Let’s have a little fun, shall we? Building rosters from scratch in 2k is a hobby for many people who sit bored at home. But of course, they live within the constraints of “fair” trades. Let’s take a look at what the ultimate team in the NBA would look like without any restrictions with the exception of the salary cap, of course.
The NBA salary cap is a tricky thing. The NBA has something called a “soft cap.” While in the NFL teams aren’t allowed to go over their set salary cap, NBA teams are allowed to go almost $22 million over the salary cap as long as they are willing to pay the luxury tax (and they most definitely are).
Teams go even further beyond that with “exceptions.” Mid-level exceptions, early bird exceptions, traded player exceptions, and many more exceptions. You probably have no clue what any of those mean. So to keep it simple, these exceptions allow teams to go over the luxury tax cap for a variety of reasons.
We’ll build the best possible roster using the NBA salaries for the 2018-2019 season. So to keep things fair, we’ll use the NBA’s “real” salary cap which is slated at $101.869 million. So let’s get to it.
The starting lineup is obviously the most crucial aspect. This is the backbone of any team. These are the players that will run the most minutes and have the biggest impact on the court. So who is the starting 5 for our most heralded team?
Point Guard: Ben Simmons, Philadelphia 76ers ($6,434,520)
“He’s not a real point guard.” Sure. But he still plays the point guard position and to great effect. The 6’10” 230 lbs point guard phenom tore up the league in his rookie year. Despite having no jump shot, Simmons had an impactful season where he averaged 15.8 PPG, 8.1 RPG, and 8.2 APG on 54.5 FG%.
Simmons simply overpowered players with ease. And while expectations were high, nobody saw this good a season coming. Now he will get the chance to be the floor general for the NBA’s best squad. Simmons is one of the smartest players in the league, “baby LeBron” they call him. A steal at $6.4 million, the fit is perfect in a point guard driven league.
Shooting Guard: Donovan Mitchell, Utah Jazz ($3,111,480)
Donovan Mitchell vs. Ben Simmons for ROY was one of the biggest debates of the 2017-2018 season. Now imagine having them both. After being the 13th overall pick for the Jazz, Mitchell had a prodigious season putting up 20.5 PPG and setting the rookie record for 3 pointers in a season.
Mitchell has already established himself as a top 10 shooting guard, and his $3.1 million salary is a steal for his level of play. Mitchell has the ability to score with the ball in his hands, but more importantly, he can play without the ball, something he will need to do plenty of on this team. Simmons and Mitchell will form one of the best young guard tandems in the leagues.
Small Forward: LeBron James, LA Lakers ($35,654,150)
We’re splurging a lot of money with LeBron’s $35.5 million price tag. But in return, we get the NBA’s best player. I don’t need to sell you on LeBron’s talent, he obviously has that. His leadership is what makes it worth it. LeBron is the best player-coach out there, he can manage egos, run an offense, assign roles, he can do it all.
On a star-studded lineup like this one, there’s nobody better than LeBron to have it all flow properly. The fit between Simmons and LeBron brings up some questions, two players that play the same ball-dominant style. But honestly, they’ll figure it out. These are two extremely smart players with immense respect for each other. Having LeBron run this offense is the best way to go.
Power Forward: Kristaps Porzingis, New York Knicks ($5,697,054)
Power Forward is a dying breed in the NBA. We truly got lucky with Porzingis. After Phil Jackson surprisingly drafted the young man out of Latvia with the 4th pick of the 2015 NBA Draft, Porzingis has had serious success in the NBA. He has gotten better every year and has now firmly supplanted himself as a top 5 power forward.
The $5.7 million price tag for such a talent is excellent, what is even more enticing is the fit. Porzingis is excellent off ball. He uses his 7’3” frame to shoot over smaller defenders. He moves extremely well without the ball, he can post up, excels in the P&R game, fantastic on dribble drives. He will be an excellent fit next to the ball dominant players in this lineup.
