With the NBA season winding down as the AFL season kicks off, Ball So Hard, in association with Fiasco Sports, looks at how an AFL team of NBA players would look. Do you agree? Who is missing from the team? Let us know in the comments below!
The anchor of any AFL defence is size and strength. Lucky, there is no shortage of either traits in the NBA.
Standing 6’10”, Anthony Davis is only one inch shorter than the AFL’s tallest player (Aaron Sandilands – 6’11”), and with a 7’5” wingspan, he could be unstoppable as a fullback.
Similarly, Joakim Noah is a 7-footer with an equally devastating wingspan (7’1”). He is also one of the NBA’s best passing big men (leads all centres with 5.1 dimes per game). His ability to shutdown opponents in marking contests and set up teammates out of defence would make him an excellent centre half-back.
Andre Iguodala could be a dominant back pocket player. He is a lockdown defender, capable of defending multiple positions, and is also capable of carrying the ball.
Likewise, Nate Robinson could slot into any AFL defence as a back pocket. He played cornerback in highschool and it is easy to see those spoiling, tackling and interception skills translating to the Australian game. He also has a ready-made AFL body. His jumping ability and penchant for the spectacular could produce some incredible high-flying grabs over taller forwards.
Every defence needs some creative runners bombarding off the half-back line. Rajon Rondo and Chris Paul have the pace and passing abilities to fill the Grant Birchall/Heath Shaw creative half-back flank roles, galloping out of defence and initiating their side’s forward forays.
Size, stamina and speed are the most desirable attributes for an AFL midfielder to have. Four-time NBA MVP LeBron James has those in spades. A once-in-a-lifetime athlete, James is a remarkable physical specimen unlike anything seen in the AFL before.
Despite his size, (listed at 6’8”, 250lbs), James is one of the NBA’s fastest players end to end – imagine Brownlow-winning Adam Goodes with the pace of Cyril Rioli. Couple his imposing figure and speed with his court vision, passing and leaping abilities, and James could be an unstoppable force storming through the corridor to set up a shot on goal or charging up the wing to take a gravity-defying mark.
Russell Westbrook (6’3”, 200lbs) and John Wall (6’4”, 195lbs) would be a commanding presence in any midfield. Combine that with their elite quickness, and they could singlehandedly break games open carrying the ball through the middle. Both also have elite jumping ability and attack the rim with reckless abandon, something that is not too dissimilar to crashing packs and winning contested possessions.
West Coast ruckman Nic Naitanui dominates stoppages with his vertical leap and size. Now consider this, Dwight Howard is six inches taller and 44 pounds heavier than Naitanui. With a recorded 39.5” vertical leap, Howard could easily get his hands to the ball first in every rucking contest.
One of the toughest players in the league, Goran Dragic would make the perfect in-and-under midfielder. He is an aggressive finisher around the rim, rarely shying from initiating contact – imagine a bigger version of Joel Selwood.
Meanwhile, if Monta Ellis can rack up possessions as easily as he drops buckets, he would be the perfect clearance player. He has the speed, and with all those tattoos, he is practically the Dane Swan of the NBA.
It just wouldn’t be right to not include at least one Australian in this team. Filling that role is San Antonio speedster Patty Mills. But don’t get it twisted, Mills inclusion is not just because of his heritage. An ardent Adelaide Crows supporter, Mills knows the game and would most easily adapt to the rules. His quickness and ability to light it up in a hurry would translate perfectly into a half-forward flank role – Steve Johnson-esque.
Joining Mills on the flank is former MVP Derrick Rose. It has been so long since Rose played a full season, and it is easy to forget just how incredible of an athlete he is. His ability to absorb contact and rise over defenders would make him the perfect link from midfield to the forward line. With pace to burn and a muscular frame, he could easily shrug defenders and break lines.
Scorers don’t come much better than Kevin Durant in the NBA. If all the work he has spent honing his jump shooting was focused on kicking straight, Durant could become one of the game’s deadeye forwards. He might have a slight frame, but so does Port Adelaide’s Justin Westhoff, and his height, speed and hands would be un-guardable.
Another Aussie (sort of) joining the team is Cleveland sensation Kyrie Irving. He may have only spent two years in Australia as a child, but he was born in Melbourne (the epicentre of the AFL) and that has to count for something. If Irving’s world-class ball-handling skills could translate into evasive abilities in the AFL, he would be Rioli-like.
Leading a monster full-forward line is Kevin Love and Blake Griffin. Each bring a different skill set to the team and would be a matchup nightmare for opposing defences. Love is a rebounding machine, whose ability to out-muscle opponents and soft hands would make him a great contested mark – think Jarryd Roughead or Travis Cloke. Meanwhile, Griffin’s incredible jumping ability would make him a constant threat with the ball in the air.
James Harden’s patented eurostep is a thing of beauty. With the way he slices through defences, slipping through gaps that never seem to be there, he could be a destructive clearance machine.
Every team needs a lockdown tagger and Patrick Beverly is slowly building a reputation as the Ryan Crowley of the NBA.
Much like the in NBA, it is becoming increasingly important for AFL players to be able to play multiple positions and fill different roles. The aren’t too many better two-way basketballers than Paul George. He would make a great utility.
Similarly, Josh Smith is one of the NBA’s best all-around players. He might be having a rough debut season in Detroit, but his overall skill set would enable him to play as a key position forward or defender, or even venture into the ruck.
DeMarcus Cousins – no one in the AFL would be able to compete with his size.
Avery Bradley – great defender, tagging candidate.
Tony Parker – elite speed, deals well with contact.
Kawhi Leonard – lockdown defender, huge reach and hands.
Metta World Peace – every team needs someone with an ample dose of crazy.