Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Ranking Every Player in the NBA - Denver Nuggets

About a week ago, I began the massive undertaking of ranking every player in the NBA, breaking it up by going team-by-team before compiling all 30 teams' rankings into a huge, 450-player list. To read more about my thought process going into this, or to understand the criteria of how rankings are determined, see the first rankings here.

Stop me when you've heard this before: it wasn't a great year for the Denver Nuggets. Oh wait, that can be said for every single team that I've done rankings for so far? Well, I guess that comes with the "Lottery Team" territory. Specifically for the Nugs, a bad year looks like this: they fired coach Brian Shaw in midseason, their standard-bearers for the future (namely Ty Lawson and Kenneth Faried) had merely good/great seasons, and didn't transcend into "spectacular", and they saw many key valuable pieces go in midseason trades once the front office realized that 2015 isn't quite the Year of the Nugget (Arron Afflalo, Timofey Mozgov, and Nate Robinson being some of them). Bright pieces to the season? The unheralded rise of Will Barton (received back from Portland in the Afflalo/Alonzo Gee trade) and Jusuf Nurkic (certainly hoped to be good as a 1st-round draft pick, but maybe not as effective as he's been so soon). There are enough holes in this organization that Denver should shoot more for hiring a great coach and finding more valuable pieces instead of shooting for home-court advantage in the playoffs next year.

Sorry Nuggets fans: Jusuf Nurkic is a soft-smiler. And thus, he can't be trusted.

The List:

1. Ty Lawson - PG 15.2ppg, 9.6apg, 1.2spg, 18.5 PER

Tywon (what a great name. I wonder if he's popular in Southeast Asia?) has proven through his 5 years in the league that he's a capable point guard, which is by far the deepest position for good/great/elite players, so that's quite a compliment. And this year in particular was a good one for Lawson - anytime you can average 15/10 while playing in 75 games, that's nothing to sneeze at. Two other things that Lawson brings to the table: he's one of the fastest guys in the league and he makes that speed a factor in his game (probably the second-best at that, behind John Wall), and then he makes enough of his 3's to keep you honest (he hit a career-low 34% this year). Additionally, at 5'11'' (listed) he's one of the shortest starters in the NBA. Respect.

2. Kenneth Faried - PF 12.6ppg, 8.9rpg, 1.6 "stocks" per game (steals+blocks), 18.5 PER

"The Manimal" had a little bit of a down year this year. That is to say, he essentially had a carbon-copy (that's such an outdated phrase - seriously, when was the last time you actually kept one of those "yellow copies" or whatever they give you for a receipt?) statistical year as his previous 2 years. So what's wrong with that? Well, "we" the viewing public called for Faried to do what all great superstars do: go from good to great. And by repeating his insane line of rebounding, low-post defense extending to the perimeter, and average big-man scoring, The Manimal has proven that what you see is what you get with him. And that's enough. He'll never be DeMarcus Cousins, so we should all stop expecting that of him.

3. Danilo Gallinari - SF 12.4ppg, 40% 3FG, 0.8spg, 16.8 PER

"The Rooster" has that gift: he makes throwing the orange, round ball into the tall rim-and-net contraption look so easy. Dude can score, and he makes it look so...Italian. Confident, relaxed, and made completely of cheese and tomato sauce. Unfortunately, Danilo hasn't been gifted with the rebounding gene - that must be native to Detroit (what with Dennis Rodman and Ben Wallace's careers taking off there). My guess, while unaided by actually watching many Nuggets games, is that Gallo's high steals numbers are because he's cheating and gambling on the defensive end - not because he's a stalwart.

4. Wilson Chandler - SF 13.9ppg, 6.1rpg, 13.9 PER

Chandler is like Gallinari's long-lost twin - another gifted scorer, but exchange Gallo's odd steals numbers with Chandler's rebounding numbers. I mean, I've never seen him work hard on the boards, so when is he getting these rebounds? Baffling. Wilson Chandler also has the best neck tattoo this side of DeShawn Stevenson.
Creepy tat game strong. It's like the other face is trying to sneak up out of his jersey.

Sorry Wilson, but you can't beat MONEY ON YOUR THROAT.

