The NBA Draft is now behind us, and this is always the time we think our team will be able to pick somebody up who can put us over the hump or at least take us away from the tanking train. That depends a lot on what team you cheer for. If you are a Golden State Warriors fan, you probably weren't even worried about the draft. Meanwhile, if you are a Phoenix Suns or Sacramento Kings fan, you were praying to whatever God you believe in that your franchise didn't screw up again with a high draft pick. Yeah, the emotions are very different depending on who you cheer for. So, we decided to put all of this in perspective so people who cheer for bigger market teams can understand how the NBA would really look like if there were fewer factors involved like trades and free agency or how much players want to be in a big market.
That being said, we decided to put together a list of what the starting lineups of all 30 NBA teams today would look like if they were not allowed to sign free agents or trade anyone. This is how your team would look like if you were locked to your draft picks until they retired. Don’t worry, we made this fun, and we are only considering players who are still active in the NBA and probably will still be active next season. For some fans, this could be a lesson in appreciating their GM’s more, while for others it could mean exactly the opposite.
30 Atlanta Hawks: Jeff Teague, Kelly Oubre, John Collins, Pau Gasol & Al Horford
After a series of seasons of making constant appearances in the NBA Playoffs, the Atlanta Hawks finally looked to the draft to rebuild their roster (they then made a questionable move trading Luka Doncic after drafting who many felt was the best player in the draft).
The price they had to pay for those good years is that they did not have many high draft picks, which means most of the good guys they would have today if they only kept their draft picks would be veterans like Pau Gasol and Al Horford. Still, there would be some young talent with Kelly Oubre and John Collins. All of that with Jeff Teague running the offense.
29 Boston Celtics: Terry Rozier, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, Jeff Green & Al Jefferson
The funny thing about the Celtics and how they would look if they kept their draft picks is that their team would be mostly the same. At least, where the starting lineup they had throughout the playoffs is concerned.
Terry Rozier, Jaylen Brown, and Jayson Tatum would certainly be starting, and they would have some veteran help down low with Jeff Green and Al Jefferson.
Boston would also have some good help coming off the bench with guys like Marcus Smart and Avery Bradley, not to mention a sharpshooter in Gerald Green.
28 Brooklyn Nets: Jordan Crawford, Kyle Korver, Kyle Kuzma, Derrick Favors & Brook Lopez
You will hear us saying this over and over again, but the truth is that the Brooklyn Nets are just a terrible franchise. We say that because three of the best draft picks they had who are still active did not even wear a Nets uniform as they were traded during draft night. We are talking about Kyle Korver, Kyle Kuzma, and Jordan Crawford. Derrick Favors, who is another guy we would have starting on this team was also traded, but at least he played a little over half of his rookie season with the Nets. The only guy here who did play for them for a while was Brook Lopez.
27 Charlotte Hornets: Kemba Walker, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Tobias Harris, Frank Kaminsky & Cody Zeller
The Charlotte Hornets are a team that does not really have a history of making good selections during draft day, but at least they managed to keep most of the guys they got right during the drafts. For example, analyzing the entire starting lineup we had for the Charlotte Hornets if they did not trade any of the assets they acquired through the draft, the only guy who does not currently play in Charlotte is Tobias Harris. Meanwhile, all of the other four starters are still playing for Michael Jordan’s franchise.
26 Chicago Bulls: Derrick Rose, Gary Harris, Jimmy Butler, Taj Gibson & LaMarcus Aldridge
Here’s the thing, the Chicago Bulls would be a nasty team if they managed to keep all their draft picks.
Seriously, this team has everything you need to go far into the playoffs. That is if we consider a healthy Derrick Rose.
But just imagine having Rose attacking the paint all the time with sharpshooters like Gary Harris, Jimmy Butler, and LaMarcus Aldridge surrounding him while also having a great offensive rebounder and defensive presence in Taj Gibson. Yes, this would be one scary team to go up against.
25 Cleveland Cavaliers: Kyrie Irving, Danny Green, Andrew Wiggins, LeBron James & Tristan Thompson
Oh yeah, another team that would be terrifying to go up against if they managed to keep all of their draft picks would be the Cleveland Cavaliers. As you all know, they would have the championship proven duo of LeBron James and Kyrie Irving. But that is not the only thing the Cavaliers would have. Making the most out of the open shots he would get from the passing of LeBron and Kyrie, Danny Green could show all of his worth as a three-point shooter. Andrew Wiggins would provide LeBron with another offensive outlet who could even take over games if needed. And to put the cherry on top, they would have a relentless Tristan Thompson fighting for rebounds since he knew he would not be getting any shots either way.
