 ppg, 5.1 apg, 43.9 3pt%
Fred Hoiberg, Guard - Best Season: 2000-01 Chicago Bulls - 9.1 ppg, 3.6 apg, 41.2 3pt%
Zaid Abdul-Aziz, Forward/Center - Best Season: 1971-72 Seattle SuperSonics - 13.8 ppg, 11.3 rpg (blocks not yet recorded)
Kelvin Cato, Center - Best Season: 1999-2000 Houston Rockets - 8.7 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 1.9 bpg
Any edge this Cyclones team loses by sporting three undersized guards is more than made up for by their length, athleticism and defense up front. Although blocks weren’t recorded until the 1973-74 season, Abdul-Aziz earned the nickname “Kangaroo” for his hops and blocked 1.3 shots per game in limited minutes one season during the tail-end of his career, when blocks finally became a stat. Although he doesn’t provide much offense, Cato’s 1.9 blocks per game came with him averaging about 24 minutes per. You’ve got to love this team’s three-point shooting ability with two career 40 percent long-range shooters in Hornacek and Hoiberg. I’m hesitant to give Tinsley the keys to the offense because if an opponent breathes on him he could be out for the season, but that shows how few Cyclones have come to make an impact in the league.
Strengths: three-point shooting, shot-blocking
Weaknesses: point guard durability, defending small forwards
University of Kansas
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Jo Jo White, Guard - Best Season: 1971-72 Boston Celtics - 23.1 ppg, 5.3 apg, 5.6 rpg
Kirk Hinrich, Guard - Best Season: 2006-07 Chicago Bulls - 16.6 ppg, 6.8 apg, 41.5 3pt%
Paul Pierce, Small Forward - Best Season: 26.1 ppg, 6.9 rpg, 1.9 spg, 40.4 3pt%
Danny Manning, Power Forward - Best Season: 1992-93 Los Angeles Clippers - 22.8 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 1.3 bpg, 1.4 spg
Wilt Chamberlain, Center - Best Season: 1961-62 Philadelphia Warriors - 50.4 ppg, 25.7 rpg, 50.9 FG%
Before we even start to get into how this team would look on the floor together, let’s just take a look at their combined awards: 3 NBA Finals MVPs (Pierce, White and Chamberlain), 5 NBA Championships, 4 NBA MVPs, 7 All-NBA First Teams, 6 All-NBA Second Teams, 3 All-NBA Third Teams, 2 All-NBA Defensive First Teams, 1 All-NBA Defensive Second Team, 31 All-Star Teams and a 6th Man of the Year Award. I think it’s safe to say the Jayhawks are the class of Big 12 time machine-based basketball competition.
They can literally do it all. No one is playing out of position and everyone on the floor is a scoring threat. Offense aside, true to the Jayhawk tradition, this might be the best possible defensive starting five that any school in the country could field with the luxury of a time machine. It’s kind of upsetting that blocks weren’t a recorded stat back in the day, as eye witness accounts routinely claim that Wilt could easily swat up to and over 10 shots in a single game. Pierce and Hinrich give the team excellent three-point shooting to go along with team-wide athleticism and an insanely-high collective basketball IQ.
Strengths: just about everything
Weakness: Wilt’s egocentrism
Kansas State University
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Rolando Blackman, Guard - Best Season: 1983-84 Dallas Mavericks - 22.4 ppg, 3.6 apg, 54.6 FG%
Mitch Richmond, Guard - Best Season: 1996-97 Sacramento Kings - 25.9 ppg, 4.2 apg, 42.8 3pt%
Michael Beasley, Forward - Best Season: 2010-11 Minnesota Timberwolves - 19 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 36.9 3pt%
Willie Murrell, Forward - Best Season: 1967-68 Denver Rockets (ABA) - 16.4 ppg, 9 rpg, 46.6 FG%
Bob Boozer, Forward - Best Season: 1967-68 Chicago Bulls - 21.5 ppg, 9.8 rpg, 49.2 FG%
If anything, this Wildcat team is versatile. It sports two combo guards that complement each other with the ways they can score (Blackman attacking the basket and Richmond with a sweet stroke), three ‘tweeners at forward and five guys between 6’5” and 6’8”. Beasley shoots well enough from three to help Richmond in that department, and Murrell and Boozer can handle the boards. The team’s strength is also its weakness: they can’t handle bigger scorers inside and they lack a true floor general. I see this team getting out and running, limiting their defensive liability and exploiting the fact that their bigs can burn larger centers and power forwards down the floor.
