The Best All-Time NBA Starting Five with $15 Game


As you may have seen, recently came up with the idea of getting people to chose their all-time starting five but with a budget constraint.

The idea is that you have $15 to pick the best starting five you can, with prices given to different players.

Create an All-Time Starting Five with $15 | Click here to create & submit your team:

— (@Ballislife) May 29, 2014

If we ignore things like “good fit” and “chemistry” (Gregg Popovich would be fuming…), let’s try and put together the best statistical team we can.

Let’s measure each player by regular-season Win Shares (WS) and then take the best season of their career and assume that we get their performance from that season. WS is a way of measuring how many wins each player has contributed to his team’s total through their play and was developed by Basketball Reference, so we will use their numbers for this analysis.

May 27, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers partner

Magic Johnson

reacts during the game against the Cincinnati Reds at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Point Guard:

Magic Johnson – $5, 1989/90: 16.5WS

Oscar Robertson – $4, 64/65: 17.0WS

Isiah Thomas – $3, 84/85: 11.2WS

John Stockton – $2,88/89: 15.6WS

Walt Frazier – $1, 70/71: 15.6WS

We’ll take The Big O here because according to WS, his best season was better than any other point guard option. Interesting to see there’s no Chris Paul available in the original selection.

Dec 21, 2013; Charlotte, NC, USA; Charlotte Bobcats owner

Michael Jordan

unveils the new Charlotte Hornets logo at halftime during the game against the Utah Jazz at Time Warner Cable Arena. Mandatory Credit: Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

Shooting Guard:

Michael Jordan – $5 87/88: 21.2WS

Kobe Bryant – $4, 05/06: 15.3WS

Jerry West – $3, 65/66: 17.1WS

Clyde Drexler – $2, 87/88: 13.2WS

Dwyane Wade – $1, 08/09: 14.7WS

Given how much better Jordan’s best season was than anyone else’s, its an easy decision here. It’ll cost the full $5, but its worth it for arguably the best player in the world.

May 28, 2014; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Miami Heat forward

LeBron James

answers questions during a press conference following game five against the Indiana Pacers of the Eastern Conference Finals of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Indiana defeats Miami 93-90. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Small Forward:

LeBron James – $5, 08/09: 20.3WS

Larry Bird – $4, 15.8, 85/86: 15.8WS

Julius Erving – $3, 80/81: 13.8WS

Kevin Durant – $2, 13/14: 19.2WS

Scottie Pippen – $1, 96/96: 13.1WS

The difference between LeBron’s best season and Durant’s is only 1.1WS, but Durant costs $3 less. We’ll keep Durant and save that $3 for a rainy day.

Feb 15, 2014; New Orleans, LA, USA; NBA former player

Karl Malone

before the 2014 NBA All Star Shooting Stars competition at Smoothie King Center. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Power Forward:

Karl Malone – $5, 96/97: 16.7WS

Charles Barkley – $4, 89/90: 17.3WS

Tim Duncan – $3, 01/02: 17.8WS

Dirk Nowitzki – $2, 05/06: 17.7WS

Kevin Garnett – $1, 03/04: 18.3WS

Another easy decision here—apparently Garnett’s best season was better than any of these other power forwards. Not sure I would agree with that, but stats are stats so let’s take Garnett for only $1.

Feb 16, 2014; New Orleans, LA, USA; NBA legend

Bill Russell

speaks during a special tribute to him during the 2014 NBA All-Star Game Legends Brunch at Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports


Kareem Abdul-Jabbar – $5, 71/72: 25.4WS

Bill Russell – $4, 63/64: 17.3WS

Wilt Chamberlain – $3, 63/64: 25.0WS

Shaquille O’Neal – $2, 99/00: 18.6WS

Hakeem Olajuwon – $1, 92/93: 15.8WS

With only $3 left for our final position, we can take Wilt Chamberlain and be happy about it. Abdul-Jabbar was only .4WS  better than Wilt the Stilt, so we can’t really argue with having a bit of a drop off here in order to pick up some extra WS earlier.

Starting Five:

Oscar Robertson, Michael Jordan, Kevin Durant, Kevin Garnett, Wilt Chamberlain

This $15 lineup gives us a total of 105.7 Win Shares. While I’m surprised that Tim Duncan’s best season isn’t rated higher and Chamberlain’s season is actually rated higher than MJ’s, this is statistically the best team we can put out under the budget.

Obviously, if you really wanted the best team possible, you would take into account how each player would complement the others, and you could possibly chose to play someone out of position.

If I was picking based on the eye test, rather than on stats, my five would be: John Stockton ($2), Michael Jordan ($5), Larry Bird ($4), Tim Duncan ($3), and Hakeem Olajuwon ($1). This team would have post-scoring from Hakeem, outside shooting from the three perimeter players and defensive excellence at three of the five positions, not to mention the brilliance of Jordan. Skill set and personality-wise, these five would fit together like a child’s puzzle.

Let us know on Twitter (@AirAlamo), who your best team would be —we will retweet the best ones!

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