There’s a lot of down time in the offseason. Sometimes when there’s nothing to cover, you just have to day dream and imagine a world in which there is relevant content to publish. Today, we’re asking a question that you’ve probably never considered, but we’re asking away anyway: Would the best players in Colorado Buffaloes basketball history stand a chance in the NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors?
The immediate answer is an obvious no, but it might not be that simple. If we envision an all-time Buffaloes team, they could have a better chance than you might think.
The All-Time Roster
This won’t be a significant exploration of the best ever Buffaloes basketball players because Jack Barsch and I already did that last offseason. In our Ultimate Buffalo Tournament (a month-long series you may or may not have read), we compiled a list of the best 16 players in program history. Going off that list, the starting lineup would probably look something like this:
PG - Chauncey Billups
SG - Spencer Dinwiddie
SF - Scott Wedman
PF - Andre Roberson
C - David Harrison
The rest of the rotation would be something like this:
PG - Jay Humphries
SG - Alec Burks
SF - Chris Copeland
PF - Cliff Meely
PF - Shaun Vandiver
Before you look at that roster and say the Buffs have absolutely no chance against the Warriors, let alone making the NBA playoffs, please note that we’re taking the best season for each player.
For Billups we’re taking his 2005-06 season when he won Finals MVP with the Detroit Pistons. Dinwiddie’s season would be 2017-18 where he averaged nearly 13 points and 7 assists. Wedman is a defensive liability, but on the 1979-80 Kansas City Kings, he averaged 19 points and made the All-Star game. Roberson’s best season was this year, sans that nasty injury that prevented him from making the NBA All-Defense team. David Harrison isn’t exactly Clint Capela, but in 2005-06, he showed that he could be a decent rim-running center that would fit better in today’s game.
If the starting lineup is a bit underwhelming, the bench is promising. Humphries averaged 15 points and 7 assists in 1990-91 with the playoff-bound Milwaukee Bucks. Burks was averaging 14 points and 4 assists before injuries decimated his 2014-15 season. Copeland shot 42% on threes and averaged 9 points per game in his rookie year with the playoff-bound 2012-13 Knicks; those aren’t great numbers, but his play style would be vital against the Warriors. Meely was an undersized but athletic power forward who averaged 10 points and 7 off the bench for the 1970-71 Rockets. Vandiver never played in the NBA, but he did star in the Spanish Liga ACB, which is considered the second best league in the world.
Matching Up Against the Warriors
It’s obvious that the starting lineup is overmatched, but these Buffaloes could match up well. Billups against Steph Curry would probably favor Curry, but Billups was arguably the best defensive point guard in the NBA and there’s a reason he’s called Mr. Big Shot. Dinwiddie definitely won’t outscore Klay Thompson, but he does have the length to bother him. Wedman is a slow white dude, so we’re going to have Roberson guard Kevin Durant, and though he can’t stop him (no one can), he’s probably the best non-Kawhi wing defender in the NBA. Wedman can guard Draymond Green and we’re going to hope he never gets switched onto Curry. Off the bench, Humphries and Burks are both versatile defenders if they’re focused. Copeland would be a key stretch-four and should be able to defend KD if needed.
Besides maybe Wedman trying to survive pick-and-rolls on defense, these Buffs are solid defensively. The issue, however, is that the Warriors are also an elite defensive team and the all-time Buffs don’t exactly have anyone like James Harden or LeBron James who can create offense themselves. Sure, Billups is terrific and Dinwiddie and Wedman can be knockdown shooters, but this is going to struggle to score. If the Rockets were held under 100 points in 5 of 7 games, it’s not looking good for the Buffs.
Warriors win the Finals, 4-0. Billups plays valiantly, but there’s only so much he can do.
However, there’s a good chance this Buffaloes team could beat the Cavaliers, especially next season after LeBron James leaves.