Our next team was built for the modern era of professional basketball. What they lack in size, they make up for in shooting, ball handling, and spacing. Even though they lack the Hall-of-Fame caliber talent that some of their competitors boast, the NBA Arizona Wildcats are fun, dynamic, and a dangerous threat to advance in our tournament.
This team has more ball handlers than they know what to do with. Gilbert Arenas, the team’s leading scorer on a points per game basis, will start at the lead guard position. From 2005 to 2007, Arenas had a dominant three-year stretch where he averaged 27.7 PPG and 5.7 APG, with a 23.0 PER and three all-star and all-NBA appearances. He served as the fulcrum of high-scoring offensive teams who made the playoffs in each of those seasons. While his reputation was irreparably damaged by his later antics, he’s a dominant scorer who can work as a primary option in this offense. He’s joined in the starting backcourt by another explosive scorer, Jason Terry, who’s currently third all-time in made three point field goals. He’ll split time playing off of the ball and setting up the offense, and can play alongside any of the team’s other backcourt options. Off the bench, Mike Bibby was known for his clutch play and deft shooting. He was a steady floor leader who nearly led Sacramento to a title in 2002, when he increased his scoring average from 13.7 in the regular season to 20.3 in the playoffs. Damon Stoudamire was a slick playmaker who was most effective with the ball in his hands. With the glut of point guards on this roster, and his lack of size (listed height of 5’10”) he’s likely to play less than the others, but there will be little drop off when he suits up. Steve Kerr, the league’s all-time leader in three-point field goal percentage, will help to space the floor out even further.
Andre Iguodala, the starting small forward, may be the most indispensable player on the roster. Iguodala will always guard the opposing team’s best perimeter offensive option, and he’ll also help to set up the offense so the team’s shooters can play off of the ball and spread the floor. Richard Jefferson and Sean Elliott will split time alongside Iguodala. Jefferson’s athleticism and bulk (230 pounds) will help him against bigger opponents, while Elliott will be better served playing his natural small forward role. These two have remarkably similar statistical profiles, and both help to boost the team’s athleticism and lineup flexibility. Chris Mills was another natural small forward who spent some time at the four in his career, despite his smaller stature. He benefited greatly from the league moving the three-point line in from 1995 to 1997 (shooting 38.7% from deep during those years, versus 31.0% the rest of his career), so he’ll play sparingly behind the other forward options.
Channing Frye is the rare ‘stretch five’ who will start off as the team’s starting center. Although he was a decent shotblocker in his prime, his lack of rebounding is a glaring weakness, and his shooting range is less necessary on a team with so many outside options. He’ll be frequently spelled by the late Bison Dele, a nifty inside scoring threat who can provide instant offense off the bench, and Jordan Hill, the team’s best rebounder who may be asked to stretch beyond his normal limits (career 18.9 minutes per game).
The NBA Arizona Wildcats should be a joy to watch, and can play with many different lineup configurations. Their lack of rebounding and interior defense, however, limits their ceiling. They have an intriguing first-round match up with a team that’s their complete opposite, with an imposing frontcourt and a lack of long-range options.