My jersey rotation is getting stale. I haven’t really splurged on any since my NBA walkabout — nearly two years ago at this point — and though I amassed a half-decent collection over the course of that trip, you can only wear the same Tyler Hansbrough or Josh Smith jerseys so many times before you start craving some variety and freshness in your life. It’s about time for me to make the financial commitment towards replenishing, for sure.
But where to start? Sure, I could fill in some of the holes still left from my journey — and again, shame of you for not stocking any reasonably priced Rudy Gay jerseys, FedEx Center — but those are sort of old news for me at this point. If I am looking to avoid total stagnation, I need to go newer than that. So I started thinking. What players that joined a new team this offseason, whether through trade, the draft or free agency, would look the best hanging in my closet? (Just kidding, I actually keep them folded shoddily on a shelf. Shameful, sort of.)
As I am wont to do, I made a list of the top 20. To make this list more potentially useful to readers besides myself, I attempted to tone down my team-oriented prejudices, as evidenced by the presence of a Heat jersey in the top 10. Still, this is a highly subjective ranking, based on my own largely abstract criteria, such as how cool and rep-worthy the player is, how cool and rep-worthy his last name is, how well the player and name work on the new team jersey, and how exciting his change of team is. And of course, players on teams that have jerseys that are on the drab side saw their ranking hurt accordingly. Unsurprisingly, there are no Cleveland Cavaliers on this list. Oh, and no players who had been on the team previously, so that’s a nix on your Goran Dragices and Kirk Hinrichs. (Be less predictable in your free agency choices next time, guys.)
First, some honorable mentions: Bradley Beal (Wizards), Gustavo Ayon (Magic), Mo and/or Marvin Williams (Jazz), Grant Hill (Clippers), Tony Wroten (Grizzlies), Anthony Randolph (Nuggets), Luis Scola (Suns), Antawn Jamison (Lakers), Andray Blatche (wherever), Luis Scola (Suns) and Thomas Robinson (Kings). In a less active offseason some or all of you might have made the cut, but this year, you guys are strictly clearance sale material.
Here are my top 20:
20. Darren Collison, #2 (?), Dallas Mavericks
Largely makes the list due to his awesome last name (and good luck ever getting Nick to switch teams) and the always-fine Mavericks jersey look. Unsure if he’ll keep the No. 2 he had in Indiana and New Orleans, but no one else on the Mavs owns it currently, so we’d have to assume as much. Not a super-exciting player, and you might have to explain who the guy is to a lot of casual fans (especially if he doesn’t hang as a Mav long), but he could have his moments in Dallas as their starting point guard. Worth a shot.
19. Harrison Barnes, #40, Golden State Warriors
Barnes seems like he could be a real player, I’ve always loved those Golden State jerseys, and No. 40 is just a great number that you never see anywhere for some reason. Not sure if possible confusion with a 2007 Matt Barnes throwback jersey hurts or helps Harrison’s stock here, but clearly he’s part of a proud legacy.
18. Jason Terry, #4, Boston Celtics
I’ll have to actually see Terry in a Celtics jersey to know whether or not it’s a good visual fit for the former Sixth Man of the Year — it’s hard to picture him in Celtic green, and I’m missing his trademark No. 31 already — but gotta give JET and the classic Celtics uni the benefit of the doubt here. Both have proven track records enough that you have to think they’ll find a way to make it work.
17. Lou Williams, #23, Atlanta Hawks
As excited as I was to finally see Sour Patch Lou part from my beloved Sixers — it was time like two years ago, at least — I’m equally excited to see him join his hometown Hawks, a fit that just feels right. (He’ll have to switch from Meek Mill to Future with his video cameos, but I feel like he’ll be able to make the adjustment.) I have a feeling they’re gonna love him in ATL, and he even kinda looks like the Hawk on the logo. (Don’t question it.) Only thing hurting his stock here is his pedestrian last name, and unless Jordan Williams sticks around, he’s not even gonna get an “L” to go with it. Yawn.
16. Brandon Roy, ?, Minnesota Timberwolves
Roy probably should be higher on this list, since there are few team switches more exciting than him to the T’Wolves, and there was rarely a point during his tenure in Portland, especially the good years, in which his No. 7 jersey wouldn’t have been a top-fiver in the league. But something about him as a Timberwolf just seems aesthetically wrong to me, and with Derrick Williams already commanding the No. 7 in Minnesota, he’s in numerical no-man’s land. Maybe once he settles into a number and a role I can buy into the Brandon Roy Minnesota Timberwolves experience, but I’m gonna have to see it to believe it.
