The All Alphabet team moves on to the D edition.
A reminder that I'm attempting to put together a five that would work together on the court, so you won't see a troika of centres shoehorned in, here. In response to a reader question, for the sake of this exercise, we're counting ABA years as eligible for consideration.
The D team is by far the most modern so far – each player in the team has highlights than are in colour! They're long, athletic, skilful and a legitimate chance to be the best lineup that the Alphabet can put together.
Point Guard – Luka Doncic
A possibly controversial selection at point guard for our D Team. But with respect to Hall of Famers Louie Dampier and Joe Dumars, Luka has already reached a higher peak at the ripe old age of 21 than those two did through their entire careers.
In only his 2nd season of NBA basketball, the Slovenian clearly won't have the accolades of all of the other players that have made the cut so far. All of the eligible players in our A, B and C sides are in the Hall of Fame, and those that aren't, are just about locks. You simply can't say that about a 21 year old. When you see him do things like this at his age and start to think of what Doncic could become.....
Luka is a player that has the world at his feet. A 6'7” point guard with a preternatural ability to run the pick and roll, a very good (and ever improving) jump shot, great handles, a wonderful ability to finish at the cup, and some of the slickest passing in the world, Doncic is a Hall of Famer in the making. In just his 2nd NBA season, he's putting up 28.7 points, 9.3 rebounds, 8.7 assists and 1.1 steals per contest, whilst leading a Dallas offense that is historically great. According to Basketball Reference, this season's Mavs have the highest Offensive Rating since the stat was recorded.
Defensively – like most youngsters – Doncic has work to do, but with his size, hands that rival the Waco Kid, and remarkable understanding of the game for one so young, it's not hard to imagine Doncic as a solid, multi positional defender.
An MVP candidate at the age of 21, in only his 2nd NBA season, Doncic takes the lead guard role in our D Team, despite his tender years.
Shooting Guard – Clyde Drexler
Clyde the Glide is predominantly known as a Portland Trailblazer, and that's completely understandable. Drexler's best years were spent in the North West. He earned eight of his 10 All Star appearances in Blazer black. Four of his five All NBA berths were won as a Blazer – the 5th came in the campaign he was traded to Houston mid season. He was the leader of the Blazers teams that made the NBA finals in 1990 and 1992, falling to the Pistons and Bulls respectively. He was a Dream Teamer as a Blazer.
But, as they say, home is where the heart is. Drexler's heart was always in Houston. Raised in the city, he was a high school standout before being recruited to the University of Houston, as a member of the famed Phi Slamma Jama 'fraternity'. After 12 season in Portland, Drexler was traded to his home town Rockets for a reunion with college teammate and close friend Hakeem Olajuwon, where he would finally win his title with the 2nd of Houston's back-to-back championship teams. He still lives in Houston, working as a caller on local broadcasts.
A smooth moving, lean 6'7”, the 'Glide' moniker as well deserved. He had a levitation that in his day was only bettered by Michael Jordan. Drexler's ability to almost float through the air, or to take contact and stay air born for that split second longer than his opponent led to some spectacular plays. Drexler's other dominant physical trait was pure speed. At his height, there were very few players that could keep up with him. Despite his being an average shooter, that speed opened up driving lanes for his powerful finishes and drastically underrated passing chops.
Drexler finished his Hall of Fame 15 year career with excellent all round numbers: 20.4 points, 6.1 rebounds, 5.6 assists, 2 steals, and 0.7 blocks per game.
Small Forward – Kevin Durant
Kevin Durant slots in as the small forward in a formidable D Team front line.
One of the most gifted scorers the league has ever seen, Durant is a nightmare match up. Listed at 6’10” (although probably taller), with a quick first step, very good handles and a high release on his dead eye jump shot, Durant is one of the most unstoppable forces that the sport has ever seen. His career scoring average of 27.02 points per game is 6th all time, and only .3 of a point from 4th overall.
Coming out of Texas as the #2 pick in 2007, there was no doubt that Durant could fill it up and his 20.3 points per game as a rookie - his worst scoring season thus far – bears witness to that. Early in his career, Durant wasn’t elite in other facets of the game: ball handling, play making and defense. To his credit, he’s become an excellent help defender to the point that he received some consideration as Defensive Player of the Year in 2018. His ball handling has tightened considerably (he sometimes breaks out a particularly nasty left-right crossover) over the years, and with it his ability to manipulate the defense to create open shots for other as well as himself.