5. Jusuf Nurkic - C 6.9ppg, 6.2rpg, 1.1bpg, 14.8 PER

Nurkic came out of mild obscurity (he was taken in the 1st round of the 2014 draft, but there are other international guys taken in the 1st round haven't even stepped foot in the US yet) to be an impactful backup big guy in his first season with the Nuggets. Big and strong, Denver is undoubtedly hoping that Jusuf can keep the defensive prowess working while he becomes more adept on the offensive end.

6. JJ Hickson - PF 7.6ppg, 6.2rpg, 14.4 PER

JJ has been a high-energy big man ever since his days at NC State, but he's come to carve out his niche as a rebounding machine - especially given his per-minute stats.

7. Will Barton - SG 6.8ppg, 2.8rpg, 13.6 PER

"The People's Champ", as he was nicknamed when he played in Portland, has been an under-the-radar talent during his 3 years in the league. Involved in the midseason trade that sent Arron Afflalo to Portland, Barton had a chance to change scenery, and he took to it very well - filling the role of bench scorer. Barton plays in such a way that his outgoing personality can be easily seen whenever he's on the court - the people of Denver would be wise to adopt him as their champ too.

8. Randy Foye - SG 8.7ppg, 2.4apg, 11.0 PER

Well, things have definitely been better for Raaaaaandy (thank you, Aziz Ansari). In a year where Foye saw almost all his averages decrease, as well as his total minutes played and games played in general, newcomer Will Barton added insult to injury by proving that he could handle the load of playing the 2-spot. Next year, the reins should be handed over even more, so hopefully Foye transitions from the "it man" like he had been during his time with the Timberwolves and Clippers, to a wizened veteran bestowing knowledge on the young'un.

9. Jameer Nelson - PG 8.3ppg, 4.0apg, 35% 3FG, 12.1 PER

Remember when Jameer Nelson was an All-Star in 2008-09, and then got hurt right before the ASG itself? Well, Jameer is probably still recovering from that, because he's never been the same. Dude used to ball out at St. Joe's though.

10. Darrell Arthur - PF 6.6ppg, 2.9rpg, 11.6 PER

One of the guys who, coming out of college (Kansas), I figured was a can't-miss. I also went to Texas A&M, who made losing to Kansas their personal mission every year - so I saw quite a few good games out of Mr. Arthur. However, Darrell hasn't lived up to my personal hype for him. For his size, and for his sheer talent level, Arthur should rebound at a better clip, which would lead to increased point-production.

11. Joffrey Lauvergne - PF 3.9ppg, 3.2rpg, 10.5 PER

Denver's "fall-off-the-cliff" section of their roster is larger than most teams, so these last 5 guys aren't such hot commodities. Interesting about Lauvergne: he has a higher usage rate than even JJ Hickson - basically, dude is a total ball hog.

12. Gary Harris - SG 3.4ppg, 20% 3FG, 5.0 PER

A 1st-round draft pick last year, Harris came into the year with moderate expectations on his game - and underwhelmed. He shot 30% from the field, and 20% from 3 - and yet still found his way onto the court in 55 games this season.

13. Erick Green - PG 3.4ppg, 0.9apg, 9.0 PER

A late 2nd-round pick two years ago, Green is a bit of a success story, given the expectations and the fact that he played in over half of Denver's games this year. He also has a near-3:1 assist/turnover ratio! That's pretty neat.

14. Ian Clark - SG 1.9ppg, 36% 3FG, 8.9 PER

I know you're curious what I've got to say about Ian Clark, who played in 7 of Denver's games. But I'm not going to let you know. So there!

15. Jamaal Franklin - SG 1.0ppg, 1.0apg, 4.9 PER

Jamaal wears number 99. That's ballsy.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Ranking Every Player in the NBA - Sacramento Kings

About a week ago, I began the massive undertaking of ranking every player in the NBA, breaking it up by going team-by-team before compiling all 30 teams' rankings into a huge, 450-player list. To read more about my thought process going into this, or to understand the criteria of how rankings are determined, see the first rankings here.

Does anyone remember back in October/November, when the Kings were absolutely on fire - and the toast of the entire league? Me neither. So much has changed since those days. One thing that changed for the better, however, is that DeMarcus Cousins went from being "good but crazy" to "great but crazy". And he only had 14 technical fouls this season (he had 17 last season, which led the league)!!! Now that George Karl is behind the wheel of Vivek Ranadive's Great Experiment, this team could actually begin to jell next season, and potentially vault themselves into the playoffs.

