OK, ever since the Miami Heat's season came to a tragic end the other night I've been having an e-mail battle with Brandon, our resident Heat blogger. Basically, he can't come to terms with the fact that the Heat are done, so he's been trying to deflect my attention back to the Sixers.
I guess he accomplished his mission, because now he's got me obsessed with a list. First of all, this is a ridiculous exercise, I fully recognize that, but the Sixers don't play until tonight, Andy Reid is playing wet nurse to his spoiled kids and I can only take so much A-Rod this early in the Spring, so I thought I'd take a closer look at it.
The question is: If all of the players in the Eastern Conference were suddenly free agents, and you were a GM of a new team, who would your top 10 picks be. Keep in mind, you're building a franchise, not a team for one year and not a fantasy team. Below is my list, feel free to pick it apart. BBF bloggers, feel free to post lists of your own.
1. Dwight Howard: No matter what the league looks like today, the dominant big man is the most valuable commodity to have, and Howard is the most dominant young big man in the east. His numbers have improved each year, this year he's shooting 60% from the floor, averaging 12 rebounds per game, he's missed 1 game in his career and he's only 21. This was a no-brainer. With Howard as a center piece you can look for certain things in later picks. The offense can run through him, and he can make up for mistakes on defense.
2. Dwyane Wade: No other big men are the complete package like Howard, so Wade has to be number two. He's proven he can carry a team all on his own. He's young, he's a dynamic scorer, he shoots for a high percentage and gets to the line more than anyone. He's head and shoulders above the chuckers out there who shoot in the low 40's.
3. Chris Bosch: He's a big that can shoot and run AND he owns the boards. Not big enough to take guys down to the low post, so he drops below Wade.
4. LeBron James: He was anointed as the next Jordan, but just hasn't lived up to the hype in my opinion. He's a great player, but not a great leader. With the guys above him on my list, I think how you fill out the roster is almost secondary. With LeBron, he won't get you a ring unless you surround him with really talented guys. He's a very streaky shooter, and seems to coast through a lot of games.
5. Gilbert Arenas: Drafting Gilbert would mean making the right kind of picks for the rest of the roster. You'd need to build the team like the '01 Sixers, full of guys who can handle one guy taking the bulk of the shots, but he's the most explosive scorer left in the East, now that Iverson's gone, and having him means you're going to be in most games. Plus, he's only 25.
6. Joe Johnson: Much like Arenas, he can flat out score. He averages decent rebound and assist numbers for a shooting guard, but most important, he's at his best when the game is on the line. Any team with Johnson on it knows they have a guy to take the deciding shot. He's also 25 years-old.
7. Andre Iguodala: This will probably draw the most ire from other bloggers here at BBF, but there is sound logic behind putting Iggy this high. He's currently averaging 17.9 points, 5.7 rebounds and 5.6 assists. LeBron is the only other player to average 15+, 5+ and 5+ in the eastern conference. He's started every game of his career, every night he guards the opposing team's top outside scorer, he adjusts his game to fit his teammates, and isn't greedy with his shots. Since AI's departure, he's stepped up as the guy who demands the ball down the stretch. At 23 he's one of the most complete players in the eastern conference, and a definite top-ten on this list.
8. Shaquille O'Neal: Even with only a couple of years left in his tank, he's still the most dominant big man in the game. I'd take a shot with him to see if he could get my franchise a ring, keeping in mind that I'd need a really, really strong roster around him because he can't go more then 20-25 minutes per night at this point of his career.
9. Jason Kidd: Best point guard in the East, he'll make everyone else you draft better. Age is the only reason he's so low on the list.
10. Jermaine O'Neal: This was a tough spot to fill, there are no young guys good enough to be up here, no guys with a couple of years left for one last run at a championship to warrant a top-ten placement, so I'm going with a solid performer in his late 20's. O'Neal, 28, gets the nod over Michael Redd, 27, because Redd is a gunner, nothing more. O'Neal plays D, scores down low and crashes the boards.
Just Missed: Richard Hamilton (System player. Wouldn't put up the numbers he does now without an excellent team around him), Vince Carter (Anyone who admits to not playing his hardest is not a guy to build around), Emeka Okafor (Injury concerns scare me), Al Jefferson (A little too raw at this point, but could make the list in a year or two), Tayshaun Prince (See Rip Hamilton),
Not even close: Ben Gordon (the epitome of a gunner, brings absolutely nothing else to the table), Eddy Curry (ticking time bomb, good inside scorer, absolutely nothing else), Paul Pierce (over-the-hill gunner).