Sometimes it’s a young player that doesn’t begin to succeed until a change of scenery. Other times, it’s a star player that has pushed their way out via trade or left for greener pastures in free agency. Often, it’s a role player that fans love that may end up going ring chasing. However it happens, it’s normal for fans to daydream about what could’ve been had their favorite team been able to have certain players at the same time.
Well, this exercise will allow fans to see just that: How good could your favorite team be if they were able to make a rotation out of their ex-players. Here were the guidelines used for creating these teams:
- The player had to have played at least one game for that team to be eligible. So, for example, Seth Curry was eligible for the Cavaliers and Grizzlies (he played exactly one game with both teams), but Andre Iguodala was not eligible for the Grizzlies despite being under contract with them for over half a year.
- The player was not eligible for a team if they were currently on that team, even if they had been an ex-player at some point. This means someone like Ricky Rubio was not eligible eligible for the Minnesota Timberwolves. Even though Rubio had been traded away from the Timberwolves before, he is now on their current roster and was not considered an ex-player.
- The rotations for each team are limited to nine players.
- Sometimes, more talented players were left out because a less talented player may fit a bigger need within that team’s rotation.
- The rotation decision is based on wanting a team to win this season. You’re getting the player that exist right now, not the one that was on whichever team during that time.
The teams are ranked in descending order of how well this writer believes they would fare. However, the decision for which team is best will ultimately be put in the readers hands. On my twitter account (@chunky37), there will be daily voting (via a bracket) to determine which team made up of ex-players is ultimately the most talented. So check back in each day to vote and see which team moves on. Feel free to comment if you disagree on any choices!
C: Demarcus Cousins/Willie Cauley-Stein
SG: Seth Curry/Alec Burks
Commentary: Just…yikes. There’s some nice role players here but…yikes. It’s almost impressive how bad the Kings have been at accumulating, developing, and maintaining talent over the past 15 years. Their best player during that time, DeMarcus Cousins, has now suffered two major injuries and is still working his way back. There is some hope that the backcourt of De’Aaron Fox and Tyrese Halliburton can lead the Kings back to the playoffs, but if the new Kings front office is anything like the old ones, then it could be even more of an uphill battle.
PF: Christian Wood/Nic Batum
PG: Kemba Walker/DJ Augustin
Also Eligible: Willy Hernangomez
Commentary: Well the backcourt is a big question mark with Walker to have yet played this season due to a knee injury and Lamb hasn’t played as he still works his way back from a torn ACL. If healthy, it could be an above average backcourt. Wood is becoming a very solid offensive big man, but there’s not much else to get excited about here.
C: Thad Young
PG: George Hill/DJ Augustin
Also Eligible: Cory Joseph
Commentary: It is pretty incredible the lack of big men options this team had. Dating back to the 2015-2016 season, here is a list of power forwards and centers to play for the Pacers and no longer be on the team:
Lavoy Allen (most recently played for the Wizards G-League team in 2019)
Ike Anigbogu (will play on the Pelicans G-League team in 2021)
Trevor Booker (retired)
Rakeem Christmas (currently playing in Taiwan)
Jordan Hill (most recently played in the TBL in 2018)
Al Jefferson (retired, but played in the Big 3 in 2019)
Alize Johnson (will play on the Raptors G-League team in 2021)
TJ Leaf (cut by the Thunder before the 2021 season)
Ian Mahinmi (most recently played for the Wizards in 2020)
Ben Moore (currently playing in Australia)
Kyle O’Quinn (most recently played for the 76ers in 2020)
Alex Poythress (currently playing in Russia)
Kevin Séraphin (retired)
Shayne Whittington (most recently played in Spain in 2020).
PF: LaMarcus Aldridge/Nic Batum
SG: Wes Matthews
PG: Seth Curry/Patty Mills
Strongly Considered: Trevor Ariza, Kent Bazemore, Meyers Leonard
Commentary: This team lacks playmaking. Neither Curry or Mills, who many forget is not a Spurs lifer, are big playmakers. Curry’s highest assists per a game in season is 2.7 (although he was sitting at 3.6 per a game before testing positive for Covid-19) while Mills career high is 3.5. While Aldridge is still an effective NBA player, he currently has his lowest field goal percentage of his career (43.3%) and his lowest points per a game (15.1) since his rookie year. Meanwhile, Nic Batum continues to prove that while he was vastly overpaid in Charlotte, he’s still a capable role player.