The List:

1. DeMarcus Cousins - C 24.1ppg, 12.7rpg, 3.2 "stocks" per game (steals+blocks), 25.3 PER

DeMarcus reminds me of Shaq. Force of nature offensively, good player defensively helped in large part to his size/athleticism combination, and a total head case off the court that makes you question whether he's worth the trouble. Now, if you've got a good organization, the answer to that question is a resounding YES (think Rob Gronkowski in New England). This may not apply to the Sacramento Kings.

2. Rudy Gay - SF 21.1ppg, 5.9rpg, 3.7apg, 19.8 PER

Gay went from being a ball-hogging, offense-clogging wash-up to actually having a great 2014-15 season with the Kings. At his peak, he is a light-defense, clutch-offense leader on a good playoff team. I'll give him half-credit for that, since this is anything but a good playoff team. However, the line between "light-defense, clutch-offense leader" and "no-defense, last-shot-clanging grumpy old man" is a little hazier than you might think.

3. Darren Collison - PG 16.1ppg, 5.6apg, 1.5spg, 37% 3FG, 17.5 PER

Ever since he was at UCLA, I've liked Darren Collison. Sometimes this hasn't gone my way (like when I thought that he would be better in the NBA than fellow Bruin teammate Russell Westbrook), but when Collison has a year like he did in 2014-15, I feel pretty vindicated in my admiration. The points and the assists are there, and they'll continue to be so pretty consistently. Collison adds the sneaky-good aspects of a high-level point guard, though - steals on the defensive end, and the ability to consistently knock down 3's.

4. Ben McLemore - SG 12.1ppg, 36% 3FG, 10.4 PER

Don't get me wrong - McLemore didn't have a breakout year by any means. He played in every game though, and played in 33 minutes per game, so he proved that he was worth being out there on the court. Now, is that because his backup was the even-less-efficient Nik Stauskas? Possibly. But Mac's proof that he can cut it on an NBA court, and deal with the grind of the regular season, makes me feel pretty hopeful about that breakout season coming in 2015-16 for McLemore.

5. Carl Landry - PF 7.2ppg, 3.8rpg, 51% FG, 14.9 PER

Landry has always been one of my favorite offensive-minded forwards coming off the bench, going back to when he played in Houston. He's a polished low-post scorer, but hasn't played enough defense to crack the starting lineup very often throughout his career.

6. Omri Casspi - SF 8.9ppg, 40% 3FG, 14.5 PER

Casspi is a great "intangibles guy". One of (if not the only?) Israeli players in the NBA, Omri made a career-high percentage of his 3's this year. At age 26, it seems like this is "peak-Omri," but that peak level of play is definitely capable of being a key role player on a good team.

7. Ray McCallum - PG 7.4ppg, 2.8apg, 12.5 PER

McCallum has a good compilation of skills in his arsenal. His 3-point percentage dropped off in his 2nd year, but that's usually one of the last things that point guards add to their games. He can act as a very capable backup (in the JJ Barea mold) to Darren Collison.

8. Andre Miller - PG 4.4ppg, 3.5apg, 13.4 PER

How old is Andre Miller (or "The Professor", as Grantland's Zach Lowe affectionately calls him)? Jahlil Okafor, the hopeful #1 pick in the upcoming NBA draft this year, was born when Miller was in his freshman season at the University of Utah.

Andre Miller is undergoing the metamorphosis we call "George Jefferson-ing".

9. Jason Thompson - PF 6.1ppg, 6.5rpg, 10.2 PER

Thompson is a hard-working, productive player whose effect on the court isn't fully captured in his stats. However, it's not by that much. The one thing that the NBA has a bunch of is hard-working big men who can't score.

10. Derrick Williams - PF 8.3ppg, 2.7rpg, 12.9 PER

It's hard to project how NCAA success will translate to NBA success. Case in point: Derrick Williams vs. Kemba Walker. Both players were standouts in college (Williams went to Arizona, Kemba to UConn), and took their respective teams on their backs tho. Coming into the league, Kemba is now a standout on his semi-competitive Hornets team, while Williams has been a bust (drafted 2nd overall, 7 picks ahead of Walker). I don't get it.

11. Nik Stauskas - SG 4.4ppg, 36% FG, 32% 3FG, 7.5 PER

The only thing that separates "Sauce Castillo" from the guys below him is his potential as a player. Young Sauce had a really underwhelming year, especially based on the expectations the front office had for him by drafting him 8th overall last year (ahead of both Elfrid Payton and Zach LaVine). He has the talent to be an impact player, it may just take a while to adjust to the NBA game.

