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.
[Follow Dunks Don't Lie on Tumblr: The best slams from all of basketball]
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 Denver Nuggets, who have featured some rather colorful teams.
C: Dan Issel. Even in today’s era, when shooting is at a premium, NBA coaches might feel the need to put someone like the 6-9 Dan Issel at power forward. Not the Nuggets, who took the converted power forward (who played alongside Artis Gilmore with the Kentucky Colonels) and put him in the starting lineup to battle the giants of the era. Oh, Marvin Webster or Danny Schayes or Kim Hughes would get a look here and there, but it was mainly up to Issel at the five spot as he averaged 20.7 points and 8.3 rebounds in just 31 minutes a game with the franchise.
F: Alex English. Denver’s all-time leading scorer, English was thoughtful and creative both on and off the court, and no Denver Nugget has scored more points with the team. After three and a half wilderness years with the Bucks and Pacers English emerged as a devastating scorer with the up-tempo (when are they not?) Nuggies, making eight All-Star teams and averaging 25.9 points per contest in his Denver career.
F: Carmelo Anthony. Nuggets fans might not enjoy being reminded of Melo’s place in the team’s history, he did angle and threaten his way into a trade to the New York Knicks after all, but it’s hard to ignore his contributions. The addition of Carmelo (alongside Andre Miller and Marcus Camby) helped put the Nuggets back in the playoffs in 2004 after a nine-year absence, and he wouldn’t miss the postseason with the team in the six seasons that followed. Anthony (at nearly 25 a game) remains the franchise’s third-leading overall scorer, and this franchise has boasted a whole heck of a lot of scorers.
G: David Thompson. Off-court issues may have derailed Thompson’s career far too soon, but when he was on his game he was a devastating scoring force. Thompson helped lead the Nuggets to the 1976 ABA Finals with his seemingly effortless work as a scorer, and he averaged over 24 points per game on 50.7 percent shooting in nearly 500 career games with the team.
G: Ralph Simpson. One of the great shooting guards of the 1970s is too-often overlooked. Made five ABA All-Star teams with the Nuggets, acting as a scoring rock on some killer Denver squads. Averaged 19.5 points per contest over 518 games and remains the franchise’s fifth-leading scorer. Father of singer India Arie and no I didn’t make that last part up.
The lack of a lead guard and absence of Lafayette “Fat” Lever may rankle some, but I chose Simpson’s seven years over Lever’s six (with averages of 17 points per game alongside 7.6 rebounds and 7.5 assists). Lever also did his work on teams with much faster paces, amping up said stats, but it’s an absolute coin flip decision between the two. You can’t go wrong with either.
Andre Miller also spent seven seasons as a Nugget, and while his stats were more modest (12 points, 6.7 assists per game in 31 minutes) his impact was felt. Colorado native Chauncey Billups also spent five years with the team (three good, two bad) and averaged nearly 17 points a contest alongside 5.3 assists.
Up front, Byron Beck remains an unheralded ABA legend. He played in the league for each of its nine seasons, he’s still the Nuggets’ sixth all-time leading scorer, and he had his No. 40 retired by the squad. Dikembe Mutombo’s time with Denver was brief, but his presence allowed for a shocking first round upset of the top-seeded Seattle SuperSonics in 1994, and he averaged 12.9 points, 12.3 boards and 3.8 blocks in five seasons with the team. Dikembe led the NBA in the latter category three times while a Nugget. Marcus Camby played fantastic basketball while in Denver, also averaging a double-double alongside three blocks, helping (when healthy) to turn the team’s regular season fortunes around.
Meanwhile, Bobby Jones will just have to go on being underrated as always by sportswriters like me that don’t know what they’re talking about.
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. Brooklyn. Indiana. San Antonio.
- - - - - - -