24 Dallas Mavericks: Dennis Smith Jr., Justin Anderson, Kelly Olynyk, Mike Muscala & Tyler Zeller
Dallas was one of the toughest teams to come up with a starting lineup for. The reasoning here is that it really does seem like Mark Cuban and his crew are not very good when it comes to the draft. There is no doubt in our minds that the greatest draft pick these guys have made in recent memory was Dennis Smith Jr., and we don’t even know if he is going to be able to maintain the level of play he put up last season. And before you start wondering why his name is not on this list, Dirk Nowitzki was not drafted by the Dallas Mavericks. No, Dirk was drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks and traded to Dallas for Robert Traylor. And neither was Luka Doncic, who is a projected starter for 2018-19 after coming over from Atlanta.
23 Denver Nuggets: Donovan Mitchell, Jamal Murray, Carmelo Anthony, Nikola Jokic & Rudy Gobert
If this is not a potential championship team, we don’t know what is. Of course, we are imagining a scenario in which Carmelo Anthony played better than how he did with the Oklahoma City Thunder this past season. But even without Melo, this would be one hell of a team.
Yes, the Denver Nuggets were the team that picked Donovan Mitchell 13th in the draft.
The problem is that they traded this future All-Star for Tyler Lydon and Trey Lyles. A similar thing happened when they drafted Rudy Gobert and traded him in 2013.
Either way, having those three playing alongside Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic would be an interesting thing to watch.
22 Detroit Pistons: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Spencer Dinwiddie, Khris Middleton, Greg Monroe & Andre Drummond
As much as they struggled after becoming a championship team back in the early 2000’s, Detroit did a pretty good job with their draft picks. Yes, they had their busts here and there, but mostly the Pistons acquired very solid players whenever they had a lottery pick in their hands. That was the case with KCP, Andre Drummond, and Greg Monroe. They also drafted a couple of very good players in the second round but unfortunately did not keep them on the team. These two guys were Spencer Dinwiddie and Khris Middleton.
21 Golden State Warriors: Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes, Draymond Green & Kevon Looney
People can complain about Golden State all they want, and they would be right to do so if the complaint was contained to the Kevin Durant move to Oakland. But outside of that, all the Warriors did was literally build through the draft. Yes, most of their championship lineup is made up of guys they acquired quietly through the draft. That is why, even if they did not have any of the free agents they acquired afterward, the Warriors would still have one of the best lineups in the NBA with Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes, Draymond Green, and Kevon Looney, which is only one player different than their lineup during this season’s NBA Finals.
20 Houston Rockets: Jeremy Lamb, Rudy Gay, Nicolas Batum, Nikola Mirotic & Clint Capela
The Houston Rockets are currently the second-best team in the NBA, and you can be sure that they would not be in the same place if they were only allowed to play with the players they drafted.
No, Houston was not terrible when it came to drafting players, but the truth at the end of the day is that most of their success came from the moves their GM made during trades and free agency.
That being said, if they were only allowed to go with the guys they drafted, they would have a veteran core but would still lack a good point guard and would need Jeremy Lamb to learn how to play the part.
19 Indiana Pacers: Lance Stephenson, Paul George, Kawhi Leonard, Miles Plumlee & Myles Turner
Yet another draft move many people might not be aware of is that Kawhi Leonard was not supposed to be a San Antonio Spur. No, Leonard was actually drafted by the Indiana Pacers. The Pacers took Leonard with the number 15 pick of the 2011 NBA Draft. Unfortunately for them, that same night they decided to package Leonard with a couple of other players and send him to San Antonio in exchange for point guard George Hill. Maybe it looked like a good move back then, but today you can only imagine how great it would have been to watch Leonard play with Paul George in Indiana.
18 Los Angeles Clippers: Shaun Livingston, Eric Gordon, Al-Farouq Aminu, Blake Griffin & DeAndre Jordan
The Clippers are one of those teams that are struggling today but would probably be able to have very solid campaigns if they were allowed to keep all the players they drafted. First and foremost, they would have the dynamic frontcourt duo of Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, but that is not all. At that point, they would have arguably the most underrated role player in the league in Shaun Livingston. At the two, a marksman and scorer who is able to take over games when needed in Eric Gordon. Lastly, they would have a solid defensive presence with Al-Farouq Aminu.
17 Los Angeles Lakers: Lonzo Ball, D’Angelo Russell, Brandon Ingram, Larry Nance Jr. & Julius Randle
Say what you will about the Lakers, but they improved their use of the draft tremendously over these past few years.
Sure, it helps your odds if you have lottery picks in four consecutive seasons, but Magic Johnson and his crew still did a pretty good job.
The proof of that is that most of the guys we would have on our starting lineup for the Lakers in terms of draft picks are guys who were drafted in the past four years. The only iffy thing here would be the addition of D’Angelo Russell, who is not a very good locker room figure.
