One of the most common debates in all of sports is if you were a general manager of a sports franchise and you were starting from scratch to draft a player you would build your franchise around, who would you select?
In this edition of “with the first pick”, I will give you my top five players in the NBA that I would take first overall to build my franchise around.
Honorable Mentions – Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Anthony Davis, Karl Anthony-Towns, and Ben Simmons.
5) Kawhi Leonard, SAS
Leonard is arguably the best two way player in the NBA. The former two-time defensive player of the year can guard any player on the floor and dominate. On the other end of the floor, he has developed into a very good scorer averaging over 25 PPG in the 2016-17.
Where he loses it for me is his passing and rebounding. He is a good, not great rebounder and has only averaged over 3 APG once in his career. But, you cannot deny his defense and scoring. He is an NBA champion and a Finals MVP.
Had he not gotten injured last year, he might have even defeated the Golden State Warriors in the playoffs last season. Leonard is only 26 and will be in the prime of his career for the next several years.
4) LeBron James, CLE
The only reason I do not have LeBron listed at number one is because of his age. I am projecting LeBron to play at peak level for another three, four years. Every player loses a step and breaks down at the end of their career (a la Kobe Bryant) and father time always catches up.
Also, I don’t trust LeBron’s loyalty. If he doesn’t get what he wants, he may bolt. Other than those two concerns, what can’t LeBron do? He has won three NBA finals, multiple MVP awards and has more individual trophies than almost any player in NBA history. He rarely misses games to injury and he makes everyone around him better.
My only negative take on LeBron’s playing style and ability is that he does not have that killer instinct in the closing minutes of games like Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan had. He also needs to improve his jump shot because when his body breaks down, it will be much harder for him to get into the paint and create high percentage shots. He will have to adapt.
3) Stephen Curry, GSW
It kind of helps selecting the greatest shooter of all-time with the number one pick to build my franchise around. The evolution of Curry over the years has been exciting to watch. He puts up Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant stat lines and spreads the floor better than any other player in the league.
He is another player who makes others around him better; could we honestly say Draymond Green and Klay Thompson would be as successful had the not had Curry on their team? Jump shooters can play for a long time in the NBA, and I don’t see Curry losing his touch any time soon. Remember, Durant needed Steph to win a championship, not the other way around.
Curry has beaten LeBron, he has beaten the Spurs and every other great team in the NBA. He is definitely a player to build a team around. My negative on Curry is his defense. He is fortunate to have outstanding defensive players to help him out (Thompson and Green). I don’t trust Curry locking down opposing point guards in crunch time situations, and would rather him playing the opposing two-guard who is away and off from the ball.
2) Giannis Antetokounmbo, MIL
What is not to love about the “Greek Freak”? The Bucks found a diamond in the rough in the 2013 NBA draft. His PPG and RPG have increased every single year he has been in the Association.
He is the most athletic player in the NBA (step aside Westbrook) and is a mismatch nightmare for opposing teams. His combination of length, wingspan, speed and power create problems for defenses to contain. We really don’t know what Antetokounmbo’s ceiling is. If your numbers are going up every season, then the only way to find out how high a players ceiling is, is when the player’s numbers start becoming consistent rather than on the rise.
Giannis is one of the top three most efficient players in the NBA and with the right talent around him could easily win an NBA championship within the next few years. He is only 22 years old and still has plenty of room to grow as a player. He can play the three or the four and can guard multiple positions. He is definitely a player I would love to build a team around.
1) Kristaps Porzingis, NYK
What a start to 2017 KP6 is having. The Knicks are actually competitive and Porzingis is in the running for MVP. How can you stop a 7’3” big man who can shoot it from anywhere in the gym and can post up on any player in the league? He can beat you in any way on offense and is a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses.
The NBA has never seen a player with KP’s unique skill set at his size. Porzingis is clutch as well. He led the Knicks to 4th quarter wins against the Hornets and Pacers earlier in the season when down double digits heading into the final quarter and is one of the most efficient players on the court in the final quarter of games.
On the defensive side, he is a much underrated rim protector and ranks in the top three in the NBA in blocked shots. Even if he is not blocking shots, a player trying to score on a seven footer? Good luck. He is more likely than not to alter opposing player’s shots.
He has turned into a dynamic two way player, and putting on much needed strength and weight has transformed him into being a monster on both ends of the floor. Like Giannis, he is only 22 years old! His numbers have increased every year of being in the league.
Franchise centers/power forwards are very hard to come by. So when you see one with a skill set like this, you take him. It is only a matter of time that free agents are going to want to play in New York all thanks to Kristaps Porzingis.