NBA JAM ‘18-’19: A Hypothetical Tiering

his year marks the 25th anniversary of NBA JAM’s arcade release. I’m a massive NBA 2K supporter and would never deny my fondness for NBA Street, but there will always be a special place in my hippocampus for this ridiculously over the moon brand of 2-on-2 basketball. There hasn’t been a release in over 7 years, but word on the street is that a remake is in the works. In an attempt to soothe my raging enthusiasm, I went and ranked my hypothetical roster projections for this upcoming season. Hope I don’t jinx it. Enjoy!

Disclaimer: There is no science to these rankings. Talent is important, but the true metric is fun.

 

Tier 8: “REJECTED!”
Zero to little interest.

MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES
STARTERS: Marc Gasol & Mike Conley
ALT: Jaren Jackson Jr.

In a game called NBA JAM, it’s never great when your best players don’t dunk! There’s not enough juice for me to want to give them a run, but maybe Jackson Jr. can give them a little somethin’ somethin’?

LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS
STARTERS: Lou Williams & Tobias Harris
ALT: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

Dearest Clippers, my mama once taught me: If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. So…moving on.

BROOKLYN NETS
STARTERS: D’Angelo Russell & Jarrett Allen
ALT: Spencer Dinwiddie

The Nets are about as interesting in this game as they are irl. If you’re one of the 6 actual Brooklyn fans, your cap sitch should get you excited for NBA JAM 2020.

 

Tier 7: “CAN’T BUY A BUCKET!”
When you want a challenge.

DETROIT PISTONS
STARTERS: Blake Griffin & Andre Drummond
ALT: Reggie Jackson

Peak Blake and all-star Drummond would’ve been a great JAM pair 5 years ago, but Blake’s high flying days are behind him. Andre has enough skill to intrigue. I guess I don’t hate them.

SACRAMENTO KINGS
STARTERS: De’Aaron Fox & Marvin Bagley III
ALT: Buddy Hield

They don’t have much talent, but they are young. Which I guess is better than being old and talentless. I want to see these guys succeed, so this is my go-to-team for trolling.

CLEVELAND CAVALIERS
STARTERS: Kevin Love & Collin Sexton
ALT: Larry Nance Jr.

Just 2 Year’s removed from LeBron and Kyrie, the Cavs are left with…you know…stuff. I had a difficult time leaving JR off the squad, until I realized I didn’t care.

 

Tier 6: “FROM DOWNTOWN!”
Genuine excitement, but not to be taken seriously.

NEW YORK KNICKS
STARTERS: Kristaps Porzingis & Kevin Knox
ALT: Tim Hardaway Jr.

As a die hard Knick fan, I’m happy to see the Unicorn flourishing. He’s got all the tools in his new unbreakable body. Both Knox and THJ are capable of providing enough complimentary scoring to succeed.

CHICAGO BULLS
STARTERS: Lauri Markkanen & Jabari Parker
ALT: Zach Lavine

Immortality means a fresh pair of new ACLs for Jabari! They’ll most likely max out Lavine’s dunk rating. I wonder if he could takeoff from 3? Don’t sleep on Markkanen. He’s for real.

PHOENIX SUNS
STARTERS: Devin Booker & DeAndre Ayton
ALT: Josh Jackson

The young Suns have a bright future. Devin is a blue chipper that can score from anywhere. Ayton has the tools to dominate down low and Jackson has…cool hair.
Update: Jackson no longer has cool hair.

ORLANDO MAGIC
STARTERS: Aaron Gordon & Jonathan Isaac
ALT: Mo Bamba

This lineup makes absolutely no sense irl, but this isn’t rl, and they have enough length and bounce for Barnum and Bailey (You the REAL greatest show Orlando).

DALLAS MAVERICKS
STARTERS: Luka Doncic & Dennis Smith Jr.
ALT: DeAndre Jordan

DeAndre’s defense should make up for the children’s lack thereof and I decided to bench Barnes because, tbh, I just want to see the kids play.

ATLANTA HAWKS
STARTERS: John Collins & Trae Young
ALT: Taurean Prince

Collins has top flight bunnies and Trae has streaky range. The Hawks have just enough talent to be a fun sleeper in whatever scenario they could be considered a sleeper (which is…most.).

 

Tier 5: “IS IT THE SHOES?”
Time to take things seriously.

PORTLAND TRAILBLAZERS
STARTERS: Damian Lillard & CJ McCollum
ALT: Jusuf Nurkic

Portland sports one of the league’s best scoring backcourts in CJ and Dame, inducing flashbacks to the old Porter/Drexler team.

SAN ANTONIO SPURS
STARTERS: DeMar DeRozan & LaMarcus Aldridge
ALT: Lonnie Walker IV

San Antonio’s legendary big 3 era is officially over. Well, 4, if you count the Kawhi trade. But, don’t sleep on the Spurs. Consider the chip on DeMar’s shoulder a multiplier.

