Ladies and gentlemen, I bring you the NBA: Homegrown Edition. And no, that doesn’t mean a league where Bonzi Wells, Melo, Damon Stoudemire, Zach Randolph and Darius Miles score by taking bong hits.
The NBA Draft Lottery was holding to form on Tuesday. The order was working up until Memphis jumped from sixth into the lottery. Then the Thunder jumped in as well. During a commercial break, I started to lament about how the lottery would have been so fixed if Oklahoma City somehow managed to get the top pick and the opportunity to draft the local hero, Blake Griffin.
I was OK with it when the Cavaliers won the LeBron Lottery. LeBron James was the city’s savior. Then last year, the Bulls turned their 1 percent chance of winning the top pick into local kid turned good, Derrick Rose. Again, the Bulls needed a fresh face for the franchise, something its lacked since a certain someone’s second retirement.
There would have been no mistaking the fix this year.
Oklahoma City wound up getting the third pick, but it got me thinking. (Dangerous, I know.)
What if you could only play for your home team? And by “home team,” I mean closest team proximity-wise from where you are from, and by “from,” I mean raised, went to high school or in some cases college. For instance in soccer overseas, players play for hometown teams in youth clubs and slowly work their way up the pecking order. What if that was the case here? So without further ado, I bring you the 2008-09 NBA Homegrown League.
C – Dwight Howard
PF – Gerald Wallace
SF – Al Thornton
SG – Josh Smith
PG – Anthony Carter
Bench: Jamario Moon (SF), J.J. Redick (SG), Ben Wallace (C), Kwame Brown (PF), Louis Williams (PG), Javaris Crittenton (PG), Jarvis Hayes (SG), Matt Harpring (SF), J.J. Hickson (PF), Randolph Morris (C).
Roster Clarification: Neighboring Alabama provides the Hawks with some nice talent namely Gerald Wallace (Sylacauga, Ala.), Jamario Moon (Rockford, Ala.) and Ben Wallace (White Hall, Ala.). Former Kentucky big man Randolph Morris was born in Houston, but went to high school in Atlanta. J.J. Redick is from Cookeville, Tenn., (a four-hour drive north of Atlanta).
Breakdown: We start first and foremost with Superman. Dwight Howard is an emerging force in the league and a cornerstone for any franchise. Athleticism shouldn’t be a problem for Atlanta with the likes of Josh Smith, J.J. Hickson, Wallace and Moon flying around. Al Thornton needs to show more consistency, but the pieces are there for the Hawks to be a contender for a playoff spot in the East.
C – Marcus Camby
PF – Ryan Gomes
SF – Matt Bonner
SG – Ray Allen
PG – Sue Bird
Bench: Antoine Wright (SG), Michael Bradley (C), Wayne Turner (PG), Tyler Coppenrath (PF).
Roster Clarification: Ray Allen was born in Oklahoma, but his dad was in the Army and he moved around all over the world. We’re putting him in Boston because of his association with nearby UConn. Ryan Gomes was born in Waterbury, Conn., and went to Providence College, and Matt Bonner is from Concord, N.H. Antoine Wright was born in California and played college ball in Texas. But he played high school ball in Massachusetts and the Northeast is struggling. He’ll work. Sue Bird uses her UConn ties to land a tryout and beat out the likes of these two.
Breakdown: So much for the Celtics legacy. It’s not pretty when Bill Simmons is trying out for point guard. Who knew the Northeast produced basically no NBA talent? Marcus Camby and Ryan Gomes are respectable pieces and Allen will jack up 3-pointers all day, while Bonner will become every Irish ginger kid’s idol. NBA flameouts Michael Bradley and Wayne Turner will pair up with former Vermont Catamount star Tyler Coppenrath on a short bench.
C – Jermaine O’Neal
PF – Kevin Garnett
SF – Antwan Jamison
SG – Josh Howard
PG – Chris Paul
Bench: Ramon Sessions (PG), Chris Wilcox (PF), Brendan Haywood (C), Rashad McCants (SG), Renaldo Balkman (PF), Bobby Jackson (PG), Mikki Moore (C), Jerry Stackhouse (SG), Shavlik Randolph (SF), Josh Powell (SF).
Roster Clarification: People know Kevin Garnett came into the league from the Farragut Academy in Chicago, but the Big Ticket was born and raised in South Carolina, just like Ramon Sessions and Jermaine O’Neal.
