Give And Go: Breaking down the top 100
Give And Go is a recurring feature in which The Point Forward’s Ben Golliver and Rob Mahoney bat an NBA topic du jour back and forth.
This week: Reviewing some of the most contentious debates from The Point Forward’s ranking of the top 100 players for the 2013-14 season. All players discussed below either ranked between No. 30 and No. 100 or were not included on the list. We’ve already ranked Nos. 100-51, 50-31 and 30-21. Check back for Nos. 20-11 on Thursday and our top 10 on Friday.
Here’s the schedule for our top 100 list:
1. Which player ranked from 30 to 100 has the best chance of significantly outperforming his ranking?
Ben Golliver: Anthony Davis (No. 41). The Pelicans’ 20-year-old big man hits a number of key criteria to leap ahead of current reasonable expectations: He’s young, he’s already productive, his playing time should increase, his team should be better than it was last year and there are no obvious impediments to his growth. Even though I think our ranking showed him a significant amount of respect, given that he has played fewer than 1,900 NBA minutes, there’s a reasonable chance that Davis is a sexy pick among number crunchers for the 2014 All-Star team. A spot in the top 25, maybe even the top 20, heading into the 2014-15 season is also within reach.
How quickly the Pelicans can get into the playoff mix will help determine when Davis starts to receive national recognition, but it doesn’t take a lot of digging to realize that he’s on the fast track. Consider this: Davis posted a Player Efficiency Rating (PER) of 21.7 and a Win Shares of 6.1 during his age-19 season (yes, it should be noted that he missed almost a quarter of the season with various injuries). Basketball-Reference’s database indicates that no one else has ever done that at age 19. When you start relaxing the standards — lowering the PER and Win Shares thresholds — the names that come up are a who’s who list of perennial All-Stars and future Hall of Famers: LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Bosh. If you relax the age standard to determine which rookies have posted his PER/Win Shares combination, that list of 17 players includes Wilt Chamberlain, Michael Jordan, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Oscar Robertson, Tim Duncan, Shaquille O’Neal and David Robinson.
That heady company suggests that Davis is primed to enjoy a leap — a major one — soon. Will it be this season? Will it be next season? We all eagerly wait for that answer.
Rob Mahoney: Derrick Favors (No. 87). Davis is a great pick, but an even safer bet might be a developing big man far lower in our rankings. Utah’s Favors, 22, was pushed down to No. 87 because he doesn’t quite have the defensive intuition to be a consistent difference-maker or the comfort level on offense to make good use of his size. Neither will be remedied overnight, though there’s reason to think that a full season of starter’s minutes could help ease him along.
Given all the natural advantages Favors possesses (quick feet, good hands, a standout combination of size and leaping ability), the slightest gains in basketball comprehension will go a long way. Even without grasping the full nuance of defensive coverage, Favors is enough of a shot-blocking threat (he ranked fifth in block percentage last season) to cast a shadow on many plays. He can be manipulated by clever ball handlers and savvy post-up players, but he’s fast enough to work through an initial mistake to still make an impact on a play’s result. If he were making better reads even just a bit more often, Favors would start his climb up our list. If he comes along more dramatically, he could find himself in Andre Drummond (No. 63) territory soon.
2. Which player ranked from 30 to 100 is least likely to return to next year’s list of the top 100 players?
Mahoney: Amare’ Stoudemire (No. 85). This ranking was perhaps a bit charitable, as Stoudemire’s drawbacks have come to encroach rather dramatically on his value. His efficiency last season for the Knicks was outstanding (57.7 percent shooting, manageable turnover rate, 6.9 free-throw attempts per 36 minutes), but Stoudemire, 30, is a terrible defender and poor rebounder who could soon face serious minutes restrictions.
Players who log a mere 20 minutes a game can only do so much good, and that’s before we account for potential complications with Stoudemire’s knees (which underwent two surgeries in roughly two months last season) as a means of both triggering his decline and keeping him off the court entirely. Once Stoudemire’s mobility goes, that’s the ball game; even his post work relies heavily on being able to face up opponents and beat them to a particular scoring angle, and his ability to accomplish even that much could soon be diminished. Tack on the possibility of his defense going from quite bad to altogether insufferable, and Stoudemire’s case to maintain this level of effectiveness starts to get sketchy.
Golliver: Danny Granger (No. 72). My first pick was also Stoudemire, so kudos on your intelligence. Indiana’s Granger fits a similar profile (knee problems, multiple years removed from peak production, turning the corner on 30, his contending team has found a way to win consistently without him). There’s one added variable: his contract. Stoudemire is locked in through 2014-15 at huge numbers ($21.7 million this season, $23.4 million next season) and that means two things: 1) he will be very difficult to trade, and 2) New York will be inclined to make things work however it can.
Granger, though, has a much more uncertain future. His $14 million contract expires this summer, which means he can look forward to a season’s worth of trade rumors and then a potentially tough free-agent market if he experiences more issues with his knees this season. Will the Pacers trade his contract for a younger piece that might help put them over the top? Will they decide to use him off the bench, cutting into his productivity? Will they let him walk this summer so that Paul George can get his expected max payday? If they do, will contenders be lining up for Granger’s services? If so, will they envision him as a starting-caliber player or as more of a niche guy? If not, what happens then?
Besides the obvious — staying healthy — it’s hard to chart a best-case scenario for Granger. Even if he comes back and has a stellar season, is there room for him in Indiana? Is there money for him? Would he take a discount to stay and compete for a title? That limbo makes me think Granger’s standing league-wide could be headed for a slide.