Imagine if every player on every franchise was in their prime right now. When it comes to a specific prime season, that is debatable, but when you look back at each player's production, you can get a general three to four-year window of how great a player truly was. What if each team featured all of those players in their prime? Who would be the league contender if that was the case?
There are some teams such as the Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers, and Brooklyn Nets that feature some of the greatest players of our generation. Who would be the king of that franchise if they were in their prime? Some players are still in their prime, so it makes for an easy decision. Each player selected would be considered the best player in their prime out of every player on the current roster.
With that said, here is the best player on every team if they were in their prime.
Atlanta Hawks - Trae Young
Young doesn't have a lot of competition. The next best player on the team is John Collins. While Collins is a solid player, he hasn't even hit his prime seasons yet, which is great for the Hawks. For the sake of this argument, Young has looked like a future Hall of Fame point guard at the age of 22 years old. Young is in his third season and owns career averages of 23.8 points and 8.6 assists per game. Not to mention, he has done this without a major superstar on the roster. The Hawks remain one of the youngest teams in the NBA. Hopefully, Atlanta can build a championship contender or this could be a deja vu scenario like Chris Paul with the New Orleans Hornets back in the day.
Boston Celtics - Jayson Tatum
That's a good chance that this name could change by the end of the season. Jaylen Brown is sporting a 27.2 point, 5.8 rebounds, and 3.4 assist season as we speak. On the other side of him, Tatum owns 26.6 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 3.9 assists. Both players could be in their primes but we have seen more of this production from Tatum than Brown. The Celtics have the luxury of having two-star players on their team for the next four to five years. As of 2021, the honor goes to Tatum with Brown closely nipping at his heels.
Brooklyn Nets - Kevin Durant
How do you choose between Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, or James Harden? Heck, a prime-time DeAndre Jordan was a double-double machine, while his dunks were viral YouTube hits. As for Irving, his prime years are right now but he has never won an MVP award, so we can cross him out. Durant and Harden have won five of the last seven scoring titles with Harden winning the last three by scoring over 30 points per game. Right now, Harden is leading the league in assists, so this could go either way. In the end, Durant gets the nod for being a complete package. His two NBA Finals MVP trophies also help with the argument.
Charlotte Hornets - Gordon Hayward
Luckily for Charlotte, Hayward is playing like prime years Gordon Hayward. In 2016, Hayward qualified for his lone All-Star team and averaged 21.9 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 3.5 assists. Through 16 games this season, Hayward is averaging a career-high in points (24.1). Terry Rozier is currently in his prime but Hayward still surpasses his abilities. Both Devonte' Graham and LaMelo Ball both have promised to be better players but right now a prime-time Hayward would ball out anybody on this roster. Given his past stats, that was precisely why the Hornets committed $30 million to Hayward each season.
Chicago Bulls - Zach LaVine
LaVine has played in the league since 2014 and every year we have seen growth from LaVine. At 25 years old, we are potentially seeing the first prime year of LaVine's career. He currently ranks fifth in the league in scoring, just north of 27 points per game, while his rebounds and assists are currently a career-high as we speak. LaVine is the prime reason why the Bulls are in playoff consideration. The Bulls are so young that we don't know what prime years from the key players look like. As for the older players, a prime time Zach LaVine is far superior to those like Thad Young or Garrett Temple.
Cleveland Cavaliers - Kevin Love
Collin Sexton is one year away from getting consideration even though Love would beat him out. Primetime Kevin Love was a five-time All-Star, an NBA Three-Point Shooting Champion during All-Star Weekend, the rebounding champion in 2011, and an NBA champion. Love and Andre Drummond have owned similar situations during their prime years. When Love was with the Timberwolves, he averaged 19.2 points and 12.2 rebounds in six seasons. When he left, he was 25 years old and had prime years to give to the Cavaliers. Drummond averaged 14.4 points and 13.9 rebounds in eight seasons with the Detroit Pistons. Both know how to put up solid numbers for losing teams, except Love, who got the taste of championship contention when he paired with Kyrie Irving and LeBron James for four seasons.
