On August 17, 2016, sports journalist Nick Wright conducted an interesting exercise: if we were in a real-life Space Jam situation with one basketball game against super-powered aliens to save the Planet Earth, what squad do you go with? As much as I love the fabled Toon Squad, this might be a tough pick here. Remember, it’s not just great individual players who we are looking for, but the world needs a team that can win. For the sake of simplicity, let’s assume that we’re playing in today’s moderately paced (compared to the slow ‘90s and fast ‘60s) NBA, with similar positional values and the rules of today’s basketball games. Let’s evaluate Wright’s picks.
PG: Russell Westbrook
SG: Klay Thompson
SF: Kawhi Leonard
PF: Lebron James
C: Anthony Davis
Let’s go through the evaluations, starting with the point guard position. Wright’s a big Brodie fan (as is this writer), but his logic was also fairly sound. Westbrook has the speed, athleticism, and dynamic ability that’s needed against an alien squad. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that he’s probably not human either. In this offense, Westbrook would be able to slash and kick, probably racking up nearly 15 assists a game given the ability of his teammates on this team to actually hit a corner a three. Speaking of threes…
Klay Thompson was Wright’s pick at SG. Thompson’s a great choice because of his ability to shoot threes and defend. Remember, playing in an NBA game styled as it would be today, three and D players are incredibly valuable. You could put Thompson on the other teams’ best backcourt player, but honestly, why would you when you have…
Kawhi Leonard. One of the best basketball players in the NBA, period. Leonard is currently carrying a relatively underwhelming Spurs team to the 2nd seed in the West. Leonard has also cemented himself as a great three-point shooter and playmaker, with excellent off-ball abilities and IQ, and of course, with tremendous defending. On this team, he can catch-and-shoot, set up motion plays and will likely anchor the defensive end with a fantastic attitude. He has already defended the best player in the world with relative success, bringing us to….
LeBron James. LeBron is the best player in the world, indubitably. A true sheriff, he’ll be the anchor for this team doing what he always does: facilitating like no other. He’ll likely be team captain on the court and off the court, despite his previous run-ins with Klay and his father. He’s also likely the only player in the league who Russell Westbrook might defer to: I would not be surprised if LeBron got the maximized potential from Westbrook. Of course, with setting LeBron up next to Kawhi, the two of them would be the most dominant wing pairing on both sides of the ball, with LeBron getting Kawhi open looks and Kawhi feeding LeBron in the post. Of course, the team does need a great rebounder with scoring ability, which brings us to…
Anthony Davis. Davis is phenomenal on the defensive end, the offensive end, and at the end of games (The OKC Thunder know this all too well). A clutch athlete with good fundamental skills, the Brow is likely to be the final piece to an excellent team. He’ll mesh well with LeBron, be able to play pick and roll with Westbrook, and shoot the ball himself with efficiency.
For this theoretical team, let’s also throw in a coach. This answer is obvious: Gregg Popovich. No explanation necessary. GOAT team deserves GOAT coach.
Obviously, the aliens would need to have quite some talent to beat a team like this. So, let’s turn the exercise on its head: whose talents would the aliens steal in order to beat this team? After careful evaluation, it’s likely the aliens would pick some team that looks somewhat like this:
PG: Steph Curry
SG: John Wall
SF: Kevin Durant
PF: Draymond Green
C: Rudy Gobert
Steph Curry. This dude is incredible. He can pull up from anywhere on the court and pull defenses 30 feet from the basket. I do happen to think that Steph doesn’t show up in big games, including most of the 13 NBA finals games he’s played in. However, a healthy Stephen Curry is near unbeatable, and besides, who knows if the alien who’s stealing his powers is clutch or not? Defense is a concern, given that there is exactly 0 chance Steph can put the brakes on Westbrook, which means that his alien host would likely guard the taller but less explosive Klay Thompson (who’ll probably guard him back given that Westbrook would be better off guarding the Alien with Wall’s powers). This means that Curry will be helped by…
John Wall. Wall’s an interesting pick, but as far as this writer is concerned, he’s been the best two-way PG in the East and is very deserving of a spot on this team. The biggest worry the Alien team would have to consider would be a soaring Westbrook, who can offensively dominate the game by beating his man off the dribble. My two other contenders, DeMar DeRozan and Chris Paul would both have trouble stopping Westbrook, given DeRozan’s continuous defensive inconsistency, CP3’s size. Since Steph isn’t going to be stopping Brodie, Wall can do that, while playing off of the ball and relying on other assets to contribute to his team. If the Aliens steal Wall’s powers, their defense just improved incredibly. However, they’ll need a little offensive spark, which brings us to….
Kevin Durant. For the last 5 years, it’s safe to say that Durant has been the second best player in the NBA, behind LeBron James (though I would say both Russell Westbrook and James Harden are more valuable as players this season). Durant’s shooting and scoring ability would work perfectly in this system, and the team’s spacing would greatly improve. Durant’s skillset should provide a huge variety of offensive and defensive weapons to the alien host, save a big body. Speaking of big bodies….
Draymond Green. Unequivocally, I personally think Draymond is one of the dirtiest, whiniest, and most unsportsmanlike players in the NBA. But he’s also a great player, and he’s not afraid of anything. These attributes are important in defending LeBron James, who strikes fear deep into the hearts of most of his opponents. Draymond is also an excellent passer and a loyal teammate, making his host someone who will likely hold this alien squad together through his vocal attributes. As aggressive as Draymond is, he doesn’t have much size, which fortunately can be provided by…
Rudy Gobert. The Stifle Tower is without a doubt the biggest all-star snub of the season, and deserves respect for his incredible defensive presence. His talent will allow him to protect the rim against drivers like Westbrook, Kawhi and Lebron. The aliens will also have an excellent height advantage with this addition, given Gobert’s 7’1 frame.
As for Coach, given the three Warriors on this team already, let’s have Steve Kerr’s talents come to the sideline. Again, no explanation really necessary.
Both teams have excellent skill and talent, and it’s fair to say both have an excellent shot at winning if they play the game well. So, I’ll leave it up to you. Who wins the game?