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 Chicago Bulls, who most assuredly will have a pretty good backcourt.
C: Joakim Noah. Joakim Noah may have just given his basketball career to the Chicago Bulls. Despite the minutes restriction placed on him during the 2014-15 season and despite the fact that he came off the bench for half of his first two seasons, Noah basically ran himself ragged as the team’s heart and soul on both sides of the ball for years following his starting turn. That run culminated in him winning the Defensive Player of the Year award in 2014, the same season he placed fourth in MVP voting, but it also culminated in a “minor” (as reported by the team) knee surgery that knocked Noah out for three months and obviously addled his entire 2014-15 campaign. With Derrick Rose effectively out for two seasons in 2013 and 2014, Noah ran the Chicago offense from the center position while acting as the lead man on two killer defenses.
F: Scottie Pippen. About as gorgeous a mold for an NBA player that you could ask for, Pippen’s long arms, massive hands, and ungodly athleticism made him the perfect partner to Michael Jordan. Expertly mixing cerebral play with out and out basketball savagery, Pippen led Chicago’s offense from the point forward position while still barking out the orders defensively on the other end. Derided by some for supposedly riding on Jordan’s coattails, endless Bulls in two difference championship generations routinely call him the best teammate they’ve ever had.
F: Luol Deng. The acquisition of Deng in 2004 signaled Chicago’s turnaround after six years in the wilderness. Six times in his ten-year Chicago career Deng played over 37 minutes a game despite concerns about his willowy frame and injury woes, he twice led the NBA in minutes per contest and twice made the All-Star team. Though he never averaged more than 18.8 points per game as a Bull, his defense was invaluable.
G: Derrick Rose. Rose missed all of 2012-13 with a knee injury, all but 10 (very poor) games in 2013-14 with a knee injury, and he turned in an inconsistent and ultimately pedestrian 2014-15. Prior to that, however, he was a league MVP, a Rookie of the Year, and an astonishingly fast scoring guard that dragged two lacking Bulls teams to the playoffs and two other Bulls teams to the best record in the NBA. Other Bulls guards have enjoyed longer stints in the lineup, but this former star’s peak managed to outshine them all.
G: Michael Jordan. The greatest player of all time. The NBA’s all-time leader in points per game. Driving force behind six NBA championships. Dominated the NBA for over a decade despite playing at the sport’s least-essential position. Won the Defensive Player of the Year in 1988 while playing at shooting guard. Led the league in total points in every full season that he played. The Michael Jordan of being Michael Jordan.
Fans of the desultory and barely-watched Chicago Bulls teams from the late 1970s and early 1980s will no doubt take issue with Joakim Noah being taken over Artis Gilmore. Gilmore made four All-Star teams with the Bulls after coming over from the ABA (the Bulls owners at the time refused to vote in favor of a merger between the two leagues unless they were guaranteed Gilmore’s contract rights) and averaged over 19 points and 11 rebounds with the team alongside 2.1 blocks per game with Chicago. His teams disappointed in ways that weren’t often Gilmore’s fault, but Noah’s versatile play gives him the edge here.
Derrick Rose’s inclusion, after just four great years (and three disappointing ones) will turn off those that remember both Jerry Sloan and Norm Van Lier patrolling the backcourt for several great Bulls teams from the mid-1970s. Working out of a loaded Western Conference, Sloan and Van Lier dominated defensively at a time when work on that side of the floor was not at a premium. Sloan was the first Bull to have his number retired, and Van Lier’s No. 2 should have been up in the rafters decades ago. You can’t knock an MVP out of the starting lineup, though.
Sloan and Van Lier’s teammates, Chet Walker and especially Bob Love, should have a bone to pick with Deng’s position here, but Luol’s two-way game made this an easier choice despite Walker and Love’s scoring exploits. Horace Grant’s work on either side of the court also made him a deserving starting candidate, and the franchise is littered with other championship or playoff contributors (Tom Boerwinkle, Toni Kukoc, Bill Cartwright) that were considered. Dennis Rodman, Clifford Ray, and Charles Oakley all provided excellent play in short stints with the team. Reggie Theus had a mustache.
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