12. Reggie Evans - C 3.7ppg, 6.4rpg, 11.7 PER

The only reason why Evans ranks higher than Hollins is because I'm a little bit scared of Reggie Evans.

13. Ryan Hollins - C 3.0ppg, 2.2rpg, 13.2 PER

Hollins and Evans are basically the same player, stats-wise - big men who add energy on the defensive end, while trying to stand on the baseline on offense and blend in with the stanchion so you forget they're there.

14. David Stockton - PG 2.7ppg, 3.0apg, 10.8 PER

In 3 games played, the son of the all-time assists leader averaged more dimes per game (3.0) than points per game (2.7). Well done, bud. Just like dad taught you.

15. Eric Moreland - PF Injured (No stats, or at least not really)

In 2 minutes played this season, Moreland had a 40.9 PER. Why isn't he starting every game?!? He puts Anthony Davis' historic PER to shame!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Ranking Every Player in the NBA - Orlando Magic

About a week ago, I began the massive undertaking of ranking every player in the NBA, breaking it up by going team-by-team before compiling all 30 teams' rankings into a huge, 450-player list. To read more about my thought process going into this, or to understand the criteria of how rankings are determined, see the first rankings here.

The Orlando Magic aren't your everyday, run-of-the-mill, boring 25-win team - no no, they're actually interesting! Not only did they fire their coach mid-season - they still haven't named a replacement! Just in case you were wondering if they would be better next season. (No, they won't.)

More relevantly for this blog, the roster makeup of the Magic resembles a fantasy strategy affectionately called "Stars and Scrubs", where you pick a few elite players, and then fill out the rest of your roster with a mix of aging veterans and unknown rookies and D-Leaguers. Wait a second...that's exactly what we have going on here too! So, you've been given fair warning: about halfway down this list, you may start to feel a little light-headed. Sit down, drink some water, and power through it.

James Franco didn't take his time when traveling in The Abyss known as the bottom-half of the Magic roster. And look what it cost him.

The List:

1. Victor Oladipo - SG 17.9ppg, 4.1apg, 4.2rpg, 1.7spg, 16.0 PER

2014-15 was the Season of Oladipo. Just kidding, he played on a team that won a total of 25 games, and didn't really have expectations of the playoffs all season. But Oladipo grabbed the starting 2-guard spot by the throat and never looked back, and used his increased minutes to raise his points per game, while reducing his turnovers per game. He shot at a better rate from everywhere on the court, and proved that the stat-sheet-stuffing aspect of his game is for real (just look at the steals!). He also proved that he's a great singer, and can jump a little bit. Or maybe those adjectives (adverbs?) should be reversed. Whatever.

2. Nikola Vucevic - C 19.3ppg, 10.9rpg, 1.4 "stocks" per game (steals+blocks), 21.6 PER

Nik Vuc is a double-double machine: his 45 were good enough for 5th in the league, and among those 5 players he averaged the second-most points, behind only DeMarcus Cousins. Vucevic was actually drafted by the Sixers, and was let go after one season (oops), and has come to find a home in Orlando. He's solid on defense - not a stand-out by any means - so his path forward should be clear there. Coolest part of NikVuc's game? 3+ offensive rebounds per game, and he's averaged that for 3 years in a row. That just speaks to his productive work down low, keeping possessions alive.

3. Tobias Harris - SF 17.1ppg, 6.3rpg, 1.0spg, 36% 3FG, 16.8 PER

Tobias Harris is a sneaky-favorite of mine. He seems to do everything on the court, like a not-completely-crazy Josh Smith. Dude is HUGE (6'9'', 235lbs), and he can shoot, has active hands, and can block a shot or two. One aspect of his game that's heading in the wrong direction: as his playing time and experience in the NBA has increased, Harris has started fouling and turning the ball over at increasing rates. Just wait until his hometown fans start booing whenever he lines up to take yet another 3, and then you'll know that he's gone complete Josh Smith. Once that (inevitably) happens, here's hoping he comes to Houston too!