Breakdown: Teaming Chris Paul with Kevin Garnett should be illegal. Mix in the always underappreciated Antwan Jamison with Josh Howard and Jermaine O’Neal, we’ll be hard-pressed to find a better starting-five than Charlotte’s. Injuries have slowed O’Neal, who is a shell of the player he was, but he’s still better than 50 percent of the league’s big men. Sessions’ energy and scoring and Chris Wilcox’s rebounding provide a solid backbone for the Bobcats’ bench.
PF – Bobby Simmons
SF – Andre Iguodola
SG – Dwyane Wade
PG – Derrick Rose
Bench: Corey Magette, (SG), Anthony Parker (PG), Quentin Richardson (SG), Shannon Brown (SG), Tony Allen (SF), Brian Cook (PF), Steven Hunter (C), Luther Head (SG), Michael Finley (SG), Nazr Mohammed (C), Julian Wright (SF), Antoine Walker (SF), Shaun Livingston (PG).
Roster Clarification: No explanation needed.
Breakdown: Dwyane Wade and Derrick Rose will have these Bulls running. Imagine the duo buzzing around and throwing alley-oops to a salivating Andre Iguodola and reserve wing players Corey Maggette, Tony Allen and Julian Wright. But the Bulls are paper-thin in the frontcourt, though Eddy Curry has never been confused for anything resembling thin. Wade and Rose will make Chicago fun to watch, but you just can’t expect much from the likes of Steven Hunter, Nazr Mohammad and Brian Cook.
C – Kosta Koufos
PF – James Posey
SF – LeBron James
SG – Michael Redd
PG – Kevin Martin
Bench: O.J. Mayo (SG), Daequan Cook (SG), Bill Walker (SG), Chris Quinn (PG), Evan Eschmeyer (C), Kevin Pittsnogle (PF), Jawad Williams (PF), Steve Logan (PG).
Roster Clarification: O.J. Mayo was born and raised in Huntington, W.V., 300 miles south of Cleveland. West Virginia walking billboard Kevin Pittsnogle also makes the squad instantly landing the franchise an endorsement deal with Mountain Dew and creative product placement in “My Name is Earl.”
Breakdown: Start at LeBron James and go from there. In this scenario, Cavs fans aren’t sweating the looming 2010 offseason and the Free Agent Will-He-or-Won’t-He? The 2008 NBA MVP has himself some serious scoring help. Michael Redd, Kevin Martin and Mayo all can fill it up. Expect James to lead the league in assists averaging something like 17. Frontcourt stiffs Kosta Koufas and former Northwestern Wildcat Evan Eschmeyer leave much to be desired, and a true point guard wouldn’t hurt. But the Cavs have the pieces to make a lot of noise in the East.
C – Chris Kaman
PF – Shane Battier
SF – Wilson Chandler
SG – Jason Richardson
PG – Charlie Bell
Bench: JaVale McGee (C), Maurice Ager (SG), Mateen Cleaves (PG), Chris Douglas-Roberts (PG), Willie Green (SG), Morris Peterson (SG).
Roster Clarification: None needed.
Breakdown: Perhaps the Pistons should move the franchise to East Lansing as former Michigan State Spartans litter the roster. Jason Richardson and Wilson Chandler will have to do much of the scoring. Shane Battier provides a nice glue guy and Chris Kaman has legitimate size with LaVale McGee a potential developing big.
C – Greg Oden
PF – Zach Randolph
SF – Jared Jeffries
SG – Eric Gordon
PG – Rajon Rondo
Bench: Larry Hughes (PG), Courtney Lee (PG), Brad Miller (C), Mike Conley (PG), Rodney Carney (SG), George Hill (PG), Brian Cardinal (SF), Sean May (PF), Josh McRoberts (SF), Bonzi Wells (SG), Chris Thomas (PG).
Roster Clarification: Rajon Rondo is from Louisville, Ky., which is just a short drive south of Indianapolis on I-65. Brian Cardinal hails from Illinois, but right near the Indiana border and having played at Purdue, he’s a natural fit for the Pacers. St. Louis native Larry Hughes is a Pacer because Indianapolis is 40 miles closer to the Lou than Memphis is.
Breakdown: With a bevy of young, talented point guards (Rondo, Courtney Lee, Mike Conley and George Hill), a scoring machine (Eric Gordon) and a potential Bill Russell-like defensive presence (Greg Oden), the Pacers have a nice youthful core with massive upside. Mix in crafty veterans Zach Randolph (Marion, Ind.) and Brad Miller (Fort Wayne, Ind.) and the Pacers could have an Eastern Conference contender in the making. But it all depends on Gordon and Oden’s development.
