LeBron James is one of the greatest players of all time. Regardless of if you love him or hate him, you just can’t deny the fact that he’s dominated the league for almost two decades now and that he’ll down as the top-notch small forward ever.
However, like most superstars of the game, he’s needed a lot of help to win NBA Championships. There’s no shame in that, as no one has single-handedly won a trophy in the history of the game, no matter how you want to twist it.
James’ game could be easily complemented by shooters, players that know how to move off-ball, and some guys with a great feel for offensive rebounding. That’s the formula that has worked out better for him throughout his career.
But, if you had the chance to put together the ultimate team to help out the King, how would you do it? If we gave you this list of players and a 15$ budget, who would you pick? Let’s break it down:
$5 – Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Stephen Curry, Anthony Davis
This is the top-notch tier. Other than James, it features the five best players on earth. But who’d take a step back to LeBron? Better said, who’d match his traits better?
We have the ultimate unicorn on Kevin Durant. You know he doesn’t like to give up shots so that could be an issue, but James also thrives as a playmaker and wouldn’t mind playing second-wheel to an offensive juggernaut like KD if that meant winning.
Pairing him up with Kawhi Leonard would make some sense. At the end of the day, he’s the only guy that can contain him in the defensive end, and his newly-found stroke from beyond the arc would be a major threat with James collapsing the paint.
Giannis Antetokounpmo is determined to carry the torch as the best forward in the world once LeBron retires. Both of them paired below the rim would be a defensive nightmare. There would definitely be a lot of switching, and Giannis is a great slasher that would benefit a lot from backdoor cuts.
Then we have one of LeBron’s ultimate rivals on Stephen Curry. Steph is the greatest shooter ever and a one-two punch with James would be literally unguardable. There’s no defense on earth that could match up against that with Curry moving off the ball.
And last, but not least, we’ve already seen what James is capable of doing next to Anthony Davis. They’re deadly in the pick-and-roll and AD has motivated LeBron to play defense at the highest level again. Tough call here.
$4 – James Harden, Damian Lillard, Joel Embiid, Paul George, Russell Westbrook
Next, we find three of the best shooters in the league, some lockdown two-way players, and fierce competitors in the $4 tier.
James Harden has already proved that he can play with another ball-dominant player like Russell Westbrook or Chris Paul, so sharing the court with LeBron wouldn’t be an issue at all.
Damian Lillard has had always high praise for the King and his three-point shooting would be perfectly suited for his game. Also, he’s not a pass-first kind of guard so he wouldn’t mind playing off the ball.
Joel Embiid is the kind of two-way big man that would thrive next to LeBron. He’s got elite footwork and post-offense that no defense could contain in a two-man game, for sure. You can’t double JoJo with James looming around.
Paul George was one of James’ biggest rivals in the Eastern Conference some years ago. James drove him to become an elite two-way player and he’s not a selfish scorer that wants to hog all shots. He’d be a perfect fit.
And Russell Westbrook is the kind of hard-nosed competitor that James need by his side to never take a play off. They’d be an unstoppable one-two punch in the open court and a nightmare for their rivals below the rim.
$3 – Kyrie Irving, Luka Doncic, Nikola Jokic, Jimmy Butler, Ben Simmons
The mid-level tier features some of the best players in the world but the fit next to James could be kind of questionable. Let’s take a look.
For starters, Kyrie Irving didn’t enjoy his time playing second-wheel to the King. On the paper, he’s a perfect fit because of his shooting and off-ball movement, but the drive and motivation may be on and off with him.
Luka Doncic is the best young player in the league by a long stretch. He’s embraced his role next to Kristaps Porzingis so you know he’s not all about himself. However, he’s a bit of a point-forward who needs the ball on his hands to make the most damage.
Nikola Jokic is a pure entertainer. He can make passes not many big men in the history of the game could, and his ability to knock down shots from deep is a major plus. Still, his defense would be a bit of an issue here, and he also needs the ball on his hands.
Jimmy Butler will do whatever it takes to win. He’ll get on everybody’s face and play lockdown defense night in and night out like a war dog. Nevertheless, his subpar three-point shooting and dominant personality may be a problem next to James.
And finally, we have Ben Simmons, who’s got the same playmaking skills as James and is one of the most versatile defenders in the world, but has a limited ability to impact the offense unless he’s running the point due to his lack of shooting.
$2 – Bradley Beal, Devin Booker, Pascal Siakam, Klay Thompson, Zach LaVine
$2 tier features rising stars and players that don’t get the recognition they should for their impact on the game, but that would be more than willing to suit up and help the King’s winning cause.
Bradley Beal is a problem. He’s a walking bucket that doesn’t get enough credit because of his team’s poor performances, but his skill set is tailor-made for LeBron James. He can play off the ball and shoot lights out from deep.
Devin Booker is the most talented young scorer in the league. This guy can do it all. He’s got the smoothest moves, a Kobe Bryant-ish footwork, and a feel for knocking down huge shots. He’d be a major threat with the King running the offense for him.
Pascal Siakam’s journey to stardom has been one for the ages. He’ll never stop grinding and his ability to put up points and play lockdown defense would do wonders next to LeBron. They’ll have the size and speed to match up against everybody.
Next, we find Klay Thompson; 1B to Stephen Curry’s 1A when it comes to being the best shooter in the history of the game. Moreover, Thompson is a suffocating backcourt defender that could take James’ defensive assignment any given night.
And finally, we have Zach LaVine. LaVine is trying to earn the respect he’s due as one of the best scorers in the league. This guy can score from all three levels at a high clip, although defense will always be a concern.
$1 – Kemba Walker, Jayson Tatum, CJ McCollum, DeMar DeRozan, Karl-Anthony Towns
And last, but not least, the bottom tier of our list has a combination of rising stars with guys that have already embraced their roles as second-guns on winning teams.
For starters, Kemba Walker would love to have the chance to play next to the guy that beat him 28 straight times. Kemba is a bit of a poor man’s Kyrie Irving, so you know his skills are perfectly suited next to James.
Jayson Tatum has all it takes to be the league’s MVP, leading scorer, and Defensive Player of the Year. The sky seems to be the limit for him, and he’s been mature enough to share his touches with all the mouths the Celtics have to feed.
CJ McCollum is an intriguing fit next to LeBron. He’s a great slasher and an outstanding scorer off the ball. However, he’s not the most efficient three-point shooter or defender, so that may be a problem.
That takes us to DeMar DeRozan, whos limited range may be an issue next to the King, even though he worked out perfectly next to Dwyane Wade, who wasn’t a three-point shooter. DeRozan is an underrated defender that would love to play side by side with his nemesis.
Karl-Anthony Towns is one of the most talented big men in the game right now. He can light it up vs. the best defenders in the league and would be a threat in the pick-and-roll and pick-and-pop with James. Motivation and defense would be the biggest question marks here.