Dallas Mavericks - Luka Doncic
Even though Luka Doncic is only 21 years old, he is the best player on the Dallas Mavericks. We will see the prime Luka Doncic in the next few years, but his current form is already enough to be the best player on his team. He is a really amazing player, especially on the offensive end, and it is just a matter of time before we see him winning the MVP award. With 27.3 PPG, 9.2 RPG, 9.6 APG, and 1.1 SPG, he is one of the best players in the association right now, and his next goal should be the NBA Championship with the Mavericks.
Denver Nuggets - Nikola Jokic
This comes down to a would you rather? Would you rather have prime years from Nikola Jokic or potential prime years of Jamal Murray or Michael Porter Jr. Since both Jokic is the more proven player right now, it has to go with them once in a generation center? Jokic is nearly averaging a triple-double as a 7-footer. As we speak, Jokic owns averages of 25.4 points, 11.4 rebounds, and 9.3 assists. He is in the conversation for the MVP award. Murray has the potential to score 50 points, as we saw in the playoffs, but can go out and shoot a dud and score just 15 minutes. Until either Murry or Porter is consistent, give us "The Joker."
Detroit Pistons - Derrick Rose
Imagine that it's 10 years ago and Derrick Rose is still his MVP self. Rose won an MVP trophy at 22 years old. He was a high-flying, clutch shot selecting guard taken out of Chicago, who got to play for his hometown. Forget the multiple ACL surgeries that he has suffered. Before that, Rose was the main catalyst for why Chicago captured back-to-back No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference. One of those times came during the LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh Heat seasons. The Pistons are the worst team in the Eastern Conference. If both Rose and Griffin were in their primes, there's a chance this Pistons team would go from worst to first if Father Time turned back the clock.
Golden State Warriors - Stephen Curry
It's hard to believe that we might be past the prime seasons of Klay Thompson after he has missed the last two seasons due to injuries. Even with Thompson was primetime, Curry was the best player on the team. At the height of the "Splash Brothers," it was Curry that won back-to-back MVP trophies, while also becoming the first unanimous MVP ever. Curry is now No. 2 all-time in made three-pointers and he should eventually catch Ray Allen. Curry will go down as the greatest Warriors player ever.
Houston Rockets - DeMarcus Cousins
This is a hard toss-up between prime John Wall and prime DeMarcus Cousins. Both have suffered career-altering injuries, so they are nowhere near their prime production levels. At Wall's highest points, he made five straight All-Star appearances. That included three straight seasons where he averaged around 18 points and 10 assists, making him a top-5 guard in the league from 2014 to 2016. Around this same time period, Cousins was a four-time All-Star but put up monster numbers. Around this time, Cousins averaged closes to 25 points, 12 rebounds, and four assists. He was one of the best big men in the country. Who knows how great the Rockets would have been if both players were in their prime right now.
Indiana Pacers - Domantas Sabonis
After trading Victor Oladipo, Sabonis has established himself as the face of the Pacers franchise. Myles Turner is growing as a defensive center, leading the league in blocks but we have not seen the offensive progression that we have liked. Last year, Sabonis qualified for his first All-Star game and averaged a double-double. He was top-5 in the league in total double-doubles. We are currently in the middle of his prime seasons and there is no better player on the roster than him.
Los Angeles Clippers - Kawhi Leonard
Paul George is currently in his prime and he still doesn't get a seat at the table in this conversation. George has been an MVP candidate one time in his career. George has made the All-NBA First Team once while making the All-NBA Defensive First Team twice. As for Leonard, he is a two-time NBA champion, two-time NBA Finals MVP, and two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year. While both players are skilled offensively, Leonard's defense is superior to George, which makes any talk of this being a tie invalidated.
Los Angeles Lakers - LeBron James
Let's just throw this out there that this is no disrespect to Anthony Davis. The fact of the matter is that Davis turns 28 this season, while LeBron is 36 and has played since he was 18. Lebron has accomplished more in his career and there's no direct line to when his prime is over. At 35 years old, LeBron averaged 25.2 points and led the league in assists (10.2). Most players by this time are considered role players. They are not true No. 1 option on a team. Lebron is a once in a lifetime type of player. Davis has stats to this day that would overtake multiple players on this list. The longevity of LeBron's prime years makes him the clear choice. We didn't even mention Marc Gasol, who in his prime holds several Memphis Grizzlies records and is a former Defensive Player of the Year.