15. Hasheem Thabeet, #34, Oklahoma City Thunder
Admit it — you’re excited. Sure, he may never even play a meaningful minute in OKC, but even as a 12th man on that Thunder team, he’ll have endless comedic value, and that Thabeet jersey, with its endless implications of missed expectations, is gonna over brilliantly with the hoops-irony crowd. Don’t be surprised if you see a handful of these at Pitchfork Festival next year.
14. Kyle Lowry, #3, Toronto Raptors
Cool player, cool name, cool number, mostly cool jersey. Plus, the Raptors are gonna be kinda fun next year, right? If you have to jump on the bandwagon with someone, Lowry is probably the safer bet than Valanciunas, at least.
13. Damian Lillard, #0, Portland Trail Blazers
The Trailblazers’ lottery pick point guard certainly improved his jersey stock with his play in the Las Vegas Summer League, and you can never go wrong with either the number zero or the Blazers’ classic black-and-red look. Plus, repping for Lillard is kinda like repping for late-’90s teen comedic actor Matthew Lillard, which is always a plus.
12. Jared Sullinger, #7, Boston Celtics
I have no idea what Jared Sullinger’s Celtics career is going to be like, but I do know one part of his tenure in Beantown that is definitely going to go right: the combination of the name Sullinger, pretty much the most Boston last name possible that doesn’t start with the letter O, with that four-leaf clover on the C’s green-and-white jersey. Plus, if Sullinger’s career ends up as something of a tragedy (pretty likely, all considered) you can consider it some sort of charitable contribution. Maybe you can even get a tax write-off on it or something.
(One problem, though — I don’t really like the No. 7 for Sullinger. Usually I’m all about the sev, but I think Sullinger needs a sturdier big man number, like a 55 or a 42 or something. Admittedly, the fact that like half the two-digit numbers available are already retired or in use for the C’s makes things difficult, but still.)
11. Anthony Davis, #23, New Orleans Hornets
I don’t much care for the Hornets uniforms, Davis is a boring last name and 23 is beyond spoken for as a number. Still, gotta respect the No. 1 pick in the draft, a potential superstar and a likely very fun player to watch and follow. Can’t put him in the top 10, but just one outside seems fair to me.
10. Jason Kidd, #5, New York Knicks
He may never do much in New York, and his tenure in the Big Apple is already off to a miserable off-the-court start, but something about Jason Kidd in a Knicks jersey just seems logical to me, to the point that I’m a little surprised that, unlike his new fellow middle-aged teammates Kurt Thomas and Marcus Camby, he’s never actually been a Knick before. I can’t wait to see him in that orange and blue. Plus, a decade or so down the line, the jersey’ll be a fun conversation starter. “Oh yeah, I totally forgot about when Kidd was on the Knicks! Didn’t he get a DUI within like a day of signing?”
9. Nick Young, #1, Philadelphia 76ers
Of my beloved Sixers’ many middling off-season acquisitions — I see you Dorell Wright! — Young is the only one that has me excited with the jersey possibilities. Swaggy P has always been a jersey-worthy dude, but he was stuck in lousy unis (on mostly lousy teams) with the Wizards, and only now has the benefit of a decent team and a classy, classic jersey look. The presence of Thaddeus Young means he’ll get the “N.” on the back, which is always cool. Plus, he’s going back to his classic gunner number with that No. 1. I predict I’ll have much more mixed feelings about his actual play, but the jersey could quickly become a favorite.
8. Andrei Kirilenko, #47, Minnesota Timberwolves
Ah, the return of AK-47. No idea about the move from a basketball perspective — didn’t watch him much in Utah, but I find it hard to believe he could still be worth $10 million a year two seasons later — but unlike with Brandon Roy, Kirilenko up north makes total jersey sense, and his obviously badass last name will look even cooler in that chilly blue-and-white. Timberwolves fans should be pumped, regardless of salary cap implications.