C – Al Horford
PF – Tim Duncan
SF – Raja Bell
SG – Francisco Garcia
PG – Steve Blake
Bench: Udonis Haslem (C), Tim James (PF), Jose Barea (PG), Carlos Arroyo (PG), Adonal Foyle (C).
Roster Clarification: Miami benefits greatly for it’s proximity to the Caribbean for a number of reasons: warm climate, exotic women and quality cigars. But the Heat can thank the islands for the likes of Al Horford and Francisco Garcia (Dominican Republic), Tim Duncan and Raja Bell (U.S. Virgin Islands), J.J. Barea and Carlos Arroyo (Puerto Rico) and Adonal Foyle (St. Vincent and Grenadines).
Breakdown: Not the deepest of teams, the Heat has a formidable frontcourt with Horford, Duncan and Udonis Haslem. Bell provides defense, toughness and timely outside shooting while Barea, Garcia and Steve Blake are all steady with the ball in their hands. Arroyo heads back to the States after a stint in Israel and former University of Miami star Tim James finds his way on an NBA roster.
C – Brian Butch
PF – Carl Landry
SF – Caron Butler
SG – Steve Novak
PG – Devin Harris
Bench: Travis Diener (PG), Kyle Weaver (SG), Alando Tucker (SF), Reece Gaines (PG).
Roster Clarification: Alando Tucker is from Chicago, but made his name at Wisconsin.
Breakdown: There’s only so much Caron Butler and Devin Harris can do. Both are legit building blocks, but there just isn’t enough for the Bucks to choose from to compliment them. Carl Landry is a solid piece when he’s not getting shot at and Steve Novak is a Kyle Korver-like shooter from the wing. When Travis Diener and Kyle Weaver are your top subs off the bench, you know it’s going to be a long season.
NEW JERSEY NETS
C – Andrew Bynum
PF – David West
SF – Al Harrington
SG – J.R. Smith
PG – Randy Foye
Bench: Troy Murphy (PF), Samuel Dalembert (C), Luol Deng (SF), Jason Thompson (PF), Dahntay Jones (SG), Brevin Knight (PG), Tim Thomas (SF), Dajuan Wagner.
Roster Clarification: Andrew Bynum (Plainsboro) and David West (Teaneck) were both born in New Jersey. Luol Deng came to the U.S. via the Sudan and London. But he played his high school basketball at Blair Academy in New Jersey.
Breakdown: Bynum, West, Samuel Dalembert and Troy Murphy make for a formidable front line. Points will most likely come from Al Harrington and J.R. Smith, who can do almost anything on the offensive end of the court. If Deng can stay healthy, the Nets are in the mix as the East’s fourth or fifth best team.
NEW YORK KNICKS
C – Andrea Bargnani
PF – Elton Brand
SF – Ron Artest
SG – Ben Gordon
PG – Rafer Alston
Bench: Lamar Odom (SF), Stephon Marbury (PG), Charlie Villanueva (SF), Hilton Armstrong (C), Quincy Douby (SG), Mark Blount (C), Danilo Galinari (SG), Jamaal Tinsley (PG), Sebastian Telfair (PG).
Roster Clarification: More than three million Italians live in New York City according to the 2000 Census. That means the league’s Italians Andrea Bargnani and Danilo Galinari are Knicks.
Breakdown: New York has plenty of playground in them with the likes of Rafer Alston, Stephon Marbury, Jamaal Tinsley and Sebastian Telfair. Add in Queens’ own Ron Artest and the Knicks certainly will be fun to watch. Elton Brand and Ben Gordon are good pieces and Lamar Odom has shown he can work as a sixth-man. However, there is reasonable concern regarding Tinsley because he’s on a team with last names like Blount and Douby.
C – Amar’e Stoudemire
PF – Reggie Evans
SF – Vince Carter
SG – Tracy McGrady
PG – Marquis Daniels
Bench: Jerome James (C), Stephen Graham (SF), Joey Graham (SF), Terance Kinsey (PG), Luc Mbah a Moute (SF), Marresse Speights (PF), Von Wafer (SG), Darius Washington (PG).
Roster Clarification: Luc Mbah a Moute went to Monteverde Academy near Orlando. Von Wafer moved around too much for me to keep track. He went to Florida State, so he’ll just make the short trip from Tallahassee to Orlando.
