The NBA playoffs are approaching fast, and anyone with a dog in the postseason fight is vacillating between optimist and nervous wreck.
Every team has weaknesses, and the playoffs are where men like Gregg Popovich make their money by going after them mercilessly.
The following is how, in a perfect world, you could fix these blind spots with one player from NBA history who would perfectly address each team’s need. It should be noted that the only criteria for those selected was that they not still be in the league (example: no putting “2000 Vince Carter” back onto the Raptors).
I selected one historical player for each of the top eight teams in each conference as well as the first two teams that would be out of the playoffs if they started today.
Now we just need to build a time machine and get Golden State and Cleveland some paint defenders.
Golden State Warriors: Alonzo Mourning
If there’s one team that could benefit from a superstar player being plucked from the cosmos and inserted into its starting lineup, it’s the Warriors.
But seriously, if we’re going to play Patch the Hubris-Shaped Hole in Golden State’s Interior Defense, we’re bringing in Mourning and shutting down all air traffic in the lane.
The Warriors are 21st in the league in points allowed in the paint and could use anyone, even a fern, in the post instead of Zaza Pachulia down there actively conspiring to sink Golden State’s championship chances with his inability to control his body.
So Mourning it is — because you can strap a jetpack to JaVale McGee, but you can’t make him put the ball in the basket.
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San Antonio Spurs: Penny Hardaway
The Spurs backcourt puts the assist in “assisted living,” and that is a problem.
Because Tony Parker, though well-meaning, should be put on a barbecue festival float and pushed rolling into the desert like a Texas-style eskimo burial. He’s a first-ballot Hall of Famer, and he needs to get his old ass out of here.
Because we’re bringing in healthy, Magic-era Penny Hardaway, who isn't the Spurs-iest point guard but washes away any system-fit concerns when you realize defenses will have to deal with the combined athleticism and length of Penny Hardaway and Kawhi Leonard. If you lay Penny Hardaway and Kawhi Leonard down end to end they wrap around the world one and a half times.
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Houston Rockets: Chris Mullin
The Rockets have already made it clear that their short and mid-term strategy is to stockpile marksmen and shoot three-pointers until Nene dies or someone hands them the Larry O’Brien Trophy.
Far be it from me to question the vision.
Utah Jazz: Scottie Pippen
The Jazz are a good team that could use a lot less Joe Johnson on the floor. Prime Scottie Pippen is a do-it-all wing who would fit in nicely on Quin Snyder’s defense-oriented team. Plus, Scottie could probably use some fresh air.
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Los Angeles Clippers: Mitch Richmond
The Clippers have shooters and defensive specialists, which is only a problem if those two Venn diagrams never intersect. This is the Clippers' case.
Bringing in Mitch Richmond would give Doc Rivers two players he needs desperately in one body:
1. A two who can defend larger wings.
2. A three who doesn’t shoot like he forgot it was allowed.
Oklahoma City Thunder: Drazen Petrovic
The Thunder need shooting. Just one guy other than Russell Westbrook who can put the thing through the thing with some reliability.
Thus we bring in Drazen Petrovic — a Croatian force of nature whose shooting awed players around the league during his tragically shortened four-year NBA career.
Russ deserves a Drazen. Drazen deserved a Russ. I’m crying now.
Memphis Grizzlies: Grant Hill
I love Vince Carter deeply, and I have a healthy fear of Tony Allen on principle, but the Grizzlies need some giddyup. They are death and taxes on hardwood, and they need Grant Hill to get out in the break and push the pace, if only to give the crowd something to look at besides the manicured facial mane of Marc Gasol.
Portland Trail Blazers: Kevin Garnett
Portland is young and fun, and we can fix that immediately with Kevin Garnett.
Dropping circa 2004 KG onto the Trail Blazers would give Portland a wealth of unwanted veteran experience and shore up a power forward slot teeming with tall, unremarkable people. Noah Vonleh is garbage, and Maurice Harkless is just Andre Roberson with retina display.
Bring in KG and make anything possible again.
Denver Nuggets: Isiah Thomas
Jameer Nelson should be applauded for how he’s held up this year since coming into the starting lineup after Emmanuel Mudiay’s injury. But the Nelson flex-seal can only last so long, and bringing in Isiah Thomas would help give Denver a defensive stopper against the West’s slew of dynamic backcourt scorers.
Thomas also gives the team a bad guy, which it sorely needs to offset’s Gary Harris’ resting “Will there be flan?” face.
New Orleans Pelicans: Clyde Drexler
A big key for the Pels going forward is finding people to put around Boogie and Anthony Davis who can get them the ball efficiently and shoot like they are paid to know how.
These criteria, obviously, could be filled by a lot of people, but I like Clyde the Glide for our purposes as a low-friction personality who can get his and get you yours on the basketball court with the greatest of ease.
Boston Celtics: Hakeem Olajuwon
Because no fan base deserves this much Amir Johnson.
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Cleveland Cavaliers: Ben Wallace
The Cavaliers continue to outdo themselves this season in terms of their trademarked ability to look like a world champion basketball team and a burning Oscar Mayer Weiner mobile in the same week.
There are a lot of variables that contribute to this, but the one big constant is their inability to stop anyone from acting as they please around the basket. That all changes when you have Ben Wallace hovering around the cup like a Harrier jet. Peak, rim-roving Ben Wallace would catch a Steph Curry floater in his mouth. He was not real.
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Washington Wizards: Chris Webber
The Wizards are an interesting case you could go many ways with, but I’m of the opinion that their best shot at a championship is bringing in a playmaking big like Chris Webber, who averaged 20.7 points and four assists a game.
Defending him one-on-one would be a problem, and double-teams would be an even bigger one with Beal and Otto Porter on the wing.
Toronto Raptors: Larry Bird
Remember when DeMarre Carroll was a thing?
Atlanta Hawks: Kobe Bryant
“I ain’t passing the ball to nobody named Basilmom.” — 21-year-old Kobe on the Hawks.
Milwaukee Bucks: Ray Allen
Even after the return of Khris Middleton, outside shooting is still a spotty proposition at best for the Bucks, a team that often relies on Giannis Antetokounmpo doing some Nightcrawler stuff when its shots aren’t falling.
Bucks-era Ray Allen would be the perfect remedy for this case of the Snells Shots. He can stroke the three and keep pace with Milwaukee’s youngsters in transition. He also killed Tracy McGrady, which isn’t super pertinent here but must be noted.
Indiana Pacers: Allan Houston
The Pacers’ current roster is Paul George, Myles Turner and a Sprinter van full of guys you can’t prove weren’t extras in the basketball scenes from Finding Forrester.
The crown jewel of this Take-A-Penny lot is Monta Ellis, whose ability to guard only ottoman-sized humans led to Klay Thompson scoring 61 points on the Pacers in three quarters.
We need to get some size and muscle in the Indy backcourt, and former New York Knick Allan Houston would give the Pacers a rangy 2-3 who can score inside and out and hold his own on the defensive end.
Miami Heat: Karl Malone
The loss of Chris Bosh has left the Heat with no choice but to start Luke Babbit at power forward and stack more bad power forwards beneath him like support beams. And that I cannot abide.
Chicago Bulls: Michael Jordan
We’re giving the Bulls primetime ‘96 Michael Jordan, and it still won’t matter.
Detroit Pistons: Allen Iverson
The Pistons seem to believe in Reggie Jackson, so we’ll cut to the chase and give them 2001, MVP season Allen Iverson—the guard they truly desire to run the pick and roll with Andre Drummond and make decisions on the floor that make Stan Van Gundy’s heart itch.