SF: Wes Matthews/Doug McDermott
SG: Seth Curry
PG: Delon Wright/Rajon Rondo
Strongly Considered: Nerlens Noel
Commentary: Where would this team be if the Sacramento Kings picked Luka Dončić or the Atlanta Hawks stuck with Dončić instead of Trae Young? The Mavericks had struggled to be competitive once Achilles and ankle injuries started to catch up with Dirk Nowitzki. They then went all in on a team built around Harrison Barnes which went about as well as one would expect. Well, this team is pretty much that. Seth Curry has quietly turned into one of the best shooters in the world so they have that going for them.
C: Javale McGee
SF: Bojan Bogdanovic/Otto Porter
Commentary: All things considered, it’s pretty incredible that over two years of time went by between John Wall’s last game with the Wizards and his first game with the Rockets and he’s looking good. He may not be the 2017 version of Wall that was named to the All-NBA 3rd Team or the 2015 version of Wall that was named to the All-Defensive 2nd Team, but he’s still one of the fastest players on the court and can put up 20+ point on a good night. I don’t think anyone is convinced he’ll ever get back to the level he once was at, but he’s shown enough that, as the season goes on, he could get back to a level of being a fringe All-Star.
PF: Jae Crowder/Paul Millsap
SF: Gordon Hayward
SG: Wes Matthews/Alec Burks
PG: Ricky Rubio/George Hill
Commentary: The defense is meh and always will be when Kanter is on the court. Hayward is showing with the Hornets that he’s still capable of being the #1 option offensively on a decent team. Who’s the secondary option though?
C: Serge Ibaka/Dwight Howard
PF: Tobias Harris/Jeff Green
SF: Victor Oladipo/Trevor Ariza
SG: JJ Redick
PG: Elfrid Payton/DJ Augustin
Strongly Considered: Wes Iwundu, Ish Smith
Commentary: Newly acquired Houston Rocket Victor Oladipo has started to look closer to his All-Star self in a few games this season. While he’s certainly not completely back to being an All-Star level player, he definitely looks better and more comfortable than the player we saw in the bubble. If he continues to get back to an All-Star level, this team could become more dangerous with shooters like Harris and Redick surrounding him.
C: Bobby Portis/Robin Lopez
PF: James Johnson
SF: Jimmy Butler/Doug McDermott
SG: Justin Holiday/Shaq Harrison
PG: Derrick Rose/Rajon Rondo
Commentary: Outside of Butler, there’s not a ton to get excited about with this team. It’s fun that Derrick Rose has been able to reinvent his career as a go-to scorer off the bench and the teams offense would likely revolve around him when Butler sits. Portis, as Zach Lowe has put it, looks like an All-Star if you watch the right 5-10 games a season. How many teams is Justin Holiday going to be on? Good enough to provide off the bench, but not good enough for a team to hold onto him?
C: Al Horford/Dwight Howard
PF: Paul Millsap/Taurean Prince
SF: Justin Holiday
PG: Dennis Schroder/Jeff Teague
Strongly Considered: Kent Bazemore, Mike Muscala, Jabari Parker, Mike Scott
Commentary: Something about this team just makes me feel like they’d be a really solid regular season team that would ultimately get swept by LeBron James. All jokes aside, the backcourt of Hardaway Jr., Schroder, and Williams would provide plenty of scoring, but Horford and Millsap, while both still solid role players, are both past their primes.
PF: Thad Young/Mason Plumlee
SF: Bojan Bogdanovic/David Nwaba
SG: Caris Levert/Wayne Ellington
PG: D’Angelo Russell
Strongly Considered: Jared Dudley, Derrick Favors, Garrett Temple
Commentary: While the real Nets got a big boost in the form of James Harden, the hypothetical Nets get some needed help in the form of Jarrett Allen and Caris Levert. Allen is on the path to becoming a top 10 NBA center. However, in Brooklyn he was stuck playing behind DeAndre Jordan. In Cleveland, he’ll likely be stuck behind Andre Drummond. In this hypothetical situation, he’s probably stuck behind (or at least splitting time with) Brook Lopez.