Center: DeMarcus Cousins, Golden State Warriors ($5,337,000)
This almost feels like stealing. The Golden State Warriors signed ‘Boogie’ Cousins to a peanut-sized $5.3 million, tens of millions below his market value. But still, we’re taking him. When healthy, Cousins is the best center in the NBA. He has supreme talent and can seemingly do everything. Post-ups, jump shots, ball handling, everything.
Ball dominant centers have typically not excelled to the max with LeBron. But Cousins is a little different. Cousins is an excellent passer who can handle the ball and do more than just post up. He is an excellent shooter who can provide excellent floor spacing. Cousins will excel in the P&R game, and capitalize on his post-ups as he receives them. In the end, Cousins has too much talent and the price is too good to not have him out there.
While the starters are the most important, it’s extremely crucial that your 2nd unit is strong as well. Depth is key, you need to have players that can come off the bench and make a strong impact when your starters hit the bench. So who did we choose?
Point Guard: Jamal Murray, Denver Nuggets ($3,499,800)
Jamal Murray took a big step forward his sophomore year putting up averages of 16.7 PPG, 3.7 RPG, and 3.4 APG with an extraordinary 90.5 FT%. Murray is one of the best catch-and-shoot players in the NBA. He can score in a variety of ways and is a very solid playmaker. Murray is a sniper from three, he can hit all sorts of tough shots in the mid-range and is excellent at finishing at the rim.
On a team filled with ball dominant players, Murray will be a tremendous fit. Murray is excellent at moving without the ball, he runs off of screens and works off handoffs very well. Murray is a legitimate point guard who can create for his teammates and set up the offense. The fit is perfect on this team as Murray will be able to come off the bench and play seamlessly with the starters or bench, playing with or without the ball. His $3.5 million makes the deal even sweeter for such a talented guard.
Shooting Guard: Devin Booker, Phoenix Suns ($3,314,365)
Devin Booker was set to be a star from the very beginning. After a solid rookie year, Booker has worked hard, getting better year after year, as he just dropped 24.9 PPG this past season. A $3.3 million price tag is a bargain for a guy who has flourished into a top 10 shooting guard. Booker has become one of the best pure scorers in the league.
Imagine being able to bring a 25 PPG scorer off the bench. Booker would be a perfect fit with his ability to move without the ball. Like Murray, Booker excels moving without the ball, off screens and through the flow of the offense. Booker is also an excellent passer noted by his 4.7 APG this past season. Booker will be an awesome fit and a serious luxury to bring off the bench.
Small Forward: Josh Jackson, Phoenix Suns ($6,041,520)
Versatility is at a premium in today’s NBA. As the Golden State Warriors have shown with bringing Andre Iguodala off the bench, having a point forward who can handle and score is invaluable. Jackson just wrapped up a very solid rookie season. After the All-Star break, Jackson averaged 18.7 PPG, 4.4 RPG, and 2.5 APG. The 6’8” wing is an elite athlete.
Jackson would be the perfect point forward to bring off the bench and will complement this team perfectly. Once turned loose, Jackson showed off his fantastic prowess as a scorer, getting to the rim and knocking down tough mid-range shots. Jackson has the ability to handle the ball and make plays for his teammates. While his $6.0 million price tag is higher than most of the bench, it is certainly worth the money to put a do-it-all player, who can play positions 2-4, on this roster.
Power Forward: Kyle Kuzma, LA Lakers ($1,689,840)
Kuzma was one of the biggest steals of the 2017 NBA Draft. Taken at 27th overall the athletic PF looked like the best rookie out there for a good chunk of the year. Putting up a pristine 16.1 PPG in an up-tempo Lakers offense, the 23-year-old forward out of Utah excelled on catch-and-shoot three-pointers and dribble drives.
