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 New York Knicks, a team that nearly traded its spot on the island for some nutmeg, trinkets, and two unprotected first-round picks.
C: Patrick Ewing. A needlessly beleaguered, endlessly mistreated, and quite possibly underrated pivotman for the ages. Never missed more than four games in a season between 1987 and 1997, leading an oft-undermanned Knicks squad to repeated playoff berths and an NBA Finals showing in 1994. Drafted No. 1 overall to act as a defensive stalwart, averaged 28.6 points, 10.9 rebounds, four blocks and one steal per game on a 1989-90 Knicks team that listed Charles Oakley as its second-leading scorer, and Stu Jackson as its coach.
F: Bernard King. Played just two and a half healthy seasons with the Knicks, but when he played … the man did not play around. Led the NBA in scoring at just under 33 a game in 1984-85. Just about single-handedly (nearly literally, he was working with dislocated middle fingers on both hands) led the Knicks to a near-upset of the eventual champion Boston Celtics in the second round of the 1984 playoffs.
F: Dave DeBusschere. The Knicks traded for need when they dealt miscast scoring center Walt Bellamy midway through 1968-69 for this versatile, do-it-all (including coach, as was his brief role in Detroit) forward. DeBusschere set screens, called out defensive sets, nailed jumpers and crashed the boards for two different championship Knick squads. He guarded Wilt Chamberlain when called upon, made five All-Star teams, and was the franchise’s good luck charm when it won the draft lottery that made Patrick Ewing a Knickerbocker.
G: Allan Houston. Considered a consolation prize in the 1996 offseason when the Knicks fell short in the team’s attempts to sign Michael Jordan and Reggie Miller, Houston responded by acting as the most consistent force on a Knicks team that went on to make one Finals and one Eastern Conference finals appearance over the next nine years. Never the most beloved player because of the size of his contracts and his relatively staid appearance in comparison to teammate Latrell Sprewell, Houston’s contributions made New York a playoff fixture spanning several eras and for that he should be credited.
G: Walt Frazier. The consummate New York Knick. Full of flash and style on the outside, but lousy with nothing substance and pure basketball and leadership smarts on the inside, Frazier managed to have it both ways while leading the Knicks to the franchise’s two NBA championships. Known as a club that fetishized ball-sharing and equal-opportunity play, Frazier still managed to dominate when called upon, as evidenced by his work in perhaps the greatest seventh game performance of all time.
(I know, I know. I chose Allan Houston over Earl Monroe. I understand if you don’t want to pass to me ever again.)
Monroe never had to carry the Knicks, and while Houston’s achievements may have been overrated in his time (he was never much of a passer, rebounder, or defender), consistency and minutes are key. Of course, this flies in the face of Bernard King’s 206 career games as a Knick (as compared with Jerry Lucas’ 221, Charles Oakley’s 727, and Bill Bradley’s 742) affording him a slot in the starting lineup – but Fort Greene’s finest’s truncated turn wasn’t exactly his fault, y’know?
The Knicks, due entirely to the work of the team’s inherited owner, have been a laughing stock for a decade and a half. That shouldn’t take away from a franchise history that remains so stout that Willis Reed couldn’t crack the starting lineup. That Carl Braun wasn’t heavily considered, despite his fantastic work. That Dick Barnett had to fall back and Latrell Sprewell had to fall in line. That Dick McGuire had to take a pass. Make fun of Carmelo Anthony’s brand all you want, but he’s scored more than 1500 points more than Bernard King did in a Knick uniform and he’s bound to score a whole heck of a lot more.
This is the five we’re going with. Who would you take?
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