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The perfect NBA superstar doesn’t exist?
Bleacher Report asked five NBA analysts to piece together the ideal star using five attributes from current players. Here are the categories we presented to them:
- Playmaking (For the purpose of our exercise, playmaking covered passing, handles and basketball IQ)
And here’s how the draft took place:
- Snake-style draft with a random order in the first round.
- All current NBA players are eligible until drafted.
- Writers may draft player attributes in any order but may only draft a single attribute once.
For example: If you draft Stephen Curry‘s jumper, you may not draft another jumper, and nobody else may draft Curry.
*The results of this draft also determined attribute pricing in Bleacher Report’s $15 challenge with one exception. How would you build your own custom NBA superstar? Check out the B/R App and let us know.
From a Zion Williamson-Luka Doncic combo to the LeBron James-Boban Marjanovic hybrid you didn’t know you needed in your life, here are five custom players built to take over the league.
1. Zach Buckley’s Superstar
Morry Gash/Associated Press
First Pick: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Size/Athleticism (1st overall)
Second Pick: Kevin Durant, Jumper (10)
Third Pick: Kyrie Irving, Playmaking (11)
Fourth Pick: Bam Adebayo, Defense (20)
Fifth Pick: Pascal Siakam, Finishing (21)
Draft Strategy Going In: You know the adage about how you can’t coach size? Well, you definitely can’t coach a 6’11”, 242-pounder who’s able to glide like a guard, leap like a high-jumper and go end-to-end in all of three dribbles. So, I knew I wanted all of Giannis Antetokounmpo’s size and athleticism, and then I’d focus on the few areas the real-life version could sharpen.
Why My Player Tops The Rest: Jumper and handles were next on the priority list, and when I started scanning the player pool to set my board for Rounds 2 and 3, I didn’t even put Kevin Durant’s shooting or Kyrie Irving’s handle on it. I never thought they’d make it back to me. When they did, I raced to the podium for those two no-brainer picks.
After outfitting my Giannis build with KD’s butter-soft jumper and Uncle Drew’s dizzying handles, I (mostly) jokingly considered forfeiting my remaining picks to give everyone else a chance. My Frankenhooper was already a cheat code, and I hadn’t even addressed finishing or defense yet. Once Bam Adebayo’s defensive versatility and Pascal Siakam’s around-the-rim arsenal joined the fold, I had spawned a generational star.
Antetokounmpo’s blend of length, agility, strength and explosiveness is unrivaled. Durant is a 50/40/90 club member who splashes at every level and in every situation: off the dribble or catch, fading away, with hands in his face. Irving has the best handles in the game; even if he’s more of a good passer than a great one, he’s closer to the best distributors in that department than they are to him in dribbling.
Adebayo can defend all five positions and is the fifth-rated stopper by ESPN’s defensive real plus-minus. Leveling up his physical tools to Giannis’ could add elite rim protection to the mix. Siakam can explode for monster dunks, but he also has great touch around the basket and a 71.7 percent conversion rate inside of three feet since the start of 2017-18.
I know I’m a biased observer here, but this looks like the game’s next unstoppable force and immovable object.
2. Sean Highkin’s Superstar
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First Pick: Ben Simmons, Playmaking (2nd overall)
Second Pick: Damian Lillard, Jumper (9)
Third Pick: Kawhi Leonard, Defense (12)
Fourth Pick: De’Aaron Fox, Finishing (19)
Fifth Pick: Mitchell Robinson, Size/Athleticism (22)
Draft Strategy Going In: My draft strategy going in was a mix of best-player-available and scarcity of skill. I could have easily taken Steph Curry’s shot in the first round, but there are far more great shooters in the current NBA than there are genius-level playmakers like Simmons.
Why My Player Tops The Rest: The Simmons pick was partially to prove a point—the awkward fit with Joel Embiid and lack of a jump shot has created a tendency among the greater basketball-watching public to focus entirely on his flaws and ignore that he’s a generational talent as a passer and floor general. Plus, I was able to cover up his fatal flaw (shooting) with “Logo Lillard” in the second round.