KD’s accolades, especially considering he hasn’t played since he was 30, are amazing: NBA MVP in 2014; 10 All Star appearances; 9 All NBA nominations; 4 scoring titles; a pair of championships and a pair of Finals MVP’s – the man is a cold blooded assassin.
If – all the deities willing – KD can return to something approaching his best post achillies surgery, we’ll get to watch an All Time player that was practically custom designed to age gracefully. KD’s length, feathery jumper, play making and defensive intelligence mean that he can settle into a late career role as a stretch 4 or even a stretch 5 in the right circumstances. We can only hope….
Power Forward – Anthony Davis
Anthony Davis has had a slightly odd career, so far. He has undoubtedly been one of the most dominant players in the NBA through his eight year career, on the defensive end of the floor in particular. Yet his consistently underwhelming New Orleans teams – only two post season appearances in seven seasons – have without doubt contributed to his being underrated by some in NBA circles. Yet the fact that he’s been able to carry his relatively talent drained teams as far as he has done, has led to him being talked about as a top 3 or 4 NBA player and with the greatest of respect, that overrates AD. Hopefully the increased spotlight of his stint alongside LeBron James in Lakerland will give the NBA world a more stable view of what Davis is: a superior #1 option and an elite #2. Don't think that I'm disparaging AD in saying that. Think of some of the elite 2nd options on championship teams: Pippen to Jordan; Kobe to Shaq, Wade to LeBron, Curry to Durant, McHale to Bird. None of those apparent 2nd bananas are anything less than all time greats.
Davis is a beast defensively. In seven completed seasons, he’s been named to the All Defensive team on three occasions, and won the blocks title three times. He’s also been named All NBA 1st team in 2015, 2017 and 2018. But his rebounding and block (10.4 and 2.4 per game for his career) numbers only tell part of the story. Davis was a point guard in high school until a growth spurt made him a multi-positional demon, with the length and strength to bang bodies down low and the speed and footwork to allow him to switch onto perimeter players.
Offensively, Davis has retained that multifaceted game. He’s an excellent scorer in the post, but his strength comes from facing up to bigger players, using the threat of his solid jumper, or speed and excellent ball handling to slingshot past a lumbering opponent.
At 27 years of age, Davis is a baby relative to most of the players that will make these lists (yet remarkably only the 2nd youngest on his own All Time squad). As incredible as he’s been so far, it’s fair to say that we haven’t yet seen his best. Playing for championships alongside one of the very best to ever lace 'em up should bring out the best in AD. If this list was being complied in 2025, AD would be one of the easiest decisions to make. In the present day, it’s it's still pretty easy.
Centre – Tim Duncan
Our D Team is anchored by one of the very best to ever step onto the hardwood. Tim Duncan's resume is incredible:
5x NBA Champion
3x Finals MVP
2x League MVP
15x All NBA
15x All Defensive Team
15x All Star
The lifetime Spur is in the conversation for the greatest one club player alongside Bill Russell, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird.
His unassuming nature (has there ever been a superstar as swagless as TD?) and willingness to be coached – take note young aspiring ballers – formed an instant synergy with young head coach (yes, it was that long ago) Gregg Popovich, who was in his first full season at the helm for Duncan's rookie year. Duncan has, of course, led the closest thing we've seen to a modern dynasty, with his teams claiming four NBA titles in eight years, before snatching a ring from the Heat in 2014 – a full seven years after their previous triumph.
Duncan was a low post powerhouse. Once he set up on his favoured left block his defender was as meek as a lamb. His lack of top end speed and athleticism was more than compensated by elite fundamentals, footwork that rivalled the great Kevin McHale, and the patience to know that he could slice you and dice you in a dozen different ways; he just had to wait for you to decide how you wanted to die.
Duncan's career averages do not do him justice. He played until the age of 39, with his offensive game falling away in his latter years, and remarkably he played on a minutes restriction since the 2005 season as the result of a meniscus injury – suffered late in the 2000 season – becoming chronic. He also played on some of the slowest teams in the NBA, either to play to his low post strength's or to allow for the half court passing wizardry of his later teams. His career per 100 possession numbers are eye-popping: 29.7 points, 16.9 boards, 4.7 assists, 3.4 blocks and 1.1 steals. His offensive rating of 110 against his defensive rating of 96 show his true dominance of both ends of the basketball court.
And to think, Duncan only took up the sport as a 14 year old after a hurricane destroyed his home islands only pool, crushing his hope of being a professional swimmer.
Tim Duncan rounds out our long, lean and incredibly talented D Team.