Flying Haque approached me with an interesting hypothetical some time ago. This set me back for two reasons: first, that he was capable of producing a stimulating question and second because it was inventive and challenged my basketball knowledge. He asked me to give him, my all-time NBA Dream Team including a sixth man. I responded, “Easy: Magic ‘84, Jordan ‘93, Bird ‘85, Duncan ‘02, Kareem ‘76 and Shaq ‘01 coming off the bench. Haque responded, “I want you to give me your starting five and a sixth man but with salary cap restrictions.” My ears perked up; I started salivating at the mouth, something like a dog in Pavlov’s lab room. Haque pressed forth relentlessly, “You are free to choose from any players since the mid ‘80’s, but are limited to 2 maximum deals (14-20 million per year), 2 mid-level deals (7 to 13 million) and 2 low-level deals (1-5 million.)”
The scenarios started bouncing around in my head, a plethora of NBA talent to choose from, years of basketball greatness at my disposal, super general manager for a day! Naturally, we decided to permit the inclusion of both current and historic talent. The catch would be adjusting players to the projected cap figures of today. Thus, Scottie Pippen, though a mid-level contract throughout his career, would count as a max deal (the same would hold for Bird, Magic, etc.) Moreover, we settled on choosing players from specific years. This is where we sought to separate the basketball experts from the fakers. Put simply, I could pick MJ for a max deal, but would have to pick a specific MJ. While he was distinctly great throughout his career –‘88/’91/’93/’96/’98/’02 – he underwent both mental and physical transformations.
Our final qualifier would be to produce a functional team. The team would not necessarily be a collection of the most talented. Well, strike that, it could be. One could look up the “statistically best” and fit them together in some elaborate matrix; not worrying about placing players in their traditional positions. I sought to avoid that trap by creating a team predicated on rebounding, defending, spacing, and leveling. Consequently, my team’s alpha dog would command a team full of soldiers. These guys would do their part to win rather than competing for individual glory or statistical achievements. Additionally, I sought to incorporate a unique player that could play multiple positions. This would allow my team to adjust against innovative rosters. If I were an idiot, the jury is still out on that, I could put MJ and Kobe on the same team. However, that would raise a litany of chemistry issues, not to mention the threat a dominant frontcourt would present that team. As “FromMontanatoCrabtree” once said, “Oh … that’s, that’s not gonna work.”
Thus, after days, weeks, even months of deliberation, I submit my team:
Before giving you “what I will call” the Salary Capped Dream Team, here are two compelling squads that I like, but do not have what it takes to beat the SCDT.
PG – MARK JACKSON ’97 -LOW
SG – KOBE BRYANT ’09 – MAX
SF – TAYSHAUN PRINCE ’04 – LOW
PF – TIM DUNCAN ’03 -MAX
C – ROBERT PARRISH ’89 -MID
6th – RASHEED WALLACE ’04 –MID
The leadership between Bryant, Duncan, Parrish, and Jackson would keep this team together through the most tumultuous of times. The sturdy defensive frontcourt would help them match up with any team. On the perimeter, one could switch Prince onto any small-forward or two-guard and lock them down, just ask Kobe Bryant circa 2004. All this with two of the top-ten greatest of all-time equates to serious trouble. Think back to the Laker teams of Shaq and Kobe, and then inject them with steroids, more talent, and better leadership. I wanted to put Kobe ’07 version on this team, but figured he is the one player in modern NBA history that Tim Duncan would not get along with.
PG – MAGIC JOHNSON ‘82 – MAX
SG – MANU GINOBILI ’08 – MID
SF – MICHAEL COOPER ’87 – LOW
PF – JOAKIM NOAH – ’10 – MID
C – SHAQ ‘01- MAX
6th –ROBERT HORRY ‘99 -LOW
Speaking of Laker teams on steroids, four of the six members of this team have graced the purple and yellow. Having Shaq, Noah, and Cooper holding down the frontcourt would be like having a foursome with Halle Berry, Britney Spears, and Mila Kunis (and by foursome I mean an outing on the golf course, of course.) Michael Cooper would enhance the defensively pedestrian backcourt. At the end of games, this team could spread the court and add the clutch shooting of Horry. With Magic, the fourth best player to have ever picked up a basketball, ’01 Shaq, the most dominant force the league has ever seen, and Ginobili, a fearless scorer that compliments the other pieces, this team is “redic.”