7. Michael Beasley, #0, Phoenix Suns
I’d like a Beasley jersey from every stop he makes in his NBA career, of which I predict there will be many. Fun name, fun player, destined to be a prolific dude on a whole lotta weird, out of time teams, most of which will invariably get better quickly after his departure, like a 2010′s version of Stephon Marbury. And like Marbury, Beasley has now included a rebuilding Phoenix as one stop on his career odyssey, another fun team with fun colors, which seems like a no-brainer to me jersey-wise. I can’t wait to rep for this team next year, for real.
6. Ray Allen, #34, Miami Heat
I won’t be purchasing this one, but there’s no denying that Allen willl be hot like fire in his new Heat getup. I do think the Heat colors have a tendency to make aging players look weirdly fat — though maybe that’s just an eternal association with late-years Shaquille O’Neal — but Allen is slim enough that I doubt that’ll be a problem, and the black, white and red is just a great look for shooters. Besides, it’s Ray Allen. Dude gets jersey respect pretty much anywhere he goes at this point.
5. Jeremy Lin, #7, Houston Rockets
You could probably make a case that Lin should be top two based on story alone, which is fair. I just feel like there’s almost no way you can wear a Lin Rockets jersey without seeming like you’re making some kind of statement, at least at first. Once he’s settled in at Houston and hopefully proven that the run last year wasn’t a fluke and maybe even made an All-Star Game or two, then this jersey will be as sound an investment as any. But for the moment, you’ll just look like a provocateur. If you buy this one, maybe keep it on the shelves for a month or two until the story of Lin post-Knicks is a little more settled.
4. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, #14, Charlotte Bobcats
Dunno about these “Cats” unis just yet — as has been pointed out everywhere, it pretty much looks like a carbon copy of the Mavs look and font — but I do know about Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, whose NBA career I am exorbitantly excited for and whose name might be one of the five coolest in the NBA right away. And No. 14? I mean, who wears that? With that name, that number, and that brand-new (if misguided) jersey, Kidd-Gilchrist gets to pretty much blaze his own trail on the jersey front. Even if he turns out to be a bust (he won’t be), that’s still pretty cool.
3. O.J. Mayo, ?, Dallas Mavericks
This might be over-influenced by my basketball crush on Mayo, but I’ve always thought he was such a cool player, and he just never quite seemed at home in a Grizzlies uniform. In Dallas, as a possible core player, with a huge upgrade in both playing time and jersey style, he can finally reach his maximum potential statistically and aesthetically. You know how many legitimately good basketball players you get with a name like “Mayo” in a generation? Like five if you’re lucky. Some mystery still in the number front, but as long as O.J. doesn’t go with anything totally jarring, it shouldn’t affect him negatively. His #32 could be available, and we should all be fine with that.
#2. Joe Johnson, #7, Brooklyn Nets
Who knows what Joe Johnson will do or represent as a Brooklyn Net, but the player here almost doesn’t matter. The Nets uniforms are going to be the talk of the basketball world all year regardless of who’s in them. Billy King was smart in landing a lot of big-name players for Brooklyn this off-season with simple, unassuming names — Johnson, Williams, Lopez, Wallace, etc. — that will allow their super-stylin’ jerseys to do the talking for them. Still, as previously discussed, Johnson is probably gonna be the guy there, and as the only player of those mentioned to not have previously played for the team, he’s the only one eligible anyway.
Nets fans and inevitable Brooklyn bandwagoners should just accept their fate and get that Joe Johnson jersey right now. (Assuming one currently exists, anyway. If not, make a mental note.)
1. Steve Nash, #10, Los Angeles Lakers
Was there any doubt? Whose team switch this offseason is more fascinating than Nash’s? What sight from next year’s basketball season is gonna look stranger than Nash in the Forum Blue and Gold? What other player would have their jersey be a must-buy, even if he was moving to Milwaukee or Utah? The confluence of team, player and circumstance made Nash an absolute shoo-in for the No. 1 spot on this list as soon as his trade was announced, and the first glance of him in that Lakers uniform is guaranteed to be an unforgettable one.
The number switch to No. 10 is of course disappointing — especially when he had so thoroughly owned No. 13, retired in L.A. for Wilt Chamberlain — but no matter. If you’re gonna buy one new jersey this basketball season, Nash in Los Angeles has gotta be the one. (Don’t worry, Phoenix fans. You’ve got Beasley now!)