After nearly four years in college, the typical Friday night bar crawl has the natural propensity to lose a bit of its luster. The novelty of an evening on the town becomes replaced by the overwhelming, seemingly necessary, urge to succumb to couch lock, remaining sedated in the apartment.
As the weeks turn into months, you slowly begin coming to grips with your own social mortality, watching the clock tick down ever quicker towards graduation. Once vivid memories blur into a near endless collection of ‘remember when’ stories.
But there are a few nights that are forever bookmarked by your subconscious, particular events or phrases remaining so clear that you can recall without a nostalgic impetus. I’d like to detail for you one of those nights.
Let’s take you to Athens, Georgia on a cold November evening. It included 5 roommates, a 3 hour discussion, and 1 geographical fact that left all participants shaken to their core.
I was fortunate enough to live with four good friends throughout the majority of college. This is the apartment where the idea of this dumb little website was brought to fruition – a place with no shortage of random foot traffic and even more random arguments.
Whether it was nearly coming to blows debating the legitimacy of running a casino out of our living room or unnecessarily simulating Oklahoma drills to determine which was more terrifying – the world’s largest bat or the world’s largest snake – Apartment 2600 was never devoid of trivial entertainment.
But the one argument that left us in a state of stupor that only years of excessive drinking can rival: who would win the Finals if the top scorer on every NBA team was traded one team longitudinally East?
Now, the question at face value seems innocuous, but in the process of framing our discussion, we discovered one fact that remains forever branded on our collective brains’ hippocampus.
With two roommates from Atlanta, we began discussing the player that would be the addition and subtraction from the Hawks. Without consulting a map, we thought there was a chance their team could hypothetically acquire LeBron.
We began to scale out each data city’s data points and boy, were we wrong.
How wrong? Well, not only is Cleveland significantly east of Atlanta, but – DETROIT, MICHIGAN IS LONGITUDINALLY EAST OF ATLANTA, GEORGIA.
Yes. You read that correctly. Motown. The Motor City. The Arsenal of Democracy. The Paris of the Midwest. Is located to the East of a city synonymous with the East Coast.
I would have put the life of every person I have ever interacted with on the opposite of that geographically based fact to be true.
Never in my life did I check over my answers before turning in a test, but I must have re-read this 250 times. For a period of probably 20-30 minutes in 2015, I think I became a Flat Earth Truther. I was prepared to drive to Wal-Mart to buy a globe, convinced the three dimensional curvature of the earth would prove my previous notion correct.
The feeling of confusion was indescribable, like I was ready to fight. I don’t know who, I don’t know where, I don’t know how – but I was prepared to go fisticuffs with the societal collective of American democracy and freedom of the Internet for allowing me to live more than 22 years without this knowledge. If I didn’t know this, there were no bounds to what else I didn’t know.
This revelation unfortunately stonewalled what was becoming one of our better banal arguments. So, in the spirit of casuistry, I would like to revisit the scene of the crime, answering our 2015 question with 2018 data – If you traded each NBA team’s top scorer one team to the East, how would the NBA Playoff picture look?
In order to properly analyze this hypothetical, I had to establish a few caveats – the first being: everyone is healthy. Injuries do not exist. Boogie, ‘Staps, Wall, Kawhi, and others all get to return from the dead. I also set it up as the highest scorer on every team because there are some wonky PER/VORP numbers out there that would result in highly efficient bench players being the trade chip for their team.