Kawhi Leonard’s defense in Round 3 was a no-brainer in terms of value. The two-time Defensive Player of the Year is the most destructive perimeter defender in the league. He became an obvious pick when we got to the middle of the draft and no one else had taken anyone’s defensive skills yet.
I rounded it out with the finishing of one of the fastest point guards in the NBA, De’Aaron Fox, who was shooting 67.3 percent at the rim before the season got shut down.
I went a little under the radar for my last pick, but a player who can shoot like Dame, pass like Simmons, defend on the wing like Kawhi and finish through contact like Fox in the body of 7-foot shot-blocking machine Mitchell Robinson is pretty devastating.
3. Will Gottlieb’s Superstar
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First Pick: Stephen Curry, Jumper (3rd overall)
Second Pick: James Harden, Playmaking (8)
Third Pick: Anthony Davis, Size/Athleticism (13)
Fourth Pick: Jimmy Butler, Finishing (18)
Fifth Pick: Draymond Green, Defense (23)
Draft Strategy Going In: My general strategy was to start by identifying one specific trait I felt was transcendent—one skill around which I could build that would automatically make this player elite. Stephen Curry’s shooting was an easy choice. Now, I’m already at an advantage no one else can catch.
Why My Player Tops The Rest: From there, I wanted to find a way to complement the shooting ability.
Offensive initiators need to be able to score and make plays at an elite level, and James Harden’s combination of ball-handling to get into off-the-dribble shots, skill to pass teammates open and basketball IQ felt like a steal in Round 2. And the only way to level up a player with this much skill was to put him in the uber-athletic, uber-long body of Anthony Davis (6’10”, 253 lbs).
With two selections to go, four picks needed to be made for finishing ability and only two picks remained for defense. I felt I could get a great defensive option with my last pick, so I chose Jimmy Butler’s finishing. His foul-drawing ability makes this player an analytical dream. Finally, I was able to select Draymond Green’s defense with my fifth-round pick.
This player would be the perfect franchise cornerstone in every way. Curry’s shooting is a game-breaker that changes the way defenses operate and amplifies every other offensive strength, both on an individual and team level. He can fly off screens and catch-and-shoot threes at the highest level or create on his own and always give you a great look in isolation, especially with the help of Harden’s playmaking.
Giving this player Davis’ combination of size and athleticism is unfair. Good luck trying to block one of his shots. Those physical traits also allow him to screen in pick-and-rolls, either popping out and shooting threes like Curry or diving to the basket with the ability to catch lobs over anyone.
The otherworldly shooting and hypnotizing handle to launch live-dribble threes play well off each other and will create plenty of driving lanes for this Davis-sized Frankenhooper to get to the rim and the line.
Butler, a 63.7 percent finisher in the restricted area, ranks in the 100th percentile at drawing free throws for his position. His layup package may not be flashy, but it’s effective. He can finish acrobatically, and with Davis’ bounce, he will probably be able to dunk everything.
Green, truly an all-time-great basketball mind with the versatility to defend every position and quarterback the defense at an elite level, was a bargain with my last pick. His defensive acumen allows him to play free safety or lock down the opposing team’s best offensive player. In Davis’ body, Green won’t be required to be a small-ball center but can still guard positions 1-5.
With no flaws in his game, this hybrid has the selflessness to play alongside any cast but the isolation skill and scoring ability to get you a bucket in the closing possession of a Finals game. If for some reason he has an off shooting night, the ability to get to the rim and the line will always give him a high floor through incredible efficiency. This player is an auto-mismatch who can take advantage of any scenario.