Memphis Grizzlies - Ja Morant
In just one season, it's easy to take Morant after one season given the limited resources the team has. Jaren Jackson is a nice piece but Morant is the future. The reigning NBA Rookie of the Year showed superstar glimpses. In comparison to others in the starting lineup, would you take prime seasons from Kyle Anderson, Dillon Brooks. or Jonas Valuncianus over Morant? Even after one season, Morant is the best player on this roster.
Miami Heat - Jimmy Butler
The Chicago Bulls made a huge mistake when they traded Butler. They didn't want to make Butler the face of the franchise. At the time, Butler made three straight All-NBA Defensive Second Teams and was a member of the All-NBA Third-Team. We are currently in the midst of his prime seasons, which also included spots on both of those teams in 2018 and 2020. While Bam Adebayo is growing, we haven't seen his full prime years yet. Goran Dragic has made one All-Star team during his prime seasons. In the end, Butler is the most accomplished player and the complete package.
Milwaukee Bucks - Giannis Antetokounmpo
On this team, Khris Middleton is a top-15 player in the league. Brook Lopez is the all-time leader in points record holder with the Nets. There are some strong contenders on this team. At his best, the reigning two-time MVP gets the nod. Giannis is the most dominant player in the paint offensively and defensively. Given his abilities on both sides of the floor, he is the more versatile player compared to prime seasons from both Middleton and Lopez.
Minnesota Timberwolves - Karl-Anthony Towns
At some point, we are going to see a deja vu moment like Kevin Love's day with the Timberwolves. Towns keep the Timberwolves relevant. At age 25, he owns a career average of 22.7 points and 11.8 rebounds. Anthony Edwards has potential but is in his first season, while D'Angelo Russell owns just one All-Star appearance in his career. Towns is a two-time All-Star and a former Rookie of the Year. Towns has quite a few prime years left but his future is up in the air, as well as the layout of his career.
New Orleans Pelicans - Brandon Ingram
Ingram is the defending Most Improved Player of the Year after making his first All-Star appearance. Lonzo Ball hasn't received any recognition since making the All-Rookie Second Team. Zion Williamson is in the midst of his first full season. Out of prime years, Ingram is the most accomplished with the most upside. This is the second straight season Ingram is averaging over 20 points and chipping in five rebounds and four assists. Until Williamson starts playing like the next generational player, Ingram is the face of the Pelicans.
New York Knicks - Julius Randle
Here's a fun fact about the Knicks roster. There is not a single player on the team that owns an All-Star appearance. RJ Barrett is in his sophomore season and is beginning to show flashes of the next superstar in New York. However, Randle could make his first All-Star game appearance this year. Randle is averaging career highs in points (22.7), rebounds (11.3), and assists (6.1). With his borderline superstar performances, the Knicks are in a position to make a run towards qualifying for the playoffs.
Oklahoma City Thunder - Al Horford
Horford has played in the NBA since 2006, which means we are starting to see the tail-end of his solid NBA career. When Horford was in his prime, he was a five-time All-Star. Some could make the case that last decade, from 2010 to 2019, he served his prime seasons. Horford's best offensive season game with the Hawks, where he averaged 14.3 points and 8.9 rebounds. When he joined the Celtics in 2016, his offensive output decreased, while his defensive role shined. He made an All-Defensive team in 2018 but still contributed 13.5 points and 7.0 rebounds. After joining the 76ers, his production dipped a little bit with age and other personnel decisions.
Orlando Magic - Nikola Vucevic
While the Magic play better as a team, Vucecic is similar to Towns in ways that he keeps the franchise relevant. Gordon's only appearance on All-Star Weekend is when is participating in the Slam-Dunk Contest. Vuceciv is the only player on the Magic roster that has ever qualified for the All-Star Game. He is a top-25 player in the league, which is why the Magic are always hovering around mediocrity as a unit. In 10 seasons, Vucevic has averaged double-digit rebounds seven times. Maybe one day, a team will be able to use his talents as a center towards competing for a title.
Philadelphia 76ers - Dwight Howard
Some of you are asking why not Ben Simmons? What about Joel Embiid or Tobias Harris? If Howard ended his career today, he would be in the Hall of Fame. It's been over a decade but here's a history lesson for you. Before Howard left for the Los Angeles Lakers in 2012, he was a seven-time All-Star selection, a five-time member of the All-NBA First Team, and won the Defensive Player of the Year Award three straight seasons from 2009-2011. He led the league in rebounding from 2008 to 2010. Has Simmons, Embiid. or Harris ever led anything in the NBA? Their prime seasons are still happening but the answer is no.