So, without further adieu, I present how each team’s starting line up would look:
|Team||Longitude||Old Scorer||New Scorer|
|Portland Trail Blazers||122.40||Damian Lillard||Kyrie Irving|
|Golden State Warriors||122.16||Kevin Durant||Damian Lillard|
|Sacramento Kings||121.30||Zach Randolph||Kevin Durant|
|Los Angeles Lakers||118.15||Brandon Ingram||Zach Randolph|
|Los Angeles Clippers||118.15||Lou Williams||Brandon Ingram|
|Phoenix Suns||112.40||TJ Warren||Lou Williams|
|Utah Jazz||111.54||Donovan Mitchell||TJ Warren|
|Denver Nuggets||105.00||Gary Harris||Donovan Mitchell|
|San Antonio Spurs||98.33||Kawhi Leonard||Gary Harris|
|Oklahoma City Thunder||97.28||Russell Westbrook||Kawhi Leonard|
|Dallas Mavericks||96.46||Harrison Barnes||Russell Westbrook|
|Houston Rockets||95.21||James Harden||Harrison Barnes|
|Minnesota Timberwolves||93.14||Jimmy Butler||James Harden|
|New Orleans Pelicans||90.40||Anthony Davis||Jimmy Butler|
|Memphis Grizzlies||90.30||Tyreke Evans||Anthony Davis|
|Milwaukee Bucks||87.55||Giannis Antetokounmpo||Tyreke Evans|
|Chicago Bulls||87.37||Lauri Markkanan||Giannis Antetokounmpo|
|Indiana Pacers||86.10||Victor Oladipo||Lauri Markkanan|
|Atlanta Hawks||84.23||Dennis Schroeder||Victor Oladipo|
|Detroit Pistons||83.30||Blake Griffin||Dennis Schroeder|
|Cleveland Cavaliers||81.69||LeBron James||Blake Griffin|
|Orlando Magic||81.37||Evan Fournier||LeBron James|
|Charlotte Hornets||80.50||Kemba Walker||Evan Fournier|
|Miami Heat||80.12||Goran Dragic||Kemba Walker|
|Toronto Raptors||79.24||DeMar DeRozen||Goran Dragic|
|Washington Wizards||77.02||John Wall||DeMar DeRozen|
|Philadelphia 76ers||75.10||Ben Simmons||John Wall|
|New York Knicks||73.97||Kristaps Porzingis||Ben Simmons|
|Brooklyn Nets||73.94||D'Angelo Russell||Kristaps Porzingis|
|Boston Celtics||71.50||Kyrie Irving||D'Angelo Russell|
Let’s break this thing down, power rankings style, in conference-less NBA season, worst to first. (It’s my article, this is the only place on the flat earth I get to make the rules. Please let me have this). The contenders, deservedly so, will be dissected a bit more than those likely attempting to
30. Los Angeles Lakers: Added Zach Randolph. Lost Brandon Ingram. Does anyone have a connect to the security staff at the Staples Center? Closed Circuit video of Zach Randolph walking into the Lakers’ office, punching Luke Walton in the face, and declaring himself the new coach and part owner would be a sight to see. After the “I don’t bluff” incident, you also can’t convince me that it wouldn’t happen.
29. Phoenix Suns: Added Lou Williams. Lost TJ Warren. An Elfrid Payton, Devin Booker, Lou Williams back court would still feature a starting line up of Dragan Bender and Alex Len, so I think we should hold up a little before speaking to the productivity of this team. The Suns keep doing all they can to try and make Devin Booker the first free agent to turn down his first max extension.
28. New York Knicks: Added Ben Simmons. Lost Kristaps Porzingis. Northeastern fan bases arguing in two dialects some consider English that their young star is better. This would make everyone extremely angry and would make the Knicks still extremely out of the playoffs.
27. Indiana Pacers: Added Lauri Markkanen. Lost Victor Oladipo. By swapping out Oladipo and swapping in Markkanen, the Indiana Pacers actually just became the Chicago Bulls. The Pacers are 0-6 this year without Oladipo, who is blossoming into a superstar in front of our eyes. The last 5 years have featured the departure of Peyton Manning, the mystery of Andrew Luck’s shoulder, the breaking of Paul George’s leg and then the breaking of the Pacers’ heart, Notre Dame going 4-8, Tom Crean in general, and now the hypothetical departure of ‘Dipo. Someone give the state of Indiana a hug.
26. Brooklyn Nets: Added Kristaps Porzingis. Lost D’Angelo Russell. Do unicorns have the ability to further kill skeletons in closets? Because if not, this franchise is still in a world of draft lotteries they have no part in. The fact that Aaron Crabbe is making $17M this year or that Mikhail Prokhorov would probably sign Ron Artest to a max deal, given the chance, does not disappear even with the supplementation of one of the game’s best young big men. This bad team becomes marginally less bad.
25. Charlotte Hornets: Added Evan Fournier. Lost Kemba Walker. Unless the addition of Evan Fournier comes with a minimum of 2 of Khaleesi’s dragons to destroy Nic Batum’s contract by fire, nothing is going to change in Charlotte. If you took the prime of all of these players and put them on the same team, you might have something that could function in the playoffs. But if we’re still talking absurd hypotheticals, give me Drogon on a 5 year max.