Strengths: versatility, speed
Weaknesses: interior defense, lack a true point guard
University of Missouri
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Larry Drew, Point Guard - Best Season: 1982-83 Kansas City Kings - 20.1 ppg, 8.1 apg, 49.2 FG%
Anthony Peeler, Guard - Best Season: 1995-96 Los Angeles Lakers - 14.5 ppg, 1.5 spg, 37.3 3pt%
Jon Sundvold, Shooting Guard - Best Season: 1988-89 Miami Heat - 10.4 ppg, 2 apg, 52.2 3pt%
Linas Kleiza, Forward - Best Season: 2007-08 Denver Nuggets - 11.1 ppg, 47.2 FG%, 33.9 3pt%
Steve Stipanovich, Center - Best Season: 1986-87 Indiana Pacers - 13.2 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 1.3 bpg
A bit of controversy here as the Tigers have never really produced any outstanding forwards. Kleiza gets the nod over John Brown and his 1974-75 season (11.3 ppg, 5.9 rpg) because he has more range and still shoots at about the same clip for his career. The team has a great point guard in current Atlanta Hawks coach Larry Drew and two guards that have each led the league in three-point field goal percentage in Sundvold and Peeler (52.2% in 1988-89 and 48.2% in 2003-04, respectively) flanking him. Stipanovich had five very solid years in the league, averaging between 12 and 13.6 ppg in each season before knee injuries and perhaps lingering effects of literally shooting himself in the foot in college forced him into early retirement. He blocks shots and rebounds to put a bow on an undersized but solid Tiger team.
Strengths: three-point shooting, playmaking
Weaknesses: lack of size, gun control
University of Nebraska
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Tyronn Lue, Point Guard - Best Season: 2004-05 Houston Rockets/Atlanta Hawks - 11.2 ppg, 4.6 apg, 35.5 3pt%
Erick Strickland, Guard - Best Season: 1999-2000 Dallas Mavericks - 12.8 ppg, 3.1 apg, 39.2 3pt%
Stu Lantz, Guard - Best Season: 1970-71 San Diego Rockets - 20.6 ppg, 5 rpg, 4.2 apg
Eric Piatkowski, Forward - Best Season: 1997-98 Los Angeles Clippers - 11.3 ppg, 45.2 FG%, 40.9 3pt%
Mikki Moore, Center - Best Season: 2006-07 New Jersey Nets - 9.8 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 60.9 FG%
Get ready to cover your eyes ladies and gentlemen, this could get ugly. What happens when a college only produces only 11 NBA players all-time with only one finishing his career averaging in double figures? Well, on the positive side you get award-winning sportscaster Stu Lantz lighting it up for 20 points a night, flanked by three excellent three-point shooters and a guy who once led the league in field goal percentage. The downside? You have a starting lineup that sports four notoriously weak defenders (you’re welcome, Erick Strickland). This is compounded by sporting three guards and an undersized, rail-thin front line, both figuratively and literally (seriously, have you seen Mikki Moore?). Even if Lantz (great name, by the way) drops 30 on someone, this team isn’t stopping anyone from scoring.
Strengths: Stu Lantz, three-point shooting
Weaknesses: all-around defense, rebounding
University of Oklahoma
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Mookie Blaylock, Point Guard - Best Season: 1993-94 Atlanta Hawks - 13.8 ppg, 9.7 apg, 2.6 spg
Brent Price, Guard - Best Season: 1995-96 Washington Bullets - 10 ppg, 5.1 apg, 46.2 3pt%
Blake Griffin, Power Forward - Rookie Season (so far): 2010-11 Los Angeles Clippers - 22.3 ppg, 12 rpg, 3.6 apg
Wayman Tisdale, Power Forward - Best Season: 1989-90 Sacramento Kings - 22.3 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 52.5 FG%
Alvan Adams, Center - Best Season: 1975-76 Phoenix Suns - 19 ppg, 9.1 rpg, 5.6 apg
Featuring two power forwards and a center, the Sooners give us our first “jumbo” squad. But, considering Griffin’s athleticism, ball-handling ability, shooting range and passing skills, there’s no doubt in my mind that he could play alongside two other big men. Seemingly lost in NBA history is Adams, whose skills made him the ultimate triple-double threat in the 1970s, and who recorded 1.5 blocks in his Rookie of the Year 1975-76 season. In addition to their talented all-around front line, this squad sports a very solid point guard in Blaylock, who also leads a pretty stout defense, averaging 2.3 steals per game for his career. While Price is as lethal as anyone from beyond the three-point arc, this team’s one glaring weakness is that he’s their only serious long-range threat.
Strengths: interior play, balanced offense
Weaknesses: three-point shooting, crunch-time scoring
Oklahoma State University
John Starks, Guard - Best Season: 1993-94 New York Knicks - 19 ppg, 5.9 apg, 1.6 spg
Tony Allen, Guard - Best Season: 2010-11 Memphis Grizzlies (SO FAR) - 8.8 ppg, 1.8 spg, 51.5 FG%
Desmond Mason, Small Forward - Best Season: 2002-03 Seattle Supersonics/Milwaukee Bucks - 14.3 ppg, 6.5 rpg. 2 apg
Richard Dumas, Small Forward - Best Season: 1992-93 Phoenix Suns - 15.8 ppg, 1.8 spg, 52.4 FG%
Bryant Reeves, Center - Best Season: 1997-98 Vancouver Grizzlies - 16.3 ppg, 7.9 rpg. 52.3 FG%
If your team’s best three-point shooter is John Starks (career 34 percent), let’s just say you have some shortcomings to overcome. But despite the Cowboys’ issues—from shooting percentage to crack addiction—no one could argue that OK State doesn’t sport a very strong defensive unit. Thankfully our time machine allows us to travel to the brief time of Dumas’ success in the league before his career was derailed by drugs. He adds to Starks’ offensive punch along with Desmond Mason. All five players are above-average defenders, compounded by Tony Allen’s hyper-athletic elite lockdown guard status and “Big Country” Reeves’ mass in the middle.
