Just the other day, I had a genius idea for an offseason blog post - something that would delight the SS&R readership and inspire the site's board of directors to lavish me with praise and cash prizes. (Our board of directors, by the way, consists of Josh. He rules the SS&R Empire from deep within a remote island fortress, in front of a bank of surveillance monitors that keep the writers under watch at all times. He's even watching you through your computer as you read this! Also, there's a rare Bengal tiger at his feet that he keeps as a pet, so please refrain from any sudden movements.)
Unfortunately, right when I had this brilliant idea a pigeon scared the hell out of me when he landed nearby. Those beady eyes freak me out! Away from my Kettle Chips, flying carp! By the time this chilling encounter ended, I'd forgotten what I was going to write about, so I dusted off a thesis topic of substantially diminished imagination and splendor:
Hey, what if we all got together and had an all-time Laker fantasy draft? I'm just saying, what if? Yeah, well, I'd like to see you come up with something better.
Suitably impressed with my ingenuity Apparently as bored with the offseason as I am, my colleagues agreed to humor me with their participation. The all-time fantasy draft was ON AND POPPIN'.
On the other side of the jump, see how the action played out, and learn of your own role in this grand undertaking. Don't let that pigeon win! (This poll will make more sense when you see what's after the jump.)
The rules were straightforward but ruthlessly enforced: each writer - there are six of us - had to draft a six-man team, plus a coach. Random, snaking draft order. Every current and former Laker player and coach was eligible to be picked. You had to draft on the basis of performance as a Laker.... in other words, if you drafted Karl Malone, your imaginary team got the 2004 edition of the Mailman, not the 1997 MVP model. Picking someone who has yet to play a game as a Laker - that is, Ron Artest - is a speculative play.
Now gaze upon the results! (Overall draft position is indicated in parentheses.)
Position C.A. Clark Dexter Sideout11 Josh ryebreadraz WildYams PG Byron Scott (14) Norm Nixon (21) Jerry West (5) G. Goodrich (11) Magic (1) Elgin Baylor (7) SG A. Dantley (15) Eddie Jones (16) M. Cooper (17) Kobe Bryant (2) Lucius Allen (25) C. Ceballos (18) SF C. Lovellette (22) L. Odom (28) Ron Artest (41) H. Hairston (23) Jim Pollard (12) Glen Rice (42) PF B. McAdoo (34) Pau Gasol (9) R. Horry (20) J. Worthy (10) V. Mikkelsen (13) R. LaRusso (31) C Abdul-Jabbar (3) Shaq O'Neal (4) G. Mikan (8) A. Bynum (35) Vlade Divac (25) Chamberlain (6) 6th Man Trevor Ariza (39) D. Fisher (33) N. Van Exel (29) Gary Payton (38) Jim Price (37) J. Wilkes (19) Coach Phil Jackson (26) Breda Kolff (40) Kurt Rambis (32) Pat Riley (27) John Kundla (36) Bill Sharman (30)
Byron Scott (14)
Norm Nixon (21)
Jerry West (5)
G. Goodrich (11)
Elgin Baylor (7)
A. Dantley (15)
Eddie Jones (16)
M. Cooper (17)
Kobe Bryant (2)
Lucius Allen (25)
C. Ceballos (18)
C. Lovellette (22)
L. Odom (28)
Ron Artest (41)
H. Hairston (23)
Jim Pollard (12)
Glen Rice (42)
B. McAdoo (34)
Pau Gasol (9)
R. Horry (20)
J. Worthy (10)
V. Mikkelsen (13)
R. LaRusso (31)
Shaq O'Neal (4)
G. Mikan (8)
A. Bynum (35)
Vlade Divac (25)
Trevor Ariza (39)
D. Fisher (33)
N. Van Exel (29)
Gary Payton (38)
Jim Price (37)
J. Wilkes (19)
Phil Jackson (26)
Breda Kolff (40)
Kurt Rambis (32)
Pat Riley (27)
John Kundla (36)
Bill Sharman (30)
(Explanatory note: the above table reflects the results of a post-draft trade. Josh initially drafted both Worthy and Riles but traded them to C.A.C. for Phil and Byron Scott.)
Now here's where you come in. We want you all to decide who among us did the finest job as Make-Believe Laker GM. After hearing each of us state the case for our teams, cast your vote below for which squad you think would kick the most ass. Please choose carefully - your opinion is very important to us! Mostly because we all have terrible self-esteem.
C.A. Clark (Kareem, Byron Scott, Dantley, Lovelette, McAdoo and Ariza, coached by Phil Jackson): For starters, I drafted well. Really well. I managed to draft five Hall of Famers, and only one came from the old-school Minneapolis Lakers, from an era where athleticism wasn't quite what it is today. I drafted so well that I felt comfortable trading away a Hall of Famer (James Worthy) for a decent point guard (Byron Scott), just so I could get my hands on Phil Jackson. No one else came close to my talent level, in my opinion, and my picks didn't come at the expense of a good fit either.
