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The NBA All-Gridiron Team: 2019 Edition

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The New England Patriots and Los Angeles Rams may boast talented rosters ahead of this year’s Super Bowl, but a competitive team could also surely be made by assembling the best talent in the NBA. While the hardwood and the gridiron are two vastly different worlds, certain basketball players have the talent and body to fit an NFL role. Some players are former two-sport standouts. Others may never have picked up a football in their lives. Yet when looking at some members of the Association, one can’t help but wonder about the skills that translate between the two games.

In our second annual NBA All-Gridiron team, there are a few returning faces from last year’s team, but many new names also grace the lineup. Our squad found a fresh starting quarterback and revamped its offensive and defensive lines. Without further ado, here is the 2019 NBA All-Gridiron Team:

Quarterback

Nikola Jokic (C), Denver Nuggets

Ben Simmons and Luka Doncic made compelling cases, but Nikola Jokic secured the top spot due to his strength and polished passing ability. The Joker is currently averaging a cool 7.7 assists per game, a staggering total for a center. He sports a 38.6% assist rate and runs the offense extremely well despite not always being the top scoring priority. The Nuggets have surpassed all expectations and are tied for the highest seed in the Western Conference due to Jokic’s otherworldly facilitating skills. He’s an easy choice as a team-first QB.

Running Backs

Russell Westbrook (PG), Oklahoma City Thunder

Westbrook returns as the starter from last year, and while his shot has fallen off, the 30 year-old doesn’t look to have lost a step. His motor is unparalleled, and he may be the single fastest player in the league. If Westbrook found a hole, there’s no doubt he could either blow by or plow through opposing secondaries. The point guard has turnover problems (he’s averaging 4.5 per game this year), but those are dwarfed by Westbrook’s scoring potential.

De’Aaron Fox (PG), Sacramento Kings

Fox is a Westbrook-lite. His speed is relentless, though he’s not as strong and not as old. The Kings’ floor general can change direction with astonishing burst and power over defenses with his hops. He’s shiftier than Westbrook, but make no mistake, Fox can burn opponents as well.

Wide Receivers

Kevin Durant (SF), Golden State Warriors

Durant makes his return to the All-Gridiron Team and shows no sign of falling off. At seven feet tall, he boasts an equally impressive wingspan, and could sky over anyone to make a catch. He’d be the Megatron of this team: big, strong, and wicked fast.

Miles Bridges (SF), Charlotte Hornets

Perhaps a surprising addition to the lineup, Bridges has endured his fair share of rookie struggles in the NBA. But on the football field he projects as an explosive wideout with a massive vertical. He’s already competing in the 2019 Slam Dunk Contest, which will surely add to his highlight reel of jams. Bridges could make the acrobatic gabs reminiscent of the Giants’ Odell Beckham Jr.

Tight End

LeBron James (SF), Los Angeles Lakers

LeBron is the obvious choice for the TE slot. This article on NFL.com says it all. James was an All-State receiver as a sophomore, was recruited by Urban Meyer, and was listed in a high school receiving group alongside the likes of Jerry Rice and Steve Largent. He has the speed of a wide receiver and the frame of Rob Gronkowski. Of all the players on this roster, LeBron seems like the best fit for the NFL.

Offensive Line

LT: Tristan Thompson (C), Cleveland Cavaliers

LG: Joel Embiid (C), Philadelphia 76ers

C: Steven Adams (C), Oklahoma City Thunder

RG: Karl-Anthony Towns (C), Minnesota Timberwolves

RT: Montrezl Harrell (C), Los Angeles Clippers

The offensive line was composed of players with speed and power at the tackle spots, with muscular behemoths inside. Tristan Thompson and Montrezl Harrell have the bounce to head off opposing edge rushers. Inside, the long and strong trio of Embiid, Adams and Towns is a wall. Don’t worry about height– Nikola Jokic is more than tall enough to launch the ball over them.