4. Elfrid Payton - PG 8.9ppg, 6.5apg, 4.3rpg, 1.7spg, 13.9 PER

In his rookie season, the Louisiana-Lafayette product played extraordinarily well. He played in every game, started in 63 of them, and was allowed to legally buy alcohol in mid-February. Not a good shooter yet (he drove to the basket 2nd-most on the team behind Oladipo, and shot jumpers at a very low rate), he scored enough to have 12 double-doubles, even turning 2 triple-doubles. He turned the ball over too much (2.5 per game), but made up for it with a 2.6 assist:turnover ratio. In other words, that's a lot of assists coming out of Payton's dazzling handles. The company of this comparison may be too elevated for Payton, but if Elfrid aims more for Jason Kidd, and less for Rajon Rondo, then the sky is the limit for him.

5. Kyle O'Quinn - PF 5.8ppg, 3.9rpg, 0.8bpg, 14.9 PER

O'Quinn is a banger under the basket who tried to stretch his offensive game this season by (unsuccessfully) incorporating a 3-pointer into his arsenal. Not a gifted rebounder, especially for his size, O'Quinn adds enough of a presence in the middle on D to carry his own.

6. Evan Fournier - SG 12.0ppg, 38% 3FG, 12.5 PER

The Frenchman showed flashes of true competence in his first two years in Denver, and when he arrived in Orlando this year he...basically produced at the same rate, only this time with double the minutes. Fournier could be a "3-and-D" guy on a playoff contender, but on this team he slogged through the season and put up stats.

7. Aaron Gordon - PF 5.2ppg, 3.6rpg, 11.5 PER

The Magic's 1st-round draft pick from last year, Gordon (who wears #00, which is...simply Ostertag-ian) sputtered coming out of the gate as he adjusted to the NBA game. A standout during his time at Arizona in college, Gordon has the tools to improve - and if/when he starts progressing, current roadblock O'Quinn stands no chance to hold Gordon back.

8. Channing Frye - PF 7.3ppg, 3.9rpg, 39% 3FG, 9.5 PER

A prototypical "stretch-4", Frye loves to hover around the 3-point line and was the recipient of many kick-out passes from slashing guards Oladipo and Payton. I wish I could say that Frye adds more to the team than his stats line may suggest, but there's not much else there, really.

9. Dewayne Dedmon - C 3.7ppg, 5.0rpg, 0.8bpg, 13.3 PER

Hard-working big man, Dedmon worked his way into lots of minutes and saw a dramatic increase in his mpg and games played. There doesn't seem to be much more improvement there for Dedmon, but you never know - I also thought that DeAndre Jordan would never amount to anything. So pretty much, Dewayne Dedmon - your Defensive Player of the Year 2016!

10. Ben Gordon - SG 6.2ppg, 36% 3FG, 10.7 PER

Ben Gordon used to be amazing. Now the Englishman (isn't that weird?) plays a career-low in minutes, and impacts the game even less with his microwave-ready scoring. Sad, because Gordon used to be a Sportscenter highlight waiting to happen back in the Chicago days.

11. Luke Ridnour - PG 4.0ppg, 2.0apg, 10.0 PER

At one point, Ridnour was a capable backup point guard who could capably fill in while your starter sucked wind and gulped down Red Bull (hidden in those "water" cups) on the sidelines. However, when your starter is an absolute freak of nature mini-Rondo like Payton, the chasm of production widens whenever he's out of the game. Add that to an aging Ridnour (he's now 33), and you see lots of 4-point deficits turning into blowouts midway through the second quarter.

12. Andrew Nicholson - PF 4.9ppg, 2.1rpg, 10.4 PER

Same song, different verse: Nicholson is Orlando's version of the backup big man. Although Nicholson doesn't make as large of a dent in the rebounding portion of the game as most teams get from their backup bigs. Maybe NikVuc is just taking all of them, and Nicholson is left with meager table scraps.

13. Willie Green - SG 5.9ppg, 35% 3FG, 8.0 PER

Gone are the days when Willie Green was sharing a backcourt in the playoffs with Chris Paul. Now 33, Green continues to get minutes in games, but his production has fallen off drastically.

14. Maurice Harkless - SF 3.5ppg, 2.4rpg, 8.4 PER

Kanye is wondering, how could you be Mo Harkless? (Props to NBATV's JE Skeets for that one) Harkless fell off the map this season - cutting his scoring in half from last year, and playing in half as many games. For a player with some considerable potential, here's hoping that he turns things around in the future.

