A continuation of last week’s article:
- Tobias Harris, Detroit Pistons (43.21)
Harris has been a bit of a mixed bag ever since entering into the league as the 19th pick in 2011. He’s been consistently above replacement level, but yet hasn’t shown the improvement that the league would’ve liked to have seen out of him considering his massive potential. He has a great mix of shooting ability, ball-handling skills, and size; yet defensively has been a different story. As is a problem with some tweener players, Harris is too slow to guard fast small forwards, yet not strong enough for bigger power forwards. Additionally, on offense, he’s been unreliable when asked to be a first option, rather playing better when the defense isn’t keyed in on him. At some point, you have to respect what Harris has done so far, averaging around 15 ppg for the last several years – yet at the same time, it’s easy to wish for so much more.
- Greg Monroe, Milwaukee Bucks (44.1)
Monroe has consistently been an above-average PF/C since coming into the league as the 7th pick in 2010. He provides a great blend of size, strength, and rebounding that still holds value in the NBA. However, his faults often stick out more than his strengths, especially on his new team. He’s only an okay defender, and he has never been able to spread the floor on offense. This is a huge problem for a Bucks team that had trouble shooting before their knock-down specialist Khris Middleton went down. However, even though at times he seems like he might not fit in with the Bucks, he still puts up big offensive numbers, keeping his rating here high.
- Mason Plumlee, (44.25)
Plumlee made an unexpected splash in his rookie year after becoming the 22nd pick of the 2013 draft, making the All-Rookie First Team. Even though he’s gone fairly under the radar since then, his numbers have actually improved each season. His scoring and rebounding have both increased year after year, while just this past season his assist totals took a big jump as he learned how to harness his surprisingly impressive ball-handling skills. As he learns to become a facilitator, Plumlee’s can carve out a unique role as a big man with athleticism who can score, rebound, and pass.
- Tristan Thompson, (44.3)
Thompson, taken with the fourth pick in 2011, makes a living off of doing the dirty work: rebounding the hell out of the basketball. No matter where he is when a shot is released, he’s always a good bet to end up with the ball due to sheer hustle. However, you can’t quantify hustle in numbers, which is why I was surprised to see him this high in the rankings. His basic stats (despite his obvious game-changing rebounding skill, he’s never averaged more than 9.4 rpg in a season) have never been quite impressive, and there aren’t a lot of advanced metrics that show glorify his strength. However, he shined in the Win Shares metric – finishing 22nd in the league – which fueled his ranking here. No matter; his spot is well-deserved.
- Klay Thompson, (46.44)
Thompson, taken with the 11th pick in the 2011 draft, has become a perennial all-star, arguably one of the best shooters of all time, and an NBA champion since entering the league five years ago. He and Steph Curry have formed one of the most formidable duos in the league, dubbed by the media the “Splash brothers”. Thompson has developed a reputation as being one of the best shooters in the league right now, possibly of all time. He’s also a lockdown defender, often guarding the best wing or guard available. Oh, yeah, and on top of that, the team he’s part of the backbone of happens to be the modern dynasty tearing apart the basketball world.
- Giannis Antetokounmpo, (46.91)
“The Greek Freak” is unlike anything the league has ever seen. He’s seven feet tall, moves like a track star, handles like a point guard, and defends the best of the best. Since being taken with the 15th pick in 2013, Giannis has made every team that passed on him regret it. He’s improved at an incredible rate year after year, and adds more to his game seemingly every time you see him play. Currently, he’s projected to do several things once the season begins: Play point guard and come closest in the league to averaging a triple double. Think I’m crazy? Last year, after being moved to the role of primary ball-handler, Antetokounmpo’s numbers immediately jumped as he put up triple-double after triple-double, transforming himself into a dishing-driving-boarding-scoring monster. This year, coach Jason Kidd has said that he wants Giannis to play a lot more point guard – which will, coupled with another year of development, will only improve his stats further. Oh, and best of all? He’s a year younger than Buddy Hield. Antetokounmpo seems sure to climb atop these rankings in the upcoming years as he cements his status as one of the best guard-wing-forward hybrids basketball has ever witnessed.
- Rudy Gobert, (49.55)
Gobert, since being taken with the 27th pick in 2013, has blossomed into one of the best interior defenders in the league. Affectionately called the “Steiffel Tower” due to his French heritage and rim protecting skills, Gobert represents the epitome of an all-defensive center. However, that comes with its drawbacks, as his offense is extremely raw and has made little progress since he entered the bigs. That being said, his advanced metrics are still very strong due to his incredible defensive play, and when he’s on the floor, the Jazz are overall a better basketball team.
- Khris Middleton, (50.78)
Middleton, the 39th pick in the 2012 draft, has become the centerpiece of the Bucks in his short time in the league by becoming one of the best 3-and-D specialists in the league. He and The Greek Freak form the most formidable wing defensive team using their incredible length and athleticism. He’s also a deadly spot on shooter who became more of a playmaker last year, having his assist ratio jump from 14.8 to 18.5. However, he tore his hamstring in the preseason and is out for about 6 months, meaning that the Bucks will have to go the majority of the season without him – a daunting thought for a team with basically no other top-notch shooters.
- Reggie Jackson, (51.56)
It took Jackson some time to develop on the Thunder after being taken in 2011 with the 24th pick, but year after year, he has continued to improve – with his PER rising from a lowly 9.22 his rookie season to a well above average 19.62 this past year. The biggest jump in Jackson’s game however, came when he was traded to the Pistons and finally broke out as a go-to threat, averaging 17.6 ppg upon being moved and 18.8 all of last season. Even though he hasn’t been particularly efficient reaching those numbers, taking a high volume of shots, his jump shot is on the rise and defensively he’s no slouch. For a Pistons team hoping to compete for a playoff spot though, Jackson will need to continue his improvement and hopefully emerge as a fringe all-star next to the likes of Kemba Walker, Isaiah Thomas, and even Kyle Lowry.
Data courtesy of ESPN, Basketball Reference, and CBS Sports. Thanks for reading the article and please join us again next week for #1 to #9!
Written by Ben Koch
Cover Photo Credits: AP Photo