Breakdown: The Magic have some star power, but seem to have traded Superman for Kryptonite. Goodbye, Dwight Howard, re-hello to Tracy McGrady. McGrady is reunited with his cousin Vince Carter. Add in Amar’e Stoudemire it looks pretty good. But after that, there’s not much. Marresse Speights might develop into something nice, but other than there’s nothing really to like about the Magic’s remaining roster.
C – Rasheed Wallace
PF – Hakim Warrick
SF – John Salmons
SG – Kobe Bryant
PG – Jameer Nelson
Bench: Richard Hamilton (SG), Kyle Lowry (PG), Rasual Butler (SF), Malik Allen (PF), Matt Carroll (SG), Aaron Gray (C), Flip Murray (SG).
Roster Clarification: None needed.
Breakdown: No more mixed All-Star Game receptions for Lower Merion’s own Kobe Bryant. Though a little light in the frontcourt, the 76ers have nice versatie pieces with John Salmons and Hakim Warrick. Richard Hamilton, Rasual Butler, Kyle Lowry and Flip Murray make up one of the more offensively-inclined benches in the league.
C – Andray Blatche
PF – Dirk Nowitzki
SF – Peja Stojakovic
SG – Tony Parker
PG – Steve Nash
Bench: Boris Diaw (SF), Jamaal Magloire (C), Darko Milicic (PF), Sasha Vujacic (PG), Beno Udrih (PG), Rasho Nesterovic (C), Vladimir Radmanovic (SF), Marko Jaric (PG), Nicolas Batum (PF), Alexis Ajinca (C), Johan Petro (C), Mickael Pietrus (SG).
Roster Clarification: My original inclination was just to dump all the international players in Toronto. You know, with Toronto being the international NBA city. But there are just way too many internationals in the league to form one team, and there were holes elsewhere. So, Toronto gets the overflow of Europeans. It’s a good thing French is an official language of Canada because the Raptors have six Frenchmen. Four Serbs and three Slovenians help out Andray Blatche, who is from upstate New York, and Jamaal Magloire, who is actually from Toronto. Steve Nash is from Vancouver, which is actually closer to Portland, but he’s Canadian, so he has to be a Raptor.
Breakdown: Tony Parker, Steve Nash Dirk Nowitzki are the obvious stars here and make the Raptors a formidable opponent in the East. The bench is softer than Charmin Ultra with Sasha Vujacic, Rasho Nesterovic, Darko Milicic and Vladimir Radmanovic, but you can’t discount the fact that the Raptors have the world’s luckiest man ever – Marko Jaric.
C – DaSagana Diop
PF – Carmelo Anthony
SF – Rudy Gay
SG – Kevin Durant
PG – Allen Iverson
Bench: Delonte West (PG), Michael Beasley (PF), Grant Hill (SF), Jeff Green (SF), Roy Hibbert (C), Sam Cassell (PG), Keith Bogans (SG), Josh Boone (PF), Jarrett Jack (PG), Joe Alexander (SF), Joey Dorsey (PF), Donte Greene (SF), Roger Mason (SG).
Roster Clarification: Thank you, Baltimore for Carmelo Anthony, Rudy Gay and Michael Beasley.
Breakdown: Talent-laden, the Wizards have a bright future with Anthony, Gay, Kevin Durant and Michael Beasley. Delonte West, Jarrett Jack, Joe Alexander and Jeff Green provide some solid talent off the bench, while Sam Cassell, Grant Hill and Allen Iverson, yes Iverson, provide veteran leadership. The Wizards are among the most talented teams in the league and are a contender in the East.
C – LaMarcus Aldridge
PF – Chris Bosh
SF – Darrell Arthur
SG – Desmond Mason
PG – Deron Williams
Bench: Jason Maxiell (PF), Anthony Randolph (PF), Maceo Baston (PF), Ike Diogu (PF), Tony Battie (C), Sean Williams (C), Kurt Thomas (PF), Brian Skinner (PF), C.J. Miles (SG), Acie Law (PG), Andre Emmett (SF), Kevin Ollie (PG).
Roster Clarification: Anthony Randolph was born in Germany and lived in Pasadena, Calif., and Little Rock. But he went to high school in Dallas, so we’re going to make him a Maverick.
Breakdown: Chris Bosh and Deron Williams make up the best duo Dallas has seen since Bobby Ewing and Pamela Barnes. Young, emerging big men LaMarcus Aldridge and Jason Maxiell will ease the frontcourt load on Bosh, so he won’t have to dress in drag. The bench is loaded with frontcourt servants, but lacking in backcourt firepower.
