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Can You Build a Superteam to Beat the Warriors?

And can you do it on a budget?

Getty Images
Getty Images

The greatest regular-season team of all time just swapped out Harrison Barnes for Kevin Freaking Durant. It’s fair to say the Warriors now have two of the three best players in the NBA, which raises this question: Is it even possible to construct a team that can go toe-to-toe with the Dubs’ Super Death Lineup? Our staff took a crack at it. So that this isn’t complete anarchy, we placed a restriction: You have to pick your five-man rotation on a $15 budget.

$7 Player

  • LeBron James

$5 Players

  • LaMarcus Aldridge
  • DeMarcus Cousins
  • Anthony Davis
  • Blake Griffin
  • James Harden
  • Kawhi Leonard
  • Chris Paul
  • Russell Westbrook

$4 Players

  • Carmelo Anthony
  • Jimmy Butler
  • DeMar DeRozan
  • Andre Drummond
  • Paul George
  • Kyrie Irving
  • Damian Lillard
  • Paul Millsap
  • Karl-Anthony Towns
  • John Wall
  • Hassan Whiteside

$3 Players

  • Giannis Antetokounmpo
  • Eric Bledsoe
  • Chris Bosh
  • Derrick Favors
  • Marc Gasol
  • Al Horford
  • Dwight Howard
  • Serge Ibaka
  • DeAndre Jordan
  • Kevin Love
  • Kyle Lowry
  • Dirk Nowitzki
  • Isaiah Thomas
  • Dwyane Wade
  • Andrew Wiggins

$2 Players

  • Bradley Beal
  • Mike Conley
  • Tyreke Evans
  • Kenneth Faried
  • Pau Gasol
  • Rudy Gobert
  • Gordon Hayward
  • Brook Lopez
  • C.J. McCollum
  • Khris Middleton
  • Chandler Parsons
  • Kristaps Porzingis
  • Zach Randolph
  • Jonas Valanciunas
  • Nikola Vucevic
  • Kemba Walker

$1 Players

  • Everyone else

Chris Ryan

  1. LeBron James ($7)
  2. Russell Westbrook ($5)
  3. Steven Adams ($1)
  4. Devin Booker ($1)
  5. Avery Bradley ($1)

I don’t care how much this costs. I would fight a Cylon army with Westbrook and LeBron. As an added bonus, there are no two people in the world with more incentive to destroy the Warriors than Bron and Russ. The Durant deal prematurely ended LeBron’s victory lap and more or less guaranteed that his third title would be his last. Durant ditched Russ and ejected out of the plane just as they were reaching peak altitude. Add in Avery Bradley for defense and outside shooting, Devin Booker as Klay MK II, and Steven Adams to bait Draymond.

Sam Donsky

  1. LeBron James ($7)
  2. Kawhi Leonard ($5)
  3. Harrison Barnes ($1)
  4. Andrew Bogut ($1)
  5. Seth Curry ($1)

I’m starting with LeBron and Kawhi, the two non-Warriors in my NBA top four. After that, I used advanced stats to locate the optimal counterstrategy — GOSSIP — and rounded out my team from there.

Jason Gallagher

  1. LeBron James ($7)
  2. Russell Westbrook ($5)
  3. Steven Adams ($1)
  4. Harrison Barnes ($1)
  5. Monta Ellis ($1)

TEAM REVENGE — I’m banking on one thing that money can’t buy: pure, unadulterated passion. This team will be SO fired up to beat the Warriors that they’d sacrifice family members to do so. LeBron will have KD on lock. Adams and Russ have already proved they can take care of Draymond and Steph. Barnes can take Klay or Iggy (depending on who is having the off night), and for what #HaveItAll lacks on defense, he’ll more than make up for on offense given the moment. This is America’s squad. Let’s burn this mother to the ground.

Jonathan Tjarks

  1. DeMarcus Cousins ($5)
  2. Karl-Anthony Towns ($4)
  3. Giannis Antetokounmpo ($3)
  4. Kristaps Porzingis ($2)
  5. Willie Cauley-Stein ($1)

If you aren’t a 7-footer (or close enough), I don’t even want you on my team. If the Warriors are going small ball, I’m going all 7-footer all the time. If we can trust DMC’s 3-point shooting, there might actually be enough spacing for this lineup to survive. Towns and Cauley-Stein legit have the foot speed to stick with the Splash Brothers, and Giannis is kind of a proto-Durant. Put Porzingis on Iguodala and then I’m turning Cousins loose on Draymond. It’s Point Giannis on offense and Towns-KP pick-and-pops all day. The return of big men!

Sam Schube

  1. James Harden ($5)
  2. Kyrie Irving ($4)
  3. Eric Bledsoe ($3)
  4. Kemba Walker ($2)
  5. Reggie Jackson ($1)

Joe Lacob famously loves to zig when the rest of the league zags. So I’ve drafted TEAM DISRUPTION by taking his motto and disrupting the shit out of it: Zag when others zig (because the first guys zagged). The best way to gum up Golden State’s pace-and-pass offense is to make sure they never get the ball, tiki-taka style; my guys will literally dribble the ball until it pops. It’s Uber, but for hero ball.

Riley McAtee

  1. Kawhi Leonard ($5)
  2. Chris Paul ($5)
  3. Steven Adams ($1)
  4. Giannis Antetokounmpo ($3)
  5. Avery Bradley ($1)

Give me two of the best perimeter defenders in the league, an ass-kicker in Steven Adams, and a physical freak in Giannis, and I like my chances. At the very least, this lineup would give the Warriors a headache. That’s all I’m really going for here.

Micah Peters

  1. LeBron James ($7)
  2. Russell Westbrook ($5)
  3. Harrison Barnes ($1)
  4. James Jones ($1)
  5. Tristan Thompson ($1)

The only real comp for these blockbuster acquisitions is a Marvel-level incursion, so hear me out: Remember the end of Captain America: Civil War? Iron Man, Captain America, and Bucky the Soviet Winter Soldier resolve a decades-old beef with their fists in a cozy, intimate military base. Long story short, Cap and Bucky win — even though everyone kind of loses — proving that murky KGB experimentation and super-soldier serum beat newfangled analytics and lightweight space alloy at least one time out of 10. LeBron is the super soldier and Russ is the military experiment in this scenario, though you could just as easily switch the two, and I can say with relative confidence that it doesn’t really matter who else you throw out there with them. Bring Harrison Barnes along to stretch the floor and unclog the lane with the occasional corner 3. We can just pad the rest out with some of LeBron’s closest friends.

Danny Chau

  1. Kawhi Leonard ($5)
  2. Russell Westbrook ($5)
  3. Al Horford ($3)
  4. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope ($1)
  5. Nikola Jokic ($1)

Team-building is about exploiting market inefficiencies, so I’m choosing to exploit the fact that Al Horford was rated a $3 player in our arbitrary ranking. Russ, Kawhi, and Horford form an id/ego/super-ego trio so cosmically balanced that we’re going to be teaching it in every kinda-sorta-accredited online college psychology course that still uses Freudian psychoanalysis as the basis of its curriculum. Westbrook, Leonard, and KCP offer three different methods of defending Steph, Klay, and Durant. Horford and Jokic are great team defenders who will be in position for the inevitable Westbrook gamble/flying head butt on KD. Caldwell-Pope might be one of the best defenders in the league to sic on Curry — he has an excellent combination of lateral quickness, footwork, and court awareness. He’s proved his worth on defense, but this addition to the lineup presupposes that he can actually shoot 3s at a percentage around league average.