In an effort to handcuff my editor and keep me on staff for a few weeks, I”m putting together a series of articles about a hypothetical two-on-two tournament that will likely never happen! To read more about how it can work, click here.
Without further ado, let’s take a look at each team. Starting with the Eastern Conference, I’ll give my opinion on who will represent them (2 starters plus 1 sub) and how the rest of their squad looks for the upcoming season.
Atlanta Hawks: Louis Williams + Josh Smith; Sub – Al Horford
The Hawks definitely took a step backward this offseason, and their Tournament squad reflects that. Replacing 60% of their starting lineup with Devin Harris, Anthony Morrow, and Kyle Korver is not exactly sending chills down opponents’ spines! Atlanta had to get the best value for JJ’s ridiculous contract ($90 mill over 4 years), but the acquisition of Harris creates a platoon with Jeff Teague for the point guard position that Teague clearly earned last year. Back to the tournament, Lou Williams is Jamal Crawford 2.0, and should be able to create his own shot while draining the occasional jumper. Josh Smith can guard any big on the opposing squad while Horford can serve as a more suitable replacement in that respect, should they face a team with a true centre (i.e. the Sixers or Lakers).
Boston Celtics: Paul Pierce + Kevin Garnett; Sub – Rajon Rondo
Say what you will about the loss of Ray-Ray and the aging core, but this team really improved this summer. It won’t help them for this tournament, but the addition of Jason Terry and Courtney Lee, along with a healthier Avery Bradley and Jeff Green makes the Celtics a formidable foe. Pierce’s ability to hit from all areas of the court with a hand in his face made the decision to bench Rondo all the more easier. As for Garnett, the thought of KG’s anger for not being listed as a starter was reason enough for me!
Brooklyn Nets: Deron Williams + Joe Johnson; Sub – Brook Lopez
So long, New Jersey. Hello Brooklyn! So long, Kenny Anderson. Hello Deron Williams! So long, Kerry Kittles. Hello Joe Johnson! So long, Derrick Coleman. Hello Gerald Wallace! So long, Kim Kardashian. No, seriously, GOODBYE! Kris Humphries and his buddies (Josh Childress, MarShon Brooks, Reggie Evans, and even Jerry Stackhouse) have bigger fish to fry this year. The duo of Deron and JJ may not be the best defensive twosome out there, but remember, it’s losers ball in this format. They can continue giving up points to big men, but try stopping them on offense!
Charlotte Bobcats: Ben Gordon + Michael Kidd-Gilchrist; Sub – Bismack Biyombo
Seriously, that’s the team. Add in Ramon Sessions and Brendan Haywood and that’s their starting five – OUCH! Kemba Walker and Gerald Henderson provide a glimpse into their future, while Byron Mullens has a hot wife! I was very tempted to put their president on this squad, for comedic and entertainment purposes, but mainly to see if he’s still got it (which he probably does).
Chicago Bulls: Luol Deng + Taj Gibson; Sub – Rip Hamilton
Oh, Derrick Rose! This team went from a title contender to a middling playoff team. The drop becomes more drastic when you look at their NBA Jam squad. I like the extra dimension and energy that Taj brings off the bench every game, which is why he gets a starting role over Noah and Boozer. Deng can be the multi-tooled homeless man’s Lebron for this duo, while Rip’s declining ability to create his own shot gets him parked on the bench. It was hard to not include Nate Robinson because he hasn’t missed an all-star weekend….like ever!
Cleveland Cavaliers: Kyrie Irving + Tristan Thompson; Sub – Alonzo Gee
Can we just leave Kyrie as a one-man team? Did you see his play on the Team USA Selects squad (#23 on the black team) this summer? Bonus points for challenging Kobe to a one-on-one battle next summer! I’ll admit there’s a little bit of a Canadian bias in putting Tristan Thompson alongside Kyrie. In my defense, let’s go over the rest of the team: Gee, Omri Casspi, Luke Walton, Kelenna Azubuike, Anderson Varejao, Dion Waiters. Yes, this is their 8-man rotation. I’ve seen better. As have you.
Detroit Pistons: Rodney Stuckey + Greg Monroe; Sub – Tayshaun Prince
The future looks good for Detroit, with Monroe, Brandon Knight, Jonas Jerebko, and Andre Drummond. The immediate future also shines brightly with Corey Maggette, Stuckey, Prince, and Jason Maxiell providing a solid core that should challenge for a playoff spot this year. This team could make some noise in the tournament – I can totally see the opposition taking it easy on Detroit, thinking that Stuckey is 50 Cent!
Indiana Pacers: Paul George + Roy Hibbert; Sub – George Hill
Here’s an interesting team to keep an eye on this year. While Brooklyn, Boston, Miami, and Philly made significant strides to improve their squads, the Pacers were content with their squad’s makeup. Having finished third in the conference, as well as leading the Miami Heat 2 games to 1 and up 10 at home in the third quarter of game 4, its understandable why they’d want to keep everything status quo. Roy Hibbert’s development as a Centre has truly been amazing to witness. Speaking of amazing, if there’s any question why Paul George is starting, then you haven’t watched this yet!