Why so much effort for Phil? Sure, the ten championships are nice, the ability to handle numerous egos is a plus given the talent on the roster, but the reason I was desperate for PJ is quite simple. I wanted the Triangle. See, the Lakers are a storied franchise with a host of great players at all positions except one, point guard. Outside of Magic, the pickings get slim real quick, in terms of a pure point. So I built my team around the Triangle and then had to make something happen to ensure I got the coach who uses it.
Anyway, my team is pretty well stacked and pretty well balanced. I have the Captain manning the post, and if Pau Gasol is the perfect Triangle post player, then Kareem is perfect-er. One of, if not the, best passing big men in Lakers history, and armed with a quite literally unstoppable shot. I've got Dantley as a poor man's Kobe on the wing, with McAdoo and Lovelette (the second-most talented of the old Lakers, behind Mikan) as hybrid 3's and 4's. Scott is there for defense and shooting (probably the best pure three-point shooter in Laker's history, discounting Radmanovic). The team's biggest weakness is defensively at the 3, so I have Ariza as my sixth man who can also provide additional three-point shooting, and he can easily become the starter with either McAdoo or Lovelette becoming the sixth man. I suppose the team is a little undersized at power forward, but McAdoo was a big 6'9", and Lovelette averaged double digit rebounds, so either one would be able to hold their own. It's a strong defensive team, an even stronger offensive team, and running the best offensive system there is, if Magic isn't an option. Oh, and four out of my six players have a Effective FG well over 50% from the field, including both of my guards.
Note* Since I, more than any other person involved, drafted players who didn't necessarily have their prime in LA, I wanted to take a second to explain what Dantley and McAdoo were providing my team. Dantley, in a little under two years with the Lakers, averaged roughly 21 points and 7 rebounds on 51.5% shooting. McAdoo averaged roughly 21 points and 7 boards on 50% shooting. Both of these stats are measured per 36 minutes. Sorry for the extra word count here, but I felt it was important that people understand what I was getting within the scope of the rules.
Dexter (Shaq, Pau, Eddie Jones, Norm Nixon, Odom and Fish, coached by Butch Van Breda Kolff): I don't want to overstate my case, but this is an essentially perfect team. Inside muscle, outside gunnery, deft passing and damn, lookit all that length on defense! Can you imagine Shaq and Pau together on a front line? I can, and it makes me very happy.
Keep in mind, this is vintage threepeat-era Shaq, the monster who ruled the basketball world without challenge. It's too easy to forget now in light of his late-career flab accrual, but in his prime Shaq was in the discussion for best center of all time. And no, you don't get to double-team him, because Pau is just a short dish away. With these twin towers on the floor, rebounds and layups are off the menu for any and all opponents.
The perimeter crew is nothing to scoff at, either. Eddie Jones had some sterling years as a Laker before becoming the key piece in the Glen Rice acquisition. I've got Norm Nixon as a classic passing-and-defense point guard, and as for Fish and Odom, you know how they do.
My coach, Butch Van Breda Kolff, may not be familiar to some of you youngsters, but he had a good little run in Los Angeles. Helming the Lakers in 1968 and 1969, he won 66% of his games and fell just short of a ring. Maybe he wouldn't be my first choice among all-time Laker coaches, but with the overwhelming on-court talent I've assembled, not even Isiah Thomas could screw this up.
Sideout11 (West, Mikan, Cooper, Horry, Van Exel and Artest, coached by Kurt Rambis): This team is a very well balanced one, both offensively and defensively. On offense just about anything is possible with The Logo himself running the point. He can go inside to Mikan, drive and dish to Horry or Artest, or just take it himself. Putting West at PG also ensures that the offense runs through him each and every time. which leads to good things. Mikan, while not overwhelmingly dominant on the inside, is very solid offensively and more than tough enough to hold his own against he likes of Shaq, Chamberlain and Kareem. Plus, I think that the man who paved the way for everyone else with the Mikan Drill would put on quite a show against his disciples. I have Van Exel coming off of the bench and not starting because he is a very offensive minded player, so I think he will provide a nice spark when spelling West or Cooper.
Everyone knows that defense wins championships, and I don't think you could put together a much better defensive Lakers team than this one. Mikan is the big bruiser in the middle, West matches up well at the point, and Coop and Artest are two of the best defenders the league has ever seen, ensuring that the wing turns into no-man's land. My only worry is Horry, but he is good at drawing charges and hopefully his offense will compensate for his defensive woes. Of course, all of these defenders are being led by another tough-guy, Coach Rambis.
Overall I am very happy with my team. I would have like to snagged a traditional PF like Lamar Odom, but I missed him by one pick. Although he has yet to prove himself as a Laker, I think that Ron Artest was a real steal at #41. Of course, should all else fail, Big Shot Bob will save the day, galloping off into the night with his hands behind his back.
