Skill. Age. Versatility. A proven track record. What’s the criteria to be a top-level NBA player? What’s the most important quality if you were going to build a team around a superstar?
The Hoop Collective crew debated the topic and re-drafted the league’s best players from 1 to 21. If they could select any player on a four-year max contract, elite-level skill and length of the star’s prime window were high on the list.
This transcript has been edited for clarity and length.
Windhorst: All right, so 15th pick, I’m going Kyrie Irving.
Young: That feels a little high to me.
MacMahon: That feels ridiculously high to me based on talent, age and building a franchise around Kyrie. There’s some risks there.
Windhorst: Well, I still think he’s really valuable in the playoffs. I know that he didn’t show that in last year’s playoffs, but his resume in the playoffs is really good. Now, you’re going to have to put a team around him to get him there. But, I mean, the list kind of gets a little tough from here. There’s some hard calls from here going forward, especially if I’m sticking to guys in their 20s. I also think even though he’s had injury issues, his prime years are ahead.
Windhorst: And then the next guy, Donovan Mitchell. Again, I’m focusing on going younger. He’s going into his third year.
Young: This is a big year, though, for him because last year was a little down.
MacMahon: Right. And the foot injury lingered into the summer. He didn’t get to work on his game all last summer.
Windhorst: He looks so much like Dwyane Wade to me. I know it’s a cliche thing to say, but he’s like Dwyane — he’s got a very big, strong lower body, so he moves side to side really, really well.
Young: He was so good in that playoff series against the Thunder (in 2018) and it was like we had anointed him the next star of the NBA. And so it was one of those things where he didn’t really live up to it. He was good last season, but he didn’t ascend into superstardom.
MacMahon: You know, honestly, he wouldn’t be the first guy on the Jazz that I’d take. I’d take [Rudy] Gobert simply because you know you will be dominant on one end of the floor.
Windhorst: You’ve taken all centers.
Young: He has a bias for size.
MacMahon: We’re not building a team here.
Windhorst: I know, but —
MacMahon: I’m taking centers in a league that’s going away from centers, right?
Young: But they say that’s a position that’s dead in the NBA and here you’re taking centers.
Windhorst: You took Embiid. You took Jokic — I thought Jokic was a little high. And you just took Gobert.
MacMahon: And Zion’s the small-ball center.
Windhorst: I don’t know if he can play center.
MacMahon: I got a love for big men.
Windhorst: Are we surprised we still haven’t heard Russ’ name?
Young: I’ve got him next on my list. I’ve got him in the 14, 15 range and that’s where I’d go. But he’s a complicated pick for a lot of different reasons. Obviously there’s a health and injury issue and I talked about Steph Curry and Damian Lillard aging well in the NBA. Russell Westbrook is the flip side of this.
Windhorst: Like, to me, if you’re asking me who I would rather take a guy to build a team for, I would rather take Kyrie even though Kyrie and Russell have both had a number of injuries. I think Kyrie’s game will age better.
Young: What do you value if you’re an NBA owner, or an executive? Russell Westbrook is going to field a competitive, exciting team. You’re going to win 45 games with whoever you put around him. But can he be your best player on an NBA title team? I don’t know about that. And honestly we’ll probably find that out this upcoming season.
MacMahon: But he won’t be their best player.
Young: Right, exactly. Look, and if Russell Westbrook is your second-best player? We saw that with Kevin Durant and we saw it at points last year, too. When the Thunder were really good last year, Russell Westbrook was their second-best player.
Windhorst: All right, you’re up again, Royce.
Young: I’m going to go Ben Simmons. He’s a little bit of a complicated pick because of where the modern day NBA sits. But this was a young player with upside.
Windhorst: This was what the Sixers had to be like, you know. They had to make a decision this year on an extension and they were like, ‘Listen, we’re going all-in on this guy.’
MacMahon: Well, another thing is Ben Simmons is also a potential trade asset. But despite the fact the guy can’t shoot, there’s not a whole lot of 6-10 guys with that physique, that athleticism and that vision. Like, zero.
Young: And to me, he has a significant flaw in his game that we all recognize. And he’s still a dominant player. And so that speaks to how good he is at those other things. And yes, if he can round out the shooting, then we’re talking about one of the top four or five players in the NBA, most likely.
Windhorst: All right, MacMahon.
MacMahon: Bradley Beal. For how good he is, I feel like he’s an under-the-radar guy. To me, he’s right there — Beal, Donovan Mitchell, it’s kind of neck and neck. Still young and a guy who is productive across the board. He’s just on an irrelevant franchise right now. But, I mean, look at his numbers last year after John Wall went out. He was unbelievable.
Windhorst: All right, so I’m going to make the last pick. I’ve got a couple of different guys here.
Young: There’s a lot of players on the board here still.
Windhorst: I’m not picking him, but we haven’t heard Jimmy Butler’s name. He just got a max contract.
Young: Blake Griffin, I assume you’re not taking him?
Windhorst: Blake Griffin. Sorry, OU. If you had the last pick right now, who would you take?
Young: I think I have Karl Towns.
MacMahon: That’s who I have too and I don’t like it. I don’t love him. Talent’s obvious. But in terms of building a franchise around him …
Young: It feels like at about 15, 17 — once you get into that range — the pool gets very muddy.
Windhorst: So, I like Pascal Siakam here. I know their team’s not going to be as good, but I think he’s going to blossom even more. I like De’Aaron Fox here a lot because I think De’Aaron Fox has the makeup of a guy who could be a star point guard in the league. I like Victor Oladipo here. Obviously, it’s a major injury but again, two-way player in his prime. But I’m going to go with Jayson Tatum. I had been on Tatum after his rookie year and I was one of the people that got burned being real big believer in him last year. And I potentially could be wrong about this. I think he just made a misstep last year. I think this guy is an absolute stud. I think his makeup is great.
Young: And judging a player after year two is never a great idea.
MacMahon: And it’s not like he fell off a cliff. You just thinking that after that rookie year he’s taking off and he just fell flat.
Young: And I don’t know if you can really judge anybody based on last year’s Celtics team.
MacMahon: Especially the young guys in such a chaotic situation.
Young: There’s a lot of guys that you can look at their year two and now we look at them differently. Victor Oladipo, for example.
Windhorst: All right. I’m done with this.
Watch the full redraft on ESPN’s YouTube page.