Some dreams are more realistic and (somewhat) thoughtful than others. Introducing, my dream team within the confines of the NBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement! Yeah, take that, everyone else who dreams of becoming an owner like Mikhail Prokhorov!
The NBA’s salary cap, for the most part, has become an invisible GM as far as determining which players to keep, sign, and trade every year. Only Mikhail Prokhorov and a few other owners could absorb the luxury tax of a dream team-ish lineup like Deron Williams, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Brook Lopez, and Joe Johnson though I doubt anyone dreams of having the last player mentioned.
For everyone else, a roster of their favorite players just isn’t possible without sweating profusely over the financial ramifications from going over the luxury tax level, which is at about $71 million. The salary cap itself is set at $58,679,000. It’s a soft one but for the sake of this post I won’t go over it, making it near-impossible to let Kobe Bryant soak up half my cap space and field a contender at the same time.
I also removed the option to throw darts at players still on rookie contracts. For the most part, they’re more cap-friendly compared to veterans with similar playing styles. That’s great, but it’s unrealistic to group a bunch of them together to form a star-studded under-25 squad.
And besides, why would I choose roster spots with darts when I’m so inaccurate I’d land 12 Bismack Biyombos? Maybe that’s how the Bobcats decide who they draft each year, but that’s a blog post for another time. This post involves a 12-man squad that may not be possible to assemble in real life, but it’s cap-friendly enough to build via a fantasy draft in NBA 2k14. Hopefully.
Let’s begin. All salaries are from Basketball-Reference:
LeBron James ($19,067,500)
If there wasn’t a salary cap, getting everything LeBron does for $19 million would be a steal. Well, except for the paranoia he triggers whenever he nears free agency.
I know I’m getting his excellent production from four positions though, maybe even five depending on how taxing it would be to play him at center. It would certainly be easier to hide LeBron on someone like Byron Mullens versus sticking him on Nikola Pekovic. I’ll start him at power forward but his versatility allows me to tinker with the rest of the starting lineup.
Andrei Kirilenko ($3,183,000)
Even in his low 30s, Kirilenko can still sometimes carry the burden of guarding the opposing team’s best wing. He’s also a master at doing things not seen in box scores: Perfectly timed cuts, having a personality that also makes him one of the friendliest for the media to talk to and possessing a Kermit voice that, if I ever played pickup ball against him, would take me out of my zone and send me into a world of confusion. It’s the opposite voice of a stereotypical Russian’s, like Mikhail Prokhorov’s. We need a video of Kirilenko and Prokhorov having a conversation together just to see how different each of their voices really are, though I can’t find one through a YouTube search. Both are great in their own ways.
If not for Kirilenko’s friendly contract, I would’ve went with Paul Millsap, whose contract at $19 million for two years is baffling when DeAndre Jordan and Al Jefferson make one to four million more than him. Both Millsap and Kirilenko have the potential to make for some interesting small ball and big lineups, but the $3 million contract makes Kirilenko a no-brainer. He allows me to pick a player or two on the rest of the roster who might otherwise be too pricey for a team I need to keep under the cap.
Stephen Curry ($9,887,642)
Stephen Curry’s molded himself into a point guard over the years, but he could do his fair share of spot shooting if LeBron were to handle point guard duties. Like Ray Allen, for example, Curry also forces the defense to attach to him without the ball, which often makes for 4-on-4 basketball. The less defenders to clutter the paint against LeBron, the better.
It should also be mentioned that Curry can single-handedly carry a team’s offense on his own, going on absurd streaks of scoring:
That can buy LeBron a few extra minutes on the bench, something that he would benefit from in the long run and especially through the postseason.
Also, that contract. What a bargain if Curry plays 70 games and every one in the playoffs.
Honorable mention: Mike Conley Jr. ($8,200,001—and that ‘1’ isn’t a typo), who has a better right hand—his off-hand—than half the NBA. Probably.
Danny Green ($3,762,500)
A cheap “3-and-D” guy, Danny Green could take the burden of guarding the team’s best guard and give Curry, LeBron, and/or Kirilenko extra rest on the defensive end. He’s also another player who will provide a ton of spacing for LeBron on offense, except he’s limited to spot-up threes. 95.7 percent of Green’s threes were assisted, but that’s fine since he knows his limitations. Green’s benefited from a second go-around with the Spurs and it would be interesting to see just how good of a role player he would be with LeBron as a teammate.
Tim Duncan ($10,361,466)
There were a lot of players to pick and choose from at the center position. Joakim Noah ($11,100,000) was the toughest to leave off because he can log absurd minutes, brings a tenacity to every single game and continues to improve on the offensive end. Also receiving consideration was Al Horford ($12,000,000).
