From Way Downtown BANG!: 2025 Season Issue 9 (The Ultimate Roster Issue)

  • By John Comey, Day 114, 2025

With the All-Star game approaching, you will see two rosters filled with the game’s greatest stars.

What is the best realistic roster though? How would you put that together?

Of course, there are many different ways and philosophies with which to do achieve this. How a person wishes to develop their roster depends on how they want to attack.

This is what we set out to do. Of course, there were some parameters:

- We had to stay below the $95 million tax line.
- We needed to have a roster of fifteen.
- This is realistic. Therefore, the bench has to consist of guys who primarily come off the bench.
- There must be two max-level players on the roster.
- There must be two min-level players on the roster.
- Realistic rookie contracts. Teams have, on average, 3-5 players on rookie contracts. We need to adhere to that concept. It does come into play later.

Of course, the result will not be perfect. It may not even be optimal, in terms of the exercise at hand. We are but a R&D department of one. And we spent a Saturday afternoon working on this. So it may not be perfect. But it’s how we built on this particular Saturday afternoon.

The Cornerstone

SF Alonzo Weaver, Philadelphia (23 years old)
Contract: $20,000,000/1 year left
Total spent: $20,000,000

We are building out of balance. Of course, we are also picking the reigning MVP, the player without any weakness. All the 23-year-old is doing is posting 27.7/9.7/7.3, with 1.59 steals and 1.96 blocks per game. He’s a sixth-year pro, and while his contract is up at the end of the year, he’ll command just a raise up to $24m. So there is cost certainty there. It makes building around Weaver a no-brainer.

The General

PG Devon Harrell, Boston (22)
Contract: $20,000,000/2
Total Spent: $40,000,000

There is probably not a true understanding of just how good Harrell could be. The Crusaders have never won more than 25 games during his five-year career. The best teammate he has had, either Zayveon West or Kenyon Fuller, were drafted after him; their development is behind his. So we don’t know just how good Harrell could be in a system with a Weaver, or the other players on this roster. Harrell is posting 24.7 points and 7.6 assist a game, which is near his 22.2/5.0/7.4 (and 1.67) career line. He has slid back a bit this year, in terms of his production; however, he is still the overwhelming choice here.

Now, this brings up a sidebar: This is about constructing the best roster. This was viewed as a long-term roster, one with an eye on the present and future. We needed to have two max-level players. This is looked at as $20m and above. We could have gone with Chris LaCruz over Harrell here. We could have gone with Darius Barry over Weaver (not really, but you get the idea).

In viewing the players atop the salary hierarchy, well, obviously the players at the top are deep veterans. You know those names. There are also guys like Tyler Davis, Marcus Ivory and Reggie Fortier, guys who are at the end of their careers. Obviously, you wouldn’t build a roster around them. But should they be paid that in the first place?

Of course, there are pros to doing this, namely chemistry/cohesion. Typically, these guys have been in the system for some time, and keeping them allows teams to build that cohesion. By the same token, well, you have to wonder how Ivory will wear on this contract. Davis, who probably used his last legs last season, has another season left on his deal.

Teams look at someone like Leon Bowen and think about whether or not he’s going to be worth $18 or $19m next season. It’s supposed, in a fixed economy, that money is available, and he’ll get his. But if New Orleans does not trade him, who will pay him that? The Hurricanes?

Of course, you could also end up with a Tyson Kuberka situation in Louisville, or a Rubin Wingfield situation in St. Louis. Spend wisely.

The Third Banana

PF Richmond Benson, Cincinnati (23)
Contract: $15,000,000/2
Total Spent: $55,000,000

Benson is considered a bargain, posting 20.2/7.9/2.0 with 2.08 blocks and a solid 23.2 PER. He is ever so slightly undersized at 6’8, but his 7’ wingspan makes up for it. So does his ability to credibly guard all five positions on the floor. He has excellent quickness and strength, one of the best combinations of the two found in the league. He is a solid all-around player, and fits the athleticism of this team better than most big men. He is a solid inside scoring option.

