The NBA Flag Football Draft

by November 07, 2011
#kevin durant

by Adam Figman and Abe Schwadron

As devoted basketball fans and writers that cover the sport for a living, we really, really, really miss the NBA. But as much we can avoid the subject by covering charity games and streetball, we realize that at some point soon we may have to leave behind our hopes of seeing high quality professional hoops during the next few months. We’re not the only ones, either. Aside from preparing accordingly for the possibility that the ’11-12 season does take place, the stars of the NBA are starting to embrace off-the-court hobbies, like rapping and going back to school and making Internet videos. And, apparently, playing flag football.

Brandon Jennings and his friends (which includes fellow NBAers like DeMar Derozan) have been flag football-ing all summer, but the sport made headlines recently when Kevin Durant suited up with some frat bros in Oklahoma City, and then again when LeBron James challenged KD to a Team KD35 vs Team King James game. If that contest does eventually go down, it’ll probably involve Durant and a bunch of his friends against James and a group of his boys, which is fun and all, but we couldn’t help but wonder, what if these two drafted out their squads, playground-style, using the entire League as the talent pool?

Below you’ll see the results of what that draft would look like if the two of us were at the helm of the respective teams. We used basic non-contact (hence why Big Baby wasn’t selected) flag football rules: seven-on-seven, no offensive and defensive linemen save for hiking the rock, and everything else should be pretty standard. Abe’s got Team Durant, Adam’s got Team LeBron. Enjoy.

(Quick note: Literally seconds before this post went up, we were informed that a strikingly similar one already exists. With respect to B/R, we’re posting this anyway, if only because this is really just for kicks, and there’s plenty of room for multiple fake flag football NBA player drafts on the ‘Net, right? Feel free to hit that link and check theirs out as well.)

With the No.1 overall pick, Team Durant selects: Chris Paul

Things I want from my first overall pick: speed, quickness, shiftiness, ankle-breaking moves, intelligence, vision, touch, leadership, experience, team spirit and a will to win. Chris Paul brings all those things. Plus, he played high school football, so add knowledge of the game to the equation. Imagine Paul running the team from the quarterback position, directing traffic, always putting his teammates in the best position to succeed, delivering the ball on the money, or calling his own number. Try snagging his flag in the open field. Nope, not happening. (Also, guarantee this will be the best team he’s had around him in any sport—from the NBA to Pictionary—since college.)

With the No. 2 overall pick, Team LeBron selects: Brandon Jennings

Jennings has been playing flag football for a few months now, which as far as I’m concerned means he has a few months of flag football experience more than anybody else that’ll be drafted here. He’s quick, competitive and has the unwavering confidence that every NFL wide receiver seems to display during his prime. And yeah, I’ll have to work through the sneaker company sponsorship bind that’s already presented itself. Not even worried.

With the No. 3 overall pick, Team Durant selects: Derrick Rose

The MVP can play for me any day. DRose might literally juke someone out of their cleats in a 1-on-1 in open space. Not to mention his cheetah legs and total lack of fear in traffic. Rose’s ability to evade defenders is among the best in the NBA. And with two of the L’s headiest point guards leading the team, we’ll have a playbook full of double passes, flea flickers, hook and ladders and any other trick play you can think of. On D, I see Baby Bull lining up at middle linebacker, reading the opposing QB and flashing jaw-dropping his sideline-to-sideline speed.

With the No. 4 overall pick, Team LeBron selects: Rajon Rondo

Here’s my quarterback. Good luck reading this trickster—he’ll have your safeties running in circles with his subtle misdirection and can spot recievers across the field with his incredible peripheral vision. He’s athletic enough to evade a blitzing D, proven at passing on the run, and I like his leadership ability and experience in pressure situations. I’m enlisting Charlie Ward to train him, too, because that’s what I’m allowed to do during a fake flag football draft.