16 Memphis Grizzlies: Kyle Lowry, Mike Conley, DeMarre Carroll, Kevin Love & Joffrey Lauvergne
Playmaking would be at a surplus in Memphis if they were allowed to keep all their draft picks. With a guard duo of Kyle Lowry and Mike Conley, it is hard to imagine Memphis losing the assists battle at any point against any other team. The real problem here would be the lack of physicality in the backcourt. Down low, Kevin Love would provide an All-Star level talent, but the Grizzlies would really struggle to find a good center as the best one we could come up with was Joffrey Lauvergne.
15 Miami Heat: Dwyane Wade, Josh Richardson, Bojan Bogdanovic, Michael Beasley & Bam Adebayo
The Miami Heat had more than one chance to pick up good talents in the past decade or so. They even had a number two pick back in 2008, a pick they used to sign Michael Beasley, who despite not living up to the hype of a number two overall pick, was still good enough to be put on our Miami starting lineup. The problem with him is that he was picked before guys like Russell Westbrook and Kevin Love.
The only homerun Miami hit when it comes to the draft in recent memory was the selection of Dwyane Wade with the number five pick in 2003.
14 Milwaukee Bucks: Malcolm Brogdon, Jodie Meeks, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jabari Parker & Thon Maker
Another team that has been drafting well in recent years is the Milwaukee Bucks. They only have one generational talent on their roster, his name is Giannis Antetokounmpo, but the thing to remember about Milwaukee is that from the entire starting five we would have selected for them in terms of draft picks, only one of the players is not wearing a Bucks uniform anymore.
Jodie Meeks is the only questionable name on our list.
As for the rest, Milwaukee has done a good job of finding talent in the mid to late first round and even in the second round when we consider Malcolm Brogdon.
13 Minnesota Timberwolves: Ricky Rubio, Andre Robertson, Wayne Ellington, Lauri Markkanen & Karl-Anthony Towns
Out of all the teams made out of draft picks we came up with on this list, the most intriguing one would be the Minnesota Timberwolves. Usually, a basketball team is composed of guys in a backcourt who are able to shoot, and guys in the frontcourt who are able to score in the paint and defend. At least, that is the classic view of basketball most fans have. To prove that the balance of the league is shifting, this Minnesota team is the perfect example.
They would have a defensive minded backcourt in which neither of the guards can shoot. Meanwhile, all of their bigs would be marksmen.
12 New Orleans Pelicans: Chris Paul, Buddy Hield, J.R. Smith, Anthony Davis & David West
This is another great team that could have come together if the New Orleans Pelicans managed to hold their team together. Seriously, a lineup with Chris Paul, Buddy Hield, and JR Smith (if JR tries to play well and gives up the drinking for a while) would be a nightmare in terms of shooting. All of these guys can knock down threes nonstop. And even if they miss from time to time, New Orleans would have one of the top five rebounders in the NBA in Anthony Davis. Oh yeah, David West can also knock down some mid to long-range shots in a consistent basis.
11 New York Knicks: Tim Hardaway Jr., Wilson Chandler, Trevor Ariza, Danilo Gallinari & Kristaps Porzingis
The state of New York could do well with a change in the ownership of both of their franchises. We already talked about how terrible the Brooklyn Nets are in terms of management and picking players through the draft, but the New York Knicks do not linger too far behind.
With the exception of Kristaps Porzingis, you would have a tough job finding a good draft pick the Knicks made in the past two decades.
Even when they managed to pick some guys who could develop into great players if given the time and if they were allowed to play together, the Knicks decided to trade all of them for Carmelo Anthony even though they would have been able to acquire him during free agency the following season anyway. This is just a terrible franchise.
10 Oklahoma City Thunder: Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Kevin Durant, Serge Ibaka & Steven Adams
Now, here is where things get interesting. There is no doubt in our minds that Oklahoma City would be the team to go up against Golden State and Cleveland if everyone could only play with the guys they selected in the draft. Could you even imagine putting this team together today?
The three superstars are nothing less than three MVPs. At the power forward they would have Serge Ibaka, who has developed a shot and is still one of the best defenders in the NBA. Not to mention Steven Adams, who would be one of the league-leading rebounders if he did not allow Westbrook to stat pad so much.
9 Orlando Magic: Victor Oladipo, J.J. Redick, Aaron Gordon, Dario Saric, and Dwight Howard
Another interesting squad that would come out of this system of everyone keeping their draft picks until they retire would be the Orlando Magic. Everyone here should remember how amazing Dwight Howard was when he played in Orlando. It was after he left that his career started derailing. But aside from their centerpiece, Orlando would also have some very good pieces. They would have an All-Star Victor Oladipo, a sharpshooting JJ Reddick, a future All-Star in Aaron Gordon, and one of the most impressive international pickups in recent years in Dario Saric.
