The Don Nelson All-Star Team

Hanging out with Hoopism‘s Bailey brothers (Jason & Matt) and Harold Shanafield of Haystack Scouting on Friday night, we had a great conversation about the “ultimate teams” of a given coach. The idea is this: if you had a certain coach, and you had to play a pickup game in his signature style with players from NBA history, who do you pick to play?

Specifically, we were joking around and picking Don Nelson all-stars, thinking of freakish lineups with a SF at the 1, a PG at the 2, a SG at the 3, a SF at the 4, and a PF at the 5. Jason had a few too many beers and picked Travis Outlaw as his PG, I called on Antoine Walker’s services at point forward, Matt built a team around Anthony Mason, and I also think Wang Zhizhi was somehow involved. This was all for fun, but what if we actually picked the players who put up the most Win Shares while playing for Nelson?

Even more fun is the exercise of picking a team of players that Nellie never actually coached, but were similar to his best lineup. For instance, as a random Nellie team you might go with:

PG – Moncrief = Dennis Johnson
SG – Finley = Joe Johnson
SF – Mullin = Rolando Blackman
PF – Johnson = Alex English Xavier McDaniel?
C – Nowitzki =Bob McAdoo

So who would be on your Don Nelson all-star team? We also discussed the quintessential Larry Brown & Isiah Thomas teams (bonus points for choosing a coach other than the team’s namesake), so feel free to throw those in as well.

About Neil Paine

I work for Sports-Reference.com. I've been a freelance writer for ESPN, Sports Illustrated, The New York Times, and Basketball Prospectus.

Posted on March 5, 2011, in Insane ideas, Just For Fun, Rants & Ramblings, Totally Useless, Win Shares and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 26 Comments.

  1. Clever idea. The only nit I’d pick is that Alex English did, in fact, play for Nelson. It was during English’s first two seasons in the league — the Bucks had drafted him — and those seasons (1976-77, 1977-78) happened to be Nellie’s first two seasons (1-plus after he took over for Larry Costello actually) as a head coach. But the Bucks didn’t try (hard, if at all) to keep him when English hit free agency in the summer of 1978 and he went to Indiana.

    I was in school in Miilwaukee back then and, even though I had no idea English would go on to a Hall of Fame career, wondered at the time why they wouldn’t want to keep him around. But Nellie wasn’t quite “Nellie” at that point. For instance, his Bucks teams were built on defense, with the mad-scientist stuff coming along on top of that.

  2. When I saw Jeff Green at PF and Troy Murphy at C last night for the Celts, I thought to myself, “Did they hire Nellie?” It was fitting that they were playing GSW.

  3. #1 – Good catch, Steve. I’m not sure who the second choice would be as Marques Johnson’s comp… Xavier McDaniel’s numbers are a decent match, except in terms of passing.

  4. I thought some more about my team. Kucoc, Ben Gordon, Reggie Miller, Glen Rice, and Anthony Mason for a little toughness when they get stuck in a half court game.

  5. That’s pretty good #4 but you haveta find a way to play Reggie Miller at the four.

  6. I deny any of this happened. And Jason certainly was not removed from any bars.

  7. I’d like to apologize to Tony for spelling Kukoc incorrectly. Inexcusable…

  8. Nellie squad with no actual Nellie players:

    PG – Russell Westbrook (Baron)
    SG – Tracy McGrady (SJax)
    SF – Scottie Pippen (Pressey)
    PF – Jeff Green (Cummings)
    C – LaMarcus Aldridge (Dirk)

  9. Nelson played Moncrief at point? (Admittedly before my time)

  10. I think Nowitzki should be considered a PF for the sakes of this discussion; he typically played along a “true center” who cleaned up at the glass (Bradley, Dampier, etc.)

    PG Nate McMillan (Moncrief)
    SG Ray Allen (Finley)
    SF Paul Pierce (Mullin)
    PF Kevin Garnett (Nowitzki)
    C Marc Eaton (Bradley)

    6th man/point forward Scottie Pippen (Johnson)

  11. When I saw Jeff Green at PF and Troy Murphy at C last night for the Celts, I thought to myself, “Did they hire Nellie?” It was fitting that they were playing GSW….

    Funny, that…

  12. If Don Nelson were coaching the Heat right now, I would watch ALL of their games.

  13. #10 – Nellie started a back-court of Moncrief and Hodges, and so Moncrief looked like the PG by default. Actually Paul Pressey was playing point forward.

  14. Off topic, but back in the late 90’s, early 2000’s, I always imagined the Western Conference All-Star Team running this lineup out there:

    PG – Garnett (amazing passer for a big man)
    SG – Dirk (great shooter from the outside)
    SF – Duncan (mid-range game)
    PF – Shaq (puts the power in power forward)
    C – Ming (7’6″!!!)

    Basically, the idea was to put out a team of 7-footers that actually still sort of made sense. Not only did the West have all this amazing size, but the guys had truly remarkable and diverse skill sets. Could you imagine having to play that team???