15. Devyn Marble - SF 2.3ppg, 1.9rpg, 5.9 PER

Devyn is really just happy that he qualifies for this list.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Ranking Every Player in the NBA - Los Angeles Lakers

A few days ago, I began the massive undertaking of ranking every player in the NBA, breaking it up by going team-by-team before compiling all 30 teams' rankings into a huge, 450-player list. To read more about my thought process going into this, or to understand the criteria of how rankings are determined, see the first rankings here.

The Lakers haven't been good for, least a few seasons now (they haven't won a playoff series since 2011-12), and injuries cost this team a bunch of minutes from key players (and Steve Nash even retired mid-season, so he's not listed below). So, it's hard to know how the roster will come together next season. One thing about this roster: down here in the NBA standings, among the lottery teams, there seem to be 2 types of roster compilation - old players holding on to primes long gone (like the Knicks/Lakers), or a bunch of too-young players with high potentials that are as-yet unreached (like the T-Wolves/Sixers). So yeah.

Now, one way to upgrade this roster in a hurry is to recruit high-dollar free agents to come and play. However, one player on the Lakers (his name rhymes with Moby and you don't have to go too far down the list to find him) has been rumored to be a little...difficult to play with. So free agents don't want to join up on Team Purple 'n' Gold, but ownership says that's okay, you're a loser and we don't want you anyway.

Jeanie Buss's message to LaMarcus Aldridge, Marc Gasol, Kevin Love, etc...
So what's the only other way to bring this franchise back to prominence? Through the long, arduous process of rebuilding through the draft. Better start calling Sam Hinkie in Philly and asking him pretty please with some sugar on top for some of his 2nd-round picks.

The List:

1. Kobe Bryant - SG 22.3ppg, 5.7rpg, 5.6apg, 1.34spg, 17.7 PER

Like with Melo in New York, don't overthink this one: Kobe is by far the best player on this team. He is a pretty good defender (or maybe he's started gambling for steals on the defensive end), and lead the team in assists/game (in the half of the season that he played). Dude can still score, too - although not at an efficient rate anymore. He takes 20 shots/game, which is double anyone else on the team not named Nick Young. Definitely one of the best guards to ever play the game, but no longer one of the elite guards in the NBA anymore. On this roster, he's still the king though.

2. Nick Young - SF 13.4ppg, 37% 3FG, 14.3 PER

Swaggy P has the coolest reason for abstaining from tattoos on his right arm, and damn does he shoot enough to make up for the lack of ink. Filling the role of "bench scorer", Young really doesn't add anything else to the game but shot attempts and shots made. But he CAN shoot, and that's valuable.

3. Jordan Hill - C 12.0ppg, 7.9rpg, 16.2 PER

Finally, in his 5th year in the league and on a team full of shot-happy backcourt players, Hill set a new career-high in rpg by adding almost 2 per game. He also took 4 more shots per game this year, which led to him setting a career-high in points as well. Not a force on the defensive end though, so if he can improve on that end as much as he has on the offensive end the past few seasons, he could go from bad-team-good-stats guy to "good player" status.

4. Ed Davis - PF 8.3ppg, 7.6rpg, 1.86 "stocks"/game (steals+blocks), 20.0 PER

Ed Davis seems to be Jordan Hill's foil - everything that Hill is (gifted offensive player, sluggish defensively), Davis is the opposite. He's always been a good defensive player, even straight out of UNC, but hasn't really ever seen his offensive game round into anything consistent.

5. Jeremy Lin - PG 11.2ppg, 4.6apg, 1.1spg, 15.7 PER

Well, it's been 3+ years since the Year of Linsanity when Lin took the league by storm for a 3-week stretch, and where are we now? Lin is still in the league (and making some good money thanks to Rockets GM Daryl Morey), still driving to the basket a bunch (he took the most driving shots on the team, almost 2x as many as second-place Jordan Clarkson), still making enough 3's to keep you honest (he's actually improved his percentages each year), and still jumping passing routes and picking pockets (he's averaged 1.3spg for his entire career). So, what can we deduce about Jeremy Lin? That what you see is what you get. And if you're the Lakers, what you get is a solid backup point guard.

6. Jordan Clarkson - PG 11.9ppg, 3.5apg, 16.9 PER

Clarkson was the breakout player of the year by far for the Lake Show, and it's clear to see why: he comes from nowhere (drafted in the second round), starts on an injury-riddled roster, and steps in capably. He shot well this season (45% from the field), had more than 2x as many assists as turnovers, and at the end of the year he had started 38 of the 59 games he played. The standards weren't set very high for Clarkson coming into this season, but needless to say he outperformed them.

