The NBA may not have the all-time great talents in the league like they did during the 1990’s, but some could argue that from top-to-bottom the association has never had this much talent and athletic ability like it does today.
So as a result I thought to myself, if I could handpick a starting lineup today, who would it be?
I took in a few factors when putting together this list. Rather than just picking the five best players which is very easy to do, I wanted a more traditional lineup. I wanted a true point guard, shooting guard backcourt. And I wanted an actual power forward and center. Not just a small-ball lineup where my power forward could be LeBron James or Kevin Durant and my center is Anthony Davis. I’m also heavily weighing age, talent, potential, defense, injuries and just flat-out ability.
Point Guard: Stephen Curry – Age 26
I don’t know if any one player has separated themselves from the rest of their position more than Curry has. Last season he took a step forward and began to prove his ankle issues were behind him and was a debated top-10 player in the league. This season, however, Steph has become a top-5 talent, legitimate MVP candidate, and easily the best point guard in the league in my opinion. Separating the gap between he, Russell Westbrook and Chris Paul.
Shooting Guard: Klay Thompson – Age 25
Klay is either the best or second-best shooter in world – behind only Curry – and is also a very good defensive guard, which factored in heavily. We can all just take the most talented offensive guys but I’m attempting to put together an actual team. I could have very easily went James Harden here but like I said, I wanted a more traditional lineup. With Steph Curry as my point guard, I’d rather he be the guy setting up everyone rather than having a two-guard who controls the ball as much as Harden does.
Small Forward: Kevin Durant – Age 26
I think most can agree that LeBron James is still the best player in the game, but if I’m factoring in age into this equation then I don’t want to start my team with a player already in his 12th NBA season. Having a four-time scoring champ at age 26 as your small forward isn’t too bad, either. Hard to envision a better shooting starting lineup than Curry-Klay-Durant and while KD isn’t a great defensive player, he is an improving one who works hard at both ends and of course is an offensive nightmare to matchup with.
Power Forward: Anthony Davis – Age 21
Curry may have separated himself from his position more than anyone this season but Anthony Davis may have improved his overall game more than anyone in the entire league outside of Chicago’s Jimmy Butler. So much so that a month in the season you heard people saying they’d choose Davis first overall if they were starting a team from scratch. He’s the best defensive power forward in the league and is already posting elite offensive numbers with a game that is still improving. There is certainly some cause for concern on the injury front, but Davis hasn’t suffered anything significant and will likely become less injury prone as he puts on a little more muscle in his career.
He was probably the easiest choice to make of this starting lineup.
Center: Rudy Gobert – Age 22
This is probably the most surprising pick to many, but I love Gobert’s game. He’s already the best defensive player in the league and his offensive game will only get better. I don’t expect Gobert to become a Marc Gasol-type on that side of the ball by any stretch, but his athleticism and attacking ability to the basket already make him a threat around the rim now. In a game against Portland, Quin Snyder had to make an adjustment on LaMarcus Aldridge because he was just destroying them. He put Gobert on him and he all-but shut him down the rest of the game. Going head-to-head against Marc Gasol, Gobert posted 15 points and 24 rebounds. Since the All-Star break the Jazz have become one of the best defensive teams in the league, in large part because of him. Enes Kanter didn’t quite live up to being the third overall pick but he wasn’t exactly a stiff either, Gobert was so good that Utah really had no choose but to move Kanter to clear more playing time.
Rudy’s star is ascending rapidly in this league.
There likely wouldn’t be too many that choose a similar starting lineup. The few that I spoke with already were surprised to hear some of the additions. Gobert was the real stunner to most. Not many would choose Klay Thompson but understood my thinking on the traditional backcourt and allowing Steph Curry to operate the offense. But I feel good about this selection.
I love the combination of offensive talent, great shooting and interior defense. How many teams do you think would feel comfortable seeing Anthony Davis and Rudy Gobert defending the rim?