C – Nick Fazekas
PF – Carlos Boozer
SF – Pat Garrity
SG – Mario Chalmers
PG – Chauncey Billups
Bench: Louis Admundson (PF), Theo Ratliff (C).
Roster Clarification: I had a decision to make where to stash the Alaskans (Carlos Boozer and Mario Chalmers). Geographically speaking, Portland is the closest franchise to the Great White North, but the Blazers aren’t nearly starving as much for roster help as the Nuggets are. And since Denver has mountains and snow, the Alaskan duo should feel right at home. Theo Ratliff could have been a Hawk, but he went to college in Wyoming and the Nuggets need help.
Breakdown: Former Colorado Buffalo Chauncey Billips remains the face of the franchise, born and raised in Denver. The 2004 NBA Finals MVP has a nice compliment in the backcourt with the rookie Chalmers. Boozer’s physicality in the paint helps offset the softness of Nick Fazekas and Pat Garrity. Louis Admundson provides nice rebounding and defense off the bench, basically doing the things Garrity can’t.
GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS
C – Yao Ming
PF – Yi Jianlin
SF – Drew Gooden
SG – Eddie House
PG – Jason Kidd
Bench: Mark Madsen (PF), Sean Marks (C), Leon Powe (PF), Sun Yue (PG).
Roster Clarification: Asian-Americans make up a third of San Francisco’s population, with Chinese-Americans specifically, coming in at 19.6 percent by themselves. That means Yao Ming, Yi Jianlin and Sun Yue are heading to Chinatown. Sean Marks is from New Zealand, but went to Cal, so he’ll help with depth. Hopes are Bret and Jemaine pen a brilliant politically incorrect song about Yao, which Murray sends to the Chinese consulate.
Breakdown: Much will depend on the development of Yi Jianlin. Ming and Jason Kidd are basically it after that. Had Kidd been six years younger, I’d like the Warriors a little more. Eddie House will likely lead the league in shot attempts and Leon Powe will provide a presence off the bench. Luckily, the team looks a long way from a championship, meaning Mark Madsen will have to be content dancing in front of a mirror.
C – Emeka Okafor
PF – Kendrick Perkins
SF – Rashard Lewis
SG – Stephen Jackson
PG – T.J. Ford
Bench: Daniel Gibson (SG), Chris Andersen (C), Damon Jones (PG), DeAndre Jordan (PF), Daniel Ewing (PG), Lawrence Roberts (PF), John Lucas II (PG).
Roster Clarification: No explanation needed.
Breakdown: With a pretty impressive starting-five, Houston looks like a player in the West. Emeka Okafor and Kendrick Perkins will rebound and defend while Rashard Lewis and Stephen Jackson chuck up 3-pointers. When healthy, T.J. Ford is a top-10 point guard. But while the starting lineup is nice, the bench is anything but. DeAndre Jordan has a chance to develop, but Daniel Gibson is just a young Damon Jones. Chris Andersen brings nice energy, rebounding and defense, but in all the Rockets are as deep as a Paris Hilton-Nicole Ritchie conversation.
LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS
C – Amir Johnson
PF – Luke Walton
SF – Austin Croshere
SG – Josh Childress
PG – Jordan Farmar
Bench: Robert Swift (C), Jason Hart (PG), Jared Dudley (SG), Casey Jacobsen (SG), Dorell Wright (SF), Brian Scalabrine (PF).
Roster Clarification: I put all the busters on the Clippers. Why change history? And we just had to give them this guy.
Breakdown: Josh Childress can stop eating feta cheese and come home. And his ‘fro will be pretty much the only watchable asset the Clippers have. Half-Jewish Jordan Farmar gets my interest-level piqued only slightly. We won’t need Luke’s dad, Bill, to tell us, “They’re terrrrrrribbbbble.”
LOS ANGELES LAKERS
C – Tyson Chandler
PF – Tayshaun Prince
SF – Paul Pierce
SG – Gilbert Arenas
PG – Baron Davis
Bench: Trevor Ariza (SF), Nick Young (PG), Aaron Afflalo (SG), Jason Kapono (SG), Craig Smith (PF), Jason Collins (C), Jarron Collins (C).
Roster Clarification: Craig Smith thanks the Lord I let him suit up for the Lakers and not force him to stay in Boston for his BC ties. You’re lucky, Craig. You’re lucky.
