DimeMag

The 15 All-Time NBA Western Conference Starting Lineups

Not everyone can have the same history as the L.A. Lakers or even the San Antonio Spurs. But still, that’s not stopping us from ranking the 15 all-time Western Conference starting lineups. From Wilt all the way down to Wally — yes, Wally Szczerbiak — here are the top players at every position for every West franchise.

* Indicates that the player mentioned is the greatest to ever wear a jersey for his franchise, atleast in my humble opinion.

A quick word, the selections are mine and mine alone. The teams were put together using team success, statistics, and a healthy dose of my opinion.

[RELATED: The 15 All-Time NBA Eastern Conference Starting Lineups]

*** *** ***

Dallas Mavericks

PG- Steve Nash
What could’ve been. After several playoff runs in which the Mavericks failed to win a championship, Nash departed for Phoenix. Dallas spent the money they should’ve spent on Nash on Erick Dampier and sealed their future title. Nash and Nowitzki had excellent chemistry, we know they were close evidenced by the fact Nowitzki is the godfather of Nash’s kid. We’ll never know if the duo could’ve won a title together, but we do know Nash went on to win two MVP awards, and Dirk won one himself. The Mavericks would also go on to win their first NBA championship. Erick Dampier was traded eventually in a deal that netted the Mavericks Tyson Chandler. It was a weird road but it all worked out in the end for both parties. While a championship ring has eluded Nash, he would likely never have won multiple MVP awards sharing the spotlight with Nowitzki. Both the Mavericks and Nash had to separate in order to fully reach their potential. It was hard to leave Jason Kidd off this list but he definitely spent his best years in New Jersey.

SG- Rolando Blackman
Before the big German showed up Rolando Blackman was the flagship for this franchise. A quality scorer and a four-time All-Star, Blackman narrowly beats out Michael Finley for the job. Although never a superstar, Blackman maintained a high level of play for a long time. Over 10 straight years in a Mavericks uniform he averaged over 18 points a game with 46 percent or better shooting. Blackman, to this day, is the Mavericks second overall leader of win shares.

SF- Mark Aguirre
A three-time All-Star, Aguirre still holds the franchise record for points in a season. He was a gifted scorer and although he lacked true range he was an incredibly efficient player. He shot over 49 percent from the field three separate times while averaging over 25 points per game. He went on to win two championships with the Detroit Pistons after being traded for Adrian Dantley.

PF- Dirk Nowitzki*
Dirk will and should transcend the game of basketball. His style of play is both miraculous and impossible to duplicate. A seven-foot big man who could shoot fading away from behind his head anywhere on the court may never be seen again. His efficiency as a big man was astounding, he even joined the 50-40-90 club after his ’06-07 MVP season. Dirk, contrary to popular belief, was a phenomenal playoff performer. His win shares per 48 minutes in the postseason surpass Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan. Eight players all time have won an MVP, a Finals MVP, a championship, and had 10 or more All-NBA appearances with the same team. Nowitzki sits in that elite eight with Duncan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Hakeem Olajuwon and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Pretty elite company. Nowitzki should be remembered as one of the greatest ever, far beyond the context of one franchise’s best. If you want to relive Nowitzki’s stellar 2011 Playoff campaign in which he led his team as the underdog onward in all four playoff series, watch this:

C- Tyson Chandler
Tyson Chandler didn’t need a long run in Dallas to make an impact. In his first season with the team, he gave Nowitzki what he needed most, a defensive anchor. Chandler took them from an average 15th overall defense in 2009-10 and made them into a top 10 defensive powerhouse in 2010-11. He and Dirk complemented each other so perfectly, it’s truly a shame Cuban didn’t re-sign him and give the Mavericks a chance to repeat in 2011-12. Chandler was robbed with the Mavericks but did deservedly win the Defensive Player of the Year the following season with the New York Knicks.

Denver

PG- Lafayette “Fat” Lever
This was an incredibly tough decision between Lever, Chauncey Billups and Andre Miller. The two-time Nugget All-Star was heralded for being an all-around player who could play solid defense. Lever was an excellent rebounder at the point guard position — he finished his career averaging six per contest. He was a triple-double machine and in fact, his 43 career triple-doubles are sixth all time and the most ever by a Nugget. Like oh so many players, his career was greatly impacted after a severe knee injury. Doesn’t he make you think of Rajon Rondo?

SG- David “Skywalker” Thompson
No offense to Carmelo Anthony, who could have definitely held a spot on the wing here with English, but how can you deny the Skywalker? A four-time All-Star with the Nuggets, Skywalker was considered by some the Western Conference Dr. J (Julius Erving). In his four consecutive All-Star seasons, he dropped 24-plus points per game on 50 percent shooting while bringing the house down with mind-blowing dunks. An All-NBA First Team member on two separate occasions, he was truly gifted athletically. I encourage you to go look up the 1976 dunk contest. The contest included Thompson, Dr.J, George Gervin, Artis Gilmore and Larry Kenon.

SF- Alex English*
If there ever was a man put on this Earth to score points it was Alex English. Back when the Nuggets were rocking a rainbow across their chest (easily the best NBA jerseys ever worn) English was scoring boatload of points in style. He led the league in scoring one time and he did it on an impressive .516 percent shooting. English had eight consecutive All-Star appearances for the Nuggets, scoring over 25 points per game in each of the eight seasons. Alex English deservedly sits in the Hall of Fame.

