The memorable Dolphins TE and South Florida sports figure, Jim “Mad Dog” Mandich would give listeners a hypothetical: “It’s the fourth quarter, team down by 6, two minutes left–who do you want under center?” It was a great question and suitable for talk and discussion.
So, in the dreariness of the NBA lockout an exercise with a variant of this hypothetical–”you’re a coach that has to win a crucial game, who do you want as your starting five?” would be a healthy activity and welcome change from talking about salary caps and BMI’s. The venue can be any and in whatever situation (NBA playoffs, FIBA World Championships, Olympics, US vs. The World). See the following roster:
PG: Rajon Rondo–Rondo would be the point guard. He had a harder time this past season after the departure of Kendrick Perkins offensively but still maintained his overall performance and title as the “driver” of the Celtics offensive engine. Deron Williams, Chris Paul are other notable point guards who are difference makers.
SG: Manu Ginobili–The Spurs absolutely rely on his playmaking and scoring to complement Tony Parker and are left weaker when he is not on the floor and injured. Never shy to take the “clutch shot” and willing to sacrifice his body to prevent opposing players any advantage. “Manu makes the team better” so, he’s the starting guard. Other notables are Kobe Bryant and Dwayne Wade.
SF: Kevin Durant–possibly the most difficult position to decide which player one would want since their are so many outstanding athletes at this position. Durant though has the most polished game out of all: He’s the No.1 option. He shoots from all sides, can create off the dribble and can defend. Other notables are Carmelo Anthony, Lebron James, Paul Pierce.
PF: Dirk Nowitzki–Dirk has historically been more of an offensive big man but has sharpened his all-around game and proved at the highest level that he can get “man-sized” rebounds and offer defensive pressure when needed. In the 2011 Finals, it wasn’t his flu which was the issue but on bad shooting night(s), he kept playing and hanging around continuing to push his teammates. Other notables are Chris Bosh, Udonis Haslem, Carlos Boozer, Am’are Stoudemire.
C: (Any) Hybrid Centers/Power Forwards–with the decline of post-up play by big men and the lack of actual centers in both conferences, “hybrid” players who can move in and out are of most use. There ability to move out to the perimeter and defend, rebound and get shots only when available is important.
The team would get the bulk of its points between Durant and Nowitzki. Because of Ginobili’s ability to play “team ball”, facilitate the offense and defend, he doesn’t need to be given the ball “all of the time”. Any athletic center/power forward could be selected with this starting group because the player would only need to protect the paint and support Nowitzki and Durant in the front court with tough assignments. Rondo’s “body of work” with the Celtics has shown that he looks first for the pass and shoots later which would allow for flexibility on offense.