C: Kristaps Porzingis/DeAndre Jordan
SF: Justin Holiday/Wes Matthews
SG: Tim Hardaway Jr.
PG: Derrick Rose/Langston Galloway
Strongly Considered: Carmelo Anthony, Trevor Ariza, Trey Burke, Alec Burks, Enes Kanter, Doug McDermott, Bobby Portis
Commentary: For starters, it hurt not to put Carmelo Anthony on this team. He was the star player the last time the Knicks made the playoffs. While Anthony has proven he’s still more than capable of making a positive impact on the offensive side of the court, his defense has continued to fall off. This team has enough scorers, but Porzingis and Jordan will need help defensively.
SF: Jimmy Butler/Robert Covington
SG: Zach Lavine
PG: Derrick Rose/Tyus Jones
Strongly Considered: Kris Dunn, Taj Gibson, James Johnson, Glenn Robinson III, Jeff Teague, Andrew Wiggins
Also Eligible: Wayne Ellington, Kelan Martin, Thad Young
Commentary: This team may be underrated, but the defense may be an issue. They could put together lineups that can generate stops with Butler, Covington, Dieng, and Jones. The most intriguing part of this team is probably the duo of Butler and Lavine. We know that Butler is capable of being the best player on a championship-level team if the pieces around him fit. Lavine has started to become one of the premier scorers in the NBA. At the moment, he’s fourth in the NBA in points per a game (27.7) with a shooting line of .491/.371/.887. Both Butler and Lavine are capable playmakers that can play on- or off-ball.
C: Andre Drummond/Christian Wood
PF: Tobias Harris
SF: Avery Bradley/Marcus Morris
Strongly Considered: Bruce Brown, Langston Galloway, Markieff Morris, Glenn Robinson III
Commentary: This team seems weirdly dangerous. While it lacks a guy who can consistently take over games, there should be enough scorers between Dinwiddie, Drummond, Harris, and Wood. The defense isn’t terrible. Drummond isn’t an All-Defensive team level player as some think he is, but he’s a capable rim protector. Bradley gives them a guy that can guard the opposing teams best player on most nights.
C: Aron Baynes/Boban Marjanovic
SG: Danny Green/Garrett Temple
PG: George Hill
Strongly Considered: Cory Joseph
Also Eligible: Bryn Forbes
Commentary: The fact that this team had only eleven options, yet every option was at the very least a decent role player goes to show how good the Spurs are finding talent, developing talent, and keeping their talent. Kawhi Leonard, who was once believed to be the perfect player to usher in the post-Duncan/Ginobili/Parker era of Spurs basketball, returns along with a strong crew of role players. There’s shooters to surround Leonard with Bertans, Danny Green, and Hill. The defense should be solid with Danny Green and Leonard leading the way. However, when Leonard sits, this team lacks a go-to scorer.
PF: PJ Tucker
SF: TJ Warren/Marcus Morris
SG: Goran Dragic/Seth Curry
PG: Eric Bledsoe/Ricky Rubio
Strongly Considered: Danuel House, Derrick Jones Jr., Markieff Morris, Kelly Oubre
Commentary: Another player that has quietly developed into a really nice NBA player is Richaun Holmes. Last season, the Kings had five centers on their roster: Holmes, Marvin Bagley, Dewayne Dedmon, Harry Giles, and Alex Len. Only Holmes and Bagley remain. Bagley remains due to hopes that he finally develops into a player worth the #2 pick while Holmes remains because he’s become an incredibly efficient scorer (currently has the best field goal percentage in the NBA at 69.7%) and a solid rebounder and rim protector. This team also gets to reunite the backcourt go Bledsoe and Dragic (as well as PJ Tucker and Marcus Morris). They were part of the 2013-2014 Suns team that surprised the NBA and just missed the playoffs.