24. Detroit Pistons: Added Dennis Schroeder. Lost Blake Griffin. This “Midwestern city’s” blockbuster trade farce is exactly what it deserved after the mental pretzel it put me into three years ago. For that, I have a take that all Pistons fans will assuredly hate. Shame me into eternity. Plaster me on Old Takes Exposed. Tweet me the worst GIF in your arsenal. I think the Detroit Pistons would be better if these two roster moves occurred. The Blake Griffin/Andre Drummond experience just does not appear to be working. Granted, it’s only been a handful of games and an offseason of Stan Van Gundy getting winded yelling at these two can grow a team’s chemistry, but the Pistons are woefully unequipped to function in the 2018 NBA.
23. Atlanta Hawks: Added Victor Oladipo. Lost Dennis Schroeder. Let’s play a game called: Name 2 Current Players on the Atlanta Hawks Roster. Let me guess – you lost? The media keeps talking about teams trying to tank. I think Atlanta wants people to think that they are trying to tank to hide the much worse reality: they do not have the ability to win basketball games. Oladipo certainly helps that (and probably brings the team over 30 wins), but when your most competent sidekick is Kent Bazemore, the $72 million dollar man, you’ve got issues.
22. Dallas Mavericks: Added Russell Westbrook. Lost Harrison Barnes. Combining Dennis Smith Jr. with Dennis Smith Jr. + 5 years NBA experience will be quite the project. A Russell Westbook-Dwight Powell pick and roll could be fun, but those usually work better when there is at least one player that can make an open jumper. I would be surprised if this team made the Playoffs, especially with how the hypothetical West would look, but I’ve also learned to not tell Russell Westbook what he can and cannot do. (Russ, if you’re reading this – put down the knife, let Rick Carlisle go back to his family, and continue to put up the highest usage rate the NBA has ever seen).
21. Memphis Grizzlies: Added Anthony Davis. Lost Tyreke Evans. Can Memphis and Phoenix’s hypothetical teams join forces? Payton, Booker, Lou Will, AD, Marc Gasol. I’m here for the Sizzlies (The Sizzlies – new band name, I call it).
20. Utah Jazz: Added TJ Warren. Lost Donovan Mitchell. As many of you Google “who is TJ Warren?”, I will attempt to pour one out for Rudy Gobert. He doesn’t deserve this, y’all (a contraction that I can assure you has never been used within the state lines of Utah).
19. Milwaukee Bucks: Added Tyreke Evans. Lost Giannis Antetokounmpo. The loss of Giannis could finally end the stigma that the Bucks are prejudiced against any player that isn’t part Inspector Gadget. With quite possibly the most perplexing combination of length in the NBA, in addition to the acquisition of Eric Bledsoe, one would think the Bucks would be better than ‘in the playoffs by default.’ Tyreke is having a career year in Memphis, but the departure of the Greek Freak is the departure of basketball relevance in Milwaukee.
18. Cleveland Cavaliers: Added Blake Griffin. Lost LeBron James. Cleveland fans, if I told you that you could add Blake Griffin for the next three years at the cost of LeBron, would you do it? Hopefully, Cleveland can make losing to Golden State in Game 5 of the Finals again look attractive enough to keep The King in free agency. It’s okay though. Cleveland only operates in two eras now – before and after Tyrod Taylor.
17. Chicago Bulls: Added Giannis Antetokounmpo. Lost Lauri Markkanen. Should this Bulls team be good? Absolutely not. Am I willing to look at a Giannis Antetokounmpo led team and tell them they cannot make the playoffs? Absolutely not. Do you have to be considered good to make the Playoffs in the East? Absolutely not. I’m not sure where these questions have gotten us, but these are the type of teams that make this discussion fun/drive fans to alcoholism due to incessant mediocrity (See: Detroit Pistons).
16. Sacramento Kings: Added Kevin Durant. Lost Zach Randolph. Well, whose ready for the Magic-Kings final next year because I certainly know I am. The NBA has been hit with the greatest redistribution of wealth this country has ever seen. It all just happens to come in the form of Playoff wins. This team would win at least 40 games. Change my mind.
