Tag Archives: Stephen Curry

High-usage backcourts and efficiency of their lineups

High-usage backcourts were something I fooled around with earlier in the season, though the filters I made back then (usage rates: 25 percent, players had to start together) were so stiff I had to look at backcourts across nearly 20 seasons. That was sort of the point, but at the same time there weren’t as many really high-usage backcourts as I initially thought.

This time I scaled back on the filters, making room for guards this season (74) that used higher than 20 percent of their team’s possessions. I also didn’t leave out players who didn’t start and instead fiddled with 2-man lineup stats from NBA.com featuring guards meeting both the 20 percent usage rate requirement and logging over 250 minutes together. In the end, 32 backcourt pairings made the cut. If I went by duos that each used up 25 percent of their team’s possessions, only the Dion Waiters/Kyrie Irving and Wroten/Carter-Williams duos make the list, though those tandems have rarely started games together.

Below is a visualization of each duo’s efficiency while on the court compared to their team’s average. For example, Brooklyn has scored 3.5 more points per 100 possessions than their team average with Deron Williams and Joe Johnson playing together but they’ve allowed 3.1 more points on defense. I also added “BRK” next to that duo because of how common their last names are. Hopefully the others are self-explanatory.

The color of each duo represents the range of minutes they fall in, located in the upper left. Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry have both logged more total minutes (1,904) and averaged more minutes per game (30.7) together than any other tandem, though DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry are close behind (1,803 and 30.0, respectively). Duos that are in the bottom-half of the chart have their names below their dots and the opposite for those in the upper-half.

duos Rtgs adjusted (MP)

Click to enlarge.

It doesn’t seem too surprising that no combo is stifling on defense but bad on offense. Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe barely make that fourth of the graph with Suns lineups scoring 0.4 points less per 100 possessions with both of them on the court. If anything, lineups would normally be the other way around which is the case for 10 of the 25 pairings that score higher than their team’s average.

It’s also not surprising that the combos that stray furthest from the average are the ones with the smallest sample sizes. The larger the minute total, the closer they should be to their team’s average. Minutes per game will be looked at further down in this post.

19 of 32 backcourts logged a positive net rating, but five of the seven with nets of +9 or higher belong to the Lakers and Cavaliers combos. Some of this is because they overlap with each other while working as a trio. Below are the three most notable teams with trios along with their minutes and efficiency splits. all according to NBA.com:

Cleveland

  • Irving-Waiters-C.J. Miles: 82 minutes, 112.7/107.2/+5.5

Los Angeles Lakers

  • Jordan Farmar-Nick Young-Xavier Henry:  133 minutes, 113.2/89.3/+23.9

New Orleans

  • Gordon-Evans-Austin Rivers: 104 minutes, 109.3/125.2/-15.8

The Thunder’s combo of Russell Westbrook and Reggie Jackson (+16.2) and the Spurs’ of Manu Ginobili and Patty Mills (+15.8) stand above the five pairings from the Cavs and Lakers as the best duos.

The biggest disaster comes from Minnesota with Kevin Martin and J.J. Barea, logging 313 minutes together over 49 games for a net of -17 points/100 possessions, at least compared to their team’s overall efficiency. Over 100 of their minutes have come with Corey Brewer, Kevin Love, and either Dante Cunningham or Nikola Pekovic. The one with Cunningham gets killed on the glass and can’t take care of the ball, altogether allowing 133 points per 100 possessions while the unit with Pek has a net of -8.3 points. There are a couple Barea-Martin lineups that have yielded good results, though they’ve totaled only 20 minutes or so. Judging by the players filling out the rest of those positive lineups (Alexey Shved, Robbie Hummel, etc.), they likely beat up an opposition’s second unit.

Overall their sample size is one of the smallest. Not nearly as big of a struggle, though still pretty bad are the Gordon-Rivers and Evans-Gordon combos in New Orleans and the Rodney Stuckey-Will Bynum duo in Detroit.

