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 Utah Jazz, who beat everyone to the punch with an ironic nickname.
C: Mark Eaton. Drafted at age 25 after his initially pursuing a career as a 7-4 mechanic, Eaton blossomed into a two-time Defensive Player of the Year and eventual All-Star at age 32. The center helped hound Kareem Abdul-Jabbar during the 1988 playoffs as the Jazz nearly pulled off an upset of the defending champion Lakers, and he led the NBA in blocks per game four times (once registering an absurd 5.6 a game).
F: Karl Malone. Arguably the greatest power forward to ever play the game, acting as the go-to force behind a Jazz team that never missed the playoffs during his tenure. Became the NBA’s second all-time leading scorer as a member of the Jazz, won the both 1997 and 1999 NBA MVPs and made 14 All-Star teams. Averaged over 25 points, 10 rebounds, three assists and 1.4 blocks per game as a member of the Jazz, playing until the age of 39 in Utah.
F: Andrei Kirilenko. You can argue that Kirilenko never met his full potential with the Jazz, and you could also posit the idea that he was held back by position issues (once he was forced over to small forward by Carlos Boozer, in the days before stretch fours, his contributions suffered), injury woes (a nagging back malady plagued him), or the presence of coach Jerry Sloan. What is certain is his presence as the team’s sixth-highest all-time scorer, his top five ranking in assists, his top-four ranking in steals, and second overall ranking in blocks alongside his stellar on-ball defense and limited 30 minutes a night average.
G: Pete Maravich. Pistol Pete led the NBA in scoring as a member of the Jazz in 1977, while the team played out of New Orleans, at 31.1 points per contest. He averaged over 25 points per game in six seasons with the team while making three All-Star Games, but terrible franchise ownership and management ensured that he’d never play on a massive winner.
G: John Stockton. Rare is the team that possibly boasts two of the greatest players to ever play their position in one franchise telling, but here the Jazz are. Stockton began his NBA career as an unheralded per-minute wonder behind the speedy Rickey Green prior to becoming the NBA’s all-time assists and steals leader. John helped usher in the era of the two-man game as he utilized his massive hands, quick feet and impeccable timing while leading Utah to two NBA Finals appearances and his own place in NBA lore.
Adrian Delano Dantley isn’t known for his time spent with the Jazz as much as his stint with the Detroit Pistons, but the undersized scorer still ranks as the team’s third-leading all-time scorer despite having been traded from the team nearly three decades ago. The recent pairing of the since departed Carlos Boozer and Paul Millsap even have an argument to Andrei Kirilenko’s starting spot, such is the lack of depth at the Jazz’s forward position through the years.
Boozer and Millsap’s teammate, center Mehmet Okur, also could have a gripe about Mark Eaton’s placement. Former Jazz big man and current Jazz TV analyst Thurl Bailey also could raise a hackle, as he played over 700 games with the team and averaged 14 points per contest. Choose Eaton’s blocks and rebounds or Bailey’s oddly-proportioned jump hooks, it really is a coin flip decision, the only issue is that Bailey was ostensibly a power forward despite working mostly out of the low post (and off the bench).
Darrell Griffith, “Dr. Dunkenstein,” never made an All-Star, but he did average over 20 points per game for his first five seasons and even led the NBA in three-point accuracy in 1984 (at a lights-out 36 percent). Relegated to the role of sixth man once the Karl Malone/John Stockton era took hold, Griffith’s past play turned into the avatar of the shooting guard Utah wished they had for the decades since. Jeff Hornacek was also a perfect hybrid guard for the two Jazz teams that made the Finals, and Rickey Green (as mentioned above) was just about impossible to guard for a spell.
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.
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