What's the Best Possible Starting Lineup in the NBA?
If you're a big basketball fan you surely have seen Space Jam. I mean, it's one of the (if not the single) best basketball movies of all time. It has Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Charles Barkley, Newman (from Seinfield), Bugs Bunny, the Looney Tunes, aliens and even this guy!
Okay. Now that you're done reading my five-year-old self's reaction to the movie, think hard about Space Jam's plot.
In order to avoid being enslaved and taken to outer space to work at an amusement park called Moron Mountain, the Looney Tunes challenge the aliens to a basketball game to decide their fate. After the aliens steal them some NBA superstar talent and turn themselves into The Monstars, Bugs and the gang go to Michael Jordan for help. MJ agrees to play alongside the Looney Tunes, but what happens next is the main piece of the plot that you don't think too much about when you're younger (and rightfully so).
Michael Jordan is given an ultimatum: win...or lose and go with the Looney Tunes to Moron Mountain to be enslaved and forced to lose basketball games over and over to alien kids. Sounds good to you right? Yeah me neither. If cartoon characters weren't involved that would be terrifying.
What if that happened in real life though? Well, I'm here to explore that scenario today.
Here at numberFire we talk a lot about our in-house metric nERD, which measures the total contribution of a player throughout the course of a season, based on efficiency. But, we also have nF Efficiency, our metric that measures a player's raw efficiency. Specifically, it is an estimate for the point differential that a league-average team would have with that player as one of the five starters. Though it doesn't take into account playing against artificially enhanced aliens, it does account for Usage, Offensive Rating and Defensive Rating.
It's a great indicator for our single game purposes, so that's exactly why I'm using it to decide our very own Tune Squad. So if the world was given the same ultimatum by a civilization of aliens, who should we roll out for our five-man Tune Squad in a win-or-go-to-Moron Mountain situation?
Based on our nF Efficiency marks from the 2014-15 season, this is the best five-man starting lineup that we could assemble.
As you can see from the chart, this team full of All-Stars (and the last two MVPs) would win a game by an average of 27.6 points against a completely average squad. I'd trust them with our fate if it came down to it. But what would each bring to the table?
Stephen Curry would bring both his ridiculous ball-handling and his league best 286 three-point makes to the table, challenging the closeout speed of the Monstars. Steph also led the Association in nERD and was first in nF Efficiency among players with at least 30 minutes per game.
James Harden, with possibly the most complete offensive game in the league, would surely draw a lot of fouls on the physical Monstar defense (Harden led the league in both free throws and attempts) -- and seeing as they have no bench, that could be the key to victory.
Kevin Durant may have been hurt for the majority of the 14-15 season but in his past three seasons, KD has averaged at least 25 points per game on over 50% from the field and 39% from beyond the arc. These monster numbers would bring some much needed fear to the outsiders.
Anthony Davis might be the closest thing to an alien the NBA has to offer. At 22 years of age, Davis led the NBA with a Player Efficiency Rating of 30.8. More importantly, Davis would be the team's rim protector down low, as he posted a Defensive Rating of 100 a year ago, with 2.9 blocks per contest.
These are five of the best players in the NBA, and according to the numbers they'd be the best choice for a one game, win or go home situation. I know one LeBron James would have something to say about this, but this past year LeBron had an nF Efficiency of 2.9. According to the numbers, he didn't make the cut.
Either way, I think we're safe with a squad like this. We won't be going to Moron Mountain anytime soon.