Kuzma’s $1.7 million price tag is a huge bargain for the productivity he has provided. Kuzma would be a perfect fit on this offense filled with ball dominant playmakers. Kuzma is best suited playing off of other players dribble-drive penetration so he can gain an advantage. The fit is perfect, Kuzma would come off the bench and put up points in a hurry.
Center: Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota Timberwolves ($7,839,435)
There is a legitimate argument to be made that KAT is the 2nd best center in the NBA. For us to spend $7.8 million on a bench player is a little tough to swallow, but it is most definitely worth it for a player of his caliber. Since being drafted no. 1 overall in 2015, the 7’0” 248 lbs big man has transformed into a premier offensive and rebounding threat.
Towns has worked hard on his jump shot. He hit at an elite 42.1 3PT% clip last season. KAT can seemingly do anything on offense, post ups, drives, P&R, playmaking, the man is supremely talented. He scores at a prodigious rate while operating at peak efficiency with a 54.5 FG% rate. Like Cousins, KAT’s usage would take a hit, but there’s simply too much talent to not have KAT lead this 2nd unit.
The reserve unit is typically filled with players that you hope never have to play actual NBA minutes. We decided to fill these roster spots with a few hard-nosed vets who will help player development and be an awesome locker room presence. We also found it beneficial to add a few young players with serious promise to this roster. Here’s who we went with.
Point Guard: Jose Calderon, Detroit Pistons ($2,393,887)
Jose Calderon has been on just about every team to the moon and back. Just kidding. But he has been on 7 teams in his illustrious 13-year career. Calderon has been an effective guard for a majority of his career, but at this point, he is nothing more than depth, his $2.4 million price tag is a bit steep for his skill level, but it is worth it.
Calderon will be a great veteran presence in this locker room. On a team full of stars where everyone wants the ball, adding a player like Calderon will manage egos and help player development further. Jose Calderon is the perfect fit on this team for the money and impact.
Shooting Guard: Josh Hart, LA Lakers ($1,655,160)
Josh Hart is young. Drafted in the late 1st round in the 2017 NBA Draft, the combo guard left Villanova a few fantastic years there. Hart had a very promising rookie season, impressing in spot starts to close out the season when the injury bug hit the Lakers. But Hart is so much more than just a fill-in player.
For every great thing about Hart, the greatest thing about Hart is his hard-working mentality. Hart has worked diligently in the offseason on his game and could be in the mix for a starting spot on a stacked Lakers team. A $1.6 million tag is a bargain for a player of Hart’s caliber already. Adding him as a reserve will ensure fantastic depth and will provide a player who will work hard to get even better.
Small Forward: Vince Carter, Atlanta Hawks ($1,512,601)
It seems like Vince Carter should have retired 13012321 years ago. At 41 years old, it’s almost impossible to fathom how Carter is still playing. The future hall of famer has gotten his fair share of minutes the past few years and somehow still impresses despite his advanced age.
Adding Carter and his $1.5 million tag goes further than on-court productivity. While Carter is still solid depth, he is a veteran locker room presence who will help with developing players like Josh Jackson. Carter is one of the NBA’s favorite players and a perfect addition to this roster.
Power Forward: Channing Frye, Cleveland Cavs ($2,393,887)
If you’re employing Channing Frye, you know what you’re getting. He’s a perfect player for today’s NBA, Frye is a classic stretch 4 who is a sniper from the 3 point arc. While Frye has seen his minutes and productivity decline the past few years, he is still a very solid player when he gets the opportunity.
Coming in with a $2.4 million tag Frye would join the reserves as a great depth piece. Frye boasts an NBA championship. He has legitimate playoff experience and would be another great veteran presence to have around the team. Although now on the decline at 35 years old, Frye will be another great addition to this team.
Center: Wendell Carter Jr, Chicago Bulls($4,441,200)
After a strong NBA Summer League, Carter looks like a star in the making. Carter looks like he will be a force to reckon with on both offense and defense. Carter was very much overshadowed by fellow star big man Marvin Bagley at Duke, but Carter can do it all.