THE SALARY CAPPED DREAM TEAM
PG – JOE DUMARS ’90 – MID
SG – MICHAEL JORDAN ’98 – MAX
SF – DENNIS RODMAN ’89 -LOW
PF – RASHEED WALLACE ’04 –MID
C – HAKEEM OLAJUWAN ’90 – MAX
6th –- DELTLEF SCHREMPF ’95 -LOW
Defense wins; absolute defense wins absolutely. This team is so refined and pragmatically constructed, that I have to stop for a second and admire my work.
Established upon defense, this team is the perfect mixture of leadership, heart, talent, and discipline. A factor worth noting, I went with MJ from the 1998 season over MJ from the 1993 season. Big reason being, with Hakeem and his demand for the basketball, I would be worried about chemistry issues with ’93 Jordan, who by some accounts was the greatest of the MJ’s. By 1998 his athleticism had noticeably diminished while his leadership, basketball IQ, and will to win had peaked. He understood “The Secret” and what it took to win at all costs.
Hakeem in 1990 would destroy just about any center in the history of basketball. Not only was he averaging fourteen rebounds and nearly five blocks a game, he was pouring in an efficient twenty-four points a game on .500% shooting. Putting Rasheed Wallace, a natural four, next to The Dream, would be like putting Rees’s Peanut Butter Cups in vanilla ice cream. The ice cream alone is great, but peanut butter cups take it to another level. While I may have paid a bit much, giving up a mid-level exception to get Wallace, the gains in rebounding and lockdown defense more than makes up for it. As the “Oscillator,” Dennis Rodman could play the four, three, or two. Given his lack of minutes on the Pistons, he was able to exert a great amount of energy covering multiple positions on the floor. While he would play limited minutes and be an obvious liability on offense, he is a steal for any team looking to put in an all-purpose, low-level exception on their squad. Imagine trying to get one offense rebound against this team – Hakeem, Wallace, Rodman … .
If need be, I could move Rodman to the four, bring in my sixth man, and stretch the floor to keep teams from doubling The Dream or His Airness. Speaking of my sixth man, Deltlef Schrempf, the Leverkusian sensation himself was the classic sharp shooter. All I remember about this guy is that he could light it up from anywhere on the floor. During the 94-95 season, he averaged above .500% from the floor and beyond the arc. While his defense was mediocre, he would help this team spread the floor, and serve as a legitimate third scoring option when Jordan and Hakeem didn’t have it going (which, for all practice purposes, would never happen.) Finally, the leadership, grit, unselfishness, quick release, and defensive juggernaut that is, Joe Dumars makes him my favorite mid-level contract available. While he switched positions from the shooting guard to point guard, I am confident he would serve this team resourcefully (I dont need a traditional point to win games, see Ron Harper re: second three-peat.) Moreover, having him, Rodman and MJ on the wing would be a nightmare for any combination of backcourt players.
Get your basketballpedia’s out, visit basketballreference.com, talk to the older generation who saw the stars of the 80’s, and watch as many youtube game tapes as you can. Do all that or just wing it. Either way, I doubt you will be able to put together a team that could beat this one. Game on.
 All of these dates are based on the latter half of each season. Therefore, Magic’s ‘84 season is the 1983, not the 1984-85 season.
 Currently the league cap is roughly 58 million; the mid-level exception is about 5.75 million. For this hypothetical, lets throw this all out and just go with the three levels listed. http://www.nba.com/2010/news/07/07/salary.cap/index.html
 Given how cumbersome it would be to create a set of concrete qualifiers, we proceeded with a low bar for player placement in one of the three levels. Ultimately, we can debate if Chris Mullin is a mid-level or max deal, but we did not want to handicapped the discussion on those matters. Thus the threshold is low: Could one envision a rational argument placing Player X in the respective field. While I consider Mullin a max deal -his numbers, for a five year span, are on par with Kobe Bryant’s and Dwayne Wade’s– others might consider him a mid.
 If requested, I will submit a cornucopia of articles detailing my humble, at times clouded, assessment of 23. I think there is a lot to be said about the Jordan of the 87-88 season; as compared to the 92-93 season; as compared to the 97-98 season.
 We got this idea from “The Book of Basketball” by Bill Simmons -a great read. Go pick it up after you read all the articles on 25twofour.wordpress.com.
 Bruce Ackerman, American constitutional law scholar, has this really annoying tendency to name new concepts in his articles by writing out “I shall name it …” or “I shall call it…” so I figured I’d add to the absurdity.
 While Kobe’s most outstanding statistical seasons were arguably ‘06,’07 (won the MVP), and ’08 (when he was going on offensive tirades of 40 and 50 point games); the Kobe I’d choose for this team is from 2008-09 season where he displayed a willingness to defer and include his teammates. Also, 24’s best shooting percentage for a season was in ‘09.
 Seriously go get The Book of Basketball.