Without question, the best team in basketball right now are the Golden State Warriors. Winners of 2 out of the last 3 NBA Championships, they completely destroyed the Cleveland Cavaliers in last season’s Finals winning 4-1 in convincing fashion.
They are the overwhelming favorites to win it again this year and with Kevin Durant playing without the huge amount of pressure on his shoulders this year I wouldn’t be surprised if the Warriors won 70 games again this year.
The Warriors win because they play the best basketball in regards to the combination of offense and defense. They score a lot because they have the best two shooters in the game with Steph Curry and Klay Thompson as well as Durant and they have a great defense thanks to their collective effort on that end and Draymond Green.
They possess so many of the qualities that teams need to win in the NBA that nobody can stop them and they will continue to win games and titles unless they stop doing what they do, they are broken up or someone comes along who does it better.
When building a ‘best starting five’ you can’t just get the best players at every position, throw them on the court and expect them to win. Things like team chemistry and player mentality are integral parts into winning in the NBA.
My starting five will embody all the things that have been proven to win games in today’s NBA and I challenge anyone to come up with a better lineup.
Point Guard - Steph Curry
On offense one of the most important traits of any successful teams is the floor spacing. Having good shooters on the floor means that defenders have to stay tight on them beyond the three point line or they risk giving up an open three pointer. Out of the top ten teams last season in terms of team three point percentage, 7 made the playoffs and 3 made the Conference Finals.
Defenders staying tight on the guys who can regularly hit three this means that they are less able to provide help defense, where they come off their man and go to the guy driving to the rim.
This allows players with great driving ability more space to attack the basket and get the most efficient shot in basketball in terms of points per attempt; the layup. Teams with great floor spacing have a tonne of room to drive to the rim, they can get points efficiently and effectively.
Steph Curry is the best shooter of all time and will very quickly pass Ray Allen’s all time made three pointers record. He requires so much attention that any defender if allowed would super glue himself to him. Out of the top five seasons in terms of the total made three pointers by an individual, Curry has four of them.
Shooting Guard - Klay Thompson
There will be quite a few Warriors in this lineup for the reasons I stated above; they play the best brand of basketball which is why they are so good and Klay Thompson is no exception. He, like Steph, is an amazing shooter who you can’t leave alone for one second.
As mentioned Curry has 4 of the top 5 three point shooting seasons, guess who has the other. That’s right; it’s Klay. He provides the much needed additional floor space for an offense to run, but it’s his other two traits which get him in this lineup.
Klay is known for being a great defender on the perimeter who can guard positions 1,2 and 3. He’s 6 foot 7 and 215 lbs who is often tasked with defending the opposing team’s best player. He is tough, gritty and athletic which makes for a potent mix on the defensive end.
The other trait which is so overwhelmingly underappreciated is his ability to be effective without having the ball in his hands a lot. This a problem that the USA faces when they form their teams for the Olympics. They just get the best players they can, many of whom are used to having the ball in their hands all the time.
Having someone who is really effective off the ball means that they are always a threat on offense, regardless of who has the ball in their hands. Someone who is at their best when they have the ball isn’t as useful when they don’t have it. It’s why I think Chris Paul and James Harden won’t be very effective next year together. Their respective effectiveness is greatly reduced when they don’t have the ball.
Klay Thompson is so good off the ball that it only took him 11 dribbles and 90 seconds to score 60 points in a game. This ability to play off the ball means that Curry can do his thing on the ball. Everybody wins.
Small Forward - LeBron James
There was no doubt that the best player in the world would make this list. He is the main beneficiary of all the floor spacing I’ve created so far. He’s the best attacker of the rim in NBA history with his mix of strength, size, speed and creativity. With Klay and Steph drawing defenders away from the rim this allows The King to drive inside and finish with ease.
LeBron is also still a great defender when he wants to be. He just has to carry so much on the offensive end that he sometimes doesn’t have the energy to be the best defender in the NBA he once was.