PF- Dan Issel
Issel joins English in the Hall of Fame. He is the Nuggets second all-time leading scorer, and the franchise’s all-time leading rebounder. Issel is an old school guy who actually won a championship in the ABA. He led the league in total points on three separate occasions and finished his career with the 41st best player efficiency rating of all time (21.4).

C- Dikembe Mutombo
One of the most iconic videos in NBA history is of Dikembe Mutombo sprawled on the court shaking a basketball over his head after he led the Nuggets to a first-round upset of the Supersonics. Mutombo will always be known for his defense and his finger-waving taunt; his effort and love for the game were always on display night after night. If he had stayed in Denver his entire career, I wouldn’t doubt that his name and number would be hanging from the Pepsi Center rafters by now. In his first five seasons with Denver, he won a Defensive Player of the Year, led the league in blocks three times, and was a three-time All-Star.

Golden State

PG- Tim Hardaway
Tim Hardaway will forever be known for revitalizing the crossover. His “UTEP 2-Step” broke many ankles in the ’90s and players today still use it to catch a victim every so often. While Hardaway saw a lot of his success come as a member of the tough and gritty Miami Heat teams of the mid to late ’90s, it was with the Golden State Warriors that he first burst onto the scene. He averaged back-to-back 20-point, 10-assist seasons with the Warriors, a feat he’d never repeat with the Heat. He was the driving force behind RUN-TMC and brought entertainment and excitement to Oakland every winter. He was a three-time All-Star in Golden State.

SG- Chris Mullin
Chris Mullin never was known for his athleticism, but as a 6-6 lefty sharpshooter, he was more than capable of holding his own against the world’s best basketball players. Like Hardaway, Mullin was one third of RUN-TMC and he thrived in Don Nelson‘s high octane, fast-pace offense. His ability to leak out and get easy points quickly helped fuel the fire that was the Warriors offense during that time. I feel a shout out is needed for Paul Arizin, who could’ve taken this spot as well. Mullin was a five-time All-Star with the Warriors.

SF- Rick Barry
Rick Barry is a boss — if you don’t believe me ask him. Anyone who shoots free throws underhanded has the utmost confidence in themselves. Not only did Barry bring the “grandma shot” to the league, but he’s also one of the best free throw shooters the game has ever seen. Though his free throw form was unique, when Barry wasn’t sinking free throws he was sinking buckets from all over the court. He is the only player in history to lead the NBA, ABA and NCAA in scoring. Unfortunately Barry also has had his name dragged through the mud by basically every teammate he’s ever had. If Barry had been a better team player he would sit a lot higher on the all time rankings today. He literally got punched in the head in the NBA Finals.

PF- Nate Thurmond
Thurmond spent most of his prime years with the Warriors when they were in San Francisco. He was part of the gaudy numbers, big man, era. He highlighted it with 20.5 points and 22 rebounds per game in 1967-68. Unlike the other bigs of the era, Thurmond was woefully inefficient. His former teammate Wilt Chamberlain, for example, has a career field goal percentage of 54. Thurmond finished with a career at 42 percent from the field. I was very tempted to give Neil Johnston this spot and honestly even with a short career he might deserve it.

C- Wilt Chamberlain*
Wilt the Stilt, or the Big Dipper, is the ultimate stats guy. I’m on team Wilt when it comes to basketball’s most controversial debate: Bill Russell or Wilt Chamberlain. However, his lack of playoff success is alarming. That being said, Wilt is dominant with a capital D. He had his inhuman 50-point, 25-rebound per game season with the Warriors when they were in Philadelphia and I would bet a large sum of money it will never be matched. His 100-point game is also another miraculous feat that will likely never be matched.

Just for kicks, at small forward we have Barry who had the reputation for being an ass, at power forward we have the inefficient Thurmond, and at center we have Wilt, who sacrificed wins for his own numbers. It doesn’t take a genius to see how a franchise with so many greats hasn’t been adorned in constant championships.

Houston

PG- Steve Francis
The Franchise! I don’t care if he was selfish, or took bad shots, or got shipped out for T-Mac after five seasons. Of course, I’m not a Rockets fan. Francis was an exciting player, a lesser version of Russell Westbrook but a phenomenal talent, with a great nickname. Francis is one of only 13 players to average 20 points, six rebounds and six assists or better for two or more seasons. He was a three-time All-Star in Houston and netted you Houston fans Tracy McGrady. Hard to complain.

SG- Clyde Drexler
Clyde the Glide, (I don’t think anyone loves nicknames more than me) was, in all honesty, a career Blazer. He did, however, jump ship at the right time, winning a ring in Houston. I honestly think the 1996-97 Rockets would’ve beaten the Bulls in the championship had they pulled their socks up and beat the Jazz in the conference finals. (That team had a last run core of Hakeem, Drexler and Barkley.) He was a one-time All-NBA team member with Houston.

SF- Tracy McGrady
T-Mac got out of the first round and went to the Finals! As a Spur, granted, but a small part of me was still very excited he will no longer unfairly be abused with that label. Brace yourselves Laker fans: prime McGrady was better than Kobe Bryant (granted, I’m talking Orlando T-Mac). Those poor Rocket fans, between Yao Ming and T-Mac, I don’t think any team was cheated out of some great basketball more than Houston in the 2000s. Another great what if: what if McGrady and Yao actually stayed healthy?