Phoenix Suns - Chris Paul
Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton have plenty of time to carve their names into the record books in Phoenix. If we are talking prime careers, Chris Paul's outweighs both players. Paul holds a franchise record for assists and steals with both the New Orleans Pelicans and Los Angeles Clippers. Who does that? He qualified for nine straight All-Star Games from 2008 to 2016, made six straight All-NBA Defensive First Teams, led the league in assists four times, and led the league in steals six times. When anybody else on the Suns gets even close to this type of career, let us know.
Portland Trail Blazers - Carmelo Anthony
This was a hard toss-up. Who is better in their prime between Carmelo Anthony and Damian Lillard? Lillard is currently in his prime and owns five All-Star appearances, made the All-NBA First Team once, and is creeping towards Clyde Drexler as the all-time points leader with Portland. As for Anthony, he made 10 All-Star trips, including eight straight from 2010 to 2017, owns zero First-Team recognition but has two selections on the second team and four on the third team, and once led the league in scoring in 2013. If Lillard makes one more First-Team, there's a valid argument that those outweigh Anthony because Lillard owns three-second team honors. Both are lethal scorers and wanted the last show in crunch time. If Lillard had two more seasons under his belt right now, he might have overtaken Anthony.
San Antonio Spurs - DeMar DeRozan
DeRozan is the all-time leader in points with the Toronto Raptors despite not playing for the franchise in three seasons. His run of four straight All-Star appearances featured video-game-like stats. His final season in Toronto included averages of 27.3 points per game and 5.2 assists. Aldridge made a run of five straight All-Star teams when he was in Portland. His career numbers hover around 19 points and eight rebounds per game. While Aldridge was a great power forward, DeRozan could also rebound, while making the pass. Aldridge is not known for passing, so based on the complete package, DeRozan gets the nod.
Sacramento Kings - De'Aaron Fox
Like the Knicks, the Kings don't have anybody on their roster that has made the All-Star Game. Hield has 20-point per game potential. We are still waiting for Marvin Bagley III to play like a true No. 2 overall pick but he looks more like Aaron Gordon each night. Harrison Barnes won an NBA championship with the Warriors but he was a role player on that team. Fox just signed a max contract with the Kings. His career numbers are 16.5 points and 6.1 assists. When it comes to prime careers, Fox has the best upside.
Toronto Raptors - Kyle Lowry
If Pascal Siakam stays with the Raptors, he will become the next face of the franchise. For now, as long as Lowry is walking the streets of Toronto, this is his team. Before Lowry joined the Raptors, he was not considered a relevant player in the league. It wasn't until Lowry was 28 that he made his first All-Star Team. From 2014-2020, Lowry has represented the Raptors on All-Star Weekend. In nine seasons with Toronto, Lowry has averaged 17.6 points, 4.9 rebounds, and 7.1 assists. Lowry is the franchise leader in assists and steals. There is nobody on this team that comes close to primetime Kyle Lowry.
Utah Jazz - Donovan Mitchell
The easy case to go against Rudy Gobert is longevity. Gobert has played for the Jazz since 2013. Since 2017, we have seen Gobert slide into his prime years, where he has won two Defensive Player of the Year Awards, made four All-NBA Defensive First Teams, and qualify for his first All-Star team. Mitchell has played for the Jazz since 2017 and has averaged 22.8 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 4.1 assists. Granted, Mitchell made his first All-Star appearance last season too. However, the Jazz doesn't take off when Gobert plays well. It all depends on Mitchell's night.
Washington Wizards - Russell Westbrook
Sorry, Bradley Beal. We know that you are in the middle of your prime and are leading the league in scoring with 34.5 points per game. However, if the Wizards made a deal for Westbrook maybe three seasons ago, we might not be looking at one of the worst teams in the Eastern Conference. Westbrook was one injury away in 2014 from making ten straight All-Star appearances from 2011 to 2020. In 2017, Westbrook won the MVP award after averaging a triple-double during the season. It was the first time since Oscar Robertson did it in 1962. Westbrook averaged those numbers against guys like Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, and LeBron James. Westbrook played each game like it was on prime-time television and we shouldn't forget that.
Credit for an idea: NBA County