With the NBA Finals underway, we asked our staff to construct a starting five out of the Giants' current roster. Bonus question: Who would be the sixth man?
The over/under on the number of times Lance manages to mention Michael Jordan in his answer is three. I wonder how he bribed Dan to get this question in here? Luckily, I don't have to answer that question. Here is my starting lineup:
PG: Sterling Shepard
SG: Odell Beckham Jr.
SF: Cody Latimer
PF: Lorenzo Carter
C: Nate Solder
Give me the Giants' two playmakers at the guard positions, with Sterling Shepard running the point and Odell Beckham Jr. carrying the scoring load. Both guys are so quick with so much athleticism, I don't see how you can stay in front of either one-on-one. I think both guys can handle the ball or pass it. Good luck guarding them in the screen and roll.
Small forward was my toughest decision. I considered Evan Engram, but in today's small-ball NBA, he wouldn't be quick enough to guard NBA wings at 240 pounds. If this were 1998, he would fit right in. So I've decided to play extremely small and put Cody Latimer at small forward. He is a little short at just 6-2, but at 215 pounds he should be able to deal with some of the bigger players at small forward (Eli Apple got some consideration here, too).
Every NBA team needs superior versatile athletes. Lorenzo Carter is 6-5 with long arms, and his all-time impressive RAS score tells me he should be able to guard the three perimeter positions but also be strong enough to play small ball power forward, which is where I have him. This is the type of do-it-all wing player that all NBA teams need.
I want some size and shot blocking at center and who better than 6-8 Nate Solder? His quick feet at left tackle should allow him to switch screen and rolls a bit on the perimeter, and hopefully he can knock down an open jumper or two.
Very quickly here's my bench:
Sixth man: Saquon Barkley – scoring combo guard spark plug off the bench. Mismatch in terms of power and quickness. Back-up guard: Janoris Jenkins – For some reason I see him playing just like Patrick Beverly. Pesky, defensive-minded guard. Defender off bench: Marquis Bundy – Scrappy, do-it-all defender. Only person on the roster with perimeter skills at 6-4. Bench forward: Evan Engram. Versatility at 6-3 and 240 pounds to play either forward spot. Big man off the bench: Kareem Martin. 6-6, athletic and a big rebounder and defender in the front court. Player/coach and shooter off the bench: Eli Manning. Think Dream Team version of Chris Mullin.
I think everyone agrees on two of the starting five: Odell Beckham Jr. and Nate Solder. Beckham is one of those athletes who could have gone pro in any sport, and Solder gives you the size, smarts and athleticism you want from your center. I've never seen Solder play a second of any other sport, but I get the feeling that he's one of those big men who is a great passer. So who are the other three? Evan Engram needs to be on the floor at small forward. He has size and can run with anyone. Also, basketball is in his genes. His sister Mackenzie was a 1,000-point scorer at Georgia and was recently drafted to the WNBA by their hometown team, the Atlanta Dream. So she can give him a few pointers.
For the other two, I'm going with Sterling Shepard running the point and Kareem Martin at power forward. Shepard is good under pressure, can weave in and out of traffic, and brings a lot of electricity to the game. Martin, meanwhile, won't be afraid to mix it up on the court. He's tough but also athletic. Martin was the North Carolina High School Athletic Association's (NCHSAA) Athlete of the Year at Roanoke Rapids (NC) High School, where he was a standout in football, basketball and track. He rounds out a starting lineup that is balanced with some grit and athleticism.
As for the sixth man, I'm going with Donte Deayon. Sure, he's only 5-9 and 158 pounds. But what he lacks in size, he makes up for in energy. You need a guy like that off the bench. You love him if he's on your team, but you hate him if he's not. He would also be one of the best hype men when he's on the bench.
Here's my starting five: PG: Odell Beckham, SG: Eli Manning, SF: Kareem Martin, PF: Snacks Harrison, C: Nate Solder. Beckham is by far the best athlete on the team, so I would entrust him to run the offense and, most importantly, handle the basketball. I think his athleticism would translate well to the position with his blazing speed and ability to cut on a dime. Manning makes the perfect two guard. His arm strength enables him to shoot from long range and he can easily spot up in the corner. At 6-5, he'll also provide me with the size I need to defend opposing lengthy guards. Say all you want about his lack of mobility, but don't forget, Manning, at age 36, ran in for a touchdown from 14 yards out in Week 4 last season at Tampa Bay
A little-known fact, Kareem Martin was a three-sport athlete in high school. He played football, basketball and competed in track and field. When you factor in his 6-6 frame, that's the ideal combo for the three spot. Martin's athleticism and experience competing in events like the high jump will allow him to defend, rebound and get to the basket. I'm sacrificing some size at power forward but I'm making up for it with strength and toughness. Don't overlook the fact that Snacks Harrison was a basketball player in high school before a knee injury forced him to move to football. Despite standing at just 6-3, I think Snacks can handle his own low on the post and clog the lane, plus I need someone to do the dirty work like Dennis Rodman. If Charles Barkley can thrive as an undersized power forward, then I don't mind taking a chance on Snacks. To round out my starting five, I'm going with the tallest player on the roster: Nate Solder. I need a rim protector and at 6-8, he fits the bill.
For sixth man, I considered a few players. Jerell Adams, Cody Latimer and Sterling Shepard all played basketball in high school and would provide me with some versatility, but in the end, it's impossible to pass on perhaps the second-best athlete on the team: Saquon Barkley. Every team needs a solid back-up point guard, which I consider to be the most important position on the court. Why not provide some solid depth behind Beckham?