15. Los Angeles Clippers: Added Brandon Ingram. Lost Lou Williams. I figure that the Clippers have made a living off of Lakers’ hand me downs, so why should this be any different? Ingram has actually improved his versatility significantly in Year 1 to Year 2. Pat Bev, Avery Bradley, Brandon Ingram, Tobias Harris, and DeAndre Jordan would be a sneaky good team. They would also unquestionably be the most entertaining team in the Staples Center. Would anyone give a shit? Of course not, it’s the Clippers.
14. New Orleans Pelicans: Added Jimmy Butler. Lost Anthony Davis. What’s a king to a brow? What’s a brow to a God? What’s a God to a non-believer? Shaving off Anthony Davis (I’ll show myself out) may be too much for New Orleans to deal with, but let’s get wonky and play with this line up. Rajon Rondo, Jrue Holiday, Jimmy Butler, Nikola Mirotic, DeMarcus Cousins. Add PJ Tucker I really like this line up on the court and in the back alley after the game.
13. Miami Heat: Added Kemba Walker. Lost Goran Dragic. Something makes me want to think a team of Kemba Walker, Tyler Johnson, Josh Richardson, Justise Winslow, and Hassan Whiteside has potential to be a ‘I had 2 margaritas at lunch and I’m here to cause problems’ force in the playoffs, but, like the Pelicans, bench depth could end up being an issue. Seeing Dwyane Wade mentor Kemba would be good for this league, so I’m here for it.
12. Houston Rockets: Added Harrison Barnes. Lost James Harden. Well, the 2018 Houston Rockets became the 2015 Los Angeles Clippers really quick, didn’t they? Can we make this thing happen before the Conference Finals start? CP3 already has vacation plans that we need not interrupt.
11. Orlando Magic: Added LeBron James. Lost Evan Fournier. Say this with your lips and say it with conviction: Aaron Gordon and Nikola Vucevic would be the best front court LeBron has ever played with. The only thing funnier than watching people try to justify the Magic making the Finals would be watching people try to justify the Magic not making the Finals. Goodness night, this team would be basketball drunk. I’m talking “upper-middle class suburban mom with no kids left in the house on a Wednesday afternoon” kind of drunk. Like Darlene, the recent empty nester from Boca Raton with way too much time on her hands, this team is going to be completely unpredictable.
10. San Antonio Spurs: Added Gary Harris. Lost Kawhi Leonard. Kawhi has played 210 minutes this season and the Spurs find themselves still very much in contention for home court advantage in the first round. I need you to let the fact that a team starting DeJounte Murray, Gary Harris, Danny Green, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Pau Gasol would inarguably win 50 games. Their bench could comprise of myself, #1 Spurs fan and confirmed tall person – Shea Serrano, and any object found at a drive thru car wash and Pop would still figure out minutes combinations to have Serbian center, Power Vac, nabbing 6th Man of the Year.
9. Toronto Raptors: Added Goran Dragic. Lost DeMar DeRozen. Give me a shockingly effective off guard with the inability to consistently make threes and I’ll give you…a shockingly effective off guard with the inability to consistently make threes. This trade has implications far beyond the basketball court though. The now international divide separating arguably the NBA’s best bromance (although Tobias & Boban’s friendship is too pure for this cruel world) may be too much for basketball Twitter to bear.
8. Boston Celtics: Added D’Angelo Russell. Lost Kyrie Irving. While we are currently living in the version of the simulation that injuries don’t exist, unfortunately, 300 seconds of playing time for Gordon Heyward is going to make it difficult to approach the Celtics with mild accuracy (which is the bedrock upon which this very serious article rests). This team with D’Angelo would be comparable, but probably a slight step down from what Kyrie can provide offensively. Not to mention, experience in ‘eating grown men’s lunch on an international stage’ has to count for something. The current Celts have been nothing short of human flamethrowers at the end of close games, partially in thanks to Bill Simmons’ man crush. Watching this team decide between their 17 options to take the final shot would be a fun little Brad Stevens experiment.
7. Portland Trail Blazers: Added Kyrie Irving. Lost Damian Lillard. I got too close to becoming a Flat Earther to mock Kyrie. He’s putting up 25p/5a/4r on a 49%/41%/89% shooting line. Dame’s at 27p/6.5a/5r on 45%/38%/91% although he’s been other worldly over the course of the last six weeks. Switching the league’s most impressive guard over the second half of the season with the league’s most impressive guard over the first half of the season probably would not result in too large of a win discrepancy for Rip City.