Breakdown: Scoring certainly won’t be a problem, nor will athleticism. Paul Pierce, Gilbert Arenas and Baron Davis form a nasty triumvirate. However, it seems the Lakers have loaded up on lanky, Stretch Armstrong-type height with Tyson Chandler, Tayshaun Prince and Trevor Ariza. Add in the NBA’s all-time leader in 3-point field goal percentage Jason Kapono and the Lakers could do some damage in the West. (And yes, Kapono is actually tied with Steve Kerr at .4540 all-time).
C – Lorenzen Wright
PF – Thaddeus Young
SF – Shawn Marion
SG – Joe Johnson
PG – Derek Fisher
Bench: Ronnie Brewer (SG), Travis Outlaw (PF), Trenton Hassell (SG), Brandan Wright (SF), Shawne Williams (SF), Loren Woods (C).
Roster Clarification: Thaddeus Young was born in New Orleans, but moved to Memphis in the fourth grade. Shawn Marion was born in Illinois, but raised in Clarksville, Tenn. Nearby Arkansas provides Joe Johnson, Derek Fisher and Ronnie Brewer. Travis Outlaw hails from Starkville, Miss., just 179 miles south of Memphis.
Breakdown: While thin in the frontcourt, the Grizzlies have an athletic roster highlighted by the likes of Young, Marion, Johnson and Brewer. Fisher’s steady hand at the point and the energy of Travis Outlaw, Brewer and Brandan Wright coming off the bench gives Memphis a watchable franchise for once. Veteran guard Trenton Hassell provides defense and hopefully with Fisher can mentor former Memphis Tigers big man Shawne Williams, who has done the things a 20-year old kid does with a shit ton of money.
C – Joel Pryzbilla
PF – Nick Collison
SF – Devean George
SG – Mike Miller
PG – Kirk Hinrich
Bench: Raef LaFrentz (C), Kyle Korver (SG), Kris Humphries (PF), Jeff Boschee (PG), Troy Bell (SG), Rick Rickert (SF), Matt Freije (PF), Khalid El-Amin (PG), Jake Sullivan (SG).
Roster Clarification: Mike Miller is from Mitchell, S.D., 335 miles west of Minneapolis and Iowa provides Nick Collison, Kirk Hinrich, Kyle Korver and Raef LaFrentz. (Korver was born in Lakewood, Calif., but moved to Iowa in high school.) Because so few ballers have come from the Land of Lakes, we’ve had to bring back a few college All-Stars, including Minnesota’s finest Khalid El-Amin.
Breakdown: Timberwolves’ fans can’t blame Kevin McHale for sucking. It’s their own damn fault. Instead of skating on frozen ponds in the winter, they need to go inside warm gyms and practice hoops. When Mike Miller and Devean George are your franchise cornerstones, look out. Troy Bell, a former two-time Big East Player of the Year at Boston College, gets his NBA chance with former Kansas Jayhawk Jeff Boschee and Iowa State Cyclones sparkplug Jake Sullivan providing backcourt depth. Former Golden Gophers Joel Pryzbilla, Kris Humphries and Rick Rickert provide bodies with LaFrentz continuing to earn a check for sitting out.
NEW ORLEANS HORNETS
C – Shaquille O’Neal
PF – Al Jefferson
SF – Danny Granger
SG – Monta Ellis
PG – Mo Williams
Bench: Paul Millsap (PF), Chris Duhon (PG), Antonio McDyess (PF), Tyrus Thomas (PF), Erick Dampier (C), D.J. Augustin (PG), Glen Davis (PF), Brandon Bass (SF), Stromile Swift (PF).
Roster Clarification: Neighboring Mississippi provides Al Jefferson, Monta Ellis, Mo Williams, Erick Dampier and Antonio McDyess. D.J. Augustin was born and raised in New Orleans, but was forced to move because of Hurricane Katrina.
Breakdown: Here’s what we like to call a loaded team. The Hornets have everything. Danny Granger and Jefferson are young franchise cornerstones. Ellis and Paul Millsap can be. The steadying veteran forces of Shaq and McDyess should calm any concerns about youth being a problem. Millsap, Glen Davis, Tyrus Thomas, D.J. Augustin and Chris Duhon give the Hornets a bench worthy of starting for most teams.
OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER
C – Etan Thomas
PF – Shelden Williams
SF – Kelenna Azubuike
SG – Brandon Rush
PG – Earl Watson
Bench: Tyronn Lue (PG), J.R. Giddens (SG), Kareem Rush (SG), Earl Watson (PG), Wayne Simien (PF), Ryan Humphrey (PF), Bryant Reeves (C), Shea Seals (SG).
