Give and Go: 2014 All-Star Game draft: Team Golliver vs. Team Mahoney
Golliver: Roy Hibbert, Pacers
Snagging Hibbert next completes my play for paint domination. If Howard gets too distracted shooting half-court shots or chumming it up with the courtside celebrities, or if it gets late in the game and we need a big man to shoot free throws, Hibbert is the perfect option. The landslide favorite to win the 2014 Defensive Player of the Year award, Hibbert is a rim-protecting menace whose presence should help encourage James, George and Curry to spend most of their time around the arc. Grabbing the Howard/Hibbert tandem ensures that they won’t be canceling each other out, and it puts the likes of Noah, Chris Bosh, LaMarcus Aldridge, Kevin Love or Anthony Davis in a tough match-up. Taking two centers even when I have massive holes at the off guard and power forward positions is a bit risky, but there’s more than enough depth at the four in this year’s pool and I think the threat of interior pounding will force Rob to look inside, leaving some of the best remaining guards on the table.
Mahoney: Kevin Love, Timberwolves
Mission accomplished, Ben. Snagging Howard and Hibbert in tandem was a brilliant move, and one that puts me in a bit of a panic as I look to fill out my frontcourt. That’s a lot of size and defensive help off the board, and I had been hoping to grab at least one of those two to round out my starting lineup.
It seems way too early, though, to grab one of the few defensive bigs available, so for now I’ll look to satisfy another need: A rebounding forward who can help space the floor. As much as I love the added level of dynamism that drafting a player like Blake Griffin might bring, I really need to space the floor now that Ben will have one of Hibbert or Howard hanging in the paint at all times. My options, then, come down to Kevin Love and LaMarcus Aldridge — two of the best power forwards in the West and the league this season. For this particular roster I like Love a bit better; I won’t likely need Aldridge to force tough mid-range shots with the wealth of creative talent at the helm, and Love does a bit more for me offensively when he doesn’t have the ball in his hands.
I realize, though, that I now have two troubling defenders in my projected starting lineup while Ben has none. That’s not optimal, but Curry and Love are both so blisteringly effective on offense as to quell most of my concerns. When you can’t hold your opponent under 100 points, just score 150 and be done with it.
Mahoney: Anthony Davis, Pelicans
Davis doesn’t register the defensive impact of Howard or Hibbert, but in lieu of absolute defensive ability I’m opting to make a play for fit. Having James and George on the wings gives me a lot of freedom in terms of defensive style, but I’m hoping for something fast and frenetic — not at all unlike Erik Spoelstra’s system for the Heat. With such a system in mind, Davis is ideal. He can pressure ball handlers in pick-and-roll situations, recover in time to defend the rim, and swoop in to block shots from all angles to make up for lapses elsewhere in the lineup.
He’s also such an incredible two-way talent that I don’t mind drafting him this early, especially when his vertical potential completely transforms my pick-and-roll game. Can you imagine how deadly this sequence (courtesy of Zach Lowe) would be with James initiating, Davis and Love as the double screeners, and Curry and George in the corners?
Golliver: Dwyane Wade, Heat
It’s time to draft for positional need. With Bryant out of commission, I will take Dwyane Wade, who again fits our two-way emphasis as the best all-around player at his position in this year’s pool. Remember, this game isn’t a back-to-back grinder or a seven-game road trip. It’s a one-time exhibition where Wade can be expected to fully test his knee, just like he has during the 2012 and 2013 playoffs. Wade is the league’s top-rated shooting guard by PER (21.7) and while he won’t be winning his match-up against either James or George, he will easily ensure they don’t abandon him to harass Durant with double teams. Pairing him with Paul in the backcourt should make for plenty of steals and transition opportunities, and any relatively easy points in the open court will be gold in a game with this much talent. The two-guard position isn’t particularly deep in this year’s All-Star Game and Wade is easily the most experienced, trustworthy and committed option from a group that also includes James Harden (one-way player), DeMar DeRozan (improved but not a real factor in the discussion) and Joe Johnson (hilarious to even type his name in this sentence). Picking Wade as the top two is also a preferable option to trying to make a Durant/Carmelo Anthony combination work by playing one of the two players out of position.
Golliver: LaMarcus Aldridge, Blazers
The last remaining hole in my lineup — power forward — just got filled with arguably the league’s best player at the position. It doesn’t get much better than that in round six. Adding Aldridge to the current roster group offers a “What could have been” glimpse: The Blazers chased Hibbert in the 2012 restricted free agency period, and the Rockets were loosely linked in rumors to Aldridge with the goal of teaming him with Howard. The 6-foot-11 Aldridge will join those two centers plus Durant to make an impossibly long frontline, and he should thrive playing his preferred four spot alongside a traditional center. It’s true that Aldridge might not have the requisite flash to an “All-Star Game” player, but he’s a versatile defender whose mid-range and catch-and-shoot abilities will be one last protection against opponents wanting to over-commit to Durant. While this team won’t give Aldridge the total green light that he has with the Blazers, his team-first approach and unselfish nature — not to mention his career-high numbers (24.3 points, 11.6 rebounds, 2.8 assists) across the board — will be a welcome addition.
Team Golliver’s starting five is now complete: Paul, Wade, Durant, Aldridge and Howard.
Mahoney: Joakim Noah, Bulls
With Aldridge off the board, there’s no more messing around: I need to add dependable defensive bigs in a hurry. Noah is perfect — he’s again been one of the very best team defenders in the league this season, and in Chicago has experience compensating for both D.J. Augustin and Carlos Boozer. That gives him plenty of functional background in accounting for Love and Curry, while more generally serving as the co-anchor of my team defense.
I’d obviously prefer if Noah were a better finisher, though at this stage I’ll gladly take his transformative defense and ability to facilitate the offense. With so many lethal catch-and-shoot options curling around screens, Noah will be a genuine asset as a high-post passer. He also gives me two of the top-three rebounders in the game, with ample rebounding help from both George and James. Ben got a borderline monopoly on size early, but this group now has the ability to leverage its speed and shooting without giving up too much defensively or n the glass.
Mahoney: Chris Bosh, Heat
Passing on Griffin again is brutal, but Bosh really enhances my roster’s flexibility. If the defense starts to go off the rails, I could trot out a frontcourt of James, Bosh, and Noah — three mobile and intuitive defenders who could lock things down in a hurry. If spacing becomes an issue, then Bosh could slide in at center to put a shooter at every position. He’s a complementary fit with every player I’ve chosen so far, and outstanding in coverage for the system I’m hoping in pursue. Again I’m giving up a bit in terms of pure talent, but for a one-game competition I want to make sure my team fits together just so.
Golliver: Blake Griffin, Clippers
Now that we’re into the bench selections, I’m putting a premium on creating potential mismatches. Team Mahoney’s Love/Bosh/Noah/Davis frontline can do a lot, but I’m not sure it includes a great answer for Blake Griffin, in large part because there isn’t really a great answer for Griffin. The Clippers forward ranks in the top five among power forwards with a 23.4 PER, and his expanding game has earned plenty of deserved praise for keeping L.A. afloat during Paul’s injury absence. Adding Griffin to this mix is all about offering a contrasting look to Aldridge: Griffin’s combination of pure speed, power, and athleticism will wreak havoc in short bursts off the bench. The presence of Howard and Hibbert should easily cover up for Griffin’s lack of length on the defensive end.