It should be noted that we could have considered Josiah Robinson here. A lot of people could rightfully question that. However, because the other two starters here are on rookie contracts, and a third is on the bench, and The Messiah got eased out. Given the production and the positional scarcity, we felt we needed to go with Benson over Robinson.

The Projects

SG Rafael Williams II, Charlotte (21)
Contract: $3,900,000/1+1

C Jamar Walcutt, Seattle (19)
Contract: $4,400,000/3
Total Spent: $63,300,000

There are a few shooting guards here that definitely fit the bill. Namely, Eric Greely and Spencer Allen come to mind. They would be fine choices. All three are cut from a similar mold: All are big for their position (Allen is 6’5, Greely 6’9; Williams is 6’8 with a 7’4 wingspan). And all three are having some shooting difficulties. Williams is shooting the best, though he’s on a trend downward since his rookie season (49 to 45 to 42.2% this year). All three are even comparable on defensive ability, which isn’t the greatest compliment. They have a ways to go on the defense. The length of Williams, and perhaps his fitness (Allen and Greely are known, quite unfavorably, for how winded they get late in games). With Harrell shouldering a lot of the offensive load, we felt going with Williams’ length and current defensive ability (he probably has the highest ceiling on the defensive end) was the proper move. Realistically though, you could make an argument for any of those three, as well as Greely teammate Triston Lane, and Minneapolis combo wing Donovan Mobley.

Added to this decision is the factoring of a long-term build. Present and future. So, we had to take contract lengths into account for both positions. And great postmen on a rookie deal, primarily Deandre Stackhouse and, to a lesser extent, Latrell Mason, are both up after this year. We don’t want to have to pay either $20m when they will likely command it. Williams may get $12 or $14m. And Walcutt is a true rookie. So we have him under contract for some time.

Walcutt had a severe start to the season, but has steadily gotten better. And, of course, he was called a generational talent before the draft. He is already posting 11/9.1/2.2 and 1.64 blocks per game. That’s not bad for a kid who is just 19 and got off to the rough start he got off to. His ceiling is higher than Mason or Stackhouse, and one that may come sooner than either of theirs. As a result, we felt we needed to add Walcutt to the team.

The Second Unit

PF Obinna Holden (23)
Contract: $7,500,000/1
Total Spent: $70,800,000

There were three players considered for this spot:

Rahmond Thompson
Juan Maurice

They all possess similar traits. All three are big, athletic (sneaky athletic) and excellent defensively. Their offensive skill sets are varied enough to discuss.

Maurice is second in the league in offensive efficiency (figure that one out, though he was among the league leaders last year, too), and has over three win shares already this year. Critics of Maurice—and there are many—say he is the product of his environment…meaning Kelvin Hawes (and now Omar Grant). Perhaps, though that is taking away from a player who knows his strengths and is able to use them extremely well. He would be perfect for this team as a starter, given he is a perfect complement piece. He has no need for the ball, unlike many difference-making posts. The lineups he is in have been winners the past two years in part because of him, not in spite of him. He is, without a doubt, one of the most unrecognized, underrated posts in the league. He deserves his due.

Thompson, the man cast aside for Maurice, has thrived since leaving Kansas City. The Knights thought he would be that third man in the Knights’ Big Three of Hawes and Honeycutt and…well, the Knights blew that up and Thompson couldn’t handle the extra attention on the offensive end. The Knights ran out of patience and let him go, for just two second rounders, to Los Angeles. That led to Thompson being traded three more times in 2024, ultimately ending up in Phoenix. From there, T-Rex has rebuilt himself as a solid two-way option off the bench, a role he seems quite comfortable with. His offensive efficiency is the highest since his rookie season, and while he is not as effective as he was in his role with Phoenix last season, he is still doing the job well. The biggest strike against him is that Phoenix actually seems to do better without him, something that has been prevalent with him on the court since 2023. He has a higher ceiling than Maurice, and is better offensively. Maurice is a better athlete, though.