So the biggest upswings or downswings come from duos and their lineups with the smallest samples, but do they also log the least amount of minutes per game? Below are the same pairings with the color of their dots representing minutes per game instead of total minutes. As usual, click to enlarge if you’d like.

duos Rtgs adjusted (MPG)

Below is a GIF that might help look at combos that log the most minutes per game.

mp/mpg on Make A Gif

There’s a slight difference in the combos that are negatives on both sides of the floor, but probably the most noticeable change comes where other pairings score a few points more. Most play a good chunk of minutes per game. Dragic and Bledsoe fit into that category and would log hundreds of more minutes if not for the latter guard being sidelined with a right knee injury.

The last graph shows which duos play the most games:

duos Rtgs adjusted (GP)

This all isn’t to say these combos are the only reason for the collective success or failure of their lineups. Maybe they compliment each other or the rest of the lineup well (or not, in terms of negative duos), benefit from playing alongside a star forward or center (or not), or beat up a second unit as opposed to starters (or…not..). As noted before, some sample sizes are smaller than others.

Some of the duos, though, just look like they’ll give up more points than they generate over the long haul, like Tony Wroten and Michael Carter-Williams not exactly being a pairing that will stretch the defense. Others like Dragic and Bledsoe look like they’ll cause chaos no matter who they play.

Any other thoughts are certainly welcome.

All stats are according to NBA.com unless noted otherwise.

Non-conference update: The East continues to chip away in the standings

The non-conference update follows games pitting the Western Conference’s teams versus the East’s. This season, the West has often held a winning percentage so large it hasn’t been seen in over 50 years.

Last week the East continued a respectable winning percentage against the West, finishing 9-10. Among the teams bullied, though, was the New York Knicks thanks to Dirk Nowitzki and Stephen Curry. Detroit also didn’t win either of their games against the West. Over the past month, though, the East is 40-46 against the West. Not great, of course, but definitely fine.

Below is an updated week-by-week breakdown of non-conference play so far:

I mentioned in my last non-conference post that the West’s best season ever against the East was in 2004 when they finished with a winning percentage of 63.3. Last week put a dent in the possibility of 2014 surpassing that mark, though it’s still possible. The West would have to finish 71-35, which can be slimmed to 64-35 when taking into account Philadelphia playing seven non-conference games that should hardly be competitive. POOR THADDEUS YOUNG.

A pretty good chunk of non-conference games will take place this week, 28 total with each conference having 14 home games apiece. Indiana and Miami, far and away the best teams against the West, play five games while West playoff teams and their hopefuls play in 20 of them. A closer look at those games can be found here as well as bolded games I think the West will win, though I put little thought into it. Basically, the West was predicted to go 19-9 which is right on track to surpass 2004’s winning percentage.

The rest of March as a whole has a ton of non-conference games, 98 to be exact with 50 of the games hosted by West teams. After that, it slows down significantly with nine games over the 16 other days.

Below is a look at the league standings with non-conference games left. Conferences are separated by different sheets, so to view the West simply go to the bottom and click on sheet labeled after it.

Dallas having seven less non-conference games than Memphis and Minnesota looks pretty huge, though the Grizzlies still have to play Miami not once, not twice, not three times, not four, not five okay they play the Heat twice, but still. They’re actually a pretty interesting matchup with Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph playing against the smaller lineups of Chris Bosh and either LeBron James or Shane Battier.

Minnesota also faces an important stretch of non-conference games right when they need it most, all while Nikola Pekovic and Kevin Martin return to the lineup. They’ll host New York, Detroit and Toronto this week and Milwaukee in the following one. That’s a good reminder that while the East is holding its own as of late, a stretch against their teams is still seen as a way to beef up in the standings.

Until next week.

My dream team within the salary cap (all-star weekend edition)

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Dream big, but dream within the imaginative salary cap and bargain agreement.

Before the season started, I made my dream team within the salary cap, set at $58,679,000. The only other rule was to not use rookie contracts since allowing them would turn it into an 12-man under-25 roster. It’s just too easy to make a loaded team when choosing from at least (rough guess) 25 more players outplaying their contracts.