C: Christian Wood/Robin Lopez
PF: Tobias Harris/Jabari Parker
SF: Wes Matthews
SG: Malcolm Brogdon/JJ Redick
PG: Eric Bledsoe/George Hill
Strongly Considered: Sterling Brown, Michael Carter-Williams, Jared Dudley, Garrett Temple
Also Eligible: Matthew Dellavedova, Ish Smith, Tony Snell
Commentary: In case anyone has missed it, Malcolm Brogdon is really good. He’s currently averaging 22.5 points per a game, 7.5 assists, and 4.1 rebounds with a shooting line of .474/.453/.875. And to top it off, he also averages 1.7 steals a game. Between Brogdon, Bledsoe, and Matthews, this team would have a tough perimeter defense. The interior defense may be a bit of an issue. While Christian Wood has developed into a really nice offensive player, he still has a long ways to go defensively. While he currently ranks top 10 in the NBA in blocks per a game (1.6), he’s still often caught out of position and struggles against beefier centers. You could make an argument for a few guys over Jabari Parker, but he was selected to give this team another inside presence.
C: Marc Gasol/JaMychal Green
PF: Jae Crowder
SF: Justin Holiday/Rudy Gay
SG: Mike Conley/Seth Curry
PG: Kyle Lowry/Delon Wright
Strongly Considered: Avery Bradley, Jeff Green, James Johnson, Ben McLemore
Also Eligible: Jevon Carter, Ed Davis, Wayne Ellington, James Ennis, Solomon Hill, Josh Jackson, Ish Smith, Garrett Temple
Commentary: Before Kyle Lowry became an All-Star and NBA Champion with the Raptors, he was a solid point guard with the Rockets. However, many forget that before he was with the Rockets, Lowry spent his first 2.5 seasons with the Grizzlies. His rookie season was cut short due to a season ending injury. Then, in his sophomore year, he played in all 82 games and started to develop into a nice backup. The next season, Lionel Hollins took over and said he was focused on building around Mike Conley which led to Lowry pushing for a trade that ended up with him in Houston. Now, the Grizzlies get to pair Lowry and Conley together again in their backcourt. Add in Gasol and this has some real “Grit and Grind Grizzlies” vibes. Obviously, it just won’t be the same without Zach Randolph.
C: Hassan Whiteside
PF: Jae Crowder/Derrick Jones Jr.
SF: Justise Winslow/James Johnson
SG: Josh Richardson/Wayne Ellington
PG: LeBron James/Tyler Johnson
Strongly Considered: James Ennis, Rodney McGruder
Also Eligible: Solomon Hill
Commentary: This is an interesting situation where LeBron would probably spend a lot of his time playing point guard on offense, but defending the post on defense. The Heat just didn’t have a ton of options when it came to big men. Only Hassan Whiteside remains on a NBA roster. James Johnson could also play some small ball center. The role players around LeBron are intriguing. We know Richardson can be a strong defender, but his offensive output is inconsistent. Winslow has shown promise, especially after Erik Spoelstra unleashed him as a point guard. However, he’s struggled to stay healthy. Any team that has LeBron is going to compete, but can the role players around him provide enough to put them over the top?
C: Chris Boucher/Javale McGee
PF: Kevin Durant/Harrison Barnes
SF: Andre Iguodala/Glenn Robinson III
SG: Justin Holiday/Alec Burks
PG: D’Angelo Russell
Strongly Considered: DeMarcus Cousins, Ish Smith
Also Eligible: Willie Cauley-Stein, Quin Cook, Damian Jones, Alfonzo McKinnie
Commentary: Well, if the Warriors weren’t Durant’s team while he was there before, they’re definitely his team now. Russell gives Durant a nice secondary option that can play off-ball. The most underrate piece of this team is Boucher, who has turned into a very a solid center for the Raptors. Going into the games on January 14th, Boucher was averaging over 14 points, 6 rebounds, and 2.5 blocks a game with a shooting line of .578/.472/.733. Unfortunately for the Warriors, they waived him after one season.
C: Jusuf Nurkic/Mason Plumlee
PF: Danilo Gallinari/Carmelo Anthony
SF: Jerami Grant/Andre Iguodala
PG: DJ Augustin
Strongly Considered: Torrey Craig, Trey Lyles, Javale McGee
Commentary: There are six guys on this team that could be the leading scorer on a regular basis. That’s what would make them so dangerous: the balanced offensive threat. However, they don’t have a guy that can really take over a game. Plus, they may struggle to get stops on defense.
