What if every player in the NBA was currently in their prime? Who would be the best team? OK, OK, it's glaringly obvious that the Boston Celtics would be number one. But who would round out the top five?
First, let me set some ground rules. By prime, I obviously mean the peak of that player's career. The period of time when a player peaks statistically. So for example, for Shaquille O'Neal it would be the 1999-2000 season. 29.7 points 13.6 rebounds with 3.8 assists. So by prime, I don't necessarily mean the player's best season, but the years in which they peaked. So, for Shaq I would say from the 1999-2000 season, till about the 2002-2003 NBA season. What a surprise, the Lakers won three titles during that span!
I obviously don't have a crystal ball, so for rookies and young players, the best I can do is use their current NBA experience as their prime. So for all intents and purposes, Derrick Rose's prime stretches from the 2008-2009 season until this season. I'm sure he hasn't reached his prime yet, but it's difficult to predict how well he will perform when he does.
#5 Detroit Pistons
This is one of those teams that has guys who have plenty of league experience mixed with young talent. But it doesn't go anywhere. Now if these players were all in their primes, that would be a different story.
The best player on this team would obviously be Tracy Mcgrady. Enough said. His years in Orlando and first year in Houston were mind blowing. In 2002-2003 he averaged 32.1 points, 6.5 rebounds and 5.5 assists. Those numbers are Jordan-esque. Seeing T-Mac play today is sad, considering how good he once once.
The club is anchored defensively by Ben Wallace at center. Ben Wallace has four Defensive Player of the Year awards, and has been on five All NBA teams. In 2002-2003 he averaged a whopping 15.4 rebounds per game. That's scary good. That's along with 3.2 blocks that same year.
Rounding out the team are Richard Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince and Ben Gordon, with the former two having championship experience with the Pistons. Ben Gordon won the 2004-2005 Sixth Man of the year award for his work off the bench. That's a pretty damn good team when you think about it.
#4 Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers are a curious case, since they have many players who are at the tail end of their careers, but can still ball. Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom, still put up great numbers night in, night out, but they're all in their thirty's and have seen better days. Kobe Bryant, in 2005-2006 averaged 35.4 points, but I don't think I need to go through Kobe Bryant's stats, everyone knows how great he is already.
I think the lesser known Lakers are what brings my point across. Journey man Theo Ratliff was pretty good during his days in Philadelphia. His best year there he averaged 12.7 points, 8.3 rebounds with a league leading 3.7 blocks. He's also made 2 All Defensive teams. And who can forget Ron Artest? These days he's better used as comedic relief, but during his prime he's made four All Defensive teams, including the 2003-2004 Defensive Player of the Year award. Add to the mix Andrew Bynum, who's had a good, albeit, injury riddled career, I think this Lakers team would be the fourth best team in the league if all the players were in their prime.
#3 San Antonio Spurs
This is another team that scares me to think how good they would be if all players were in their prime, because as of today the team sits atop the Western Conference standings with ridiculous 36-6 record. Tim Duncan has taken a backseat role this year as well. Imagine if this team was in their prime with Duncan as their best player? Scary good.
The thing that matters most to this Spurs team is it's role players. Richard Jefferson averaged a career high 22.6 points in 2007-2008 for New Jersey and would be a very good shooter for this team. Antonio McDyess during his prime years in Denver, was an excellent rebounder and could score inside efficiently. He averaged 20.8 points to go along with 12.5 rebounds in his peak 2000-2001 season. He would be an excellent backup for Tim Duncan.
Add all that in with the consistent Tim Duncan, who has been in his prime for pretty much his whole career it seems, except this year, and the consistency of Manu Ginobili off of the bench and you have a winner. Just not quite as good as their cross state rivals...
#2 Dallas Mavericks
Dirk Nowitzki. Jason Kidd. Shawn Marion. Caron Butler. Jason Terry.
I almost put the Mavericks in at #3 until I remembered just how good they would be if all their players were in their prime. This team could shoot circles around almost any team in the NBA. Dirk Nowitzki is a former MVP who still is in his prime, in my opinion. Jason Kidd is a triple double threat, and provides tough defense at the point guard position. Shawn Marion has been part of two All NBA teams during his days in Phoenix with Steve Nash. Caron Butler is a very complete all around player. Jason Terry was a good scorer and even averaged 7.4 assists one year with Atlanta.
This team is so good at every position, not to mention the center position anchored by Tyson Chandler, who threw down countless ally-oops during his days with the Hornets, and Brenden Haywood, who has been disappointing this year but was serviceable during his prime.
The team also has a few good young players, such as Rodrigue Beubois, who had a good second half last season as a rookie. Jose Juan Barea is also a decent back up point guard for this team. You also have the shooting touch of DeShawn Stevenson off the bench, who averaged as much as 11.2 points during his prime years in Washington. This all makes for a team that can put a ton of points on the board, but also win with a defensive guard like Jason Kidd running the show at the point.
#1 Boston Celtics
Finally the moment we've all been waiting for! Wait, I told you they were #1 in the first paragraph? Well that's because it's so obvious. Let me run this down...
Kevin Garnett, Shaquille O'Neal, Ray Allen, Rajon Rondo, Jermaine O'Neal, and Paul Pierce all on the same team? That's just not fair! This would be the best team, hands down, if all their players were in their primes. Do I really have to go on? Just for fun I'll add up all the accolades those six players have accumulated in their careers.
52 All Stars
32 All NBA team selections
15 All Defensive team selections
2 MVP awards
4 Finals MVP awards
8 NBA Championships combined.
And you know what? Probably one more championship each, if every player in the league was in their prime.
All statistical information courtesy of www.basketball-reference.com
If I forgot any teams, or if you think another team deserves to be in the top 5, let me know what you think in the comments, or on Twitter @thatsthedagger