LBJ is also one of the best passers in the game who much prefers to get an assist than a made field goal. He would be the team’s primary ball-handler and I know what I said about having two dominant players on the court at the same time, but here it’s different.
Steph is amazing on the ball, but he’s also incredible off it. The Warriors run a lot of plays which involve getting Steph open by using multiple screens to get his man off him. Curry is the most dangerous man in the NBA to leave open and LeBron would find him every time on one of his drive and kicks.
A good team utilizes the fast break as much as possible and LeBron is the undisputed king in this department. He’s the most dangerous man of all time on the break and can either finish with a highlight dunk or find Steph and Klay who would run to the three point line.
Power Forward - Draymond Green
Passion, just pure passion. That is why Draymond Green is one of the most respected players in the league. He plays with such heart and intensity and will his skill set he is easily the most effective power forwards in the game today.
Last season Green was awarded Defensive Player of the Year and it’s very easy to see why. Last season he was second in the league in defensive rating at 99.1 and lead the league in steals (2.0) per game, and in blocks (1.4) per game.
On an individual level, Green can guard all five positions. He has the speed and mobility to defend quicker guards and the strength and determination to bash with big men. But where Green really excels is with his team defense.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; he reminds me so much of Kevin Garnett when he joined the Celtics in 2007/8. Garnett was the Celtic’s defensive leader on the floor and made everybody around him defensively. He was always the one calling out screens, making sure everyone had the right matchups and ensuring that all his teammates were playing at their absolute best on defense. Green is the exact same for the Warriors today.
This sort of attitude is very hard to measure in stats but is invaluable beyond words. Green is also an amazing passer for a power forward who has averaged over 7 assists a game for the past 2 seasons. He is so good at getting the ball after a screen then finding the cutter to the rim or the open man beyond the arc. If Green was a cog in a machine, he’d be the central one; connecting all the specific ones that have certain roles together so that the whole team runs well together.
He can hit the three when asked and like Klay Thompson, he is great off the ball. He sets amazing screens and excels at reading the game on offense like who to pass to and on defense where he can read what the opponent is doing before anybody else.
Center - Rudy Gobert
According to Basketball Reference, there are 8 players last season which had an offensive rating above 120, a defensive rating below 105 and played 60 games or more. Out of theses 8 players, two are Kawhi Leonard and Kevin Durant, one is David Lee (a power forward) and the other 5 are a certain type of center that has become the most effective brand in the league right now.
This brand is the modern role for big men to play and no one plays it better than Gobert. The way these new breed of centers play is very simple but immensely effective; they defend the rim from drivers, they block shots, they grab rebounds like there’s no tomorrow, they only take (and make) easy shots and they set a tonne of screens.
These centers are so good on offense because they have extremely high field-goal percentages meaning they are very efficient. Of the 5 centers I mentioned above, all of them shoot better than 62% from the field. They only shoot when they have a very high chance of scoring. These are things like alley-oops, putbacks and drop off.
Gobert shot 66.1% last season and was 3rd in offensive rating and defensive rating as well. For the Jazz, he only shoots when it’s highly likely he’ll score. He doesn’t create much for himself, but that doesn’t matter. He finds his shots amongst the offensive plays of the other stars on the floor.
With the likes of Steph, LeBron and Klay on this squad, he wouldn’t need to have a post game, he could just feed off the opportunities created by his other teammates. He’d get a lot of offensive rebounds and receive tonnes of alley oops from Steph and LeBron.
Gobert lead the league last year in blocks per game at 2.6 and according to NBA.com, amongst player who played more than 60 games and defending more than 5 shot attempts per game Gobert had the lowest opponent field goal percentage of anyone at 43.8%. He is the best last line of defense the league has to offer, meaning players on the perimeter can guard closer to their man knowing that Gobert is behind them ready to defend any shot that comes his way.
Think you can beat these guys? I highly doubt it.