Roster Clarification: Kansas City provides Earl Watson and the Rush Brothers (Brandon and Kareem). Tyronn Lue was born in Mexico, Mo., but raised in Raytown, Mo., 347 miles north of Oklahoma City. Kelenna Azubuike was a Tulsa high school star before going to the University of Kentucky. Like Azubuike, Etan Thomas went to high school in Tulsa.
Breakdown: Unfortunately for the Thunder, Blake Griffin isn’t walking through that door – at least not yet. Heck, screw Blake Griffin, Stewie Griffin could start on this team. Oklahoma City will struggle. Evidence of that is the re-emergence of Bryant “Big Country” Reeves, who I’m sure looks a little something like Jabba The Hut these days. Relying on Shelden WIlliams, Wayne Simien and Ryan Humphrey in the frontcourt is suicidal. Azubuike provides nice athleticism and grit and Brandon Rush is an emerging talent, but there’s no sugarcoating it. Oklahoma City sucks.
C – Channing Frye
PF – Pau Gasol
SF – Richard Jefferson
SG – Rudy Fernandez
PG – Mike Bibby
Bench: Ricky Davis (SG), Jose Calderon (PG), Marcus Banks (PG), Jerryd Bayless (SG), Sergio Rodriguez (PG).
Roster Clarification: We’re putting the Spaniards in Phoenix because it makes the most sense to me, and the Suns need some bodies. Mike Bibby was born in Cherry Hill, N.J., but went to high school and college in Arizona. Marcus Banks was born and raised in nearby Las Vegas. Ricky Davis, believe it or not, was also born in Sin City.
Breakdown: If it wasn’t for the Spanish, the Suns would be dead in the water. But Pau Gasol, Rudy Fernandez and Jose Calderon give Phoenix a chance at survival. Arizona Wildcats Bibby, Richard Jefferson and Jerryd Bayless provide nice athleticism to compliment the Armada. After Gasol though, the frontcourt is um, Channing Frye. Yeah, about that…
C – Spencer Hawes
PF – Kevin Love
SF – Mike Dunleavy
SG – Brandon Roy
PG – Rodney Stuckey
Bench: Jamal Crawford (PG), Jason Terry (SG), Marvin Williams (SF), Luke Ridnour (PG), Nate Robinson (PG), Adam Morrison (SF), Martell Webster (SG), Ime Udoka (SF), Ronny Turiaf (PF).
Roster Clarification: Sonics fans have reason to root for neighboring Portland now. The Seattle-area provides the Blazers with Brandon Roy, Spencer Hawes, Jamal Crawford, Nate Robinson, Jason Terry Marvin Williams and Martell Webster. Kevin Love was born in Santa Monica, Calif., but raised in Oregon. OK, so Ronny Turiaf is French, but he went to Gonzaga and that’s close enough.
Breakdown: A pretty young bunch, the Blazers are loaded in the backcourt. Roy and Rodney Stuckey form one of the best young backcourt duos in the league. Bench players Terry, Crawford and Robinson all can drop 40 points on any given night. A lot depends on the development of Hawes and Lowe in the post.
C – Brook Lopez
PF – Chuck Hayes
SF – Bruce Bowen
SG – Matt Barnes
PG – DeShawn Stevenson
Bench: Robin Lopez (C), Ryan Anderson (PF), DeMarcus Nelson (SG), Melvin Ely (PF).
Roster Clarification: Raised in Fresno, the Lopez Brothers form the backbone of the Kings. Chuck Hayes is from Modesto, Calif., which is 75 miles to Sacramento and 77.5 miles to Oakland (meaning he could’ve been a Warrior). Melvin Ely is from Chicago, but went to Fresno State and he’s desparately needed in Sactown.
Breakdown: The Lopez Bros. will have to carry the load. The Maloofs might try to persuade families with athletic pedigrees with a stipend to move to Sacramento. Hayes, Matt Barnes and Bruce Bowen are high-energy players that give their all. The scoring will have to come from the Brook Lopez and Fresno’s own DeShawn Stevenson.
SAN ANTONIO SPURS
C – Anderson Varejao
PF – Luis Scola
SF – Andres Nocioni
SG – Manu Ginobili
PG – Leandro Barbosa
Bench: Nene (PF), Devin Brown (SG), Chris Mihm (C), Jeff Foster (C), Walter Hermann (PF), Eduardo Najera (SF), Fabricio Oberto (C).