  15. Nash should be on the first team at point guard instead of Finley and move Moncrief to the 2 guard. I’d put Jack Sikma in place of Bradley and Mitch Richmond should be on there instead of Rod Higgins. Winters was better than Bridgeman and deserves to be on the 2nd team, or Richmond. Hardaway is better than Finley too. I would put Tim H. on 2nd team and Finley on 3rd team. Lanier might be 2nd team worthy and Sikma 3rd team since when Jack got there he was on the downside a little more than Lanier. Bradley and Higgins should not be on any of the teams. An interesting note is that Nelson is on record as saying Chris Mullin is the best player he ever coached. One might want to add Ewing even though he only coached the Knicks for about 59 games one season, but I would keep Sikma and Lanier ahead of Patrick. Interesting idea though.

  16. How about these ideas: all-time left-handed NBA team?
    Centers-Bill Russell, Willis Reed, Dave Cowens, David Robinson, Bob Lanier, Artis Gilmore
    Forwards-Billy Cunningham, Chris Mullin, Larry Bird (special mention, naturally left-handed), Jack Marin
    Guards-Gail Goodrich, Nate Archibald, Lenny Wilkens, Dick Barnett

    All-time moving without the ball team:
    C-Alvan Adams
    F-Bob Love
    F-John Havlicek
    G-Jim Paxson, Jr.
    G-Doug Collins

    All-time southpaw shooter team:
    C-Willis Reed
    F-Jack Marin
    F-Chris Mullin
    G-Gail Goodrich
    G-Dick Barnett

    All-time ambidextrous team:
    C-Dolph Schayes
    F-Larry Bird
    F-Bobby Jones
    G-Paul Westphal
    G-Steve Nash

  17. In honor of Don Nelson, the all-time Celtic 6th man team:
    C-Bill Walton
    F-Kevin McHale
    F-John Havlicek
    G-Frank Ramsey
    G-M.L. Carr
    6th man-Don Nelson

    The greatest NBA 6th men:
    10-Rickey Pierce/Mitch Kupchak
    9-Dan Majerle
    8-Junior Bridgeman
    6-Detlef Schrempf
    5-Fred Brown
    4-Frank Ramsey
    3-Bobby Jones
    2-Kevin McHale
    1-John Havlicek

  18. 6th men…Vinnie Johnson deserves a mention too as one of the best.

  19. Over-40 Team:
    PG – Stockton
    SG – Jordan (turned 40 during his last season, though listed as his age 39 season)
    SF – Karl Malone
    PF – Moses Malone (turned 40 during his last season, though listed as his age 39 season)
    C – Abdul-Jabar
    Outside of Stockton (freak of nature) and Jordan (two retirements), all of the guys I found who played into their 40’s were big men. Putting Malone at SF was a bit of stretch. Of course, I was limited to simply going one-by-one through the guys who ranked atop the career games list. I don’t know how to use the search stuff. Also, this was simply based on guys who played into their 40’s… not necessarily what they did in their 40’s.

  20. not many guards have played well past 35, and virtually no point or small guards. hal greer played til his late 30s and gail goodrich was still a good offensive player after 35 and might have played longer if he hadnt hurt his achilles. stockton, given his lack of size and high skill level/massive bball IQ and competitiveness, was probably the best player after 40. people talked about how elway was a great athlete when he won 2 super bowls in his late 30s. what stockton did was far more impressive into his early 40s since elway simply played 1 part of the game, not defense, and wa sin on maybe 45% of a game’s plays tops. stockton did it all at a high level as usually the oldest and smallest guy on the floor in a game of giants. kareem was the biggest reason LA beat boston in game 6 of the 1987 finals at age 40. he had a season-high 32 points and wouldnt let a beat up celtic team get it to a 7th game. his last year though he slipped a lot at 41-42. but he was also 7-2.

  21. In his age 40 season, Stockton posted a PER over 20 with 10PPG and 7APG in about 27 minutes of action. As I said, Stockton was simply a freak of nature.

    Reggie Miller was close (he turned 40 slightly after his last season) and was still pretty productive at the end of his career. A few other guys (who escape me now) also turned 40 right after the season, but I think they were bigs, too.

    I’d be curious to see a 18-year-old team, though that might be harder to search for.

  22. yes you are right about miller. but reggie was a 6-7 “guard” with long arms too. stockton was maybe 6-1. much tougher to play into your 40s at that size i think.

  23. Can I slot Paul Mokeski in at SF for Nellie’s team?

  24. Ouch. No. Paul Mokeski was a PF/C. I recall that someone (a broadcaster?) gave him the nickname of “Speed Bump” because he doesn’t stop you but he does slow you down.

    Still can visualize Mokeski and Randy Breuer locking arms over on one wing to draw the opposing bigs (under the illegal D rules of the time) away from the three-man game Nelson would run. Then they would rumble toward the rim when the shot went up.

  25. Steve, PLEEEEEEEAASE?

    I just have visions of the uber stylish Mokeski lining up those deep, flat-footed 2s from the corner.

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