After those rules, though, it was a free for all. Looking back on the players I chose in October, I would’ve hit some huge snags along the way, ones I could’ve gotten away with if this team were in the Eastern Conference, but still.

Here was my roster going into the season:

Starters

Bench

  • SG: Ray Allen ($3,229,050)
  • PF: Al Harrington ($1,399,507)
  • PF: Dante Cunningham ($2,000,000)
  • PG: Devin Harris ($1,272,279)
  • PG: Beno Udrih ($1,272,279)
  • SF: Ronnie Brewer ($1,186,459)
  • PF/C: Andray Blatche ($1,375,604)

Lineup: $46,262,108

Bench: $11,637,078

Total salary: $57,899,186

Amount under the cap: $779,814

Killing time on a Friday night constructing a fake NBA team: Priceless (and possibly hopeless).

Green and Kirilenko each had injury woes, which were huge losses to this team. Not having Harrington also meant the loss of the stretch four. Meanwhile, Brewer’s logging what looks like mostly garbage time with the Houston Rockets.

Basically, the defense of this team took a huge hit along with some shooting. There’s still hope, obviously, with the Curry-James-Duncan trio going strong, but the pieces around them don’t quite fit anymore. (Also, a couple salaries were off by like $100,000 since I was looking at how much they made versus how big their cap hit is. Only the latter impacts the salary cap, which makes Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin‘s situations so unique.)

Four months later, only Curry and James remain from the first edition. 10 new players will hopefully make the dream team a contender to go undefeated from now until the end of time. Below are the starters before going into depth about the reserves:

Starters

  • PG: Stephen Curry ($9,887,642)
  • SG: P.J. Tucker ($884.293)
  • SF/PF: Kevin Durant ($17,832,627)
  • Utility: LeBron James ($19,067,500)
  • C: Robin Lopez ($5,904,261)

Curry at point guard was actually a tough choice. His salary is super-friendly, but so is Goran Dragic’s ($7.5 million) and Kyle Lowry’s ($6.2 million). Going super cheap with someone like Patty Mills was also an idea running through my head.

I couldn’t pass up taking the greatest shooter alive, though, and I don’t think it’s crazy to say he is. Curry’s able to provide the best possible spacing off the ball, allowing the rest of the team to basically play 4-on-4. That’s just not fair when James has the ball in his hands with Durant also providing maximum spacing. All three can carry mediocre second units, which is nice so one could be subbed out earlier than normal to play with the reserves.

Also, if Curry slips on defense I put together some players that allow him to hide, though there have been a few writers who’ve brought up that he might be less effective defending off the ball. Whatever the case, P.J. Tucker’s one of those defenders, an incredibly cheap 3-and-D guy to start at shooting guard and beating out the one I chose before the season in Danny Green. He also excels at shooting from the left corner, the preferable one since LeBron shoots well from just about anywhere on that side of the court.

The trio of Curry, Durant, and James took up 80 percent of available cap space which, at first, made quality rim protection an issue. Durant wasn’t on the first team mostly because of the $17+ million he’s owed, but he’s been way too good to leave off twice in a row. With that in mind, I could’ve danced around rim protection by constructing a strong second unit with cheap, productive players like Andrei Kirilenko, Patty Mills, and Andray Blatche while hoping a hyper-aggressive defense by the starters make up for not having someone to deter shots at the rim without fouling.

Robin Lopez’ cap hit this year was just low enough, though, to where a coherent second unit could be built with one of Curry, Durant, or LeBron leading them. Chris Andersen was a cheaper option as a starting center, but one that would be too taxing to play more than 25 minutes a night. Somewhere between him and Joakim Noah is RoLo’s salary, and he’s easily outplayed it this season.

Also, the bench doesn’t need to be incredible when Durant, James, or Curry could lead it. It still took a while to form, though, since I had to find seven players combining for nearly the mid-level exception, or $4 million less than Kendrick Perkins’ salary. Here they are:

Patrick Beverley ($788,872)

An irritating point guard with an outside shooting touch, Beverley could be a fun compliment to Curry or lineups that want to be as chaotic on defense as possible.