While his $4.4 million tag is significantly higher than any of the other reserves, Carter is worth it. Carter has the chance to be one of the best centers in a few years. On this team, Carter will be a fantastic fit excelling on both sides of the ball. He will get the chance to continue and develop his game behind many greats.
While you need talent to win the game, management is just as important. Having a GM who can make the moves necessary to keep an elite team together invaluable. Coaching quite often goes underrated, while the credit always goes to players, you need to have a coach who can get the roster to work together to win games. So let’s check out who we picked.
GM: Danny Ainge, Boston Celtics
This was an easy one. Danny Ainge is easily the NBA’s best GM. This is a guy who has made the sneakiest moves which have the biggest impact and pay huge dividends. One of the best drafters of this century, Ainge has picked out guys like Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Terry Rozier, and all of them have turned into stars despite not being the most highly touted prospects.
Let’s not forget the plethora of genius moves Ainge has pulled off over the past few years. Trading the Celtics highly coveted big 3 for a plethora of 1st round picks. Trading away Isiah Thomas and multiple crucial pieces for one Kyrie Irving. A move that got them the no. 1 seed this past year. Ainge has proven how important longevity is, even for the elite teams. He will be the perfect GM to lead this team.
Coach: Steve Kerr, Golden State Warriors
This might seem like an odd one. Most fans will be screaming for Gregg Popovich or Brad Stevens to lead this team, but Steve Kerr would be a better fit. By now, everyone knows Kerr. 3 rings in 4 years and he’s still looked down upon. People claim the talent carries the Warriors, but Kerr has made a multitude of moves to keep his Warriors afloat.
Kerr has also tailored a system which keeps the ball moving and maximizes players productivity and efficiency. The most important part is his player management. Kerr has 5 rings as a player, he played with greats like Michael Jordan and understands how to deal with egos. On a Warriors teams with so many stars, Kerr has managed egos better than anyone.
With players like Draymond Green, Kerr has kept their anger from flaring up to a point it hurts them too much. Steve Kerr has shown a propensity to win, but importantly he has shown the ability to make stars mesh. Which may be an even harder task. On a team with so many stars, Kerr will keep everyone playing together and bring the best out of them.
The Final Countdown
So we’ve put a star-studded lineup together. With a grand total of $90,988,585 we managed to keep it roughly $10 million under the NBA salary cap. So the question remains, how does it all fit together?
|Starters||Ben Simmons||Donovan Mitchell||LeBron James||Kristaps Porzingis||DeMarcus Cousins|
|Bench||Jamal Murray||Devin Booker||Josh Jackson||Kyle Kuzma||Karl-Anthony Towns|
|Reserves||Jose Calderon||Josh Hart||Vince Carter||Channing Frye||Wendell Carter Jr.|
That’s A LOT of talent.
A lot of questions will arise on how so many stars will share one ball. Having a coach like Steve Kerr will make things easy. He has already shown how he can get multiple superstars to play together and maximize their productivity.
This team will be a terror in transition. Players like Simmons and James will use their deadly speed and size to get down in the fast break and their extraordinary playmaking ability to hit teammates open. This is a team filled with leaders and smart, high IQ players that understand how to play.
This is a team with some masterful defenders, but obviously, there are a few players that are liabilities. Kerr’s help defensive system will help shore up those gaps immensely. This team will commit on the defensive side which will help create offense with ease.
Basketball is as much about logistics as it is about talent. The way everything fits together is key. We made sure to have a powerful 2nd unit to ensure there is no drop in productivity when the powerful 1st unit hits the bench.
Versatility and spacing are key in today’s NBA. We have 15 players that have the ability to hit the three ball at any time, the floor spacing will be great for players to drive in and get to the rim. There are a number of point forwards who are able to handle the ball. Which is always a huge beneficiary for any team.
Now imagine, if this team actually came together. Yeah, not happening. But it certainly is fun to dream.