I don’t live by many rules but this is one of them: if you have to live and die by something you only worked on for 12 per cent of your training, things might not work out… And that’s where we as NBA fans are sitting.
With the current lull in the NBA season due to teams tanking for lottery picks and playoff teams resting star players, I thought what better way to amuse myself than creating a pointless concept that involves choosing the best possible NBA line-ups by jersey numbers.
The concept will involve choosing the best possible starting five and a sixth man based on current jersey numbers.
Players must be selected in their traditional playing position according to Basketball Reference unless no current players are available in that position.
The line-ups are then ranked in order of who I believe would come out on top in a best-of-seven round robin tournament. There are 11 teams, and they will be judged on current player form, an unfortunate factor for the old-timers who feature.
If you’re like me and need a little bit of an NBA fix leading into the playoffs, here are the best possible line-ups by jersey number for Nos. 0 to 10.
Asterisked entries denote where no player available in that position
Who do you think would win?
PG: Damian Lillard (POR)
SG: D’Angelo Russell (MIN)
SF: Jayson Tatum (BOS)
PF: Miles Bridges (CHA)
C: Kevin Love (CLE)
6th: Coby White (CHI)
This team has a lot of scoring power. Lillard, Tatum and DLo are all averaging 28.4, 26.5 and 19.0 points respectively while also all shooting above 38 per cent from three. Bridges is surprisingly shooting at an even higher percentage, with the young Charlotte forward shooting at 40.5 per cent on four attempts a game.
Kevin Love, despite wasting away into Cleveland, is still shooting at a very respectable 35 per cent from three on six attempts.
This team will stretch your defence and make use of the lane when the floor opens up. Plus Coby White is a nice scoring spark off the bench.
Just don’t expect any defence from this line-up.
PG: John Wall (HOU)
SG: Devin Booker (PHX)
SF: T.J Warren (IND)
PF: Michael Porter Jr (DEN)
C: Zion Williamson (NOP)*
6th: Anthony Edwards (MIN)
There must be a correlation between wearing No. 1 and being an absolute powerhouse. John Wall (pre-injury), Zion Williamson and Anthony Edwards are about as explosive as you can get. This team may lack in height but they make up for it in brute power. Wall and Williamson fast breaks are a thing of nightmares.
With Zion manning the post and inevitably drawing every defender on the court, team No. 1 has some absolute sharpshooters surrounding him.
Devin Booker speaks for himself, Michael Porter Jr. has the seventh-highest true shooting percentage in the league, with 65.9 per cent, and if TJ Warren can perform at even a quarter of his output in the NBA bubble of 2020 (34.8 points, 6.6 rebounds and 2.4 assists on 60.5 per cent shooting), this team will prove tricky in seven games.
PG: Lonzo Ball (NOP)
SG: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (OKC)
SF: Kawhi Leonard (TOR)
PF: Joe Ingles (UTA)
C: Andre Drummond (LAL)
6th: Collin Sexton (CLE)
This team was an interesting one. Lonzo Ball pushed out his own brother in LaMelo for the point guard position. If (when) I do this again next season, LaMelo might be the first player I lock in for team No. 2.
This is not the strongest line-up offensively, but this team might win on defence alone. Kawhi will have to do a lot of the heavy lifting, but despite injuries, SGA has had a breakout third season, averaging 23.7 points, 4.7 rebounds and 5.9 assists on 41.8 per cent shooting from three.
Collin Sexton was unlucky not to start as he’s also showcasing his talent in his third season as a pro, averaging 24.5 points for the Cavaliers.
PG: Chris Paul (HOU)
SG: Bradley Beal (WAS)
SF: OG Anunoby (TOR)
PF: Anthony Davis (LAL)
C: Nerlens Noel (NYK)
6th: CJ McCollum (POR)
When CJ McCollum is coming off your bench, your team must be doing something right. Now, CJ is evidently better than OG, but as per the guidelines neither CJ nor Beal is listed as a small forward, therefore Anunoby got the starting gig.
Chris Paul is the point god, and any team with CP3 is just going to win. The thought of having to defend Chris Paul and Anthony Davis pick n rolls is scary. CP3, in his 16th season, is averaging 16.3 points, 8.9 assists and shooting 39 per cent from deep.
And when the defence gets caught up in CP-AD pick n rolls you have one of the most underrated stars in the NBA in Bradley Beal standing by. Beal is just quietly going along averaging 31 points on the season.
PG: Russell Westbrook (WAS)
SG: Derrick White (SAS)
SF: Victor Oladipo (MIA)
PF: Paul Millsap (DEN)
C: Harry Giles (POR)
6th: Devonte’ Graham (CHA)
It seems jersey No. 4 is not very popular in the NBA. Unless Westbrook averages 20-20-20 – which isn’t totally unrealistic by his standards – this team will struggle to win many games. Harry Giles and Paul Millsap as a frontcourt are not very inspiring.
Oladipo has had a strange career and has only managed to play four games since being traded to Miami. Derrick White is continuing to improve under Coach Gregg Popovich, averaging 15 points this season, but that isn’t enough to help carry team No. 4.
It’s just lucky the Wizards effectively retired No. 0, with no-one wearing the jersey number since Gilbert Arenas in 2010, forcing Westbrook to don the No. 4.