C: Al Horford
PF: Jae Crowder/Kelly Olynyk
SF: Gordon Hayward/Marcus Morris
SG: Avery Bradley/Terry Rozier
PG: Kyrie Irving/Rajon Rondo
Strongly Considered: Aron Baynes, Jeff Green, Enes Kanter
Commentary: This team seems…familiar. Maybe it’s because five of these guys were on the 2017-2018 Celtics team and 2018-2019 Celtics team that went to a conference finals and conference semifinals, respectively. Hayward and Irving give them a solid 1-2 punch on offense with some solid bench options in Morris and Rozier. Bradley, Crowder, and Horford provide solid defense and shooting. It’s not a terrifying team, but they’re certainly competitive.
C: Brook Lopez/Ivica Zubac
PF: Julius Randle
SF: Brandon Ingram/Danny Green
SG: Jordan Clarkson/Lou Williams
PG: D’Angelo Russell/Lonzo Ball
Also Eligible: Trevor Ariza, Kent Bazemore, Isaac Bonga, Reggie Bullock, Ed Davis, Wayne Ellington, Dwight Howard, Javale McGee, Mike Muscala, Svi Mykhailiuk, David Nwaba, Rajon Rondo, Moe Wagner
Commentary: Brook Lopez likely has his work cut out for him defensively, but this team can definitely get buckets. It also shows how good this organization has been at drafting over the past decade. Five of these players were drafted by the Lakers and Bryant, Hart, and Nance were on the cusp of making it, too. However, they also sold low on Bryant (waived), Russell (sweetener in a salary dump), and Zubac (flipped for Muscala).
C: Jonas Valanciunas/Marc Gasol
PF: Serge Ibaka/PJ Tucker
SF: Kawhi Leonard/Danny Green
SG: DeMar DeRozan
PG: Delon Wright/DJ Augustin
Also Eligible: Bismack Biyombo, Ed Davis, James Johnson, Cory Joseph, Alfonzo McKinnie, Patrick Patterson
Commentary: It pained Raptors fans to see an all-franchise great like DeMar DeRozan traded. Of course, the trade ended up paying off as Kawhi Leonard was able to lead the Raptors to the first championship in Raptors history. Now, this team gets to have both stars. Opponents will receive a heavy dose of death by mid-range from DeRozan and Leonard. This team also gets 48 minutes of solid big men play from Gasol and Valanciunas. Ibaka can also slide to the 5, as could Tucker for if they want to play some small ball.
C: Christian Wood/DeMarcus Cousins
PF: Anthony Davis/Julius Randle
SF: Buddy Hield/Trevor Ariza
PG: Chris Paul
Strongly Considered: Derrick Favors, Langston Galloway, Elfrid Payton, Austin Rivers, Rajon Rondo
Commentary: The Pelicans were just never able to find the right role players to fit around Anthony Davis before he was traded to the Lakers. This team, with an All-Star point guard that can get him the ball in the pick and roll, an elite shooter on the wing, and a big man that can play inside-out with him, is well balanced and fits well around Davis. What really puts them over the top is the bench. It has scoring with Cousins, Randle, and Gordon, but also another defensive option in Ariza (while Gordon is an underrated defender, too).
C: Nikola Vucevic/Christian Wood
PF: Robert Covington/Jerami Grant
SF: Jimmy Butler/Andre Iguodala
SG: JJ Redick/Josh Richardson
PG: Jrue Holiday
Strongly Considered: Justin Holiday, Richaun Holmes, Al Horford, TJ McConnell, Dario Saric, Landry Shamet, Lou Williams
Also Eligible: Trey Burke, Alec Burks, Michael Carter-Williams, James Ennis, Markelle Fultz, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, Boban Marjanovic, Javale McGee, Mike Muscala, Raul Neto, Nerlens Noel, Jahil Okafor, Glenn Robinson III, JaKarr Sampson, Ish Smith, Thad Young
Commentary: This is the rare team where what’s scariest about them is their potential on defense. Neither of the centers are known for their defense, but a lineup made up of five of Butler, Covington, Holiday, Grant, Iguodala, and Richardson could switch everything and make life tough for most offenses. Certainly, they also have a ton of offensive power between Butler and Vucevic along with an elite-shooter in Redick.
