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 Sacramento Kings, a team that has lived in five different cities while having to deal with a whole litany of bad step-dads.
C: Vlade Divac. It’s hard to overstate just how awful a place the Kings were in when Vlade Divac decided to join the club as a free agent in 1999. Nobody expected that he would choose the team over Phoenix or Seattle. Chris Webber didn’t want to play for the crew. Losing was a tradition, even when the team eked into the playoffs with a sub -.500 record. In short, the Kings were a lot like the Kings team Vlade apparently just took over. Here’s hoping he can change the culture, yet again.
F: Chris Webber. Vlade was the leader, Jason Williams got all the headlines, Predrag Stojakovic was the shooter, and Scot Pollard (with C-Webb injured down the stretch of the 1999 regular season) was even the starting power forward when the Kings earned their first playoff berth of the Webber Era, but Mayce Edward Christopher Webber III was the force that tilted the floor in Sacramento’s finest hour.
F: Peja Stojakovic. It’s hard to ignore the second go-to option on one of the greatest teams to have never won an NBA championship. Despite working as a sixth man during his first two seasons with Sacramento, Peja averaged 18 points in just 34 minutes a game for his eight-year career with the team, hitting on 40 percent of his three-pointers along the way.
G: Oscar Robertson. By now we all know that Robertson’s triple-double averages may have been a little inflated by the pace of the era, the amount of missed shots to collar, and his own insistence on dominating the rock, but this hardly matters in a discussion about his own gifts. The man averaged a triple-double for an entire season and averaged out to a triple-double for three full seasons in his first three years. Then he just settled into more reasonable averages of about 31 points, 11 rebounds, and nine assists in the three seasons that followed.
G: Nate Archibald. Yes, sure, he shot a lot. Yes, fine, he dominated the ball. Yes, we know, the 5-11 (maybe) guard somehow led the NBA at 46 minutes per game that year, and he didn’t play much defense in an era where you could rest your arm on an opposing guard (like his two predecessors, Robertson and Norm Van Lier, were adept at). Still, in 1972-73 Nate “Tiny” Archibald averaged 34 points and 11 assists per game, leading the NBA in both marks. The guy was a monster.
Two of this franchise’s most beloved players, Mitch Richmond and Jack Twyman, deserve note.
For those that weren’t around, Richmond was the Kevin Love of his era – a great player that put up great stats for lousy teams, with the media of the day counting down the hours until his inevitable trade away from his awful team. Twyman, best known for caring for injured teammate Maurice Stokes after he suffered a debilitating seizure (following a brain injury in the last game of the 1958 regular season), was a fantastic scorer that barely lost out to Peja in this cut.
Center Sam Lacey and guards Mike Bibby and Kevin Martin were, at the very least, workhorses. Otis Birdsong was a strong all-around player and Scott Wedman was a smooth scoring forward for three different Kansas City Kings teams that acquitted themselves well in the playoffs. Doug Christie deserves a raised arm. Big men Wayne Embry and Jerry Lucas teamed with Oscar Robertson to act as stalwarts for Cincinnati Royals teams that just had the misfortune of playing in the same conference as that era’s Boston Celtics (Russell) and Philadelphia 76ers (Wilt).
And, without question, had he not fallen Maurice Stokes would have easily made the starting five. We say this not because of the shared franchise tenure, but because of his marvelous all-around game: Stokes was the Chris Webber of his time.
This is the five we’re going with. Who would you take?
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