Age, upside, ticket sales, winning, and entertainment value…if you could start a franchise with any NBA player, what would your draft board look like. Here’s my top 10 along with the reasons why.
In today’s NBA, I want to play a fast and exciting brand of basketball and there is no more skilled player in the game today than Curry. He will likely win his 2nd MVP and 2nd title this season and he is still getting better. Curry has established that small-ball can win in the NBA when you have players who can shoot the 3 as efficiently as Curry does. He is a great character guy and an extremely marketable face of a franchise. Still in his prime at 27, Curry likely still has another five peak seasons. Steph is the #1 pick, and it’s really not that close.
#2 Kevin Durant F
With 4 scoring titles already at the ripe old age of 27, Durant is the perfect featured scorer of any NBA offense. He can shoot from anywhere on the floor, can finish at the rim, and is a killer in the clutch. He is an underrated defender and his length causes his opponents fits. He is also one of the greatest shooters ever, just a shade off pace for another 50/40/90 season (50.8/39.4/89.5). He keeps himself out of trouble and will be a great face of the franchise. His exciting brand of basketball will sell lots of tickets and jerseys, which will make the economics look good as well.
There was a lot of hype surrounding Davis prior to this season that Davis would be the next MVP. He came out slow and missed a few games to minor injuries, but has quietly recovered to put together another great year with 23 and 10 and over 2 blocks. Still only 22, you can draft Davis and plug him into your starting lineup for the next dozen years and expect high production on both sides of the ball.
#4 Kawhi Leonard F
Long, athletic, two-way wings that can shoot the three is the name of the game and Leonard edges out Paul George for this spot. He is the reigning Defensive Player of the Year and also leading the league in 3 point accuracy at 48.2%. Hard to believe he is still 24 and already has one Finals MVP in his pocket. His versatility will keep the Spurs relevant for the next decade.
His 23/7/4 numbers are slightly better than Kawhi’s, but he is not as dominant on the defensive side (but close) and not quite as efficient. Still he is a volume three shooter at nearly 40% and a legitimate go-to option. At 25 years old and 6’9″, his length on defense frustrates even the best opponents and his dedication and drive (as evidenced from his recovery from his leg injury) make him one of the most desirable players to build around.
#6 Russell Westbrook G
His freakish athleticism is the reason he is this high…it is also what keeps him this low. Injury is the concern and withstanding the physical pounding he puts on his body. I’m not sure how long he’ll be able to maintain, but for now, he is a ferocious warrior that will give management and fans alike something to cheer for. Let him go to work and sit back and enjoy.
#7 John Wall G
Wall may be the most underrated player in the league right now. His end to end speed and passing ability make him the best pure point guard in the league under the age of 30. He can create for himself and his teammates and when committed, can be a lock-down defender. At 25, his best years are still ahead of him which is scary considering he is already averaging 20 and 10. It would be scary to see what he could do with a little better talent around him.
Lebron is this low only because of where he is in his career. With over 37,000 minutes (plus playoffs and Team USA) on his body, it’s tough to think he has more than a couple near peak seasons left in the tank. Still, his leadership and winning culture would set the proper tone for a franchise assuming he has a talented up-and-comer to turn the reins over to. If I was drafting for a single season, he would rise to a top 3 choice.
#9 Karl Anthony-Towns C
The newly-crowned Skills Competition Champion showed the world what “The New Big” looks like. He can still rim-protect and score in the post, while also handling the ball and stepping out for the 3. He can do it all on both ends. He looks like he could be from the same mold as Anthony Davis and is quietly having one of the best rookie seasons we have seen in a decade. He’s going to be really good for a long time.
“The Stifle Tower” may be a surprising pick for those not familiar with this defensive juggernaut’s work. Not only does Gobert average 2.44 blocks per game, but he also alters so many shots that he leads the NBA is Defensive Plus/Minus with 4.8, which is a statistical estimate on how many points a player is worth defensively over the average NBA player, while also holding opponents to a league low field goal percentage with Gobert near. At 23 with a relentless work ethic, Gobert is still getting better. His draft combine record 9′ 7″ standing reach and 7′ 8.5″wingspan along with his great instincts, will ensure that a defensive-minded team will thrive with this back stop behind them for years to come. He’s a perfect building block for a defensive-oriented franchise.
Draymond Green F
Versatile big that can handle and shoot. Ideal in the screen and roll, but you need a primary attacker (like Steph) for him to be most effective. His leadership and diverse skill-set almost landed him a spot.
James Harden G
Talented scorer, but I want my players to play both ways and Harden is a defensive liability that I do not want to start my franchise with. He is also an offense-killer, where he gets the ball and 4 players stand and watch. That’s not the right brand of ball for my franchise.
Andrew Wiggins G/F
Another physically gifted wing, but it is too early to tell what Wiggins is going to be. Is he Jamal Mashburn, Ron Mercer, or Dywane Wade? Time will tell and he needs to improve his jumper to take his game to the next level.
Kristaps Porzingis C
His sample size was a bit small for me to feel comfortable putting him in my Top 10, but all early signs indicate that this kid is for real.
Damian Lillard G
I love Lillard’s drive and killer instinct. I’d like to see him play more defense. He just missed out on this list.
Chris Paul G
Only Paul’s age keeps him off this list. Like Lebron, Paul probably has only a couple of good years left, but in building a franchise you have to take a longer view, which keeps Paul off my list.
Did I leave anyone out? Leave a comment with who you’d start your franchise with.