PF- Moses Malone
Reading Bill Simmons’ Book of Basketball, it was quite comical hearing how Moses was dealt around like loose change before ending up in Houston. How weird were the 1981 NBA Finals? Malone leads in a Rockets squad that went 40-42 in the regular season and gets smoked by a Celtics team that went 60-22 in the regular season, where Cedric Maxwell steals a Finals MVP award from Larry Legend. Doesn’t that remind you of the 2007 Cavs getting smacked by the Spurs, where Tony Parker snuck in and grabbed the Finals MVP from Tim Duncan? Anyways Moses was a stud, he might not have belonged in the elite five, but he is definitely a top eight player to mount the middle. Malone finished his career averaging 20 points and 12 rebounds a game.

C- Hakeem Olajuwon*
I think Hakeem the Dream was the most skilled center of all time. Wilt was more dominant statistically, Shaq was more dominant physically, Kareem has the longevity, and Russell has the winning legacy. But Hakeem the Dream had it all. He was drafted ahead of Michael Jordan and to this day I’ve never heard an analyst say Houston made the wrong choice. He won two championships, an MVP, and had 12 All-Star appearances, all of which came in Houston. He is in that eight-man list I have of ultimate franchise players (mentioned earlier in my Nowitzki segment). The 1994-95 season tells you everything you need to know. The Dream was 32 years old, coming off a championship, and the Rockets are getting overlooked left, right, and center. Dream finishes fifth in the MVP voting behind Patrick Ewing, Karl Malone, Shaquille O’Neal, and David Robinson, who won the award. Ewing and the Knicks lose an infamous seven-game series to the Pacers. (Reggie Miller‘s eight points in 17 seconds). Malone and the Jazz fall to the Rockets in the first round, Malone drops 30 and 12 but Dream averages 35 and eight on 11 percent better shooting. Robinson and the Spurs than get absolutely outplayed across the board by the Dream and the Rockets as they advance to the NBA Finals. The Finals were supposed to be a changing of the guard, the Rockets looked to defend their title with the 32-year-old duo of Drexler and Dream. The Magic had a cocky but talented young duo in 22-year-old Shaq and 23-year-old Penny Hardaway. The Rockets would sweep that series, securing Dream’s second ring.

Lakers

PG- Magic Johnson*
Lakers fans are never allowed to complain, ever. Look at this team. They have five of the top 25 players ever right here. Jerry West makes six and he didn’t even make the cut. They also had Chamberlain, George Mikan, James Worthy and Pau Gasol. That’s not even including the legions of veterans who signed lesser deals in Los Angeles to ring hunt at the end of their careers. Bird vs. Magic might honestly be better than Wilt vs. Russell as a debate. Both players had success statistically and in terms of winning championships. Both guys played with several Hall of Famers. What Magic Johnson had in terms of versatility, in terms of being able to play across the board, hasn’t been seen since. (LeBron is close.) Magic put fans in the stands, and like Legend he understood what it took to win. I like the ’87-88 championship lore best. Magic and Kareem’s last ring — Kareem was a shell of himself at this point. The Lakers sweep the Spurs, and then have to claw and fight to survive the next two rounds. They beat the Malone and Stockton Jazz, though it takes seven games. They then beat the best Mavericks ever team pre-Dirk, in a hard-fought seven-game series. (Mavs had Aguirre, Blackman, Roy Tarpley, and Derek Harper as their core.) Finally they reach the Finals, only to play the Bad Boy Pistons. (Pistons would win the next two championships.) They win in a crazy Game 7 at the Forum. Somehow James Worthy steals the Finals MVP award despite a 21-6-13 (points, rebounds, assists a game) Finals effort from Magic.

SG- Kobe Bryant
The Kobe Bryant of the past eight to ten years isn’t the same guy he was during the Shaq era three-peat. No. 8 and No. 24 are completely different people. When you watched No. 8, you either loved or hated that Bryant. He was arrogant, cocky and self-entitled. He was also, however, an elite talent. Funny how often those two things go hand-in-hand in our society. He will likely never admit it but Bryant hit rock bottom at the end of the ’05-06 season. Bryant, at the time, was feeling the full effects of the Shaq divorce. The team was lacking talent and he was shooting them in or out of a hole each and every night. He finished the season averaging 35 points a game and the Lakers went into the playoffs as a seven seed. For such a phenomenal season offensively, Bryant came fourth in MVP voting, not second like everyone likes to believe, but fourth. Steve Nash, who actually won the award, led his Suns back from three games down in the series to shock the Lakers and inadvertently change the Bryant we knew. (This also, to me, should silence all criticism of Nash winning the MVP that year.) Kobe lowered his shots per game by four the next season, and then again lowered his shots by two a game the season after. (This was the season Pau Gasol arrived.). In two years, Bryant went from 27 shots a game and a first round exit to 21 shots a game averaged out over three seasons, where he went to the Finals each and every year. Plain and simple, after the ’05-06 season despite the trade rumors, and criticism of his organization, Bryant learned how to play team basketball.

SF- Elgin Baylor
Baylor was a career Laker. He was a phenomenal scorer and proved it by leading the playoffs in scoring four straight years. Unfortunately, despite some talented teams, he never won a championship. Reminds me a little bit of Dan Marino in that he had awesome numbers and a great career but failed to accomplish the ultimate goal. Baylor was on 10 All-NBA First Teams and might be in the top 10 discussion if he hadn’t lost in eight separate Final appearances.