Josh (Kobe, Goodrich, Worthy, Happy Hairston, Bynum and Payton, coached by Pat Riley): Why do I think my team will win? Let's start with the simplest, most obvious of reasons: What is the Lakers' track record when Kobe Bryant is paired with another star player and a top-tier coach? Not invincible, but close. Gail Goodrich was such a player. He consistently led the Lakers (and the Suns, during his brief stint with them) in scoring. You know that Lakers record we're all so proud of - the 33-game winning streak? That year, the Lakers won 69 games (an all-time record at the time), and then went on to win the championship. Gail Goodrich was their leading scorer that year.
Add Kobe Bryant to the picture, and you really don't even need any more star players, do you? Just some good support and a big man who can defend, and that's a championship on a platter, most years.
I originally drafted Phil Jackson as coach, but traded him to C.A. Clark for Pat Riley and James Worthy. Personally, I'm pretty happy with the deal. Like PJ, Riley has taken some flack over an apparent inability (or lack of interest) in the development of young talent and rebuilding teams - but like PJ, Riley is a coach that knows how to win when he's got a team with the talent for it.
Fortunately for me, the rest of my guys aren't mere role players. Happy Hairston was like a better Lamar Odom - a rebounding machine at small forward, but a better scorer. In his best year as a Laker, he put up 20.6 PPG and 12.5 RPG. And James Worthy at power forward? Well, that's recent enough not to need much explanation. Together, in their best years as Lakers, these four players (Gail, Kobe, Happy, James) averaged 103.3 points per game - and we've still got room for one more guy on the court!
Gary Payton is a solid backup at the point guard position; in fact, he could easily start, were it not for Gail. Sure, his best days were as a Sonic, but 14.6, 5.5 and 4.2 as a Laker weren't too shabby, either. The only real question mark for me is Andrew Bynum. From a certain perspective, I suppose I'm taking a bit of a gamble that he'll become the player he could be. Fortunately, however, I only need two things from him: defense and cleanup. He's got the physical gifts to capitalize when extra attention is given to teammates - and with the four on the floor with him, Andrew Bynum will be the last person anyone is thinking about. He may not be dominant, but he can punish a team in that situation. Aside from that, all I need from him is size and defense, both of which are things he can provide. He may not be The Captain, but on this team, he doesn't need to be.
Give me Kobe, one more 20+ point star player, a good coach and some decent role players, and I'll contend for a championship every single year. Kobe, Pat Riley, and three other 20+ point stars? That's just not fair!
ryebreadraz (Magic, Jim Pollard, Vern Mikkelsen, Vlade Divac, Lucius Allen and Jim Price, coached by John Kundla): I went with the old guys. Most of the other guys took some good players, but mainly from the 80's on so I was left with some Hall of Famers and all-time great Lakers later than expected.
I had the first overall pick so Magic was my guy. While the Lakers have some of the game's greatest players, I think Magic is the no-brainer best pick because the Lakers have only one true all-time great at the point. Lucius Allen is often forgotten as a Laker because he only spent two years with the club, but when the UCLA product came home to play with the purple and gold, he averaged over 14 a game, about five assists and was a lockdown defender. He was also a small guard, allowing him to guard the point at times to make up for Magic's defensive deficiencies.
Up front I've got a pair of Minneapolis Hall of Famers. Pollard was an exceptional athlete, who many said could have played pro baseball. He would excel getting up and down the court with Magic on the ball and was a rugged player who would do some work on the glass. Mikkelsen is another Springfield inductee who was a five-time NBA champion. The proven winner was as tough as they come and averaged over 14 a game in a much lower-scoring era. Both Mikkelsen and Pollard went on to become coaches too, so you know they're smart players.
Vlade would be a perfect fit for this team. With Magic running the show and guys who love going to the rim to finish off a Magic pass, Vlade would be able to step out and knockdown the mid-range jumper all day. Toss in an athletic Jim Price, who averaged 18 a game in his last two years with the Lakers, and we've got explosion off the bench. Let Hall of Famer John Kundla, with his five NBA titles, coach 'em up and we've got ourselves a helluva squad.
WildYams (Wilt, Baylor, Ceballos, Wilkes, Rudy LaRusso and Glen Rice, coached by Bill Sharman): Any team featuring The Big Dipper at center is bound to be an inside-out team, and mine is no different. The plan would be to probably distribute the ball-handling duties between Elgin and Club Ced, and just pound it down low to Wilt as often as possible. Ced and Glen Rice would help to spread the floor with their three-point shooting. (Rice was one of the best distance shooters the league’s ever seen, and Cedric shot almost 40% from three in the ‘94-‘95 season with LA).
Rudy LaRusso, a man who averaged 17 points and 10 boards a game in the ‘61-‘62 season with the Lakers, would help solidify the frontcourt alongside Wilt, while Elgin would help keep defenses honest with his ability to slash and drive. Off the bench, "Silk" Wilkes could come in to help give relief at a number of different positions, as my team’s flexible lineup (nobody smaller than 6’5") would be able to give a number of different looks.
My team’s collection of talent might be unconventional, but you’d have to figure that Bill Sharman, the man who coached the Lakers to the most wins in any season in team history and the man who was at the helm for the legendary 33-game winning streak, would have some tricks up his sleeve to make it work.
Now it's time for you to vote, people! (Standard text-messaging rates apply.)