This is one of our favorite exercises of the preseason: picking out a college basketball Dream Team.
The guidelines for making picks were simple. You get to pick a coach and fill 13 roster spots for a team that will spend play a full season at the college level.
Here is the squad each of our three writers put together:
I’m a huge fan of John Beilein’s ability to build an offense — I think the man is brilliant — which is why I picked him as my team’s coach. So with that in mind, I built my team with players that will succeed in Beilein’s offense. Simply put: ball-handlers that thrive in ball-screen actions, bigs that can roll to the rim or thrive in pick-and-pops and wings that are shooters, versatile enough to play multiple positions or, ideally, both.
Considering how much Beilein uses ball-screens, and considering Kris Dunn is the best player in the country, he was the obvious pick to build a roster around. Ben Simmons was also an easy pick for me simply because of how good of a playmaker he is. Ron Baker, like Dunn, is a terrific on-ball defender and has all the attributes that I’m looking for in a guard — he can shoot, run ball-screens, pass — and Denzel Valentine’s ability to spread the floor and create on his own was enough to get him into my starting lineup. Since Dunn and Simmons both can struggle shooting the ball, I went with Skal Labissiere in the starting lineup over Damian Jones and Jakob Poeltl.
The bench was a bit tougher to hash out. I went with BYU’s Kyle Collinsworth for the same reason I picked Simmons — he’s a 6-foot-8 point forward that can run ball-screens, pass and rebound — while I went with Jaylen Brown over Brandon Ingram and Taurean Waller-Prince because I think he’s better suited to playing an undersized four role; think Draymond Green. James Blackmon Jr.’s shooting was too much to pass up, and I love Buddy Hield’s ability as a 3-and-D guy on my team.
In the back court, I love Demetrius Jackson. He’s absolutely perfect for this system. Fred Van Vleet may not be the most talented point guard in the country, he’s a leader and a winner and a guy that every coach in the country would want at their disposal. Up front, I think Damian Jones will be the best low-post center in the country this year, and Jakob Poeltl’s ability as the roll-man in ball-screen actions, combined with his prowess as a rim protector defensively, made him a perfect fit.
For my Dream Team, I wanted to put the five most talented players in college basketball on the floor. With the backcourt of Dunn and Murray, I’ll be able to push tempo with bigger guards who can do a bit of everything. Adding Ben Simmons and his ability to handle the ball means I’ll have three pretty good ball handlers on the floor in my starting lineup.
Skal and Ingram are on the floor to create mismatches and score. Ingram’s ability to hit shots from anywhere is important to my team, especially since he’s playing the ‘3’ in this group. Labissiere will be huge setting high ball screens for my guards and creating off of those plays.
My bench features steady leadership with a lot of upperclassmen and ball handlers. Jaylen Brown is just too talented to not make the roster and he brings a lot to the table as a bench scorer along with Buddy Hield. Jakob Poeltl and Damian Jones give me a lot of interior depth while Tyler Ulis and Fred Van Vleet can handle any kind of defense.
Kyle Wiltjer gives me a luxury floor spacer in the front court and Kyle Collinsworth is my jack-of-all-trades final roster spot who can come in and do a bit of everything. John Calipari is one of the few coaches in America who could get all of these guys to buy in and play together, so he’s the easy decision for my head coach.
When I put my team together, the main goal was to load up on talent and figure out how the pieces fit from there. That explains the presence of a ball-dominant point guard in Dunn and a point forward in Simmons in the starting lineup. But they’re both incredibly talented players who are likely the two best in college basketball this season, so the logistics of who has the ball in their hands can be worked out. At the two I like Hield, who can knock down perimeter shots and also attack teams off the dribble. On the wing I took Caris LeVert, a versatile player who can operate without the ball in his hands and that’s key with the group. In the middle, Skal Labissiere. Sure there’s a need to get stronger, but he can do so much in that role that we’ll make up for it.
As for the bench, Fred VanVleet is a point guard who can also score and he’s a flat-out winner to boot. Those kind of guys are incredibly valuable to a team, whether they start or not. And in Denzel Valentine there’s a versatile player who is capable of initiating the offense himself. But with the presence of Dunn and Simmons in the starting lineup, I like Denzel as a reserve with this group. Virginia’s Malcolm Brogdon is a consistent, efficient scorer who is also a very good defender. I may have skimped on the defensive guards, which makes his inclusion essential for this group. Also available to play on the perimeter are two highly regarded freshmen in Jamal Murray and Jaylen Brown. I like the ability of both to play multiple positions, with Murray being able to play some point and Brown anywhere from the two to the four (in a small lineup).
In the front court I took a player in Kyle Wiltjer who should be one of the nation’s best offensive players this season. Will he be a lockdown defender? Probably not but that’s fine; off the bench he can focus on scoring from all three levels. The presence of Vanderbilt’s Damian Jones, one of the best big men in the country, and a rugged forward in NC State’s Abdul-Malik Abu will help make up for any defensive issues Wiltjer may encounter. And the man I’m entrusting to coach this group is Michigan’s John Beilein, who is arguably the best offensive coach in college basketball. Given the many options on this team, and the fact that a few of them seemingly need the ball in their hands to be at their best, there’s a need for a coach who can spread things out and get everyone their opportunities to shine on that end of the floor.