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 San Antonio Spurs, who have never not been classy (except on Ten Cent Beer Night).
C: David Robinson. A two-time champion, ten-time All-Star (with two other guaranteed All-Star spots denied by injury and labor strife), and San Antonio’s third-leading all-time scorer, second-leading rebounder, and all-time steals leader despite playing in the pivot. Led the NBA in scoring at nearly 30 points per game in 1994 and finished his Spurs career with averages of 21.1 points per game alongside 10.6 rebounds and 4.4 combined blocks/steals.
F: Tim Duncan. The greatest player of his generation. Led the Spurs to five NBA titles and, at age 39, is gearing up for one more (or even more?) title run. Has only missed the NBA’s All-Star Game once in years that weren’t marred by an NBA owners’ lockout. Committed to, in his prime at age 28, a minutes per game program that would limit his statistical flash while preserving his career and San Antonio’s championship chances. Averaging 19.5 points, 11 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 2.2 blocks in his legendary career, in just 34.4 minutes a contest.
F: George Gervin. Came out of absolutely nowhere to emerge with the Virginia Squires and then blossom with the Spurs in both the ABA and NBA. Won four NBA scoring titles and made the All-Star team in every season he played with San Antonio. Averaged 26.3 points per game with San Antonio. Popularized the finger-roll. Wore chains. Way cooler than every other San Antonio Spur, in history and including Jaren Jackson, combined.
G: Manu Ginobili. Has only started 349 out of a career 865 games, and should probably retire as the best sixth man in NBA history. Averaging just 14.3 points and a combined 7.8 assists/rebounds in his NBA career (alongside 1.4 steals) but only averaged 26.7 minutes a game. Played in 187 career playoff games in his career, pretty much all of them important.
G: Tony Parker. Spent the bulk of his career as coach Gregg Popovich’s whipping boy, but he also started said career by convincing Popovich to hand him the starting spot just five games into his rookie season as a 19-year wunderkind with just two years’ worth of pro experience in the French League. Those 2001-02 Spurs responded with a seven-game winning streak, and Parker kept his cool on his way toward four more championships.
You can get cute and point out that Tim Duncan, effectively, played center for the better part of a decade and a half. That around the turn of the century he slid into the low post while David Robinson occupied the low post. That his accomplishments in the pivot may have outshined The Admiral’s. That you could sneak some other forward in there while ranking Duncan as San Antonio’s Best Center Ever.
Robinson was brilliant, and Duncan spent enough time at the forward position to merit their respective placements. Artis Gilmore (a two-time All-Star) and Billy Paultz played well in the pivot for the Spurs prior to the team’s Robinson-led resurgence, as did the perpetually-overlooked Swen Nater.
At forward, Dennis Rodman did not spend enough time with the Spurs to merit much consideration, though his on-court contributions (17.1 rebounds a contest) were outstanding. Larry Kenon was a 20 and 10 machine for the ABA/NBA Spurs, earning three All-Star berths, and Sean Elliott will forever remain a San Antonio legend for his work with both the David Robinson and Tim Duncan-fronted San Antonio clubs.
Kawhi Leonard … man, this team still has Kawhi Leonard, and three of the franchise’s all-time starters will be in the rotation in 2015-16. Two of them will start, and three of them will finish. This team, man.
Alvin Robertson was not a swell guy off the court, but he was an absolute hound on both ends during his stay in San Antonio. James Silas probably came the closest to making the starting lineup as he mixed clutch shooting with a 16.7 points per game average for several fantastic Spurs squads in the old ABA.
Meanwhile, a two-player team of Avery Johnson and Gregg Popovich could probably beat any combination of old or current Spurs in a game to 21, win by two.
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.
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