Roster Clarification: Lou Dobbs’ least favorite team. Open up the borders! Because it’s closest to South America we’re going to have those guys cross the Rio Grande. Five Argentines and three Brazilians make up the meat of the Spurs’ roster. Devin Brown was born in Salt Lake City, but raised in San Antonio and went to UT-San Antonio. Eduardo Najera was born in Mexico, but played high school ball in San Antonio.
Breakdown: Luis Scola, Anderson Varejao and Nene give the Spurs a talented trio of skilled big men. Manu Ginobili, Andres Nocioni and Jeff Foster provide the grit, while Leandro Barbosa will just race around everyone.
C – Zydrunas Ilgauskaus
PF – Mehmet Okur
SF – Andrei Kirilenko
SG – Hedo Turkoglu
PG – Andre Miller
Bench: Andrew Bogut (C), Andris Biedrins (C), Darius Songalia (PF), Linas Kleiza (SF), Aleksander Pavlovic (SG), Nathan Jawai (C), Keith Van Horn (SF).
Roster Clarification: You just knew this one was going to be a tough one. First, we had to pry Keith Van Horn out of retirement. Then we told Andre Miller, “Sure you’re from L.A., but you didn’t mind coming to college here, now you’re stuck.” I put the Turks here because they’re Muslim. And from what I know about Muslims and Mormons (which I learned from “Big Love” and “The Scorpion King”), they both prefer multiple wives. Then any stiff from the former USSR goes to Utah because they both begin with “U.” It’s just that easy.
So there are the teams, and after a super scientific simulation here’s how the season shook out:
1. Charlotte – 62-20
2. Washington – 59-23
3. Toronto – 58-32
4. Atlanta – 52-30
5. Philadelphia – 51-31
6. Cleveland – 50-32
7. Chicago – 49-33
8. New York – 45-37
9. Orlando – 44-38
10. New Jersey – 37-45
11. Indiana – 34-48
12. Miami – 34-48
13. Milwaukke – 27-55
14. Detroit – 26-56
15. Boston – 18-64
Charlotte beats New York, 4-0
Washington beats Chicago, 4-1
Cleveland beats Toronto, 4-3
Philadelphia beats Atlanta, 4-2
Charlotte beats Philadelphia, 4-2
Cleveland beats Washington, 4-3
Charlotte beats Cleveland, 4-1
LeBron can only take the Cavs so far. In the end, the matchup of Kevin Garnett and Antwan Jamison vs. Kosta Koufas and James Posey proves just way too much. Kevin Martin and Michael Redd steal a game with their shooting, but the Bobcats depth and overall better talent emerge victorious.
1. New Orleans – 59-23
2. Los Angeles Lakes -54-28
3. Houston – 47-35
4. San Antonio – 45-37
5. Portland – 45-37
6. Utah – 44-38
7. Dallas – 43-39
8. Phoenix – 42-40
9. Golden State – 42-40
10. Memphis – 36-46
11. Minnesota – 33-49
12. Denver – 33-49
13. Sacramento – 30-52
14. Los Angeles Clippers – 18-64
15. Oklahoma City -13-69
New Orleans beats Phoenix, 4-0
Los Angeles beats Dallas, 4-1
Utah beats Houston, 4-2
San Antonio beats Portland, 4-1
New Orleans beats Utah, 4-2
San Antonio beats Los Angeles, 4-3
New Orleans beats San Antonio, 4-2
The Hornets bruise their way to the NBA Finals with a heavy dose of Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap, which gets Spurs’ bigmen Luis Scola and Anderson Vareajo in foul trouble. Danny Granger emerges as a star, giving Manu Ginboli fits, and the Hornets advance comfortably.
Charlotte beats New Orleans, 4-3
Charlotte fans get their sweet honey revenge on the team that left them crying in the streets. Chris Paul absolutely dominates his matchup against Mo Williams, though Monta Ellis and Chris Duhon provide some vital minutes. The matchup between the washed O’Neals (Jermaine vs. Shaq) is a wash and the veteran savvy of Garnett and Jamison prove too much for the young duo of Millsap and Jefferson. It’s a classic series, but the Bobcats win the first NBA: Homegrown League title.
NBA Finals MVP: Chris Paul (PG), Charlotte
NBA MVP: LeBron James (SF), Cleveland
NBA Scoring Champ: Kobe Bryant (SG), Philadelphia – 28.9 ppg
All-NBA First Team
C – Dwight Howard, Atlanta
PF – Kevin Garnett, Charlotte
SF – LeBron James, Cleveland
SG – Kobe Bryant, Philadelphia
PG – Chris Paul, Charlotte