Not everyone can have the same history as the L.A. Lakers or even the San Antonio Spurs. But still, that’s not stopping us from ranking the 15 all-time Western Conference starting lineups. From Wilt all the way down to Wally — yes, Wally Szczerbiak — here are the top players at every position for every West franchise.
* Indicates that the player mentioned is the greatest to ever wear a jersey for his franchise, atleast in my humble opinion.
A quick word, the selections are mine and mine alone. The teams were put together using team success, statistics, and a healthy dose of my opinion.
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PG- Steve Nash
What could’ve been. After several playoff runs in which the Mavericks failed to win a championship, Nash departed for Phoenix. Dallas spent the money they should’ve spent on Nash on Erick Dampier and sealed their future title. Nash and Nowitzki had excellent chemistry, we know they were close evidenced by the fact Nowitzki is the godfather of Nash’s kid. We’ll never know if the duo could’ve won a title together, but we do know Nash went on to win two MVP awards, and Dirk won one himself. The Mavericks would also go on to win their first NBA championship. Erick Dampier was traded eventually in a deal that netted the Mavericks Tyson Chandler. It was a weird road but it all worked out in the end for both parties. While a championship ring has eluded Nash, he would likely never have won multiple MVP awards sharing the spotlight with Nowitzki. Both the Mavericks and Nash had to separate in order to fully reach their potential. It was hard to leave Jason Kidd off this list but he definitely spent his best years in New Jersey.
SG- Rolando Blackman
Before the big German showed up Rolando Blackman was the flagship for this franchise. A quality scorer and a four-time All-Star, Blackman narrowly beats out Michael Finley for the job. Although never a superstar, Blackman maintained a high level of play for a long time. Over 10 straight years in a Mavericks uniform he averaged over 18 points a game with 46 percent or better shooting. Blackman, to this day, is the Mavericks second overall leader of win shares.
SF- Mark Aguirre
A three-time All-Star, Aguirre still holds the franchise record for points in a season. He was a gifted scorer and although he lacked true range he was an incredibly efficient player. He shot over 49 percent from the field three separate times while averaging over 25 points per game. He went on to win two championships with the Detroit Pistons after being traded for Adrian Dantley.
PF- Dirk Nowitzki*
Dirk will and should transcend the game of basketball. His style of play is both miraculous and impossible to duplicate. A seven-foot big man who could shoot fading away from behind his head anywhere on the court may never be seen again. His efficiency as a big man was astounding, he even joined the 50-40-90 club after his ’06-07 MVP season. Dirk, contrary to popular belief, was a phenomenal playoff performer. His win shares per 48 minutes in the postseason surpass Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan. Eight players all time have won an MVP, a Finals MVP, a championship, and had 10 or more All-NBA appearances with the same team. Nowitzki sits in that elite eight with Duncan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Hakeem Olajuwon and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Pretty elite company. Nowitzki should be remembered as one of the greatest ever, far beyond the context of one franchise’s best. If you want to relive Nowitzki’s stellar 2011 Playoff campaign in which he led his team as the underdog onward in all four playoff series, watch this:
C- Tyson Chandler
Tyson Chandler didn’t need a long run in Dallas to make an impact. In his first season with the team, he gave Nowitzki what he needed most, a defensive anchor. Chandler took them from an average 15th overall defense in 2009-10 and made them into a top 10 defensive powerhouse in 2010-11. He and Dirk complemented each other so perfectly, it’s truly a shame Cuban didn’t re-sign him and give the Mavericks a chance to repeat in 2011-12. Chandler was robbed with the Mavericks but did deservedly win the Defensive Player of the Year the following season with the New York Knicks.
PG- Lafayette “Fat” Lever
This was an incredibly tough decision between Lever, Chauncey Billups and Andre Miller. The two-time Nugget All-Star was heralded for being an all-around player who could play solid defense. Lever was an excellent rebounder at the point guard position — he finished his career averaging six per contest. He was a triple-double machine and in fact, his 43 career triple-doubles are sixth all time and the most ever by a Nugget. Like oh so many players, his career was greatly impacted after a severe knee injury. Doesn’t he make you think of Rajon Rondo?
SG- David “Skywalker” Thompson
No offense to Carmelo Anthony, who could have definitely held a spot on the wing here with English, but how can you deny the Skywalker? A four-time All-Star with the Nuggets, Skywalker was considered by some the Western Conference Dr. J (Julius Erving). In his four consecutive All-Star seasons, he dropped 24-plus points per game on 50 percent shooting while bringing the house down with mind-blowing dunks. An All-NBA First Team member on two separate occasions, he was truly gifted athletically. I encourage you to go look up the 1976 dunk contest. The contest included Thompson, Dr.J, George Gervin, Artis Gilmore and Larry Kenon.