PG: De’Aaron Fox (SAC)
SG: Dejounte Murray (SAS)
SF: Malik Beasley (MIN)
PF: Precious Achiuwa (MIA)
C: Kevon Looney (GSW)
6th: Eric Bledsoe (NOP)
We have another fairly weak line-up in jersey No. 5. The Fox and Murray back-court is the shining light for this team, both young stars of the game. Fox is averaging 25.2 points and 7.2 assists for the Kings, while Murray is putting together a respectable season on 15.7 points, 7.1 rebounds and 5.3 assists in his fifth season on the Spurs.
Malik Beasley has been a surprise package for Minnesota since being traded by the Nuggets. In his first season for Wolves (2019-20), Beasley averaged 20.7 points and five rebounds after averaging only 7.9 and 1.9 in the season prior.
Beasley continued his form over into the current season, but felony charges and injuries have seen him only play 37 games.
There just isn’t enough firepower on this team, with rookie Precious Achiuwa and Warriors big man Kevon Looney not offering a great deal from the front-court.
PG: Elfrid Payton (NYK)
SG: Nickeil Alexander-Walker (NOP)
SF: Hamidou Diallo (DET)
PF: Kristaps Porzingis (DAL)
C: DeAndre Jordan (BKN)
6th: Lou Williams (ATL)
Eek. Where is Miami LeBron when you need him?
Porzingis is the clear standout, but even KP is struggling to reach his potential, mainly due to ongoing injury complications. However, the Latvian big man is almost averaging an impressive 20-point, ten-rebound season, though he will need to put up Wilt Chamberlain numbers to carry this team to success.
Apart from KP, this line-up is made up of ageing veterans and unproven rookies. DJ and Lou Will are well past their prime, although Elfrid Payton has found a fresh start in New York, starting every game and helping lead the Knicks to an almost guaranteed playoff spot.
PG: Kyle Lowry (TOR)
SG: Malcolm Brogdon (IND)
SF: Jaylen Brown (BOS)
PF: Kevin Durant (BKN)
C: Dwight Powell (DAL)
6th: Goran Dragic (MIA)
This is arguably the most complete team in terms of positional harmony. Despite being in his 14th season and coming off an Achilles injury, Kevin Durant is still a walking bucket. Durant is currently averaging 28.2 points, the most since he averaged 32 points in his MVP season in 2013.
Jaylen Brown has turned into an absolute stud for the Boston Celtics. The 24-year-old earned himself a spot in the 2021 All-Star game in only his fifth season as pro.
Kyle Lowry, in his 15th season in the NBA, adds a veteran presence to this line-up. Along with 2017 Rookie of the Year winner Malcom Brogdon, this team will prove incredibly tough to score against and incredibly tough to defend.
PG: Kemba Walker (BOS)
SG: Zach LaVine (CHI)
SF: Marcus Morris (LAC)
PF: Rui Hachimura (WAS)
C: Bismack Biyombo (CHA)
6th: Jeff Green (BKN)
This is not a very inspiring team on paper. Zach Lavine is the standout and will have to do a lot of the heavy lifting for team No. 8. The first time All-Star is averaging 27.3 points, five rebounds and five assists on an almost 50-40-90 shooting split.
Kemba Walker has had a frustrating season at Boston, where he’s currently averaging his lowest scoring output since 2014. Granted, this is due to the rise of young stars Tatum and Brown, but Walker will need to find his Charlotte form to give this line-up a chance of winning.
Rui Hachimura, who was taken with the ninth pick in the 2019 draft, is not often spoken about in the NBA world, perhaps due to being drafted by the Wizards. The Japanese Forward will provide some length and athleticism to this squad, but fellow big man Bismack Biyombo’s season average of five points won’t be on any opposition scouting report.
PG: Ricky Rubio (MIN)
SG: RJ Barrett (NYK)
SF: Jerami Grant (OKC)
PF: Serge Ibaka (LAC)
C: Nikola Vucevic (CHI)
6th: TJ McConnell (IND)
Once again, this isn’t the greatest line-up on paper, especially in terms of outside shooting threats. Considering the team’s centre, Nikola Vucevic, is averaging the highest percentage from three-point land, team No. 9 will have to rely heavily on their inside game.
Jerami Grant has had a breakout season for the Pistons, almost doubling his points average from last year, and will no doubt be in most improved discussions.
RJ Barrett has had an encouraging sophomore year that will delight Knicks fans, averaging 18 points, six rebounds and three assists in a potential playoff season.
Ricky Rubio and Serge Ibaka will provide some experience, but not enough to challenge rivals.
PG: Mike Conley (UTA)
SG: Darius Garland (CLE)
SF: DeMar DeRozan (SAS)
PF: Dorian Finney-Smith (DAL)
C: Jaxson Hayes (NOP)
6th: Eric Gordon (HOU)
You can throw the age-old saying of saving the best until last out the window.
Team No. 10 is not winning many games. Mike Conley and DeMar DeRozan are both putting together respectable numbers in their 14th and 12th respective seasons, but it’s not enough to carry the remaining line-up.
Darius Garland, the fifth pick in the 2019 draft, is showing signs in his sophomore year, but the young Cavalier will get found out by opposition guards.
Eric Gordon, due to a lack of any supplementary talent, is the sixth man, along with Jaxson Hayes and Dorian Finney-Smith to round out a very uninspiring line-up. It could be team No. 10 and team No. 6 battling for bottom spot.