PF- Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
If you haven’t noticed, I’ve cheated a bit throwing shooting guards at small forward, power forwards at center and now vice versa. Kareem is the all-time leader in a lot of things, but the two most important ones are points, and MVP awards (six). The main thing to think about with Kareem though is longevity. He won championships at 23, 32, 34, 37, 39, and 40. He was won 17 years after he won his first ring. I wish I could tabulate how many players came in and out of the league over that span. He was a 19-time All-Star, six-time MVP, and six-time champion. And yet his name is very rarely, if ever, mentioned next to Michael Jordan for the title of GOAT, (Greatest of All Time).

C- Shaquille O’Neal
I’m a big Shaq fan. I grew up in the Shaq and Bryant Laker era and even though I despised the Lakers, Shaq drew me in one massive dunk at a time. (When was the last time you saw someone break a backboard with a dunk?) It’s sad, but in all honesty a four-time champion and one-time MVP underachieved. We don’t need to touch on the free throw shooting, it is what it is. If Kobe and Shaq could’ve gone to work every day and treated each other with respect, we could’ve witnessed a dynasty that would reform the definition of that very word. In all seriousness, two of the top ten players of all time on one team, plus the players who wanted to play with them. The 2004 season when they choked massively against the Pistons, don’t forget they had Gary Payton and Karl Malone on board. That team could’ve reloaded the bench with hungry veterans every offseason and just kept winning right on into the next decade. That being said, Shaq was bar none the most dominant player I’ve ever seen in any sport. There was no stopping him if he was hungry down low. Also as a side note: you could make a case for four of these guys as the franchise’s best player ever.

Clippers

PG- Chris Paul
One of professional sports’ most cherished owners got thrown a bone when the league rejected the Lakers acquisition of Paul. The Clippers finally got a deal done and now we get to watch the league’s best point guard run Lob City. Chris Paul, statistically, is already deserving of a top 10 all-time point guard nomination. However, with a quality supporting cast, and a veteran coach with a history of success, fans want more than impressive numbers. It’s put up, or shut up time for Paul and the Clippers.

SG- Ron Harper
The Clippers franchise has been around since ’70-71. They started in Buffalo, moved to San Diego, and finally settled down in Los Angeles as the Lakers ugly cousin. This franchise, in its 44 seasons, hasn’t even made a conference finals, let alone won a championship. Ron Harper and Corey Maggette were neck and neck for this spot so I gave it to the better career player. Ron Harper is either very smart, or very lucky. After making his name on bad teams with the Cavaliers and Clippers, he went on to win five championships with the Lakers (2) and Bulls (3).

SF- World B. Free
Aside from another awesome nickname (“All World”), Free had some solid statistical seasons with the Clippers. He had one All-Star appearance and one All-NBA Second Team appearance. However, the Clippers traded a first-round pick that would become Charles Barkley for him… so… yea… The Clippers, ladies and gentleman.

PF- Elton Brand*
No offense to Danny Manning, or the up-and-coming, breathtaking, vertical masterpiece that is Blake Griffin, but this spot belongs to Brand. Brand owns the franchise records for rebounds and win shares. He’s also amassed the third-most points all time for the franchise. He also averaged 25 and 10 in the Clippers first playoff appearance in nine years. That 2005-06 season he was in legitimate conversations with Dirk, Garnett and Duncan for the league’s best power forward.

C- Bob McAdoo
Yet another long-time Clipper who, after leaving, would win two championships with the Lakers. However his best three individual years definitely came with the Clippers. He averaged 30-plus points and 12-plus rebounds on healthy shooting percentages three straight years. He won MVP, and Rookie of the Year with the Clippers. Above all else, he was a lottery pick that the Clippers did not screw up.

Memphis/Vancouver

PG- Mike Conley
This is such a young franchise. You honestly can’t blame me for picking Conley. Bibby only played three seasons as a Grizzly, none of which were as impressive as Conley’s last two seasons. Conley is one of those guys who will fly under the radar his whole career. That’s in part due to playing in Memphis and partly because since his Ohio State days, he’s never been his team’s best player.

SG- Rudy Gay
Despite the analytic community wanting to kill Rudy Gay, he’s shot his way into Grizzly record books. He is the franchise’s second-leading scorer all time. He’s also playing good ball in Sacramento right now, for the record. Meanwhile back in Memphis, the Grizzlies are struggling to keep afloat with Tayshaun Prince‘s corpse playing 25-30 minutes a night. Rudy Gay’s athleticism also made the Grizz worth watching after Pau Gasol was dealt to the Lakers.

SF- Shareef Abdur-Rahim
He had a strong first five years in Vancouver, scoring 18-plus in each of those years. He was never an All-Star in Vancouver but did receive an All-Star bid the year after in Atlanta. Abdur-Rahim is one of the few players who could play at a star level on any given night at the three or the four. A true tweener. He was traded in the deal that landed the Grizzlies Pau Gasol, so he was important to this franchise in more ways than one.

PF- Pau Gasol*
When Pau got traded to the Lakers, I was furious. Most people at the time thought it was a terrible move and in all honesty it gave an undeserving and already spoiled Lakers fan base three more Finals appearances in as many years. However, Marc Gasol came back in the deal as a prospect and it worked out for both sides. Pau is the Grizzlies all-time leading scorer, rebounder and shotblocker. As the center of attention, he endured a ton of ridicule, even taking on terrible nicknames. However he lit it up from behind Bryant’s shadow. There are even some who believe his value surpassed Bryant’s in 2009-2010. I say with a fair deal of confidence that he’s the second-best European player ever. A distant second, but second.