Like most Rockets, his mid-range game looks non-existent as he’s shooting just 9-for-29 from that area. Take that however you’d like. He also rarely turns the ball over, one of the lowest turnover percentages among all guards, minimum 1,000 minutes. It’s a nice improvement from last year, turning the ball over nearly seven percent less this time around. (There are also some surprises on that list I linked to such as Nick Young, Avery Bradley, and Kevin Martin.)

Jon Leuer ($900,000)

Part of the All High-PER-Off-The-Bench Team with one that’s 18.1, Leuer’s another nice complimentary piece while on a great contract. He rebounds well in limited time, grabbing nine per-36 minutes and is one of the better defensive rebounders, ranking in the top-50 among forwards who’ve logged over 500 minutes.

What could make him most fun to play alongside Durant or James, though is his three-point shooting. He’s not a sniper from the corners as he’s only taken three attempts from there so far, but he’s a combined 17-for-26 from the middle and left sections above the break. Leuer’s also a good finisher in both the paint and restricted area whether it’s in the post or off the dribble with a floater. His defense is worrisome, allowing 1.18 points per possession in post-ups, according to Synergy, but his shooting should be a decent tradeoff.

Alexis Ajinca ($635,880)

I’m not sure if it’s cheating to grab a player who signed a minimum contract during the season, so I only grabbed one in Alexis Ajinca. Before grabbing Lopez, he was also an option for starting center, though his foul rate of 6.8 per-36-minutes made him an underdog to stay on the court for a good chunk of time. He also turns the ball over a ton, 28.6 times per 100 plays, according to Basketball-Reference. He’s a solid rebounder and a big body, though, which for this current team is fine as a backup.

Ajinca also has a mid-range game that looks both good and bad, 15-for-31 from that area and for better or for worse is not afraid of taking contested ones. Maybe this is something he builds on in the future? Either way, I like him paired with Anthony Davis in real life and on my team as a backup big.

Wesley Johnson ($884,293)

Johnson was taken purely for the financial reasons. It says a lot about him that he’s currently recording his highest PER ever of 11.1, but to look on the bright side he could be a fun to play alongside James and Durant thanks to his freak athleticism.

Johnson’s offense is worrisome, though. He could be entertaining as a guy cutting to the rim, capitalizing off attention drawn from others, but everything else seems questionable. He’s an average shooter from the corners and his current hot spot from three, the right side of the break, was a weak spot coming into the season (45-for-150 from 2011 to 2013).

Still, it’s not like he’d log a ton of playing time with Curry, Durant, and James already logging nearly 40 minutes each and Tucker and Beverley taking up another good chunk of playing time.

That’s my nine-player rotation, though Johnson’s minutes would be squeezed. Here are the rest who will ride the pine, though be capable safety nets if it came down to them having to play.

Kenyon Martin ($884,293)

If only Shawn Marion were affordable. Both he and Martin need to be on the same team and beat opponents with their flick-like jump shots.

Gal Mekel ($490,180)

Nick Calathes (490,180)

If not for these tiny cap hits, Jon Leuer’s off this squad in exchange for a player roughly $100,000 cheaper.

In particular, Calathes hasn’t been half-bad since Mike Conley sprained his right ankle against Minnesota, averaging 14.7 points, 4.7 rebounds, 4.9 assists, and 2.6 steals in his last seven games. He still doesn’t get to the line but the uptick in true shooting (.452 to .582), effective field goal shooting (.434 to .571), and turnovers (eight less per 100 plays) are all easy on the eyes for Grizzlies fans. Hopefully. All of those stats are according to Basketball-Reference.

But there you have it. As for the head coach I’m taking Gregg Popovich. Assistants are so hard to choose, but I like some combo of Erik Spoelstra, Tom Thibodeau, Brad Stevens, Mike D’Antoni, and Jeff Hornacek. I also prefer Hubie Brown and Marv Albert holding down the local broadcasting booth with the possibility of Grant Hill chiming in too. My sideline reporter is Craig Sager.