Holden, drafted 16th by Nashville in 2020, was destined for busthood. He could not get minutes with Nashville, never averaging more than 20 a game (maybe in part because he was getting time as a small forward). His rookie option was declined, and he moved to Austin. He did not get solid minutes until being moved to Miami, where he started to thrive, posting 11.4/6.2/1.7 and 1.7 blocks a game in just 27.8 minutes. He has held that line in his time with New Orleans as his potential as a rim protector and pick-and-roll flush man. He has found his niche.

So, why did we choose Holden? The key part here is that Holden’s scoring ability, sustained over more minutes. Maurice thrives without the ball, while Thompson can be streaky. Holden has been consistent. He is also the best rim protector out of the three, and actually has a solid first step. Teams are comfortable with the ball in his hands, though they prefer it be close to the basket, without passing involved. He is not the rebounder Maurice is, which hurts a bit. But you need scoring on the second unit, and Holden can provide that. Maurice cannot, and you are never sure if T-Rex can.

PG Deonte Christian, Portland (25)
Contract: $5,000,000/2 (player option for ’27)
Total Spent: $75,800,000

Having players like Christian are the reason Portland has become what they are. Christian is ridiculously thin, at 6’4, 161 pounds. But he is a legit outside threat, shooting 43% this season on 2.5 attempts. He distributes well and takes care of the ball, as his 6.5/1.13 A/T ratio indicates. Christian plays good defense, though he has difficulty with physical guards (because, you know, 161 pounds). He is an excellent free throw shooter, connecting on 91.5% of his attempts this season.

These are the kinds of players teams need to find in the draft if they want to become contenders. Christian is found money. The team is an average of +6.3 this year with him on the floor. He has a career-best 123.9 ORtg, and has posted 4.0 win shares so far this season with a career-high 16.4 PER. It isn’t just that Christian is talented; he is. But what makes him this talented is the cultivating Portland has done to his talent. They have built him up, created a program where Christian (and others, obviously) can thrive, and have built up that chemistry over the years. Now, Christian has the skill set to be able to thrive elsewhere, though it would be system-dependent. But he likely won’t have the kind of success he has had in Portland.

SF Brandon Kelly, Baltimore (21)
Contract: $2,800,000/1
Total Spent: $78,600,000

Kelly is another guy who can defend all five positions on the floor and do so credibly. He is also becoming a better outside shooter, as evidenced by his 40.2% shooting on 3.9 threes a game. Kelly has a ton of experience, having been a starter until this year, when Baltimore acquired Dontay Sowder. He probably would have the highest usage on the second unit, outside of Holden. What this does is allow the second unit to be a multi-faceted attack.

SF/SG Grant Hayes, Oakland (20)
Contract: $3,100,000/2 (team option in 2027)
Total Spent: $81,700,000

Hayes, the final main draft pick on this team, gives the team a #2, #4, #13, #16 picks that have stayed with their teams, and one #16 that was moved around the league. This seems about right in building a multi-faceted winner right. Holden was a buy low, which happens from time to time. The Fireballs might have done that with Dejuan Brooks. It happened with Rahmond Thompson. Both were with Kansas City. Hmmm. Maybe there’s a trend.

Going back to Hayes…this continues the philosophy of building through versatility, size, and two-way players. In this case, Hayes projects as a superb 3-and-D player. Hayes is still getting used to the league. But he’s athletic, seen as a top-flight three-point shooter already, and can defend the point and both wings. Also, on this team, with Kelly and Weaver here to mentor him, he should turn into one heck of a role player (and eventually a sixth man or starter, likely for someone else).

