The 2015 NBA playoffs are underway. It’s certainly the most wonderful time of the year. With increased national exposure with just 16 teams, we all come to know these rosters a lot better than during the regular season.
During some of these games, we all inevitably see someone playing and think, “Holy crap. He’s still in the league?” It happens. As the guys at Grantland would say, keep gettin’ dem checks. Nothing wrong with that, but it’s still funny.
I’m unveiling the All-Kevin Willis team, named after a guy who just refused to retire. He played 1,424 games in his career. To put that in perspective, Willis started his career during the Reagan administration and finished during George Bush’s final year.
This team is meant for guys who are a) 30+ b) used to be pretty good c) seemingly disappeared into obscurity for a while and d) have resurfaced on a playoff team. Not the stars like Tim Duncan, just the Kevin Willises in the background. These are the resurrected, if only briefly, like old Penny Hardaway, or T-Mac in San Antonio a couple years ago, chasing glory, and maybe contributing on the court.
G: Leandro Barbosa, Golden State Warriors
Most NBA and Golden State fans have seen Barbosa play this season. He’s been a solid rotation player the entire season. Barbosa brings some speed, long-range shooting and a great name. It still surprises me that he plays such a key role for the best team in the NBA. I still fondly recall Barbosa’s stint with Phoenix back in the Steve Nash era.
Barbosa was such a natural fit in that offense because of his athleticism. He might not make the plays like he used to, but he’s still averaging 7 ppg, including a big effort (with some of that classic Barbosa speed) off the bench in last night’s 97-87 win over the Pelicans. Not too bad.
G/F: Hedo Turkoglu, Los Angeles Clippers
Hedo Turkoglu still played some real minutes for a playoff team during the regular season. I needed to type that out to believe it. Hedo is still doing it, even at the ripe age of 36. The thing about the Clippers is that their bench is really bad. If Hedo is one of their best options behind Jamal Crawford…oof. I’m not saying he doesn’t have ANY game left, but he posted just 3:10 minutes played in Game 1 of their first round series vs San Antonio.
It’s just hard to imagine Hedo running around with some of the small forwards of today’s game. This isn’t vintage Turkoglu with the Orlando Magic, and even then he wasn’t exactly fast. The NBA is all about position-less basketball right now, and Hedo doesn’t do anything but shoot anyway, so he’s a big guard here.
F: Charlie Villanueva, Dallas Mavericks
Remember that time Villanueva was a blue-chip recruit going to UConn? And then he was a decent player and went to the NBA, did alright in Toronto and Milwaukee, then made one of the biggest off-season moves with Ben Gordon to revitalize the Detroit Pistons. He was going to be a key piece as the stretch 4, but all his stats just kept declining. And then Villanueva just fell off the face of the earth. He actually did play out his contract in Detroit and signed a small contract with the Mavs.
He isn’t a big rotation player by any means, but occasionally he’ll hit the floor and do a little something on the perimeter, and you’ll remember that, “Oh yeah Charlie Villanueva used to be alright.” And he’s 30 and in his 10th season, so he qualifies. What’s more impressive (or not) was that Game 1 vs Houston was his first ever playoff game, in which he scored his first ever playoff points with a couple of threes in the fourth.
F: Elton Brand, Atlanta Hawks
This was the one pick on this list that I legitimately didn’t know he was in the league. I feel like Elton Brand should’ve retired like five years ago, yet he’s sitting on the bench of the best team in the Eastern Conference. Brand averages less than three points per game, a far cry from his career average of 16. This former No. 1 overall pick is probably on his last legs as a 36 year old, but if Hedo can play, so can Elton? This guy once averaged 25-10 in a season…that feels like an eternity ago.
C: Nazr Mohammad, Chicago Bulls
Just for the record, that was totally bush league. That whole thing escalated really quickly. Nazr Mohammad is indeed riding the pine still for the Bulls. He’s probably the personal mentor for Nikola Mirotic, and being kept fresh for an inevitable series with Cleveland.
ANDREW TIE | @Andrew_Tie
Andrew Tie is a senior journalism major at UNC-Chapel Hill. He is a 2015 Dat Winning fellow.