C: DeAndre Jordan/Montrezl Harrell
PF: Tobias Harris
SF: Danilo Gallinari/Avery Bradley
SG: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander/JJ Redick
PG: Chris Paul/Eric Bledsoe
Strongly Considered: Eric Gordon, JaMychal Green, Blake Griffin, Landry Shamet
Also Eligible: Al-Farouq Aminu, Reggie Bullock, Jared Dudley, Jeff Green, Mo Harkless, Boban Marjanovic, Rodney McGruder, Mike Muscala, Austin Rivers, Jerome Robinson, Mike Scott, Garrett Temple, Sindarius Thornwell
Commentary: Lob City is back!!! Well, sorta. Blake Griffin barely misses the cut here. He just hasn’t looked close to his usual self thus far. We’ve already seen how deadly a backcourt with Gilgeous-Alexander and Paul can be when they teamed up in Oklahoma City. They also have two scoring threats at forward with Harris and Gallinari and a rim protector in Jordan. The bench has a great mixture of scoring (Harrell), shooting (Redick), and defense (Bledsoe and Bradley).
C: Clint Capela/Montrezl Harrell
PF: Robert Covington/Trevor Ariza
SF: James Harden
SG: Kyle Lowry/Goran Dragic
PG: Chris Paul/Russell Westbrook
Strongly Considered: Patrick Beverly, Dwight Howard, Marcus Morris, Lou Williams
Also Eligible: Carmelo Anthony, Michael Carter-Williams, Gary Clark, Chris Chiozza, Marquese Chriss, James Ennis, Jeff Green, Isaiah Harteinstein, Patrick Patterson, Austin Rivers, Ish Smith, Garrett Temple
Commentary: Well, with James Harden now in Brooklyn, this team gets a superstar to add to their four All-Star point guards. If this team figures out how to share the ball (Harden and Paul had success, but Harden and Westbrook struggled to blend), then they’ll be deadly on offense. However, can they get enough stops? Capela and Covington are All-Defensive team level players at their best, Lowry and Paul have been solid defenders over their respective careers, but it’s not great after that. Ariza makes the team over Morris to give them another defender off the bench.
C: Tristan Thompson/Marquese Chriss
PF: LeBron James/Jae Crowder
SF: Danny Green
SG: Joe Harris/Seth Curry
PG: Kyrie Irving/George Hill
Strongly Considered: Alec Burks, Jordan Clarkson, Jeff Green, Rodney Hood, David Nwaba, Derrick Rose
Also Eligible: Wayne Ellington, Dante Exum, Alfonzo McKinnie, Cameron Payne
Commentary: Although this team doesn’t have a ton of star power outside of LeBron and Kyrie, it does have same pretty perfect role players. It has good to great shooters in Crowder, Curry, Green, Harris, and Hill. They’re solid enough defensively between Crowder, Green, James, and Thompson. Curry, Harris, and Hill are no slouches on defense either. This team could also go small with James at the 5 and surround him with four shooters. They’d be very tough to stop offensively. Chriss has shown enough as a backup big to make the team over some solid guards/wings that wouldn’t get much playing time due to the existing depth.
C: Domantas Sabonis/Steven Adams
PF: Kevin Durant/Danilo Gallinari
SF: Paul George
SG: James Harden/Victor Oladipo
PG: Chris Paul/Russell Westbrook
Strongly Considered: Jerami Grant, Enes Kanter, Serge Ibaka, Nerlens Noel, Dennis Schroder
Also Eligible: Carmelo Anthony, DJ Augustin, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, PJ Dozier, Terrance Ferguson, Jeff Green, Reggie Jackson, Jeremy Lamb, Jalen Lecque, Doug McDermott, Markieff Morris, Patrick Patterson, Cameron Payne, Ish Smith
Commentary: Well, the starting lineup has five All-Stars (including two MVPs). The bench has another two All-Stars (and MVP), plus two high-level role players. The only question really is could they figure out how to share one basketball? This just goes to show how incredible Sam Presti has been at collecting talent and his ability (luck?) to nail draft picks. It also probably pains Thunder fans to look at this and think about how the Durant-Harden-Westbrook trio was broken up after one championship appearance.