C- Marc Gasol
Marc, like is brother, isn’t built to be “the guy” on an NBA franchise. However he can anchor a team at both ends. Also like his brother, he has excellent footwork, post moves, and passing. Gasol won a Defensive Player of the Year and was the best player on the Grizzlies’ best team of all time last season. I would not be surprised if he went on to break most of the franchise records currently held by Pau.

Minnesota

PG- Stephon Marbury
This is the saddest team yet. If Rubio had even a marginal scoring talent, he’d probably be on this list. Kevin Martin could be on this list after his tenure with the Wolves as could any half decent small forward, to be honest. Starbury started his self-described illustrious career in Minnesota. He had solid per game numbers but his efficiency was bad, more or less the story of his career. He was dealt out in the middle of year three and there we arrive at the next guy on this list.

SG- Sam Cassell
I’m cheating again but I don’t want to put Sam Mitchell on this list. Cassell had his only All-Star season in Minnesota — this was also the only season Garnett had a contending team. He was traded for Marko Jarić, which only brought his wife, the beautiful Adriana Lima. So, in a way, for a franchise that doesn’t do much winning, we’ll put this in the W column. Between Jarić’s hot wife possibly being in attendance and Sam Cassell looking like an alien I can only imagine ticket sales improved that season.

SF- Wally Szczerbiak
Wally Sczerbiak is the T-Wolves third leading scorer all time. Believe it or not, he is also a one-time All-Star recipient with Minnesota. He’s actually not a bad third or fourth option. In his peak he was a productive player, and incredibly efficient with the basketball. He was dealt in a large deal that landed them the 2008 draft pick they used to grab Nikola Pekovic.

PF- Kevin Love
He’s already the Timberwolves second-best player all time and it’s no contest. That’s incredibly sad considering he’s never even whiffed the playoffs. In what adds up to about four seasons, Love is the Wolves fifth-leading scorer, second-leading rebounder, and third-leading three-point shooter all time. He has put up massive numbers on a bad team and has had a similar situation to the Wolves former superstar. I highly doubt Love stays in Minnesota unless they start winning some games.

C- Kevin Garnett*
Garnett has played with 15 players who were on an All-Star team whilst being his teammate. However, only three of those seasons happened while he was in Minnesota. For reference, Duncan has had 10 All-Star seasons from teammates, and Nowitzki has had seven. Garnett had some great numbers as a Wolf and unlike Love, he played hard-nosed defense. Garnett is still the all-time franchise leader in points, rebounds, assists, and steals. He is also the only Timberwolf to win an MVP award. He was traded to the Celtics for Al Jefferson and two first-round picks that the Wolves would make inconsequential. (Jonny Flynn, who was one spot before Steph Curry, and Wayne Ellington, who is now in Dallas.)

New Orleans

PG- Chris Paul*
Easily their best player ever, Chris Paul’s ’07-08 season was a thing of beauty. He, David West and Tyson Chandler were an exciting trio before Blake Griffin was on anybody’s radar. Unfortunately, much like Paul’s stay with the Clippers thus far, they were unproductive. Paul’s playoff numbers on a whole are phenomenal but as a Hornet with no one on the team but him to get things done, they were something else entirely. He’s already led the league in playoff efficiency rating three times. Like I said earlier, he just needs to find a way to turn that production into wins.

SG- Baron Davis
Baron Davis is getting the nod at the shooting guard spot for me over David Wesley or Dell Curry for similar reasons to that of Steve Francis. He had some pretty numbers and he was by far their most exciting player for the five years he was there. Granted, it was with the Warriors but the guy was a bull. A strong point guard with the will to get to the rim. He was a two-time All-Star and one-time All-NBA team member with the Hornets before being dealt out for Speedy Claxton and Dale Davis.

SF- Larry Johnson
Grandmama was drafted No. 1 overall by the Hornets and was a two-time All-Star with them. He only stayed four seasons but it was enough to put him at fifth on the franchise’s all time scoring list and win shares list. Larry Johnson was physical, strong, and could throw the ball down. It’s unfortunate he went to the Knicks on a big contract and rather quickly faded away.

PF- David West
I’ve got a lot of admiration for David West who’s a lot like Mike Conley. David West is one of the league’s best two-way power forwards. He has a bevy of post moves, range on his set shot, and he plays that pre-modern gritty type of defense coaches love. West was a two-time All-Star for the Hornets but often got dismissed as being a product of a Chris Paul offense. Clearly not true, as his numbers remained steady in Indiana. West is second in win shares, points, and rebounds for the Hornets all time.

C- Alonzo Mourning
‘Zo was a force back in the day and eventually got a ring with the 2006 Heat. The two-time Defensive Player of the Year started his career with the Hornets, who drafted him second overall in 1992. (Shaq went No. 1.) He was a 20-point, 10-rebound type big for most of his prime and ended his career with seven All-Star appearances, two of which were with the Hornets. In the 1998-99 season, he finished second in MVP voting.

