Q: If the Monstars came back to Earth and challenged you to field a soccer team of non-soccer playing athletes, who would you choose?
A: What a specific question!
FWD: Russell Westbrook – Size? Check. Speed? Check. Flair? Check. Finishing ability? Check. Russ does it all. He has the size and leaping ability to be a threat on set pieces and crosses but also has the speed and control to create on his own.
LM: James Harden – The bearded one may not have the speed of a traditional player on the left wing, but his service and creativity are second-to-none. Harden has been a revelation for the Rockets this season, and given the ability to create in space on the pitch, could be a two-sport wonder.
CAM: Chris Paul – CP3 has the total package; going forward he’s Chris. He can fire from distance, has tight dribbling skills, and can draw fouls in the box. But he can also feature as Cliff with penchant for distribution and a high defensive work rate. A great talisman in the midfield.
RM: Steph Curry – Flair, speed, and a serious threat from distance. He can get up and down with anyone, and keeps the back-four honest with his threat to crack one from outside the box at any moment.
CDM: Kawhi Leonard – The best defender in the NBA has a spot reserved for him in my XI no matter what. If Jürgen could thrust Michael Bradley into every lineup without regard to fit or form, I can certainly stuff Kawhi in. On the court, Leonard has more steals than fouls in his career, proving that he can defend physically and efficiently without the threat of accumulating yellows.
CDM: Rajon Rondo – The NBA’s black sheep is the perfect deep-lying defensive midfielder. In the NBA, his lack of a jump-shot is troublesome, but on the pitch, he can flourish. Imagine a more athletic version of Xabi Alonso; lying deep in midfield with the ability to fire off a long pass or flash on a set-piece from distance.
LB: Von Miller – He’s a freak on the edge in the NFL, so he gets a shot to roam the left flank. Despite his size, he’s cat-quick and powerful as someone twice his size. Meanwhile, he has the athleticism and hips to flip and drop into coverage, stopping wide runs into the box. A true-two way defensive threat.
CB: Jason Peters – If you thought I was making a team like this and not including my favorite Eagle of all-time, you’re nuts. Peters won’t be the quickest (or leanest) center-back you see, but his short-area quickness, frame, and strength is second-to-none. JP has made a living protecting what’s behind him and will make life tough for anyone trying to get behind him or up in the air.
CB: JJ Watt – Injuries and all, Watt is made for center-defense. He is stronger than anyone he’ll come up against. He is taller than anyone out there (and more athletic than most). He will dominate balls coming into the box and will keep his motor running for 90 minutes every night.
RB: Richard Sherman – More of a defensive specialist but still possessing the speed and size to pose a threat going forward, Sherman brings a flair and aggressiveness to the back-four. He is a smooth athlete on the outside, able to shift gears to mark his man up and down the right side.
GK: LeBron James – You thought I forgot him, didn’t you? You could slot the king in at any position and he’d probably be the best. So why limit him? Two reasons. 1) Remember this? He’s the best athlete in the history of the world – try getting a ball past him. 2) Does he lack the killer instinct? LeBron has taken his fair share of criticism for deferring late in games or choosing to set-up his teammates instead of getting his own. While that’s not a bad problem to have by any means, it could be if he were involved in the attack. You need to be selfish, not stupid, and keep that nose for the goal. Opting for a less-mobile pair of center-backs, I’ll choose to keep the best security blanket you could ever wish for in front of the old onion bag.
FWD: Kevin Durant – Has the size to be a set-piece threat late, while not sacrificing much in the way of athleticism or finishing.
LM/RM: Bryce Harper – Baseball! Harper is a lunatic on the diamond, with speed and power for days. He is a late substitute capable of stoppage time magic.
CM: Lonzo Ball – Lonzo Ball : Fantasy XI :: Christian Laettner : The Dream Team. A total unknown, probably won’t play, but is an enticing threat for the future at various positions.
CDM: Giannis Antetokounmpo – He’s actually a Monstar. That’s the only explanation.
LB/RB: Earl Thomas – Elite speed and closing ability going forward or backward.
CB: Andre Iguodala – A glue-guy; locker-room favorite who can defend at a high-level and get forward in a pinch.
GK: Rudy Gobert – He’s 7’1” with a 7’9” wingspan and deceptive athleticism (and a 9’7” standing reach). A soccer goal is 8’ high by 24’ wide. He already takes up most of it.
(h/t to StartingEleven.co.uk for the graphic)