We venture further into our All Alphabet teams, with the unveiling of the E Team.
A reminder, I’m putting together a squad for each letter if the alphabet that is not only talented but would conceivably work on the court. You’ll find no mosquito squad of five diminutive point guards here. A reminder – a prescient reminder for this squad in particular – that a players ABA years do come into consideration.
The E Team is fast and athletic, with a low post juggernaut, a lights out shooter, and high-level scoring at every position. Not so much shot creation, though. Be prepared for a lot of iso ball!
Point Guard – Monta Ellis
The E Team’s point guard pool isn’t as deep as it is in other positions, with playmaking wing Tyreke Evans the only other viable option to play the point. As such, Monta gets the nod.
Ellis left the NBA at the end of the 2017 season as a 31 year old. Whilst athletically past his prime, he still had some juice. The reason that he didn’t stick around as long as he perhaps should have is a failure to adapt to the modern game. Ellis spent his 11 year NBA career as a remorseless gunner in the Allen Iverson mold. In fact, in many ways Ellis was knock off Iverson. He had blazing speed and dazzling handles allowing him to get to the cup at will, where he was a creative finisher. He shot 3’s willingly but not with great accuracy. He was a good, but not great playmaker. He picked up steals (1.7 per game for his career) but gambled unapologetically on defense.
In hindsight his career has received a bad rap, but Ellis’ career was by no means a failure. He averaged 17.8 points – peaking at around 25 points per game in the 2010 and 2011 campaigns - with 4.6 assists per game through his playing days, picking up the 2007 Most Improved Player award.
Shooting Guard – Dale Ellis
Ellis was one of the NBA’s original sharpshooters. A career 40.3% shooter from deep throughout his long 17 year career, Ellis’ three point percentage only dropped below 35% in one season. He topped out at a blistering 47.8% in 1989.
That '89 season was Ellis’ peak. He averaged 27.5 points per game for the Sonics in that campaign, earning his lone All Star appearance. His time in Seattle was the peak of Ellis’ career. After being traded from the Mavericks the previously lightly used sub exploded, increasing his scoring from 7.1 points per game to 24.9 on his way to earning the 1987 Most Improved Player award. Ellis remained a solid wing option through his career, still scoring in double figures a night through to the 1999 season, when he was 38 years old.
If there was ever a stat that shows how different basketball is today from yesteryear, it’s this: Ellis finished his career with 1,719 made three pointers which was good for 2nd all time at the time of his retirement (he was the all time leader for a time through his career). That total is now good for 22nd all time, over 1000 behind current leader Ray Allen.
Small Forward – Alex English
Alex English was - along with Adrian Dantley and Mark Aguirre – the stereotype of a 1980’s small forward: high scoring, no creativity for teammates, subsisting largely on pull up mid-range jump shots or post ups.
English was certainly an elite scorer, with a career average of 21.5 points. In fact, no player scored more points in the NBA than English between 1979 and 1991. A testament to his ability to maintain his high peak for a long stretch of time, English averaged between 25 and 30 points per game every season from 1982 to 1989.
English’s sweet spot was the right side of the floor, operating from either the mid post or wing. His quick first step and excellent post footwork bought him the space to spring his high release jumper. He rode his scoring to ability 8 All Star appearances, 3 All NBA berths, and the 1983 scoring title.
He never developed an outside game, making just 18 three pointers (from a mere 83 attempts) in his 15 seasons. He did, however, round out his playmaking as his career progressed, posting four or more assists per game in eight consecutive seasons.
Power Forward – Julius Erving
A natural wing, Dr. J will play the nominal ‘4’ in a four-out system for the E Team. Erving would struggle to bang down low against the bigger power forwards, but his speed and athleticism would create major matchup issues at the other end of the floor.
The Doctor spent his first five professional seasons in the ABA and was a phenomenal rebounder there. As an ABA player he pulled down 12.1 boards per game including a ridiculous 15.7 as a rookie. He also averaged 1.7 blocks and a pair of steals per game throughout his career. The E team should be able to cope defensively with Erving as an undersized power forward.
Erving was like nothing the world had ever seen when he burst on to the scene in 1971. The great Red Kerr said a young Erving was ‘like Thomas Edison, he was always inventing something new every night’. Widely regarded as one of the most graceful athletes in the history of the game, his ability to hang in the air for dunks or circus shots changed the way that basketball – still a very traditional game in the early 1970’s - was played.
Erving was more than just an extraordinary athlete, however. He was an elite scorer, despite never really developing a jump shot, scoring 24.2 points per game through his career, and only dropping below 20 per game in his final two seasons.
His impact at both ends of the floor is evidenced by his 12 All ABA/NBA awards, his 16 All Star appearances (one for every season he suited up), an All Defensive Team place in 1976, his 3 championships and his 4 ABA/NBA MVP awards. His most important accolade? I grew up with his poster on my wall.
Centre - Patrick Ewing
The Dream Teamer holds down the middle for an E Team of athletic isolation scorers.
Ewing’s defense will be vital for this squad. The three time All Defensive selection averaged 10.9 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per game, though to his age 36 season, after which his production started to drop away.
Including his late career sojourn in Seattle and Orlando, Ewing still averaged 21 points per game through his Hall of Fame career. His bullocking low post play was a feature of the young Ewing’s game. He was simply too big and powerful for most of his contemporaries. The select few that could stand up to a Ewing shoulder barge were not agile enough to stay with the Knick legend as he hop/stepped into the lane to shoot a leaner or fadeaway. At his physical peak, Ewing was simply too athletic for most of the league’s centres. He was Shaq before there was Shaq.
In addition to his All Defensive awards, Ewing was named All NBA on seven occasions, and played in 11 All Star games. He was also one of the great collegiate players, leading Georgetown – where he is now the head coach – to three consecutive championship games.
The Knicks all time games played record holder is a legend of the sport, and pivot for the E Team.