Tim Duncan’s at least $1 million cheaper and also happens to have mastered the game for some time now. That made is so unbelievable when he missed two bunnies that clinched the title for the Miami Heat. Everything else about the Finals felt like vintage Duncan. He performed like he did for the last 16 years.
You can also guarantee Duncan averages 20 points and 10 rebounds per-36 minutes, though he’d really only play 25-30 minutes every game. Who cares though. It’s my dream team and I want LeBron and Duncan on the same squad (as long it doesn’t involve the Olympics embarrassment of 2004).
Starting lineup payroll: $46,262,108
Ray Allen ($3,229,050)
At this stage of his career, there’s not much use for Allen outside of splendid three-point shooting—preferably in the corners where he shot 45 percent—and icing games with free throws. The damage he does on that end of the court makes him worthwhile, even if saying he’s a liability on defense is an understatement.
Al Harrington ($1,399,507)
Harrington supposedly lost 27 pounds this summer, but didn’t do a lot of running. Hmm.
But at 33 years old, he’s the cheap stretch-four the team needs around a guy like LeBron. He’s also a solid defensive rebounder, ranking in the top-40 in defensive rebounding percentage in 2012, his last healthy season. At 34th in the league in that ranking, he’s sandwiched between the likes of David Lee and Kevin Durant. Not bad.
If Harrington can put in a healthy 16th season at his veteran’s minimum salary, that’s great. If not, there’s an ‘energy’ player off the bench in…
Dante Cunningham ($2,000,000)
Cunningham put up the highest usage rate of his career last season, mostly thanks to the injury barrage that plagued the Minnesota Timberwolves’ 2013 season and saw his production drop as a result. There just isn’t much a difference when he logs minutes in the 30s each game and in the 20s.
Regardless, he showed an improved mid-range jumper after his lackluster 2012 outing where he made only about a third of his attempts from ten feet to the arc. That number jumped to 40 percent last season and it would be expected to take another spike while playing with the likes of LeBron and Duncan. Hopefully his mid-range game forces my backup center to plant his ass on the block and stay there.
Defensively, Cunningham’s pretty versatile. He’s athletic enough to guard a few wings, but his height may plague him in the post. Still, I’d take him over LeBron’s real-life aging power forward off the bench in Udonis Haslem.
Devin Harris ($1,272,279)
Devin Harris had an unusual summer as he initially agreed to a $9 million, three-year contract for Dallas. But then he suffered a toe injury, followed by resigning with the Mavs again for $1.3 million. Rarely will a single toe be worth that much.
What Harris should give Dallas though is about as much as I’d want him to give my team: a viable backup point guard who can just, you know, run an offense. Hopefully. I’m not so confident about that. Good thing I can pick up another guy to run an offense from time to time in…
Kwame Brown ($2,945,901)
Beno Udrih ($1,272,279)
Udrih’s another point guard who’s signed for the minimum (he’s a Knick now). He had a successful stint with Orlando, at least statistically, with 13.4 points and eight assists per-36-minutes. His assist percentage was in the top 25 in the league last season, ranking just ahead of Andre Miller and behind Steve Nash.
That didn’t necessarily net him a big payday, but the Knicks couldn’t offer much more than the minimum salary. Unfortunately, neither can I. In my dream team, though, he’s my second or third string point guard (depending on the mood I’m in while dreaming).
Ronnie Brewer ($1,186,459)
What happened to Brewer anyway? He seemed like a useful player heading into last season even though he had arthroscopic knee surgery last September. Then he was traded from New York halfway through the season and only played in 14 games for OKC. Now, he’s in Houston and only $100k of his contract is guaranteed.
Did I mention he’s only 28?
But he can’t shoot and if he can’t defend either then he’s useless. It wouldn’t kill my team if Brewer was ineffective. Green, James, Kirilenko, and at times Cunningham can be solid defenders on the perimeter, but Brewer’s absence might tax Green, my starting shooting guard, which could trickle down to the bigs defending the paint. Those bigs are Tim Duncan and…
Andray Blatche ($1,375,604)
Blatche is still a mystery on what he really is as a player (he’s kind of a weirdo in general). He showed signs of life last season with Brooklyn, posting a PER of 21.9 but is on a super friendly contract thanks to his resentment towards the Wizards front office. He also gets an unusual amount of steals (two per-36-minutes), though that doesn’t mean we can assign him to lock up the opposition’s best perimeter player just yet or ever.
Blatche is the only center coming off the bench though, so he’ll have a lot of pressure to anchor the defense when Duncan is off the floor. It’s scary giving him that much responsibility. Hopefully the risk pays off in NBA 2K14.
Total payroll: $57,899,186
Amount under the cap: $779,814
Killing time on a Friday night constructing a fake NBA team: Priceless (and possibly hopeless)
We’ll see if this roster changes by All-Star Weekend.