With the No. 5 overall pick, Team Durant selects: Nate Robinson

Meet my shutdown corner. Consider this: NateRob originally enrolled at Washington on a college football scholarship, then thought it would be fun to swap pigskin for hardwood in his sophomore year. He played defensive back and returned kicks in his one season on the UW squad, and even discussed trying out for the NFL this summer, given the impending NBA lockout. Nate’s skills so outweigh his lack of height that this pick is worth it, and he’ll be a nightmare as a running back, too, given his low center of gravity. I dare a power forward to reach down that far for a flag pull.

With the No. 6 overall pick, Team LeBron selects: Dwight Howard

Between Bron and Dwight, I’m pretty comfortable with my guys’ odds of pulling down Haily Marys over KD and Co. The Magic center is strong as anything—a characteristic  that can help when this tight end needs to grab a 50/50 ball out of the air—and I think the athleticism and length speaks for itself. Plus, imagine the Dwight Howard stiff-arming Nate Robinson moment? Just the potential of that maybe taking place will fill the stands.

With the No. 7 overall pick, Team Durant selects: Blake Griffin

Time to add some size. And strength. Blake will be our go-to option in the red zone, and will challenge for any jump ball on defense. How much different is an alley-oop from a well-timed football pass? Look for the Blake Show to be on the receiving end of some oop-ish looks, and to hurdle any on-coming defender like their last name was Mozgov.

With the No. 8 overall pick, Team LeBron selects: Dwyane Wade

LeBron’s partner-in-crime on the court would be comfortable lining up next to him on the gridiron, as Wade actually played football in high school and might’ve made a career out of it had he not been so damn good at hoops. He’s got just about every athletic quality you’d want in a wide receiver (or running back?), and should be both quick and smart enough to snatch some picks on the other end of the field.

With the No. 9 overall pick, Team Durant selects: John Wall

Is this a homer pick? Yes. But it’s not unwarranted. Show me a faster spin move in the NBA, or a guy with more lateral speed. While he’d likely line up as a natural tailback, I see him as a versatile guy to put anywhere on the field. Wall goes with our general team direction: speed, smarts, creativity and young legs. Most importantly, though, no player on the field will have a better touchdown celebration.

With the No. 10 overall pick, Team LeBron selects: Josh Smith

My guess is that J-Smoove would make a glorious free safety. His long arms, speed, hops and overall shot-blocking ability lead me to believe he’d be consistently swatting down deep passes—or pulling down an INT or three—for the game’s entirety, intimidating the hell out of any QB planning on letting it fly. Meanwhile, his combination of height, length and strength would make him a tough cover on the offensive end, too.

With the No. 11 overall pick, Team Durant selects: Kobe Bryant

I want Kobe not for his athleticism, nor for his speed or his football acumen. This last addition is simple. It’s about winning. Pitting Kobe against LeBron will provide enough motivation for Mamba to whip his teammates into shape. Captain Durant is about having fun, but in the clutch, I want Kobe on the field, keeping the team focused, fiery and competitive. Heck, every great football team needs a diva receiver. Kobe should have no problem playing that role.

With the No. 12 overall pick, Team LeBron selects: Matt Barnes

I would’ve liked Kobe in this spot too, only because I’m pretty sure that with no NBA season in sight, his participation in this game means he’ll devote every hour of his life to becoming an insanely good flag football player. So you’ve got that going for you, which is nice. I’m countering with Matt Barnes, who A. played football in high school and claims he led the country in touchdowns his senior year, B. is long and tough, making him a solid WR/CB option, and C. can match up with Kobe, which will be incredible for countless reasons. Even after a year of playing together in L.A., how long before a battle for positioning reverts those two to their old ways and evolves into an on-field brawl? Twenty minutes? Twenty seconds? Less?

The results:

Round Team Durant Team LeBron
1 (Default) Kevin Durant LeBron James
2 Chris Paul Brandon Jennings
3 Derrick Rose Rajon Rondo
4 Nate Robinson Dwight Howard
5 Blake Griffin Dwyane Wade
6 John Wall Josh Smith
7 Kobe Bryant Matt Barnes

Who do you think would win?