Oklahoma City/Seattle

PG- Gary Payton*
The Glove is one of the best point guards of all time. Now most defenses are anchored by a big man who protects the paint. Glove is one of the few perimeter players in NBA history who can anchor a defense. He’s the franchise leader in points, assists, steals, and win shares. I love Russell Westbrook but this was an easy choice. Payton was a 10-time All-Star, nine-time All-Defensive First Team member, and a Defensive Player of the Year. Since Payton won that award in 1995-96, only one other perimeter player has won it. (Formerly the man named Ron Artest). Payton served this team until the very end, and at the end of his prime he was traded in the deal that brought back Ray Allen.

SG- Dale Ellis
This was tough because I could’ve chose the four years of sharpshooting Ray Allen gave the Supersonics, or the three years Hall of Famer Lenny Wilkens contributed. In the end I took seven years of Dale Ellis. Ellis had his career season in Seattle, scoring 27.5 points a game on utterly beautiful percentages (50-48-82). Unfortunately, that was also the season Payton was in Los Angeles and the Lakers swept the Supersonics on their way to the NBA Finals. Ellis is fifth in three-pointers, eighth in points, and 10th in win shares all time for the Supersonics.

SF- Kevin Durant
Durant is a special talent. He’s often misunderstood as fans seem to think he’s either better than LeBron James or way worse. Neither is true. He’s comfortably the second-best player in the NBA and has been for 3-4 seasons. He may be living in LeBron’s shadow a bit but he’s a different player and he’s continued to improve every year. He’s leading the league in total points for the fifth straight season — whatever his legacy turns out to be, he’s a once in a lifetime scoring talent. He’s improved in points, assists, and steals per game every year for the last four seasons. He’s also a member of the legendary 50-40-90 club. Durant has finished third in MVP voting on three separate occasions and he’s only 25 years old. He’s third all time in franchise scoring, and second in win shares. By the end of his current contract, which expires after 2016, he will own most of the franchise records. If LeBron is built in the mold of Magic Johnson than Durant is Bird. It would be a crying shame if we didn’t get a Thunder vs. Heat finals rematch in the next few years.

PF- Shawn Kemp
The Reignman was such an exciting player: the dunks, the blocks, the athleticism. If he had been more focus, we’d be talking about him as an all-time great, not just an all time great dunker. He unfortunately played in the Jordan era or he and Payton would both be champions. In the ’96 Finals, he put up 23-10-2-12 (points, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks) per game on 55 percent shooting against a Bulls team with Rodman, but it wasn’t enough as the Sonics fell in six. A five-time All-Star, and three-time All-NBA team member, he sits sixth all time on the franchise’s scoring list. He’s also second for rebounds and first for blocks in the franchise record books.

C- Jack Sikma
Sikma is the only player on this list to win a championship with the Supersonics franchise. He was a seven-time All-Star with Seattle. He still sits in the franchise’s top five for points, rebounds, blocks, and win shares. The big man had a soft touch and surprisingly led the league in free throw shooting percent, in ’87-88, shooting .922 from the charity stripe.

Portland

PG- Terry Porter
Porter spent the better part of ten seasons with the Trail Blazers. He was the starting point guard on two Blazers Finals teams. One of those teams lost to the Bulls, the other to the Bad Boy Pistons. The two-time All-Star is second in both points, steals, and win shares for the Blazers all time. He’s also 13th all time in assists.

SG- Brandon Roy
He deserves this spot! First off he has more All-Star appearances than Geoff Petrie, or Jim Paxson. Roy was going to be an elite shooting guard. He was all but set to be a career 20/5/5 player. Roy was also a solid defensive player. In his very short career, he was a three-time All-Star, two-time All-NBA member, and voted sixth in the ’08-09 MVP race. (He was in just his third season). Roy had the ability to run an offense from any of the three perimeter positions — if Roy and Oden don’t get hurt, they form a potential dynasty with Aldridge. Could you imagine a world where we don’t make fun of Portland for taking Oden over Durant?

SF- Clyde Drexler
Although he didn’t win until he joined Hakeem the Dream in Houston, Drexler was the man in Portland. He was an eight-time All-Star in Portland and finished as their all-time leading scorer. LaMarcus Aldridge, the closest chaser, is 8,000 points away so Drexler will remain their leading scorer for awhile. Clyde the Glide was a showstopper. He, at times, is forgotten in the Jordan, Dominique Wilkins era but the man could throw down. Honestly how else do you get a nickname like Clyde the Glide?

PF- Bill Walton*
Maybe this is cheating, but I’m not going to put Rasheed Wallace on this list over Sabonis. Walton is an all-time great, another guy who fell short of his potential legacy due to injury. He won an MVP, Finals MVP and a championship as a Blazer. No one else has done that in Portland. In the 1977 Finals, he put up 18 points and 19 rebounds a night in a complete effort to oust Dr. J’s Sixers. He had a spat with the ownership and flew the coup, however, after just four seasons with the franchise. The Hall of Famer had a miserable few years as a San Diego Clipper before ending up in Boston and winning a second championship.

C- Arvydas Sabonis
He started his career in the NBA at 31. It would’ve been nice to see him in his prime, unfortunately, NBA fans never got that chance. The 7-3 Lithuanian anchored the Trail Blazers center position for seven playoff appearances, the best of which came during the 1999-00 season where the eventual champion Lakers ousted them in a seven-game series.

