The Ultimate Western Conference Team

There are All-Star teams, All-NBA teams, Olympic teams, and even fantasy teams, but how often are star-studded teams constructed with a salary cap fixture in place? In this article, the ultimate Western Conference team is constructed. However, there are two simple rules in place: there is a $94,000,000 hard salary cap, and there can only be one player from each team. 15 roster spots, 15 teams – pretty simple. The roster was formulated with only the 2016-17 season in mind, not the long term future. Talented players on rookie contracts are certainly more valuable than others, and they are especially more valuable than those players who took advantage of the salary cap spike this summer. You can bet that Allen Crabbe and his $18,500,000 salary cap hit, as well as Mike Conley and his $26,540,100 salary for next season, won’t be making the team. The goal of this roster is to find the team-friendliest contracts on the market, while also mixing and matching talents that will work well together on the court. That being said, let’s get started!

The Ultimate Western Conference Team

Starters

PG – Stephen Curry, GSW – $12,112,359

SG – J.J. Redick, LAC – $7,150,500

SF – Kawhi Leonard, SAS – $17,500,000

PF – Anthony Davis, NOP – $21,000,000

C – Karl-Anthony Towns, MIN  – $5,960,160

Well, 68% of the salary cap resides with the starting lineup. There’s no doubt that Stephen Curry, the unanimous NBA MVP, is on the team-friendliest contract in the entire league. With Curry being a no-brainer for the roster, it was tough to justify bringing superstar point guards like Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul, or Damian Lillard on board as well.

As for Redick, his veteran presence and lights out shooting will be much appreciated on a team that should thrive behind the arc. He is the perfect role player to plug into a starting lineup with other superstars, as he has proven the past few years with the Los Angeles Clippers.

The highest paid players on the roster are Kawhi Leonard and Anthony Davis, two superstar forwards who are not only gifted on offense, but dominant on defense as well. When deciding where to spend the bulk of the money, I decided that Leonard and Davis are more deserving than other elite players like Blake Griffin, LaMarcus Aldridge, James Harden, and DeMarcus Cousins. Keep in mind that Kevin DurantDraymond Green, and Klay Thompson weren’t under consideration since Curry was already Golden State‘s representative.

At the center position, Karl-Anthony Towns is one of the most exciting young superstars that the league has to offer; his skill set on a rookie contract is a bargain for any roster.

The five starters, who are all capable of extending out to the three-point line, will combine to form a dangerous and potent lineup.

Rotation Players Off the Bench

PG – Darren Collison, SAC – $5,229,454

SG – C.J. McCollum, POR – $3,219,579

SG – Devin Booker, PHX -$2,223,600

SF – Will Barton, DEN – $3,666,666

SF – Brandon Ingram, LAL – $5,500,000*

C – Steven Adams, OKC – $3,140,517

C – Rudy Gobert, UTA – $2,121,288

C – Clint Capela, HOU – $1,296,240

The bench is very deep, especially in the backcourt and at the center position. The strategy here is to fill the court with shooters while also stacking up on centers who will anchor the team in the paint defensively and finish easy dunks around the rim. Think of how the Golden State’s front office formulated its team the past two years, with Andrew Bogut rarely touching the ball on offense unless we was the recipient of an alley-oop. Adams, Gobert, and Capela will enter the game in short bursts to provide energy and a defensive presence in the paint. Not to mention all three players are on tremendously cheap contracts.

In the backcourt, Collison is a solid backup point guard who will be able to share the ball while also looking for his own shot. McCollum and Booker could be two of the most important pieces to this roster. Their dynamic scoring and shooting will be valued on a team that will look to shoot tons of threes, fitting right in with the modern day pace and space offense.

The biggest weakness on the roster may be the backup forward positions. The Western Conference is very top-heavy at both forward spots, making it rather difficult to find inexpensive forwards for the bench. After spending big money on Leonard and Davis, the most economical options to back them up are Barton and Ingram. Barton is one of the most underrated players in the game, and his energy and athleticism make him the ideal glue guy to bring off the bench. The lack of a natural power forward shouldn’t be too much of an issue, as we see more and more lineups rolled out that consist of four shooters and a big man.

The End of the Bench

PF – JaMychal Green, MEM – $980,431

C – A.J. Hammons, DAL – $650,000

Every team has its scrubs, the players who either spend the year in the D-League or dressed in street clothes at the end of the bench. Going thirteen deep is more than enough, meaning these two guys won’t see much playing time. The Memphis Grizzlies and Dallas Mavericks are both top-heavy teams, and they both spent an outrageous amount of money on Mike Conley, Chandler Parsons, and Harrison Barnes this summer. It was tough to find bargains from their rosters, so it made more sense to just fill out the roster with the cheapest players possible. Hammons, the 46th overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, won’t see any playing time, but Green may actually be called upon at times. He is the only natural power forward other than Anthony Davis on the team, and he actually had a decent year last season, averaging 7.4 points and 4.8 rebounds per game.

Recap

After spending big money on Stephen Curry, Kawhi Leonard, and Anthony Davis, the rest of the roster consists mainly of young, athletic players on cheap contracts who should fit in very well together. Keep in mind that Lakers forward Brandon Ingram has not officially signed his rookie contract yet, but a $5,500,000 value for the first year is typical of what the second overall pick gets nowadays.

The ultimate Western Conference team will take up $91,750,794 of the $94,000,000 available cap space. This team will of course never take the court together, but it’s the off-season – let’s have some creativity! Check back for the ultimate Eastern Conference team, which will be published shortly after as part of a two-part series on Last Word on Sports.

 

 

All salary cap and contract information can be credited to basketball-reference.com.


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