MIAMI HEAT
STARTERS: Goran Dragic & Hassan Whiteside
ALT: Edrice Adebayo

The Dragon is their multi-award winning all-star and, in a game sans fouls or goaltending, Miami’s big men have the freedom to protect the paint recklessly.

DENVER NUGGETS
STARTERS: Nikola Jokic & Jamal Murray
ALT: Gary Harris

Joker might be the best passing big man in the league. You expect more defense at his size, but he makes his teammates better. The young guards are ready to make a leap.

CHARLOTTE HORNETS
STARTERS: Kemba Walker & Nicolas Batum
ALT: Malik Monk

Sorry Kaminsky, Lamb and MKG, but I’d rather have Kemba run the break with Frenchie and young Monk.

 

Tier 4: “RAZZLE DAZZLE!”
Difficulty level: Difficult.

WASHINGTON WIZARDS
STARTERS: John Wall & Bradley Beal
ALT: Otto Porter Jr.

The combination of Wall’s speed and Beal’s shooting keeps DC competitive. I decided to go with Porter’s defense and versatility over Oubre’s scoring. Dwight could be fun on here too?

MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES
STARTERS: Jimmy Butler & Karl-Anthony Towns
ALT: Andrew Wiggins

Another fun group that feels better suited for NBA JAM rules. Love the athleticism, but I question the toughness from Towns and Wiggins. ‘Bows will be thrown. Can they handle it?

TORONTO RAPTORS
STARTERS: Kawhi Leonard & Kyle Lowry
ALT: Jonas Valanciunas

Kawhi’s defense will be a nice upgrade over Derozan’s. But the Raptors strength is in their depth. Something they won’t be able to utilize in this game.

UTAH JAZZ
STARTERS: Donovan Mitchell & Rudy Gobert
ALT: Ricky Rubio

Spida was the true ROY imo. Pairing him with the reigning DPOY, aka The Stifle Tower, should prove formidable. Mitchell will have to carry the scoring load.

INDIANA PACERS
STARTERS: Victor Oladipo & Myles Turner
ALT: Tyreke Evans

Victor had a breakout season last year earning his first all-star nod. He’s probably the only guy in the game who could execute NBA JAM dunks irl.

 

Tier 3: “HE’S HEATING UP!”
Clear out and let him work.

LOS ANGELES LAKERS
STARTERS: LeBron James & Brandon Ingram
ALT: Lonzo Ball

Showtime is back baby! King James is the NBA JAM G.O.A.T. (Since Jordan never made it into the game). His perfection will carry them to the brink, despite young Brandon and Ball’s inconsistency.

HOUSTON ROCKETS
STARTERS: James Harden & Clint Capela
ALT: Chris Paul

Cliff’s brother’s best days are behind him. But, a double alley oop between the reigning MVP and one of the leagues premiere big men would be nearly unstoppable.

MILWAUKEE BUCKS
STARTERS: Giannis Antetokounmpo & Kris Middleton
ALT: Eric Bledsoe

Give the Greek the rock and let the freakishness ensue. Middleton can stroke it and if they could just get a little more consistency from Bledsoe the deer would truly be something to fear.

NEW ORLEANS PELICANS
STARTERS: Anthony Davis & Jrue Holiday
ALT: Julius Randle

If you’re running 2’s and need a teammate, you won’t do much better than The Brow. He’s poised for a legit MVP push, but he’s gonna need help. Can Jrue and Julius provide enough?

 

Tier 2: “HE’S ON FIRE!”
Unlimited turbo activated.

OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER
STARTERS: Russell Westbrook & Paul George
ALT: Steven Adams

I know. Seems like a reach. But, without the burden of multiple teammates, NBA JAM Brodie is essentially Legendary Super Saiyan Brodie. Which makes PG13 Krillin? Adams is Hercule, obviously.

BOSTON CELTICS
STARTERS: Kyrie Irving & Jayson Tatum
ALT: Gordon Hayward

The Celts are loaded (when healthy). Good thing injuries aren’t a factor in this game. Uncle Drew and the gang can score at will, but their lack of rim defense could hold them back.

GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS
STARTERS: Kevin Durant & Steph Curry
ALT: Draymond Green

This is the greatest NBA JAM team of all time. Forget about Durant and Curry both catching fire. Picture Draymond in a world where nut punching is legal! There’s just no denying it: this team is a cheat code. But, cheating is cheap and that’s no fun.

 

Tier 1: “BOOMSHAKALAKA!”
Big head mode.

PHILADELPHIA 76ers
STARTERS: Ben Simmons & Joel Embiid
ALT: Markelle Fultz

The LJ/Zo/Mugsy Hornies were the most fun team to play with growing up. Philly’s titular trio brings comparable talent and excitement. But, imagine if Fultz’ yips magically disappear. What if Joel’s injury concerns go away? Ben’s lack of outside shooting won’t matter as much in a game where you can takeoff from the arch.

This team embodies everything that makes NBA JAM so sensational. We want to see these players push defy the boundaries of human capability. Nerf the limitations. Nerf the rules. To a lot of fans these guys are heroes. In this game, they’re super. 

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