Phoenix

PG- Steve Nash
I really could’ve put Kevin Johnson here since we already have Nash in Dallas but. . . how can we deny a multiple MVP this spot? Nash led the highly exciting but defensive inept D’Antoni Suns. He was a seven-time All-Star and took the Suns to three separate conference finals. Nash is a member of the 50-40-90 club (See Kevin Durant). In fact, Nash has the most separate seasons (four) to appear on the 50-40-90 club. This is a guy who practiced dribbling with a tennis ball in college. He led the league in assists for four straight seasons, and is currently fourth all time in assists behind only Mark Jackson, Jason Kidd and John Stockton. As a passer we may never see a more exciting player. Steve Nash also carried the beacon for Canada basketball for over a decade.

SG- Walter Davis
If I told you Walter Davis, not Amar’e Stoudemire, Charles Barkley, Steve Nash, or Kevin Johnson is the Suns all-time leading scorer, what would you say? Yes, I’m telling you that. Davis was a six-time All-Star in Phoenix and a two-time All-NBA team member. He was also the NBA’s 1977-78 NBA Rookie of the Year. In fact he somehow received an MVP vote that season, which put him fifth on the ballot.

SFShawn Marion
It may shock you to learn that the Matrix is the Suns all-time leader in win shares. He’s also fourth in points, and second in rebounds on the Suns’ franchise list. The four-time All-Star has been one of the best all-around players of the past decade. He’s been a 20-point scorer, an 11 rebounds a game boarder, an elite defender, and a . . . unique shooter. Matrix reminds me of Scottie Pippen in that he became an elite jack of all trades. He played where the team need him to, and contributed what the team needed him to. Unlike poor Nash, Marion will get to retire with a championship ring, albeit it wasn’t in Phoenix but it was well deserved.

PF- Charles Barkley
Barkley won his MVP award in Phoenix. Nash and Barkley are the only two non-Lakers to win the award in the modern Pacific Division. (McAdoo won with the San Diego Clippers pre-merger). The four-time Suns All-Star is on a long list of disgruntled stars who would’ve won his franchise a championship had they not been playing in the Jordan era. Barkley averaged 27 points, 13 rebounds, and six assists a game in the ’93 NBA Finals but Jordan and the Bulls still won in six. (Jordan averaged 41, eight and six) Barkley would leave the Suns and form an old but still super-trio with Drexler and Hakeem, although they also were unsuccessful in a championship hunt.

C- Tom Chambers
Calling Chambers a center is a stretch — assuming the Suns would run small ball and try to outscore their opponents, not a stretch. Chambers had three All-Star appearances with Phoenix. He also won himself an All-Star MVP in ’86-87 when he was with the Sonics. Though it was near the end of his time, Chambers was part of the Barkley Suns team that reached the Finals.

Sacramento

PG- Oscar Robertson
I don’t think this is cheating since the Cincinnati Royals would eventually become the Sacramento Kings. He averaged a triple-double, yes, in a very different era but it’s still astounding. Oscar’s per game statistics are disgusting. He only won once when he joined up with Kareem in Milwaukee but nobody wins by themselves. If Oscar had an elite big his entire his career and won a few more championships, a lot more people might put him over Magic on their all time lists. He played a very different style of basketball than the game we watch today but, man, did he have a pull-up jumper. He won an MVP, and was a 10-time All-Star with the Royals.

SG- Mitch Richmond
A small part of me definitely wanted to give this spot to Doug Christie but I couldn’t ignore the six-straight All-Star appearances for Richmond. Unfortunately, he failed to win a ring until he was basically a corpse and signed up with the Lakers. Richmond was a scorer — inside, outside, off the dribble… whatever needed to be done the guy could shoot. He finished third on the franchise scoring list. When they traded Richmond to Washington they received Chris Webber, which would launch the best Sacramento era of basketball ever.

SF- Peja Stojakovic
Like Richmond, a nearly retired Stojakovic had to go to Dallas to win his first NBA championship, although it’s not his fault that the league “fixed” the 2002 Western Conference Finals. If I go missing, you will all know it was due to me brining that up. Stojakovic was the second-best player on some very good, very competitive Kings teams led by Chris Webber. He’s sixth all time for the franchise in points and surpassed Mitch Richmond to lead the franchise in three-pointers. He was a three-time All-Star in Sacramento and eventually was traded straight up for Metta World Peace. This marked the beginning of the dark ages. Since the season Stojakovic was traded, the Kings have not made the playoffs.

PF- Chris Webber
Sort of the forgotten power forward. His name does not get mentioned next to Duncan, Garnett, or Nowitzki in the greatest of our era, nor does it get mentioned amongst the likes of Karl Malone or Charles Barkley. Webber was a star from draft day on but came into his own as the franchise player for the Kings. He was a four-time All-Star in Sacramento. If the league doesn’t rig the conference finals in 2002 and the Lakers don’t get 27 free throws in the fourth quarter than Webber might’ve had a Nowitzki-like run and carried the Kings to a championship. Webber will forever be remembered as part of the Michigan Fab Five, but also deserves a spot in the top 10 power forwards ever to play the game.

C- Vlade Divac
Divac was also on the 2002 team. He previously played for the Lakers and is widely regarded as one of the best passing centers to ever play the game. His only All-Star appearance came in Sacramento. Ironically his greatest impact was on the Charlotte Hornets. The Lakers, who drafted him, sent him to Charlotte in return for some cocky young kid coming out of high school named Kobe Bryant.