Defensive Line

Left DE: Jae Crowder (PF), Utah Jazz

Left DT: Willie Cauley-Stein (C), Sacramento Kings

Right DT: Jusuf Nurkic (C), Portland Trail Blazers

Right DE: Draymond Green (PF), Golden State Warriors

At the edge rushing positions, we looked for a balanced combination of strength and fluidity. Crowder possesses the size do be a dominant pass rusher, and if he adds some speed, he could resemble Jadeveon Clowney. Meanwhile, Green’s nasty competitive streak is enough to earn him a roster spot, adding on to his impressive defensive reputation. Inside are two menacing centers in Cauley-Stein and Nurkic, who have their fair share of finesse. Together, they could wreak havoc on offensive lines.

Linebackers

Kawhi Leonard (SF), Toronto Raptors: Leonard is perhaps the best all-around defender in the Association. His massive hands, lanky arms and furious speed would allow him to cover nearly any opposing receiver. Think Darius Leonard with massive interception potential.

Al Horford (C), Boston Celtics- Horford doesn’t have the quickness normally associated with linebackers. But what he lacks for in speed, he makes up for with strength and phenomenal IQ. Horford could orchestrate a defense as a middle linebacker and be an adept quarterback spy.

Cornerbacks

Marcus Smart (SG), Boston Celtics

John Wall (PG), Washington Wizards

Chris Paul (PG), Houston Rockets

Each of the three cornerbacks on the roster brings a unique trait to the table. For Marcus Smart, his ferocious work ethic and trash-talking abilities draw comparison’s to Jalen Ramsey. John Wall’s speed is top-notch, and even with injury struggles, remains one of the most athletic players in basketball. Both could outmuscle wide receivers and grab plenty of picks. Meanwhile, Chris Paul may not be known for his physical ability at age 33. But he has the veteran experience and mind to dissect the opposition’s routes.

Safeties

SS: Jrue Holiday (PG), New Orleans Pelicans

Holiday isn’t the flashiest of defenders, but he consistently flies under the radar as a stopper. He’d bring a little bit of everything to a defense: agility, length, stamina and intellect.

FS: Victor Oladipo (SG), Indiana Pacers

The leader of the surprising Pacers burst onto the scene last season, and until his devastating injury, Oladipo was playing at an extremely high level. He sports impressive hustle and would thrive as a positive locker room leader. On the field, Oladipo’s speed and vertical would result in picks and return touchdowns.

Special Teams

Kicking/Punting: Luka Doncic (PF), Dallas MavericksDraymond Green held this spot last year, but due to recency bias and a position change, Luka is the replacement. But as the clip above shows (at about the 1:55 mark), the rising rookie has surprising impressive leg strength.

Return Man: DeMar DeRozan (SF), San Antonio Spurs– DeRozan is nearly unstoppable when he gets running downhill. His highlight-reel dunks match show off the same impressive speed and power that he’d display as a kickoff and punt returner.

Best of the Rest: Teams and Players That Missed the Cut

Eastern Conference

Milwaukee Bucks: Giannis Antetokounmpo (best fit: linebacker/wide receiver)

Brooklyn Nets: Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (best fit: defensive end)

Miami Heat: Hassan Whiteside (best fit: defensive tackle)

Detroit Pistons: Blake Griffin (best fit: offensive tackle)

Orlando Magic: Aaron Gordon (best fit: tight end)

Atlanta Hawks: John Collins (best fit: linebacker)

Chicago Bulls: Kris Dunn (best fit: cornerback)

New York Knicks: Mitchell Robinson (best fit: defensive tackle)

Western Conference

Memphis Grizzlies: Marc Gasol (best fit: offensive guard)

Phoenix Suns: Josh Jackson (best fit: wide receiver)

 

Ethan Fuller and Patrick Carmody both contributed to this article.

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About Ethan Fuller

Hailing from Portsmouth, NH, Ethan is a journalism student at Boston University and writes about the Celtics for TLSM. His chief basketball teams are the Celtics and Minnesota Timberwolves. Ethan is also a still-growing ultimate frisbee player.

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