C Omari Woodley, Minneapolis (23)
Contract: $2,400,000/1
Total Spent: $84,100,000

Woodley, a 20th overall pick of Nashville, has dealt with a torn calf muscle twice in his career, has also dealt with being traded three times thus far. It’s unknown if he’ll have a home in Minneapolis, where the Blizzards have employed him as a sixth man. He has responded, going for 11.2/9.7/4.1 and 1.15 blocks a game, all career highs by far (so is the 28.0 mpg).

Woodley, like Holden, is an athletic combo post with good endurance who is capable of scoring effectively and consistently. He differs from Holden in that he can shoot reasonably well from the outside (he is not the best when thrown the ball in the post, which gives him and Holden spacing), and has a fantastic IQ and feel. He is a good passer for his size.

It will be interesting to see what kind of contract he gets in the offseason. He may be a starter, but he has a skill set like the players we mentioned earlier. He is a cut above all of them, and still growing into his talent. So, is he someone who will command more than $7m?

If you look at the players making money in that $8-$12m range, a lot of them are journeymen who tend to lose time to younger players. The Renegades Tyree Chappell is a perfect example of this. So is Jermaine Wade, actually. Both are generally serviceable players who can do a bit when called upon; however, these kind of players are typically stopgaps, guys brought on for short-term relief until teams get guys who are worth more expensive contracts.

In short: If you’re earning $10m in the JBL, are you really earning it? Something to think about when your team signs one of these guys in the future. It could be a sign that darker days are ahead.

The Deep Bench

C Keemar Campbell, Austin (26)
Contract: $2,800,000/1 (team option for 2026)
Total Spent: $86,900,000

Campbell is frustrated with his minutes this year, as they’ve been cut from 18.5, and over 20 minutes a game over the last five years, to 19.4 this year. That’s a fair issue, though it also means the Rockets are getting better as a unit. (Sorry, Keemar.)

Campbell was picked 32nd overall in 2020, and has never really progressed as a player. That’s why he finds himself as the 11th guy on the bench; chances are, on this team, he won’t progress much either. However, he is athletic, defensive-minded, and scores well enough inside. He is also a great rebounder, which was the key for us in this spot.

To be a deep bench player, you have to be either a veteran (ie on your second contract), or a second-round or undrafted player. You have to be valuable enough to be on a team, but not so valuable as to get time on that roster. None of the guys on this particular roster are filler. This is the ultimate roster, after all. They all have unique talents that make them valuable to their rosters. However, for myriad reasons (generally they get slotted behind guys who are either better or have contracts that demand they get the time), these guys are at the back end of the roster.

Campbell is the epitome of that player: He’s a high second-round pick who has specific skills that make him attractive enough to teams. Two years, including last year with Boston, he was a full-time starter. However, even when he was starting, it was known by those teams that he was not long for that spot. Both years he started (2022 with Los Angeles, and last year in Boston), he played 28.5 minutes a game. He was given a quick hook. Last year, he took 5.3 shots a game (and shot 59.5%). He is not much of an option in scoring. But he is effective on the few he does take. What he is is a solid rebounder and shot blocker, good defender, and that is what gets him his time. He is still a sixth-man type for Austin, though he is sliding towards deep bench status.

He is exactly the kind of player a team needs, if they are to be a contender. However, he needs to be your 10th or 11th man, not your sixth.

PF Isaac Foster, Denver (26)
Contract: $1,500,000/1
Total Spent: $88,400,000

Foster, a former first-round pick, has a championship pedigree; he won one with Philly in ’23. He wasn’t just a happy-to-be-there guy, either. He was a three-year starter on that team who slid to sixth man (also a sign that Philly was ready to make The Leap; sure enough, they won a title that year). That’s incredibly valuable to have on your roster, and makes him attractive in this spot. It should be noted that our original choice was Ashton Kolder, who is with Nashville and posting 15.1 points. He’s a former deep second-round pick that has found a home in Nashville, but would likely not start on any other team in the league. However, because he is a primary starter for a team, we could not take him.