San Antonio

PG- Tony Parker
If I had to pick the best all time in the Western Conference (outside of the Lakers), it’s this one. Excellent chemistry, unselfish players, throw in Pop‘s great coaching and game over. This is also the only team on my list that has the franchise’s top five players in win shares. Parker is a career Spur with five All-Star appearances, and three championships, but he truly secured his legacy by punishing Cleveland in the 2007 Finals on his way to the Finals MVP. He’s gotten as high as fifth on the MVP ballot and received three All-NBA nominations.

SG- Manu Ginobili
Ginobili is another career Spur. Try and tell me the Spurs organization isn’t top notch when four of their five best players ever stayed with the franchise the entirety of their careers. A two-time All-Star, and three-time champion, Ginobili was the glue guy on the Spurs dynasty. A playmaker, scorer, defender, the super sub really energized the sixth man position. He won Sixth Man of the Year with the Spurs in 2008 and could win it again this year at 36 years of age. The Spurs didn’t have to make a massive splash in free agency like the Heat, or make some massive trades like the Celtics; the Spurs Big Three is home grown and still going strong.

SF- George Gervin
Another great nickname, “Ice Man” was anything but cold on the court. The franchise’s third all-time leading scorer led the NBA in points per game on four separate occasions, three of which were consecutive. He had six straight seasons scoring 26 or more points per contest, finishing second in MVP voting twice over that stretch. He was an All-NBA team member seven times. He finished his career shooting 51 percent from the floor, which is incredible for a perimeter player.

PF- Tim Duncan*
The nickname isn’t flashy, but chances are the “Big Fundamental” likes it just how it is. Duncan is a soldier. He goes out and he plays basketball. The demise of the Duncan era has been written by paid journalists every offseason for the last six years. Yet here we are watching him play another good season after a heart-crushing Finals loss last season. When the Spurs crushed the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2007, Duncan told LeBron, “the future is yours.” Well he certainly didn’t hand that future over. Duncan is one of the elite eight franchise players I mentioned earlier (Nowitzki section). Duncan is a two-time MVP, four-time champion, three-time Finals MVP, and 14-time All-Star. His bank shot is a household topic. He’s also been the best defensive player on the Spurs for the majority of his career. He’s first or second in franchise points, rebounds, blocks, win shares, and free throw attempts. He’s got the tenth-best player efficiency rating all time. Duncan will go down as a top 10 player all time regardless of how you see him in the positional debate.

C- David Robinson
The Admiral… now if that isn’t depictive of the mighty David Robinson I don’t know what is. Remembered as a defensive force, and Duncan’s mentor let’s not forget, the guy had a 71-point game. Robinson was physically monstrous. He stood over seven feet, and was made of pure muscle in his prime. He’s a one-time MVP, Defensive Player of the Year, and a ten-time All-Star. That’s playing a division with Hakeem Olajuwon as well. He finished first or second in all of the categories I mentioned Duncan in. The two of them together were truly something else. The league hasn’t seen a combination of dominant bigs like that playing together since then.

Utah

PG- John Stockton*
The all-time leader in assists, he led the league in dimes nine straight years. He also is the all-time leader in steals. I should add both records are very safe and neither is in jeopardy of being stolen in the foreseeable future. Stockton reminds me a bit of Jim Kelly and the Bills. The Jazz and the Bills were both top teams in the ’90s; the Bills lost four straight Super Bowls while the Jazz lost two straight NBA Finals. Stockton was a ten-time All-Star and All-NBA or All-Defense 16 times over his career. He’s fifth all time in terms of win shares and, unlike Karl Malone, played every game of his career in Utah.

SG- Pete Maravich
Pistol Pete has been immortalized for his shooting prowess, and ironically he only shot 44 percent overall on his career. Pistol spent five seasons with the New Orleans Jazz. He was awarded three All-Star appearances, and led the league in scoring once over that time, while he finished third in MVP voting that season.

SF- Adrian Dantley
Dantley was another one of those pure scorers, although after he was traded from Detroit, the Pistons won back-to-back championships. Dantley could score but he didn’t chip in on the other end all too often (think of Carmelo Anthony). He led the league in scoring twice when he was with the Jazz. He was a two-time All-NBA member, and finished as the Jazz’s third leading franchise scorer.

PF- Karl Malone
Malone is second all time in points. Not on the Jazz, but actually ever. After losing twice in the Finals to the Bulls, he joined the Lakers and lost to the Pistons in the Finals. Malone had nine straight seasons with 21-plus points and 10-plus rebounds per game. He won two MVPs and two All-Star Game MVPs in a long and prestigious career. The big knock on Malone was his evident decline in play moving from the regular season to the postseason. He is a career 52 percent shooter from the field in the regular season but shot 46 percent in the playoffs. If Malone had gotten over the hump in the playoffs, he might’ve been considered the greatest power forward all time.

C- Mark Eaton
He was Mutombo’s long lost brother. Seriously, Eaton was a defensive monster. The two-time Defensive Player of the Year played his entire career for the Jazz. Over his career, he led the league in blocks four times. His career 3.5 blocks per game are an NBA record. He was a one-time All-Star and five-time All-Defensive player.

What do you think?

Follow Josh on Twitter at @JoshEberley.

Follow Dime on Twitter at @DimeMag.

Become a fan of Dime Magazine on Facebook HERE.

×