8 Philadelphia 76ers: Ben Simmons, Jrue Holiday, Andre Iguodala, Nikola Vucevic & Joel Embiid
Trust the process, that is all you need to know when we talk about the Philadelphia 76ers. Say what you will about the method they used to get all of their high draft picks, but at the end of the day that is what worked out for Philly.
As they do today, they would still have two generational talents in Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, but that is not the entire story.
Philly would also have a finals MVP Andre Iguodala, as well as one of the most impressive players to break out in this year’s playoffs, Jrue Holiday. More than that, they would also have a very valuable big man in Nikola Vucevic.
7 Phoenix Suns: Rajon Rondo, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Devin Booker, Josh Jackson & Deandre Ayton
We don’t know how good they would be on the court, but on paper, the Phoenix Suns would be at least an exciting team to think about. Many people remember Rajon Rondo breaking out into the NBA scene with the Boston Celtics, but he was actually drafted by the Phoenix Suns. In this scenario, Rondo would still be running point for Phoenix, and he would have a lot of weapons to distribute the ball to. Devin Booker has already solidified himself as a future All-Star and maybe even an MVP caliber player.
Playing on the other wing, they would have Bogdan Bogdanovic who seems to be bound to become one of the best shooters in the NBA. Down low they would have more young talent with Josh Jackson and Deandre Ayton.
6 Portland Trail Blazers: Patty Mills, Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, Will Barton & Meyers Leonard
A team that would need to play small ball if they wanted a good lineup made up entirely of their draft picks would be the Portland Trail Blazers. The bottom line here is that these guys did not spend a lot of time thinking about drafting bigs. This might be because the last time they tried to draft a big man high in the draft, they ended up taking Greg Oden over Kevin Durant.
Either way, there would be no shortage of scoring as their dynamic backcourt duo of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum would still be in action.
5 Sacramento Kings: De’Aaron Fox, Isaiah Thomas, Tyreke Evans, DeMarcus Cousins & Hassan Whiteside
Speed and rebounding. That is the immediate traits we see when we look at the starting lineup we made up for the Sacramento Kings. De’Aaron Fox is just a rookie, but he might as well already be considered the fastest player in the NBA. This guy just plays the game at another gear.
Fox would have two equally fast guards next to him in Isaiah Thomas and Tyreke Evans.
However, the real strength of this team would come from inside the paint as DeMarcus Cousins and Hassan Whiteside would be a terrifying big man duo to face if you were any other team.
4 San Antonio Spurs: George Hill, Goran Dragic, Manu Ginobili, Kyle Anderson & Ian Mahinmi
The Spurs are another one of those teams that don’t really earn their keep in the draft. Sure, they had some Hall of Fame caliber draft picks with Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and David Robinson. But with years of being on top in the NBA, the last time the Spurs had a lottery pick was when they picked Tim Duncan in 1997. Yeah, you can imagine that it would be a tough job to come up with a starting lineup of Spurs draft picks given that background. Still, we found a solid one with George Hill and Goran Dragic in the backcourt. Manu Ginobili and Kyle Anderson playing a four-wide set, and a lone Ian Mahinmi at the center spot.
3 Toronto Raptors: Delon Wright, DeMar DeRozan, OG Anunoby, PJ Tucker & Jonas Valanciunas
Interestingly enough, the Toronto Raptors would have some serious similarities to the way they play today if they were only allowed to use their draft picks. Yes, they would not have Kyle Lowry running the point, but at the end of the day, Toronto’s game is centered around DeMar DeRozan. He would have even more responsibilities offensively as Jonas Valanciunas is the only other guy who can consistently score on this lineup. That is unless you manage to get PJ Tucker open for corner threes consistently.
2 Utah Jazz: Dante Exum, Rodney Hood, Gordon Hayward, Gorgui Dieng & Enes Kanter
There would be no lack of offense in Utah if they were to play with their draft selections. Of course, the entire game would revolve around Gordon Hayward, but that is nothing new for Utah fans. That is exactly how these guys have played ever since picking him up with the number nine pick in the 2010 NBA Draft.
The thing here is that Hayward would have a lot of help with Rodney Hood being able to score from anywhere on the floor.
Enes Kanter and Gorgui Dieng can hold their own inside the paint, while Dante Exum would be able to provide some explosiveness from the point.
1 Washington Wizards: John Wall, Jordan Clarkson, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter & JaVale McGee
Another team that would not be much different from what they are today is the Washington Wizards. Their gameplay would be centered around John Wall as it already is. The number two option for Washington would still be Bradley Beal. The only difference here is that their third best scorer would become Jordan Clarkson, who despite some struggles is one of the guys in the NBA who can create their own shot. The wildcard here would be good old JaVale McGee, who is about as unpredictable a player as an earthquake.
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