The NBA's Tournament of Names: Which Team Comes out on Top?

Grant Hughes@@gt_hughesNational NBA Featured ColumnistAugust 25, 2015

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Anybody want to spend a few minutes imagining Anthony Davis trying to guard Magic Johnson?

Great! Me too.

Here's how we make that happen: Organize NBA players past and present by last name, assign them to teams and pick the top squads with common surnames. After that, it's simple. Just seed the teams and run through a hypothetical (mostly serious) tournament until the finals when, hopefully, Magic and The Brow lead the Johnson and Davis clans into battle.

The rules are pretty simple. First, you need five players with the same last name to participate. This isn't an issue for the Williamses, who have seen 71 of their ilk play a game in the NBA.

Do you want to be the one to tell Karl Malone his team didn't make the cut?
Do you want to be the one to tell Karl Malone his team didn't make the cut?JOHN G. MABANGLO/Getty Images

It's a real bummer for the Malones, though, because Karl and Moses are probably the top twosome available...except they can't fill out a full team because the only other Malone to play in the league was Jeff. They're still one Malone short if we charitably give them Matt Maloney.

We're not considering depth here, either. To keep it clean, we'll take only five players from each name group, fitting them into actual positions as best we can.

Players will be selected with a mixture of subjective and objective criteria; career win shares will be a major factor, but when a player with a shorter track record or a higher peak makes his team more exciting, he's getting the roster spot ahead of an old-timer with bigger career numbers.

We'll call this the Draymond Green-Anthony Davis exception.

Here are the rosters in our eight-team tourney (career win shares in parentheses for reference):

The Rosters

No. 1 Seed: Team Johnson (476.3)

  • PG: Kevin Johnson (92.8)
  • SG: Dennis Johnson (82.6)
  • SF: Joe Johnson (75.4)
  • PF: Larry Johnson (69.7)
  • C: Magic Johnson (155.8)

No. 2 Seed: Team Davis (317)

  • PG: Baron Davis (63.1)
  • SG: Walter Davis (76.9)
  • SF: Anthony Davis (30.5)
  • PF: Dale Davis (86.9)
  • C: Antonio Davis (59.6)

No. 3 Seed: Team Robinson (388.7)

  • PG: Nate Robinson (27.8)
  • SG: Glenn Robinson (39.8)
  • SF: Truck Robinson (52.7)
  • PF: Clifford Robinson (89.7)
  • C: David Robinson (178.7)

No. 4 Seed: Team Miller (432.2)

  • PG: Andre Miller (99.8)
  • SG: Reggie Miller (174.4)
  • SF: Mike Miller (60.4)
  • PF: Brad Miller (76.5)
  • C: Oliver Miller (21.1)

No. 5 Seed: Team Smith (280.6)

No. 6 Seed: Team Green (195.3)

  • PG: Rickey Green (47.2)
  • SG: Danny Green (22.8)
  • SF: Gerald Green (12.2)
  • PF: Draymond Green (13.6)
  • C: A.C. Green (99.5)

No. 7 Seed: Team Williams (368.3)

No. 8 Seed: Team Jones (321.2)

  • PG: Sam Jones (92.3)
  • SG: Eddie Jones (100.6)
  • SF: James Jones (23.2)
  • PF: Bobby Jones (94.1)
  • C: Terrence Jones (11.0)

Quarterfinals: Johnson (1) vs. Jones (8)

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Andy Hayt/Getty Images

This is a slaughter, and not just because Terrence Jones has the impossible task of matching up with Magic Johnson at center. There's also the "who on earth is James Jones going to guard?" issue.

Top to bottom, position by position, the Johnsons have advantages over the Jones boys. Eddie Jones impressively cracks the 100-win-share barrier, and Bobby Jones was a five-time All-Star who shot 56 percent from the field in his career. Nice players...but not nice enough to handle the overwhelming talent on the other side.

Team Johnson runs over, around and through the Joneses in a first-round demolition.

Quarterfinals: Davis (2) vs. Williams (7)

Team Williams has a distinct advantage in combined win shares, a killer backcourt of Deron and Jason (remember, these guys are in their primes) that would have the advantage in an uptempo matchup against Baron and Walter Davis, and 66 other NBA Williamses cheering from the stands.

But Anthony Davis is on the other team, and he's got an Andrei Kirilenko-smashing point guard at his side.

Not to mention Antonio and Dale Davis bringing the early-2000s muscle underneath. And yes, The Brow is playing the 3 here because he can do this. The 6'2", 175-pound Gus Williams, stuck playing undersized at small forward (admit it; you've never heard of the two-time All-Star who played in the '70s and '80s) has no chance.

The Davis quintet advances.

Quarterfinals: Robinson (3) vs. Green (6)

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Sam Forencich/Getty Images

Upset City!!!