4. Greg Swartz’s Superstar
Harry How/Getty Images
First Pick: LeBron James, Playmaking (4th overall)
Second Pick: Klay Thompson, Jumper (7)
Third Pick: Rudy Gobert, Defense (14)
Fourth Pick: Russell Westbrook, Finishing (17)
Fifth Pick: Boban Marjanovic, Size/Athleticism (24)
Draft Strategy Going In: I knew I needed an elite skill to start with and to make a statement, I had LeBron James’ passing/basketball IQ and Stephen Curry’s shooting at the top of my list. From there, I wanted to take the best skill available while also covering for my current weaknesses. I knew the competition would be intense.
Why My Player Tops the Rest: I was lucky enough to land LeBron’s passing/basketball IQ with the fourth overall pick, and then I wanted to make sure I had some elite shooting. With Curry off the board, I went with the next best thing in Klay Thompson, who’s never shot under 40.1 percent from three in his eight years.
Defense isn’t the sexiest aspect to draft for, but with all these Monstar-level players, my guy had to be able to protect the rim. Going with back-to-back Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert was a no-brainer.
To put the final touches on my player, I needed some aggressiveness and finishing ability. Russell Westbrook was the obvious choice since his 6.4 made shots per game in the restricted area are only bested by Zion Williamson and Giannis Antetokounmpo.
To put all of this skill into a frame, I considered Paul George, but that was just too boring. Instead, imagine Boban Marjanovic’s 7’4″, 290-pound frame now being able to pass like LeBron, shoot like Klay, attack like Russ and lock down on D like Gobert.
How is anyone stopping that?
5. Andy Bailey’s Superstar
Michael Ainsworth/Associated Press
First Pick: Zion Williamson, Size/Athleticism (5th overall)
Second Pick: Luka Doncic, Playmaking (6)
Third Pick: Duncan Robinson, Jumper (15)
Fourth Pick: Patrick Beverley, Defense (16)
Fifth Pick: John Collins, Finishing (25)
Draft Strategy Going In: I needed to lay a solid foundation right off the bat, which is why I started with the physicality of Zion Williamson. After that, it was all about finding hyper-specialists in each of the remaining categories. I wanted players who were statistically elite at each spot rather than just the biggest names.
Why My Player Tops the Rest: With apologies to the other esteemed participants, I think I may have stumbled upon the ideal build for an NBA player.
We’ve never seen someone with the combination of size and athleticism possessed by Zion (6’6″, 285 lbs). Charles Barkley might be the closest comparison, but Zion is like a Chuck/Shaquille O’Neal hybrid.
That sort of physicality with Luka Doncic’s playmaking and vision is plenty scary right off the bat. There was a temptation to go with Trae Young’s playmaking there, but the similar heights of Williamson and Doncic led me to believe that combination would be superior. Height is a big part of surveying the floor, and interconnectedness of each category wound up being a theme for me.
None of these attributes exist in a vacuum.
For example, some players’ finishing abilities might be worthless without their athleticism. John Collins’ ability around the rim, though, might even be better with Zion’s athleticism, and he was already shooting 72.1 percent on shots within five feet of the rim. Nikola Jokic’s flip shots and footwork were tempting here, but Collins’ ability to play above the rim seemed to fit this mold a bit better.
Adding Duncan Robinson’s jump shot to that mold is outrageous.
Steve Novak and Stephen Curry are the only players in league history with seasons that matched Robinson’s 2019-20 levels of volume and efficiency from three. And he shot an absurd 40.6 percent on 160 three-point attempts against “tight” coverage (closest defender two-to-four feet away). Again, just that with Zion’s athleticism is probably an instant MVP candidate.
But that’s not all. We still have defense to consider. I gave some thought to rim protectors, but I wanted my player to be more positionless. Perimeter defense fit that idea a bit better. And while Patrick Beverley received great marks from defensive catch-alls like RPM, it’s mostly his tenacity that I was after.
Put it all together and I’m pretty sure I’d have someone ready to crash the GOAT party with Michael Jordan and LeBron James.
Mike Monroe of The Athletic joins “The Full 48 with Howard Beck” to discuss the Hall of Fame NBA class of 2020 including Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan and former Houston Rockets coach Rudy Tomjanovich.