You’re in your second semester of AP Basketball History, you love really good teams, and you love lists. With precious little drama left in the NBA’s 2015 offseason, why don’t we hit the barroom and/or barbershop, pour ourselves a frosty mug of Barbicide, and get to arguin’ over each franchise’s most formidable starting five-man lineup.
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Because we don’t like making tough decisions, the lineups will reflect the All-NBA line of thinking. There will be no differentiation between separate forward and guard positions, and the squads will be chosen after careful consideration of individual merits only – we don’t really care if your team’s top shooting guard and point guard don’t get along.
These rankings will roll out based on when each franchise began its NBA life. We continue with the Brooklyn Nets, who have always been this weird.
C: Billy Paultz. You’ve got to go all the way back to the Nets’ time as both the New Jersey Americans and New York Nets for this one, as Paultz was the team’s two-time All-Star during the team’s ABA glory days. ‘The Whopper’ averaged 15.6 points, 11 rebounds and a pair of blocks with the franchise, helping it win the 1974 ABA championship before moving on to San Antonio.
F: Julius Erving. The ABA was full of brilliant talents, and when four of its teams joined the NBA in 1976-77 eight of its players immediately became NBA All-Stars. To say that one player “was the ABA” seems like a bit of a stretch, but Julius Erving was the sort of player and person that allows for such hyperbole. He only played three seasons with the Nets, but he worked each game, played nearly 40 minutes a night, and led the Nets to the 1974 and 1976 ABA titles. Erving averaged a modest 28.2 points, 10.9 rebounds, 5.2 assists, and a combined 4.4 blocks/steals in New York. The Nets then attempted to sell Erving’s contract to the Knicks in exchange for the other New York team’s waiving of the $4.2 million territorial fine in the wake of the ABA/NBA merger, and the Knicks declined.
F: Buck Williams. An absolute pro in an era (or, more accurately, in one of the several eras) of storm and stress in Nets-land, Williams was a force on both ends and a three-time All-Star. Williams averaged 16.4 points on 55 percent shooting, 11.9 rebounds and over a block per game in his time with New Jersey, missing just 23 games spread out over eight seasons.
G: Vince Carter. Much-loathed upon his trade to New Jersey, VC shockingly perked up a bit (going from 15.9 points per game to 27.5 a contest, midseason) after being dealt from Toronto. Carter couldn’t help the Nets return to the Finals stage that they saw in 2002, but he did average 23.6 points per game alongside 5.8 rebounds and 4.7 assists on a slow-down (despite Jason Kidd’s presence) Nets squad that limited possessions. Working in his prime, those numbers in his four and a half seasons with the team eclipsed his per-game stats with the Raptors, which is kind of sad in a way.
G: Jason Kidd. Gave the franchise the instant credibility it lacked after the embarrassment of the [too many eras to list off] when New Jersey dealt for him following the 2000-01 season. Kidd played six and a half seasons with the team, nearly won the MVP in 2002 and led the team to the 2002 NBA Finals. He made four All-Star teams and averaged 14.6 points, 7.2 rebounds and 9.1 assists per contest. The switch between Kidd and Stephon Marbury wasn’t the sole reason New Jersey jumped from the lottery to the Finals in one year, unlike the narrative bleated out by many sportswriters of the day (several new additions and the return to full health from two key starters contributed), but the move didn’t exactly hurt the oft-mocked team’s chances.
This franchise has been around since 1967, but it speaks to the Nets’ ineptitude that Brook Lopez was a close runner-up for the starting slot at center. Despite injury woes, Lopez has played 10 more games as a Net than Paultz while contributing better box score numbers, but Paultz’s defensive abilities gave him the slight edge here. Even Darryl Dawkins, who featured a 26 percent turnover rate on the 1982-83 Nets, merited consideration.
The team’s history is just rife with players that didn’t want to stick around. The longest-tenured Net that also has an argument would be Super John Williamson, a stout scoring guard that starred on the team’s two ABA championships. Beyond that, the list is full of players that would soon be on their way: Derrick Coleman (five years), Rick Barry (two), Bernard King (three), Kenyon Martin (four), Stephon Marbury (two and a half), Michael Ray Richardson (208 games), and Kenny Anderson (304 contests). Jayson Williams was the face of the franchise for a spell, but he only started 149 games for the Nets. Keith Van Horn was much-maligned but he did average over 18 points per game, but just for 314 games with the team.
Drazen Petrovic made the All-NBA Third Team in 1993 and was well on his way to acting as one of the NBA’s great shooting guards before passing away in an auto accident the following summer.
That’s our five. Who are you going with?
Previous entries: Golden State. Boston. New York. Detroit. Sacramento. Los Angeles Lakers. Atlanta. Philadelphia. Washington. Chicago. Houston. Seattle/Oklahoma City. Phoenix. Milwaukee. Los Angeles Clippers. Cleveland. Portland. Utah.
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