A big part of watching the NBA playoffs is getting to see some of the best players take their game to the next level. Stakes are higher. There's more pressure. And the level of competition is elevated to places we can only dream of being a part of. All that said, there is a downside to the playoffs, and that’s not having some of the best players in the NBA in them.
The question: What if you could pick players from non-playoff teams and insert them into a playoff team?
Well, we swithced our brains on to imagination overdrive and this is what we came up with.
Without question, the Brow is the best player who can make the biggest impact if he were to join a playoff team. Davis would be potent in the hunt, but he could be especially devastating on a team like the Los Angeles Clippers, who are now forced to play the rest of the postseason without Blake Griffin. Imagine Davis and Chris Paul running pick-and-roll on that team, and Davis and DeAndre Jordan patrolling the paint? The Brow’s versatility on both ends would open up plenty of driving lanes for CP3, while allowing guys like JJ Redick and Jamal Crawford to further space the floor.
The Boston Celtics are in the middle of a surprisingly competitive series with the Chicago Bulls and to the surprise of no one who follows the C’s, they’re getting killed in the glass. Likewise, the absence of a post presence has been their one glaring weakness, and the only reason that they’ve knotted up the series at 2-2 is because they’ve knocked down their threes in the last two games. But if that well dries up again, they’re going to have trouble beating Chicago. Enter Karl-Anthony Towns, arguably the most dynamic big man to enter the league since, well, the guy above him. Towns solves all of Boston’s rebounding issues and it helps that he’s also got some range in his game. Put him and Isaiah Thomas together and surround them with guys like Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, and Marcus Smart and you’re looking at a team that can win a title.
Who among this year’s playoff teams would need a player of Melo’s crunch time pedigree? It definitely has to be a team that has no clear-cut first option in close games. Most teams actually have a player that fit that bill, except the Atlanta Hawks. Melo with the Hawks gives the team a go-to first option that can get them points during crunch time. Melo as a small-ball four with Paul Milsap at the five, Dennis Schroeder at the point, and a combination of Tim Hardaway Jr., Kent Bazemore, or Taurean Prince at the wings could also present some problems for a team like the Washington Wizards. Speaking of the Wizards, if we can add Melo to the Hawks, we should do the same to this guy.
Now how about this—John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins reliving their Kentucky Wildcat glory days. With respect to Marcin Gortat and his underrated beard game, swapping him for Boogie instantly turns the Wizards into a legitimate contender for the Cleveland Cavaliers. They’ll have a potent combination of size, speed, versatility in the starting lineup and when you have somebody like John Wall orchestrating the offense with arguably the best post-up center in the league, that’s going to spell trouble for a lot of people, pretenders, and contenders alike.
With respect to Tony Parker, he’s not the player he once was, so it wouldn’t be so difficult to picture him moving to the bench and playing with the second unit together with Manu Ginobili. That’s exactly what would happen if you inserted Kemba Walker into the San Antonio Spurs’ starting lineup and line him with Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge. I’m getting shivers already thinking about what a Walker-Leonard combo would look like, especially on the defensive end, where Leonard is all-world and Walker is just as good as any other point guard in the game today. And before we forget, Kemba is as clutch as they come so having two options at the end of the game will provide Gregg Popovich with plenty of moving parts to play with.
Nikola Jokic is the rare center that can facilitate an offense by standing still in the high post. That kind of Arvydas Sabonis-ian skill is rare for a big man in today’s NBA, but it could prove to be devastating in the right offense. Imagine then seeing the Joker in a team that already includes LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love. Suddenly, the possibilities of what that kind of Cavs offense can do becomes endless. Kyrie and LeBron won’t have to dominate the ball anymore. They can run off screens on any side of the court to spring them loose for a Jokic pass. Likewise, put him on a pick and roll with any of those two guys and that creates plenty of opportunities, either through backdoor cuts, or passes to the perimeter where the Cavs lineup of shooters can have a field day with the attention Jokic draws from the high post.
This seems unfair considering how good the Golden State Warriors already are. But what’s the point of playing this game if we can’t reach for the stars, right? Now, what do you think about a lineup that includes Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green, and Kristaps Porzingis? You’ve got five guys who have three-point range, a nightmarishly versatile front court, and three guys in Curry, Thompson, and Durant who can drop 50 at a drop of a bucket. Criticize if you must, but you have to admit that it’s going to be all sorts of fun to watch Porzingis on the Dubs. And since it looks more and more likely that we’re headed for a trilogy between the Cavs and Warriors, imagine how exciting that series would be having two of the game’s unicorns on opposing sides.