6. Denver Nuggets: Added Donovan Mitchell. Lost Gary Harris. I feel like one of the most understated storylines of this season is Denver’s whole “we paid a guy $30 million this year in free agency and he’s only played 20 games and we are still very much in the playoff race” situation. The next two years of defending a Donovan Mitchell-Nikola Jokic pick and roll with Paul Millsap in the short corner, where (fun fact) he has never missed a jump shot, would be hellacious at best for opposing defenses. This hypothetical team is probably locking down home court advantage for the first round of the playoffs.
5. Philadelphia 76ers: Added John Wall. Lost Ben Simmons. This has been a 10 year long con by Sam Hinkie. How, you say? Replace David Stern with a commissioner even more open to change. Shamelessly tank. Stockpile draft picks. Draft Joel Embiid. Draft Ben Simmons. Draft Markelle Fultz. Stage Markelle Fultz injury so he can’t be on the trade block. Have Andrew Stephens write looney toons article about trading the top scorer on every team one team to the East. Have Adam Silver inevitably read the article because Andrew is just that incredible of a writer (oh stop it, Sam). Set this plan in motion. Acquire John Wall. Profit. As an NFL staffer said about acquiring Saquon Barkley, I will say about the Sixers acquiring John Wall, “I would punch myself in the nuts many, many, many times for this to happen.”
4. Oklahoma City Thunder: Added Kawhi Leonard. Lost Russell Westbrook. If you’re a Thunder fan, it’s hard to be angry at the fact that you will probably get to watch 5 of the league’s best 50 players since you received a franchise all in your uniform. It appears they would use the whole “let’s just not have anyone score on us ever” thing to their advantage. Can you imagine a defensive line up that featured Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Andre Roberson, and Steven Adams? Like, seriously think about that for a second and explain to me how you plan on putting the basketball into the basketball hole. I’m slowly coming to the conclusion that everyone is a contender in the West. *checks current standings* okay, well that probably because everyone is a contender in the West.
3. Washington Wizards: Added DeMar DeRozen. Lost John Wall. The Wizards are currently employing the questionable strategy of “being a better basketball team when the guy we just paid $200 million is sitting on the bench.” We’ve now seen Alex Smith get signed to a $94 million deal. The Wizards try and tank, but improve their playoff positioning. And Donald Trump use his actual butthole to send a tweet. It has to be something in the water in DC. My hard hitting #insider analysis: this team with DeRozen would be filthy.
2. Minnesota Timberwolves: Added James Harden. Lost Jimmy Butler. “Nope. Nope. Noooooope. Hell no. Uh uh. No thank you.” -Sincerely, The Western Conference. During the 1960-1961 season, Wilt Chamberlain set what was previously thought of as the most unbreakable record in sports. He averaged 48.52 minutes per game. That record stood for an impressive 58 years until Tom Thibodeau got a hold of James Harden. This team is without a shadow of a doubt a top two seed in the West and potentially the best team in the league. The real loser in this situation? The Target Center. Unless they start some sort of “mandatory diaper wearing policy” the Harden-KAT high pick and roll will result in incessant pants shitting from opposing defenses and game patrons alike.
1. Golden State Warriors: Added Damian Lillard. Lost Kevin Durant. I can feel your anger intensifying. Yes, unfortunately I have made you read 3000+ words just to get to the point where you figure out that Golden State is still here to shit on all your hopes and dreams. This team would simply not be fair. I don’t even want to talk about it because I’m kind of getting mad at the thought of this team’s ability to move the ball in transition. Yes, they will regress on the defensive side of the ball, but it will also be hard to beat you when you average 168 points a game.
There are two things that I learned over the course of writing this absurd hypothetical. First – no matter whatever way you want to contort it, there is an absolute overwhelming abundance of talent in the league right now. Go and punch a 1980’s basketball fan in the face for me. It’s not ‘better basketball’ just because manslaughter used to not be a foul. Second – it is completely understandable as to why particular teams would not want to make a particular blockbuster trade. With the emergence of so many superstars, it makes sense why Pelicans fans would not want to trade AD for Giannis just as much as Bucks fans wouldn’t want to trade Giannis for AD. Every elite player has justified defensibility as to wanting to build a franchise around them, a primary reason behind why the league is so great.
With revamped rosters and some absurd potential first round match ups, the real NBA Playoffs are going to be must watch TV.