Strengths: team defense, athleticism
Weaknesses: shooting, point guard play
University of Texas
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T.J. Ford, Point Guard - Best Season: 2006-07 Toronto Raptors - 14 ppg, 7.9 apg, 1.3 spg
D.J. Augustin, Point Guard - Best Season: 2010-11 Charlotte Bobcats - 14.3 ppg, 5.9 apg, 90.7 FT%
Kevin Durant, Small Forward - Best Season: 2009-10 Oklahoma City Thunder - 30.1 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 1.4 spg
LaMarcus Aldridge, Power Forward - Best Season: 2010-11 Portland Trail Blazers - 21.8 ppg, 8.7 rpg, 1.2 bpg
LaSalle Thompson, Foward/Center - Best Season: 1984-85 Kansas City Kings - 11.8 ppg, 10.4 rpg, 1.6 bpg
Some guard controversy here, with three of them vying for two spots. Point guards D.J. and T.J. get the nod because Ford is the best defender of the group and Augustin shoots the three well enough (career 38.4 percent) to nearly match Daniel Gibson’s output in that category, while giving the Longhorns more playmaking ability. Meanwhile, in the Texas frontcourt lies a combination of athleticism, offense and defense that can dominate most teams on this list. Aldridge had a breakout season this past year, averaging a career-high 22 points per game while shooting over 50 percent from the field. “Tank” Thompson supplies the toughness inside while Durant give the Longhorns MVP-level scoring, defense and leadership.
Strengths: scoring, frontcourt size
Weaknesses: backcourt size/defense
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Acie Law, Point Guard - Best Season: 2007-08 Atlanta Hawks - 4.2 ppg, 2 apg, 79.2 FT%
Sonny Parker, Guard/Forward - Best Season: 1978-79 Golden State Warriors - 15.2 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 3.6 apg
Antoine Wright, Forward - Best Season: 2009-10 Toronto Raptors - 6.5 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 33.5 3pt%
John Beasley, Forward/Center - Best Season: 1967-68 Dallas Chaparrals (ABA) - 19.7 ppg, 12.8 rpb, 49.2 FG%
DeAndre Jordan, Center - Best Season: 2010-2011 Los Angeles Clippers - 7 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 1.8 bpg
The Aggies have only had eight players go on to play in the NBA, so not a lot is expected out of this group. The obvious weak link is Law, who in his four seasons in the league has yet to make his mark on a team or average more than 16 minutes a game. Despite his slim offensive output, Wright helps this team by being a capable defender against swingmen, and Parker is sort of a secret weapon, shooting over 50 percent from the field in his short yet efficient six-year career. Beasley’s numbers may be slightly inflated by the run-and-gun style of ABA ball, but even in that league and era, shooting close to 50 percent is no small feat. Jordan is a great young center to build a defense around, averaging a double-double and more than two blocks per 36 minutes for his career.
Strengths: rebounding, interior play both ways
Weaknesses: three-point shooting, point guard play
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Geoff Huston, Point Guard - Best Season: 1982-83 Cleveland Cavaliers - 12.2 ppg, 6.1 apg, 48.2 FG%
Jeff Taylor, Guard - Best Season: 1982-83 Houston Rockets - 3.6 ppg, 2.5 apg, 1.8 rpg
Mark Davis, Guard/Forward - Best Season: 1996-97 Philadelphia 76ers - 8.5, 4.3 rpg, 1.1 spg
Darvin Ham, Forward - Best Season: 1999-2000 Milwaukee Bucks - 5.1 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 55.5 FG%
Tony Battie, Center - Best Season: 1998-99 Boston Celtics - 6.7 ppg, 6 rpg, 1.4 bpg
After Battie (810 NBA games played), Huston (496), Ham (417) and Davis (230), no Red Raider has played more than 56 games in the league. Reluctantly, Jeff Taylor’s 56-game NBA career is forever enshrined on this all-time starting five. Despite the glaring weakness, this squad’s bright spot is a pretty long and athletic front line, as long as Battie is the young version of himself. Huston is a solid point guard, but it’s difficult to rack up assists with no one to pass to: he averages more points per game in the NBA than any other Red Raider.
Strengths: front line defense, point guard play
Weakness: scoring, three-point shooting
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1. University of Kansas
2. Oklahoma University
3. University of Texas
4. Kansas State University
5. University of Colorado
6. University of Missouri
7. Iowa State University
8. Oklahoma State University
9. Baylor University
10. University of Nebraska
11. Texas A&M
12.Texas Tech University
Agree or disagree with any of my player selections, rankings or best-season selections? Post a comment and let me know how you feel.