Give And Go: Breaking down the top 100
3. Which player ranked from 30 to 100 is the most volatile? In other words, which player has the highest ceiling above his ranking while also possessing serious crash-and-burn potential?
Golliver: Andrew Bynum (No. 60). This one seems open and shut. I have 2011-12 Bynum (healthy) as no worse than the No. 4 center in the NBA entering this season, trailing only Tim Duncan, Dwight Howard and Marc Gasol. That puts him somewhere in the top 10-20 range. Clearly, the only place 2012-13 Bynum (never healthy) could be ranked is the Greater Philadelphia Pro-Am Bowlers League.
Bynum is not the only star player dealing with serious recent injuries — Kobe Bryant, Derrick Rose, Rajon Rondo, etc. — but he is different because: 1) he has constantly changing timelines based on his inability to ramp up his activity; 2) his agent admitted publicly that he put on a significant amount of weight this summer; 3) the NBA market had a chance to judge his value in free agency and the final terms (two years, $24.8 million, with the second year fully nonguaranteed) were significantly below the max or near-max that he would have commanded if healthy, suggesting a serious level of concern with his current state; 4) he has multiple body parts (both knees) in question; and 5) he hasn’t made any recent promises about what he thinks he will be capable of once he gets back on the court. All of those things individually would be concerning; together, it’s a nightmare. Good luck, Cleveland.
Mahoney: Tyreke Evans (No. 65). There are a number of good candidates to pick from beyond Bynum (who rather easily takes the lead on this question), but I’m inclined to examine the full range of possibilities for Evans. Despite career averages of 18 points, five assists, and 4.9 rebounds per 36 minutes, Evans has never registered a positive on-court impact by way of regularized adjusted plus-minus, and only once (in four years) improved his team’s overall performance in his on/off splits. For all of his evident talent, there’s just limited data to support the notion that what Evans does on the floor actually turns out to be a positive for his team. His style of play more or less confirms the premise; Evans can be a bit of a ball hog even at his most productive, employs a fairly blunt driving style, doesn’t cut consistently enough when not in control and isn’t a good perimeter defender. Evans puts up some impressive numbers, but former Kings coaches Paul Westphal and Keith Smart were never able to find the optimal balance in his role and abilities.
I’m optimistic that Monty Williams might have better luck figuring out Evans in New Orleans, largely because Davis, Jrue Holiday, Ryan Anderson, and Eric Gordon form a well-rounded support staff. If all clicks into place, it’s entirely possible that Evans could be underrated here. Few players are capable of contributing across the board as he does, and a fresh start with a new team could go a long way toward unlocking his potential. But our ranking could also wind up as a rosy projection for such a peculiar player — a talent that remains unsolved after various roles in four seasons.
4. Which player included in our “notable omissions” list will place the highest in next year’s rankings?
Mahoney: Jonas Valanciunas. The Raptors’ 21-year-old center brings some strong baseline credentials into his second NBA season. He was a borderline case for this year’s rankings, omitted largely based on his still-developing feel for the game. In that regard, he’s not too far separated from Favors. Neither big man is in the right place quite consistently enough on defense, but Valanciunas is a more developed offensive player while Favors’ physical gifts allow him to make more of an immediate impact as a rebounder and shot blocker. I just see Favors taking a bigger step forward this year, while Valanciunas might need a little more time to get fully acclimated.
Golliver: Jeff Green. I definitely like both Valanciunas and second-year Wizards guard Bradley Beal as upside picks for all of the obvious reasons. I’ll go with Green, though, even if I’m not his biggest fan. This is mostly about my expectations for his setup on a rebuilding Boston team. I look at that roster and think — snap take — that if the 27-year-old forward doesn’t provide the scoring, no one will, especially during Rajon Rondo’s absence. Although we generally took care to avoid rewarding players who put up big numbers on bad teams in this year’s ranking (J.J. Hickson, etc.), there’s a chance that Green is asked to do so much that what he can accomplish as the go-to guy starts to outweigh what he wasn’t able to supply in a supporting role.
Do I expect Green to totally change his game and blossom into a fringe All-Star candidate? No, not really. But I do expect him to play hard and put up career numbers across the board. I think that could be enough to repair his reputation a bit, even during what will surely be a trying year for his team.
5. Which 2013-14 rookie will place the highest on next year’s list?
Golliver: Victor Oladipo. All of the factors that make the No. 2 pick a logical early favorite for the Rookie of the Year award make him the “smart money” on this question. The 21-year-old guard should play tons of minutes in Orlando and enjoy lots of touches. He can score, and he posted good shooting numbers in college. He has a professional attitude and work ethic that should serve him well come “rookie wall” time.
Oladipo is almost a “process of elimination” pick: Cleveland’s Anthony Bennett, Phoenix’s Alex Len and Philadelphia’s Nerlens Noel all have injury questions, while Washington’s Otto Porter, Sacramento’s Ben McLemore, Detroit’s Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Portland’s CJ McCollum either won’t get the same opportunity as Oladipo or aren’t as equipped to make an impact from Day One. None of the other candidates — Charlotte’s Cody Zeller, Utah’s Trey Burke, Philadelphia’s Michael Carter-Williams and Boston’s Kelly Olynyk — necessarily jump off the page as strong challengers, although all should get their feet wet in plenty of minutes.
My final top three in order: Oladipo, Zeller and Bennett. (I guess we should also allow for the possibility that no ’13-14 rookies crack next year’s top 100.)
Mahoney: I agree on Oladipo, though he’s in no way a lock to make the cut after a single season. His defensive chops should help him stabilize in the NBA more quickly than other prospects, but I’m not keen on his first-year efficiency if he indeed winds up playing point guard. Even if he does have the skills to make his transition to the point worthwhile over the long term, getting up to NBA speed is a challenge in itself, as is learning to handle the length and strength of NBA defenders. Oladipo should be a fine NBA player in time, but expecting a spot in the league’s top 100 players by next year strikes me as a bit bold. (It’s worth noting that just three members of the 2012 rookie class ranked on this year’s list: the Pelicans’ Davis at 41, Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard at 47 and Pistons center Andre Drummond at 63).