I was inspired to rank the best NBA starting five by colleges after reading Wake Forest's own Tom Haberstroh's work on ESPN.com where he used a statistical model to determine which colleges have produced the best draft pick value over the past 24 years. As it turns out, Wake Forest was number one. Did that exceptional value translate into Wake Forest being able to produce the best current NBA starting five? Let the countdown begin.
I'm as surprised as you are the Southern California made the list, as you typically don't think of them as a basketball powerhouse, but they have produced some solid talent as of late. They are led by DeMar DeRozan, who is a versatile small forward for the Toronto Raptors, and is having the best season of his career. Nikola Vucevic is one of the least talked about quality big men in the league, who will be part of a solid nucleus for Orlando moving forward. Gibson is a bruiser down low and Mayo and Young a.k.a. Swaggy P provide the All-YOLO backcourt. Because of this I had the Trojans edging out Kansas.
Duke has had several elite college teams, but their NBA roster lacks star power. This team is led by Kyrie Irving, who was the MVP of this year's All Star game. Outside of Irving, Deng is the only player who is capable of creating his own shot. Their frontcourt of Boozer and Plumlee is also the worst frontcourt of the top ten.
#8 North Carolina
North Carolina has a rich history of producing NBA talent, it just so happens that they don't have that many great players in the NBA right now. Ty Lawson is currently their best NBA player, but he is a very good, not great NBA player. Vince Carter used to be an exceptional pro, but he's 37 and his best days are behind him. Danny Green is a great three-point shooter, as we saw in the Finals, but he cannot create his own shot. Henson and Brandan Wright are limited offensively, but have unbelievable length and would be an issuing for anyone attempting to enter the lane.
I thought about trolling and putting Hasheem Thabeet as the starting center, but ultimately I passed. I've designed UConn's team to be a small ball team that features athletic freaks Rudy Gay and Andre Drummond in the frontcourt. Allen and Butler are both past their respective primes, but are both serviceable NBA players. Kemba is coming into his own this season and, along with the help of Al Jefferson, has led the Bobcats to the playoffs. This team would be solid, but lacks some of the elite players on the better ranked teams.
#6 Georgia Tech
The Yellow Jackets have a sneaky good NBA team. Their frontcourt features one of Miami's "big three" in Chris Bosh as well as rising star Derrick Favors. Young is a versatile swing man and Jack is a veteran point guard who knows how to run a team. Shumpert has declined from his rookie season, but his athleticism will still be an asset to this team.
We can go ahead and get the jokes about David Lee attempting to guard NBA small forwards out of the way now. Lee is still a very good offensive player and rebounder. If you wanted to substitute in for some defense, then you could throw in Corey Brewer instead. The backcourt of Bradley Beal and Chandler Parsons would be lights out from downtown and on the rare occasion they missed, then Noah and Horford would be there to clean up their misses. It's no surprise Florida won back-to-back titles with Noah and Horford in the frontcourt.
It never hurts to have Kevin Durant, the second best player in the world, on your team. Durant will most definitely win the NBA MVP this season and is averaging more than 32 points per game and has a scary P.E.R. of 30.4. You throw in All Star LaMarcus Aldridge along with another starting post player in Tristan Thompson and you are set from 3-5. The backcourt is not perfect, but Bradley has been a starter for two and a half seasons and Augustin was a starter earlier in his career. Really, this entire section could have just read "They have Kevin Durant."
#3 Wake Forest
There are worse foundations to your team than Chris Paul, who is the clear best point guard in the world. You add Jeff Teague to that backcourt and it's scary. "Lob City" might just take place between Paul and Teague given Teague's unreal athleticism. James Johnson has also been outstanding for Memphis this season and Al-Farouq Aminu is an exceptional athlete who has arms for days. You add all of these cutters around the brilliant finesse of a guy named Tim Duncan and this would be a formidable team who would play beautiful basketball.
The Bruins lack ideal size, but they make up for it with a dynamic backcourt of Jrue Holiday and Russell Westbrook. All five players can step out and hit threes and Kevin Love is arguably the best rebounder in the league. Love's outlet passes to Westbrook or Holiday would form an incredible fast break, especially with Afflalo and Ariza trailing. Looking at this team, it's easy to see why UCLA was so good in the 2000's.
Cousins and Davis make for one dominant front court both offensively and defensively. John Wall has come into his own this year and that back court would be picking pockets left and right. This team would lack perimeter shooting, but I don't think it would matter because Cousins and Davis would be unstoppable down low. You could even make a very strong case of Eric Bledsoe starting over Rajon Rondo if you didn't want to start someone coming off ACL surgery. This team has great balance and I believe would be favored against any of the other mythical teams.
So that's the list. Who did I leave off? Who's too high? Who's too low? Let the debate begin.