Led by Danny, Draymond and A.C. (All-Defense Second Team in 1989-90), Team Green puts the clamps on Team Robinson, sending multiple defenders to hound the Admiral, David Robinson, in the post on every touch. Cliff Robinson, one of the league's first true stretch 4s, does his best to space the floor. But Nate Robinson's erratic play at the point and Glenn Robinson's total inability to stay with either Green wing in transition sinks the higher-seeded Robinsons.

This is a devastating blow for Team Robinson, which bows out in the first round despite having two No. 1 overall picks on the roster (David and Glenn).

Nate cheers everyone up in the postgame locker room by trying on David's size 17s.

It's gotten him laughs before, and it works again here.

Quarterfinals: Miller (4) vs. Smith (5)

Team Miller is nice. Two phenomenal shooters in Reggie and Mike being set up by Andre and Brad's stellar passing. And if all else fails, Andre can back down any opposing point guard and run the offense from the block. Oliver Miller's not much more than a space-filler at center, but he'll fill in a lot of space.

NEW ORLEANS - JANUARY 13:  Oliver Miller #3 of the Minnesota Timberwolves during the game against the New Orleans Hornets on January 13, 2004 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  The Timberwolves won 94-89.  NOTE TO USER:  User expressly acknowledges and agrees th
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

The real issue with Team Smith—and the one that'll prevent it from competing with Team Miller—is that the collision of prime J.R. and Josh Smith could form a shot-chucking black hole that swallows up the entire team. That's a tough break for Steve Smith, who could do some damage against the Millers' weak wing defense.

Unfortunately for him, he's not going to get many touches.

The Millers take this one comfortably.

Semifinals: Johnson (1) vs. Green (6)

Darron Cummings/Associated Press

Note: We've re-seeded in this round to give Team Johnson the lowest-seeded opponent. It's good to be the top seed.

The Greens stick Draymond on Magic, hoping the NBA's most versatile defender can slow down the best point guard in history, who also played center in the NBA Finals. It doesn't work, partly because Magic is an all-time great, but also partly because Draymond's love and reverence for Michigan State makes it impossible for him to really dig in against the best Spartan ever.

There's also the problem of point guard Rickey Greene trying to stay with Kevin and Dennis Johnson's smothering defense, which will prevent either Danny or Gerald Green from ever touching the ball.

The Cinderella run of sixth-seeded Team Green ends here.

Semifinals: Davis (2) vs. Miller (4)

Because of the bulk Antonio and Dale Davis provide up front, the Millers have to use either Mike or Reggie Miller to guard Anthony Davis.

So...that's pretty much the end of that, right?

Team Davis advances to the finals.

Finals: Johnson (1) vs. Davis (2)

Prime Larry Johnson was a terrifying force, and we haven't even mentioned him yet.

Imagine how good the No. 1 overall pick in the 1991 draft was when not wearing a wig and a dress.

L.J. shines here, using his incredible speed and power to overwhelm Antonio and Dale Davis inside. Those two are stout defenders, but neither has what it takes to handle the pre-back-injury version of Grandmama with full React Juice. (Fun fact: Kevin Johnson also appeared in a Converse commercial with Larry; Grandmama was rough on him, too).

With Magic leading the break (as starting center of course) KJ slashing and Joe Johnson basking in the five-out spacing, Team Johnson is simply too fast, too skilled and too superstar-laden for the much bigger, slower Team Davis to handle.

Better shooting, five guys who can handle and 28 combined All-Star appearances give Team Johnson advantages in every category but sheer size. And it's not like a team with Larry and Magic Johnson as a 4-5 combo is really giving up that much on the glass. Both averaged over seven boards per game in their careers.

Maybe we get a few precious sequences of Magic-Brow matchups, but even those are bad news for the Davises, as it means either Dale or Antonio is chasing around a guard.

Team Johnson takes the title, forever settling the NBA's great name debate.

Celebratory React Juice for all!*

*Please do not drink React Juice. It will almost certainly cause blindness. Best case: It turns you into a 75-year-old woman.

Just for Fun

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Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

A handful of just-missed-it names that didn't make the cut:

Jackson: Mark Jackson, Reggie Jackson, Jim Jackson, Stephen Jackson, Phil Jackson

  • Strengths: Scoring, spacing, Zen.
  • Weaknesses: Undersized. Five-second backdowns now illegal, destroying Mark Jackson's game.

Thomas: Isaiah Thomas, Isiah Thomas, Kenny Thomas, Kurt Thomas, Etan Thomas

  • Strengths: Awesome dual-point guard lineup.
  • Weaknesses: Isaiah Thomas hates dual-point guard lineups.

Curry: Stephen Curry, Seth Curry, Dell Curry, Michael Curry, Eddy Curry

  • Strengths: Shooting, three actual family members create excellent chemistry.
  • Weaknesses: Eddy Curry.

All stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.

Follow Grant Hughes on Twitter @gt_hughes.


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