Tournament of Cities: Which Metro Areas Produce the Best NBA Players?

I couldn’t be more excited for the Capital Punishment showdown–the Drew League vs. Goodman league bout we’ve been anticipating for years. Pro ballers representing for their home/adopted cities is an awesome idea I will always be behind, to the point that I am only intermittently willing to spend money to see the Wizards in person but am splurging $35 extra for a VIP floor seat ticket to see this exhibition. I wish that every city would do the same thing LA and DC are doing. We could have Dwight Howard call up players from Atlanta, Kobe Bryant captain a team from Philly, and Derrick Rose round up his friends in Chicago. We’d never need the NBA again. Of course, we live in a world where planning just this one exhibition is a logistical nightmare because of players’ frozen insurance policies and all that, so we’re left to dream. Here’s what such a dream league might look, if we form rosters for an 8-team tournament of America’s best basketball cities.

The rules: to make a city’s roster, a player must have been raised primarily in its metro area, not just have been born or attended high school there. Thus, Carmelo Anthony qualifies for Baltimore, not New York (since he moved away when he was 8 years old) or Mouth of Wilson, Virginia (where he spent his last year of high school at Oak Hill). Metro areas are debatable and can range in geographic distance, but I used a 25-mile radius for each city as a general rule of thumb. Each team gets a starting 5, plus one bench player, because except for the top few metropolises, there isn’t enough to work with beyond that. I’ll seed the tournament now, and in a later post explore how it might play out.

1. LOS ANGELES

PG Russell Westbrook
SG James Harden
C Tyson Chandler
PF Amir Johnson
SF Paul Pierce
6 Landry Fields

With the wealth of talent in the Southland, LA has enough choices to assemble the most balanced team in the competition. In fact, the area has such an embarrassment of riches that a B Team of Jrue Holiday, DeMar DeRozan, Jason Collins, Derrick Williams, Dorell Wright, and Tayshaun Prince would have garnered a high seed also. This squad has plenty of offensive creativity (even without the inclusion of Nick Young), knockdown shooters in Harden and Pierce, a stingy interior defense, and in the versatile Fields, a perfect 6th man. Team LA has to be the overwhelming favorites.

2. DALLAS

PG Deron Williams
SG CJ Miles
C Kurt Thomas
PF LaMarcus Aldridge
SF Grant Hill
6 Chris Bosh

Team Dallas might have the most star power, boasting 2 current All-Stars in Williams and Bosh and an All-NBA Third-Teamer in Aldridge. The rest of the roster is rounded out by solid defensive options, with Hill qualifying for the city where he was born after splitting his childhood fairly evenly between Dallas and suburban DC. One potential setback here is that two of the team’s Big 3 both play power forward, and neither really possesses the steel to match up with a true center.

3. ATLANTA

PG Lou Williams
SG Toney Douglas
C Dwight Howard
PF JJ Hickson
SF Josh Smith
6 Derrick Favors

This team might be the toughest in the competition in terms of rebounding and defense, which they’ll really need because Douglas is the only guy here who can shoot. Howard looks to be the toughest matchup in the tournament, with elite centers certain to be in short supply.

4. CHICAGO

PG Derrick Rose
SG Dwyane Wade
C Nazr Mohammed
PF Juwan Howard
SF Tony Allen
6 Corey Maggette

An otherworldly backcourt and a waiver wire quality frontcourt make this a boom-or-bust roster. The situation in the post here is so dismal that a high scooler, Class of 2012 #1 recruit and Kentucky commit Anthony Davis, requires serious consideration. This team will lean hard on its two superstars, though the pair’s talents may prove slightly redundant. Still, it never hurts to have two guards capable of getting to the rim at will, and Team Chicago can also boast two shutdown defenders on the perimeter with Wade and Tony Allen.

5. NEW YORK

PG Kyrie Irving
SG Ben Gordon
C Joakim Noah
PF Elton Brand
SF Lamar Odom
6 Taj Gibson

2011 draftees Kyrie Irving and Kemba Walker provide some young blood to the dying breed of the NYC point guard; Walker has more experience, but Irving is expected to make more of an immediate impact. The backcourt remains a question mark with a rookie paired with the regressing Ben Gordon, coming off the worst season of his career for the lowly Pistons. Former teammates Brand and Odom are both coming off their best seasons in years, and Odom provides an added bonus with his playmaking capabilities taking some of the pressure off of Irving. The Bulls’ Noah and the criminally underrated Gibson will ensure this team gives up no easy buckets inside.

6. DC

PG Ty Lawson
SG Keith Bogans
C Roy Hibbert
PF Jeff Green
SF Kevin Durant
6 Michael Beasley

Team DC is young and quick, capable of getting out on the break or knocking down long-range shots; Lawson, Bogans, Durant, and Beasley all need to be accounted for out to 3-point land. Post defense is a concern, with the foul-prone Hibbert and no true 4 on the roster. Still, their team speed and the superstar talent of Durant will give them a fighting chance in any matchup.

7. INDIANAPOLIS

PG Mike Conley
SG Eric Gordon
C Greg Oden
PF Josh McRoberts
SF Gordon Hayward
6 George Hill

They may be something of a surprising entry, but basketball-crazy Indianapolis has quietly become a hotbed of hoops talent. Rapidly, too: Hill is the only player on this squad who’s cracked 25. Conley and Gordon are coming off breakout campaigns, and Hayward ended his rookie year with some assured performances and impressive shooting exploits, including dropping 34 on 5-of-6 from 3 against Denver on closing night. Oden is clearly a huge question mark, but has been very effective in limited exposure. All in all, this team has a lot to prove, but also includes enough young talent that they can no longer be ignored.

8. SEATTLE

PG Rodney Stuckey
SG Jason Terry
C Spencer Hawes
PF Jon Brockman
SF Brandon Roy
6 Aaron Brooks

Like Indianapolis, Seattle flies a little under the radar in these discussions, but local products have been hot properties entering the League for a few years now. Lotto picks Jamal Crawford, Martell Webster, and Terrence Williams were unable to crack an already guard-heavy lineup. There’s not much to work with in the middle, but the Emerald City has enough perimeter scoring to separate itself from more flawed contenders for this spot. Honorable mentions go out to Philadelphia (Kyle Lowry/Kobe Bryant/Marcus Morris/Hakim Warrick/Dwayne Jones/Tyreke Evans), Houston (Daniel Gibson/Cartier Martin/Rashard Lewis/Emeka Okafor/DeAndre Jordan/Jimmy Butler), and Baltimore (Josh Selby/Gary Neal/Rudy Gay/Carmelo Anthony/Marcus Cousin/Joey Dorsey).

Stay tuned for a game-by-game tournament preview, and possibly other hypothetical situations where we fantasize about NBA-caliber basketball being played.

Which squads do you think should be favored? Is there any player from your city that you think we left off? Comment on the article or e-mail us at AGRbasketball (at) gmail (dot) com. Don’t forget to follow @AGRbasketball on Twitter and to like us on Facebook.

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