The 2022 NBA Finals are a full year away and it already feels like the Brooklyn Nets and Los Angeles Lakers are destined to face off in the championship series. While that would be the most popular scenario, one has to wonder how the rest of the league feels looking at these two superteams. Maybe, just maybe, it’s time for a mutiny of all NBA franchises.
We can skip the regular season and go straight to a one-game, winner takes all series. The Nets and Lakers can combine their two superteams. Then, the other 28 teams will put all of their eggs into one basket and hope their superteam can take down the giant Nets/Lakers squad.
Who do you think would win in this particular championship game of Nets/Lakers vs. Rest of the League? Let’s take a closer look.
Point Guard: Kyrie Irving vs. Steph Curry
At point guard, we would have the two best in the league at the current moment. With Irving, you would have a player that averaged 26.9 points, shot 50.6% from the field, and contributed 6.0 assists. Irving also shot over 40% from three-point range. His baseline move to the basket is nearly unstoppable.
Across from Irving, you are the reigning scoring champion. Last year, Curry averaged 32.0 points, shot 48.2% from the field, 42.1% from three, and added 5.5 rebounds and 5.8 assists. Curry’s range is undeniable. Historically speaking, he might be the greatest shooter we have ever seen. He can go point for point with Irving, if not the entire Nets/Lakers team.
Shooting Guard: James Harden vs. Luka Doncic
Technically, Irving wouldn’t need to go point for point with Irving because that is why they have James Harden. When healthy, Harden is capable of winning back-to-back-to-back scoring titles. Harden battled with health and injuries this season, but he was the three-peat scoring champion before Curry.
Harden can produce triple-doubles, but Doncic is a walking triple-double most nights. Doncic, the record holder for triple-doubles in Mavericks franchise history, is making it look easy for Slovenia in the Olympics. In the NBA, he owns a career slash line of 25.7/8.4/7.7.
Small Forward: LeBron James vs. Kawhi Leonard
In 2020, had the Los Angeles Clippers not lost a 3-1 lead, we could have known who owns the upper hand. It would have been a LeBron vs. Leonard matchup in the Conference Finals. LeBron ultimately won the championship, while Leonard and Los Angeles awaited their chance of making the NBA Finals. James, a four-time Finals MVP, is just a year off from leading the league in assists and remains a top-10 player in the league.
When healthy, Leonard is a top-10 player in the league as well. Both have ceilings as high as top-5. In this matchup, it would be a battle between two distinct legacies. Both provide offense, defense, and intangibles that affect the game.
Power Forward: Kevin Durant vs. Giannis Antetokounmpo
If this feels like MVP vs. MVP, it’s because it is. Durant, the 2014 MVP, and Giannis (the 2019 and 2020 winners) are also both Finals MVPs as well. Durant, 2017 and 2018, technically owns one more ring than Giannis, who just won in 2021, is the more complete offensive player. Durant has led the league in scoring four times (2010-2014).
With that said, there is a weakness in everything. Giannis is the 2020 Defensive Player of the Year. He is rated among the best in defense, which we saw recently when the Bucks played the Nets in the playoffs. In Game 7, it was Milwaukee that had the last laugh.
Center: Anthony Davis vs. Nikola Jokic
Davis, an eight-time All-Star, is a top-3 defender in this league and a player with 20 points and 10 rebounds each night. It’s a fair argument to say that Davis is the best rim protector in the entire league.
On the other side, Jokic, the 2021 MVP, is the complete package at center. He is the best passing center we have ever seen. He averaged 26.4 points, 10.8 rebounds, and 8.3 assists. Also, he shoots from outside at a better margin than Davis (38.6%).
Team Nets/Lakers: Kendrick Nunn, Russell Westbrook, Joe Harris, Talen Horton-Tucker, Carmelo Anthony, Dwight Howard, Marc Gasol
Team Rest of the League: Damian Lillard, Bradley Beal, Devin Booker, Jimmy Butler, Paul George, Jayson Tatum, Joel Embiid
Starting with the Nets/Lakers, the bench would be headlined by Russell Westbrook, who is coming off his fourth season averaging a triple-double. Having an Oscar Robertson-like player as your sixth man has to mean something. Then, you have former scoring champion Carmelo Anthony, former three-point shooting contest winner Joe Harris, and former Defensive Players of the Year in Dwight Howard and Marc Gasol.
The young pieces in Kendrick Nunn and Talen Horton-Tucker provide the team some fresh, young legs in spurts. Before falling out of the Heat’s rotation, Nunn was shooting above 40% from three-point range. Horton-Tucker provides similar traits to LeBron and Westbrook’s game, as he is one of the better young players at getting to the rim.
As for Team Rest of the League, Westbrook could be matched by Damian Lillard. After all, we have seen Lillard takedown Westbrook’s Thunder in the playoffs before. Bradley Beal, the 2021 scoring runner-up averaged 31.3 points per game, which was his second straight season of averaging over 30 points.
Devin Booker, Paul George, and Jayson Tatum are lethal threats from the outside. Jimmy Butler is a complete forward that can help with just about everything. Of course, we can’t forget Joel Embiid, who might have won the MVP had he stayed healthy last year. All in all, this bench is stacked.
Team Nets/Lakers Advantages
The combination of LeBron and Durant is like pairing Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, but better. Then, you have the best rim protector in the league in Davis manning the middle. Irving and Harden can get this team a basket anytime it needs. Off the bench, you have Westbrook providing that spark. This team may not be deep, but what it can put on the court can match with anything.
Team Rest of the League Advantages
Three-point shooting is a clear advantage. On Team Nets/Lakers, the team’s best outside shooter is Durant and Harris. There are five legit outside shooters on this team. Defensively, you have a former DPOY in Giannis. More importantly, individually, you have five of the last seven winners in the MVP vote.
Who Would Win?
The cop-out answer is to say that these two teams are equally overpowering, but in the end, Team Rest of the League would win. Not only would they win, but they would win by double digits.
For starters, the outside shooting on Team Nets/Lakers is a real concern. While Harris is a great three-point shooter, he is a spot-up shooter. On the other side, you have players like Curry, Doncic, Tatum, George, and Lillard, who can create their own shot. Curry and Lillard have the deepest range in the NBA, so you would have to always cover them on defense.
That poses another problem. What happens if Davis gets brought out of the middle. That allows Giannis to penetrate the lane. While this might be just a one-move wonder, that move guided him to 50 points in the NBA Finals this year and a Finals MVP. The combination of Giannis and Jokic just feels like a frontcourt nightmare for the Nets/Lakers. Who is guarding that? Realistically, Gasol and Howard are not the same defensive players compared to five to six years ago.
Defensively, Team Rest of the League has the upper hand. They also have an offense that can match with Team Nets/Lakers. The bench is deeper. On paper, this seems like a no-brainer.