A look at the roster again before some added thoughts on lineups and minute allocation:

Starters

  • PG: Stephen Curry ($9,887,642)
  • SG: P.J. Tucker ($884.293)
  • SF/PF: Kevin Durant ($17,832,627)
  • Utility: LeBron James ($19,067,500)
  • C: Robin Lopez ($5,904,261)

Bench

  • PG: Patrick Beverley ($788,872)
  • PF: Jon Leuer ($900,000)
  • C: Alexis Ajinca ($635,880)
  • SF/SG: Wesley Johnson ($884,293)
  • C: Kenyon Martin ($884,293)
  • PG: Gal Mekel ($490,180
  • PG: Nick Calathes ($490,180)

Starting lineup salary: $53,576,323

Bench salary: $5,073,698

Total salary: $58,650,021

Amount under the cap: $28,979

Time spent doing this while jamming out to the music performers at the All-Star Game: Priceless (and the performances were amazing).

Crunch time lineup: James-Curry-Tucker-Durant-Lopez

My crunch time lineup is the same as the starters, though LeBron plays point guard and everyone else but Lopez moves up one position. Lots of shooting with potential for freaky defense.

Bench lineup: Beverley-Johnson-Durant-Leuer-Ajinca

The second unit was tough to form, simply because playing Johnson isn’t desirable. At the same time, he’s the only one off the bench who can play shooting guard and small forward. Sure, I could play both Durant and James 44 minutes in a Game 7 and squeeze Johnson’s minutes, but if he can make a corner three then everything’s fine.

Any one of Curry, James, and Durant could lead the bench lineup but I went with Durant. James and Leuer would be a fun pairing, but I wouldn’t want to tax LeBron since he plays point guard and power forward in other situations. Meanwhile, Curry playing point guard would put Beverley and him in awkward spots on defense.

Overall, not much of that lineup matters in a Game 7. Johnson becomes irrelevant and possibly Ajinca too.

Smallball lineup: Beverley-Tucker-Johnson-Durant-James

Chaos on defense while also having five guys who can make a three, though Tucker would have to sit in the left corner even if Durant could conceivably shoot 90 percent from there.

Curry and Johnson are interchangeable in this lineup.

Bigball lineup: James-Durant-Leuer-Ajinca-Lopez

I’m putting faith in Ajinca’s mid-range jumper here, otherwise the spacing gets thrown off. Leuer would also have to be a solid shooter from the corners, something I believe he has the potential to do but hasn’t shown it this season.

Threeball lineup: Curry-Tucker-Durant-Leuer-James

Every smallball-ish lineup featuring James and Durant just doesn’t feel like “small” because of the former being built like a train and Durant being closer to 7’0 than 6’9. With that said, this might be both a smallball and crunch time lineup along with a three-point heavy one.

Free throw lineup: Beverley-Curry-Durant-Leuer-Lopez

Curry and Durant are the main guys to have at the line. Leuer’s shooting nearly 85 percent this season, though his numbers in other years are sketchy. Meanwhile, Lopez and Beverley are 80 percent for the season. This team isn’t blowing a lead with 30 seconds left, hopefully.

I also dove into how I would allocate minutes: 38 for the trio, 30 each for Tucker and Lopez, and between 14-20 for each of the four cogs off the bench.

Hopefully this team is a little more difficult to exploit than the first. James and Durant rarely being in foul trouble makes it less risky to have only one wing off the bench, the trio should work fine off one another especially if James is driving and kicking, and Lopez-Ajinca-Martin should be enough for consistently decent rim protection.

But could this team beat one composed of aliens within the confines of another galaxy’s salary cap? That’s the real question.

Overall this was good, degenerate, maybe even idiotic fun during all-star festivities. I’d like to hope I’m not the only one who would kill a few hours by putting a salary-adjusted team together, but oh well.

Any thoughts on my roster (or even yours!) are welcome.

My 2014 Dream Team — after a couple restrictions

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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:

Utility Player

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.

Small Forward

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’sWe 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.

Starting Backcourt  

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.

Center

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

Bench

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)

Just kidding.

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.

Lineup: $46,262,108

Bench: $11,637,078

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.

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