SF- Alex English*
If there ever was a man put on this Earth to score points it was Alex English. Back when the Nuggets were rocking a rainbow across their chest (easily the best NBA jerseys ever worn) English was scoring boatload of points in style. He led the league in scoring one time and he did it on an impressive .516 percent shooting. English had eight consecutive All-Star appearances for the Nuggets, scoring over 25 points per game in each of the eight seasons. Alex English deservedly sits in the Hall of Fame.
PF- Dan Issel
Issel joins English in the Hall of Fame. He is the Nuggets second all-time leading scorer, and the franchise’s all-time leading rebounder. Issel is an old school guy who actually won a championship in the ABA. He led the league in total points on three separate occasions and finished his career with the 41st best player efficiency rating of all time (21.4).
C- Dikembe Mutombo
One of the most iconic videos in NBA history is of Dikembe Mutombo sprawled on the court shaking a basketball over his head after he led the Nuggets to a first-round upset of the Supersonics. Mutombo will always be known for his defense and his finger-waving taunt; his effort and love for the game were always on display night after night. If he had stayed in Denver his entire career, I wouldn’t doubt that his name and number would be hanging from the Pepsi Center rafters by now. In his first five seasons with Denver, he won a Defensive Player of the Year, led the league in blocks three times, and was a three-time All-Star.
PG- Tim Hardaway
Tim Hardaway will forever be known for revitalizing the crossover. His “UTEP 2-Step” broke many ankles in the ’90s and players today still use it to catch a victim every so often. While Hardaway saw a lot of his success come as a member of the tough and gritty Miami Heat teams of the mid to late ’90s, it was with the Golden State Warriors that he first burst onto the scene. He averaged back-to-back 20-point, 10-assist seasons with the Warriors, a feat he’d never repeat with the Heat. He was the driving force behind RUN-TMC and brought entertainment and excitement to Oakland every winter. He was a three-time All-Star in Golden State.
SG- Chris Mullin
Chris Mullin never was known for his athleticism, but as a 6-6 lefty sharpshooter, he was more than capable of holding his own against the world’s best basketball players. Like Hardaway, Mullin was one third of RUN-TMC and he thrived in Don Nelson‘s high octane, fast-pace offense. His ability to leak out and get easy points quickly helped fuel the fire that was the Warriors offense during that time. I feel a shout out is needed for Paul Arizin, who could’ve taken this spot as well. Mullin was a five-time All-Star with the Warriors.
SF- Rick Barry
Rick Barry is a boss — if you don’t believe me ask him. Anyone who shoots free throws underhanded has the utmost confidence in themselves. Not only did Barry bring the “grandma shot” to the league, but he’s also one of the best free throw shooters the game has ever seen. Though his free throw form was unique, when Barry wasn’t sinking free throws he was sinking buckets from all over the court. He is the only player in history to lead the NBA, ABA and NCAA in scoring. Unfortunately Barry also has had his name dragged through the mud by basically every teammate he’s ever had. If Barry had been a better team player he would sit a lot higher on the all time rankings today. He literally got punched in the head in the NBA Finals.
PF- Nate Thurmond
Thurmond spent most of his prime years with the Warriors when they were in San Francisco. He was part of the gaudy numbers, big man, era. He highlighted it with 20.5 points and 22 rebounds per game in 1967-68. Unlike the other bigs of the era, Thurmond was woefully inefficient. His former teammate Wilt Chamberlain, for example, has a career field goal percentage of 54. Thurmond finished with a career at 42 percent from the field. I was very tempted to give Neil Johnston this spot and honestly even with a short career he might deserve it.
C- Wilt Chamberlain*
Wilt the Stilt, or the Big Dipper, is the ultimate stats guy. I’m on team Wilt when it comes to basketball’s most controversial debate: Bill Russell or Wilt Chamberlain. However, his lack of playoff success is alarming. That being said, Wilt is dominant with a capital D. He had his inhuman 50-point, 25-rebound per game season with the Warriors when they were in Philadelphia and I would bet a large sum of money it will never be matched. His 100-point game is also another miraculous feat that will likely never be matched.
Just for kicks, at small forward we have Barry who had the reputation for being an ass, at power forward we have the inefficient Thurmond, and at center we have Wilt, who sacrificed wins for his own numbers. It doesn’t take a genius to see how a franchise with so many greats hasn’t been adorned in constant championships.