Enter Foster, a solid inside scorer and capable defender. He, like Campbell, is a solid rebounder and shot blocker. He also has a solid mid-range game, which would allow for proper spacing away from Campbell or someone like Holden, if he were pressed into duty. Foster is a guy who can be really solid in short bursts, which is how Denver has employed him. He has 3.7 win shares in his 20.2 minutes a game, based around 10.1/4.9/2.1, and 1.33 blocks a game. It’s good enough to be your third power forward.

Oh, and Foster has a good relationship with Weaver. That’s a natural fit.

PG Jared Monroe, Oklahoma City (30)
Contract; $2,500,000/1 (team option for 2026)
Total Spent: 90,900,000

One thing this team does not have is a veteran presence, a guy who can be a leader without needing to do much on the floor. Monroe plays 16.6 minutes per game for the Barons, averaging 4.9 points and 4.1 assists; he coughs it up just .64 times per game. He has not been a starter since the 2018 season, which demonstrates he is fully aware of what it takes to stay in the league. He knows what he does well, and he knows how to prepare. The younger players, specifically the off-guards, can use his presence. So could a guy like Harrell.

He also has a friendly disposition. One thing you don’t want with your deep bench is guy who does not mesh with your unit. Monroe is a guy who can speak up and get respect.

SF Kyle Rose, New Orleans (24)
Contract; $1,000,000/1
Total Spent: $91,900,000

Rose is now getting a look in New Orleans, to see what they have. He has consistently been a sixth-man type with New Orleans. A former second-round pick, he is averaging 7.2/4.0/2.0 and 1.03 blocks per game.

What Rose brings to the table is a great combination of size and athleticism. He is not a ball-handler or a great offensive player (he has no real awareness on that end). He does, however, have superb defensive instincts (okay, so there’s a theme with this team), and excellent quickness, especially for someone who is 6’10, 255. He is a capable rebounder, especially on the offensive end.

We originally looked at teammate Jalan Howard, who is posting 10.0/3.1/2.5 in 21.8 minutes. However, Howard has started 27 games, which you would not find this deep on the bench. He is also considered a troublemaker, whereas Rose is a professional. This made it easier for us.

The Fifteenth Man

SG/SF Jevon Noble, New York (22)
Contract; $1,000,000/1
Total Spent: $92,900,000

Noble, the 36th pick by the Stars in 2023 (it feels like most of these guys were originally drafted by Nashville, actually), has bounced around a few places before ending up as a bit player for the Rens. Why Noble in this spot, and not anyone else?

Well, Noble can play both wing spots, and does well with a 6’11 wingspan. He is a top-flight perimeter defender. And he can shoot the ball, though doing anything else with it is probably not recommended. He also has enough upside that carrying him is worth it, if you can develop that talent.

Therefore, Noble is our fifteenth man.

Final Thoughts: This roster is far from perfect. The kind of problems JBL teams face with filling out their roster, we faced here. But there are some takeaways here. Good teams are built through the draft and from shrewd smaller free agency signings. While our starting five would likely destroy any five any team could put out there, a solid roster is one that takes a lot of skill in identifying specific players for your system, patience and care in player development (something lacking in many JBL organizations, given how many of these players were first rounders traded early in their career), and a bit of luck.

The 2025 Ultimate JBL Roster (According to FWDB)

G Devon Harrell (Boston)
G Rafael Williams II (Charlotte)
F Alonzo Weaver (Philadelphia)
F Richmond Benson (Cincinnati)
C Jamar Walcutt (Seattle)
PG Delone Christian (Portland)
SG/SF Grant Hayes (Oakland)
SF Brandon Kelly (Baltimore)
SF/PF Obinna Holden (New Orleans)
C Omari Woodley (Minnesota)
PG Jared Monroe (Oklahoma City)
SG/SF Jevon Noble (New York)
SF Kyle Rose (New Orleans)
PF Isaac Foster (Denver)
C Keemar Campbell (Rockets)
Total Spent: $92,400,000