Basketball website HoopsHabit, part of the Fansided Internet sports network, has released its list of the best NBA starting lineups from each state — to qualify for a state’s starting five, each player must have either been born or played high school ball in that state.
And with the 2015-16 NBA season tipping off Tuesday, it’s a fun exercise to see how Maine’s starting five stacks up.
You might be surprised to know that there have been some NBA All Stars with Maine ties — although it’s almost entirely because of Maine Central Institute, once renowned as a finishing school for high school prodigies looking for a bridge to college.
Four of HoopsHabit’s top pro basketball players from Maine are only tied to the state through the Pittsfield-based school: Forward Caron Butler, center Brad Miller, and guards Erick Barkley and Cuttino Mobley.
Only power forward Jeff Turner, who was born in Bangor, made the team without having first played at MCI.
So what kind of a lineup is that? Well, the now-retired Miller and current Sacramento King Butler are each two-time All Stars.
Miller averaged more than 15 points per game in three different seasons, and a double-double of 14.1 points and 10.3 rebounds in another one. Butler has been a more prolific scorer, averaging more than 20 points per game for two straight seasons, from 2007 through 2009.
Mobley had a respectable 11 years in the league, as well, averaging 16 points per game over his career.
Turner won an Olympic gold medal as part of the 1984 U.S. team that also starred a young Michael Jordan and Patrick Ewing, and was a first round draft pick of the New Jersey Nets. Over a 10-year career, he averaged a workman-like 6 points and 3.3 rebounds per game.
The choice of Erick Barkley to play point guard on this Maine team is a bit of a head scratcher, though. The former first round pick washed out of the league after appearing in just 27 games over two seasons.
It’s all the more perplexing when you consider that, as long as HoopsHabit was just picking guys off old MCI rosters, they could’ve grabbed three-time NBA champion Sam Cassell at that same position.
Cassell scored at least 17 points per game in nine of his 19 pro seasons, and was considered one of those clutch glue players for most of his career.
(Admittedly, the website puts Cassell on the Maryland team, reflecting his birth state, but I didn’t read any rules saying players could only be placed on one state’s team. And even if you did decide each player could only be used once, you could’ve moved Cassell to Maine and still filled his Maryland roster spot with the likes of Kevin Durant or Carmelo Anthony. But I digress…)
With Barkley instead of Cassell, HoopsHabit gives the Maine team a disappointing grade of D+.
While the Maine team certainly couldn’t compete with the likes of, say, Michigan — which has four Hall-of-Famers led by Los Angeles Lakers great Magic Johnson — I do think adding Cassell would bring them up to a solid C grade.
A C grade would put Maine equal to or better than 20 other states in the HoopsHabit list, and that’s a pretty decent showing considering it’s a rural state with only about 1.3 million people.