7. Julius Randle - PF Injured in his 1st game, no stats (but he had a -7.5 PER, which is pretty funny)

Sad that Randle got hurt for the entire year, because his game seemed the most adaptable of the 3 intriguing rookies coming into this year (along with Andrew Wiggins, who shined, and Jabari Parker, who also shined before getting hurt). So, given the performance of the other two rookies, I assume that Randle should adapt well when he finally gets out on the court.

8. Carlos Boozer - PF 11.8ppg, 6.8rpg, 16.5 PER

The loudest screamer of "And-One!" I've ever heard in basketball, Booze is completely washed up at this point. He doesn't defend in the slightest, and his offensive game is comprised solely of 15-foot jumpers and begging the refs for calls down low. Every dog has his day, and Boozer's ended 5 years ago.

9. Tarik Black - PF 6.0ppg, 5.8rpg, 14.8 PER

Black spent time in Houston before being traded to the Lakers this season, and was a capable backup big-man. However, he hasn't shown any potential to develop an offensive game (72% of his shot were from 3ft away from the basket or closer), so this is probably his ceiling as far as potential goes.

10. Wayne Ellington - SG 10.0ppg, 37% 3FG, 11.7 PER

Ellington is an all-offense shooting guard, and this season took 100 more 3's than his previous high, while hitting a healthy percentage of them. There's a spot on a good team's roster for a 3-point specialist, but we're seeing them make a bigger imprint on the defensive end (Danny Green, for example, averaged 2+ "stocks" per game this season) in addition to the sharp-shooting.

11. Ronnie Price - PG 5.1ppg, 3.8apg, 1.6spg, 10.2 PER

Good steals numbers, but not much else from the "crafty veteran" - aka a player who sticks in the league without really giving any evidence as to why. Here's an interesting tidbit: at 6'2'', Price is the shortest player on the Lakers roster. What, there's not much to say here!

12. Wesley Johnson - SF 9.9ppg, 4.2rpg, 35% 3FG, 11.1 PER

Yet another 1st-round bust, Johnson was taken one pick before some guy named DeMarcus Cousins (sorry, Timberwolves fans). He's proven that he can shoot the 3 a little bit, and he shot a bunch of them, second only to Ellington in sheer volume this season.

13. Robert Sacre - C 4.6ppg, 3.5rpg, 10.9 PER

Robert Sacre is an energy big-man who doesn't score, rebound, or defend very well. That's not very valuable.

14. Jabari Brown - SG 11.9ppg, 37% 3FG, 11.0 PER

Yup, never heard of this guy before I started researching.

15. Ryan Kelly - PF 6.4ppg, 33% 3FG, 8.6 PER

Kelly is filling that ever-important Mark Madsen/Adam Morrison role of "white guy on the Lakers bench". For the record, since I know this is the best place to say this, I see a lot of parallels between Ryan Kelly's playing career at Duke and Frank Kaminsky's at Wisconsin. A cautionary tale for Frank the Tank.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Ranking Every Player in the NBA - Philadelphia 76ers

A few days ago, I began the massive undertaking of ranking every player in the NBA, breaking it up by going team-by-team before compiling all 30 teams' rankings into a huge, 450-player list. To read more about my thought process going into this, or to understand the criteria of how rankings are determined, see the first rankings here.

The next team to get chopped: the Sam Hinkie Experiments!

Sam Hinkie and Brett Brown: the Dr. Frankenstein and Igor of the NBA, constructing a monster made up mostly of 2nd-round draft picks. (Brought to you by Gatorade)

The List:

1. Nerlens Noel - C 9.9ppg, 8.1rpg, 3.7"stocks"/game (steals+blocks), 15.0 PER

Nerlens is already an incredible NBA defender, even for the high standard of defensive prowess that we've come to expect from centers in the league. Hopefully his offensive game follows the Dwight Howard progression, because Noel definitely has that kind of potential.

2. Robert Covington - SF 13.5ppg, 37% 3FG, 14.7 PER

Beloved by the Philly faithful, Covington played well this entire season. Defensively, Covington has active hands (1.4spg), but most of his value comes on the offensive end of things. 37% from 3, 82% free throw percentage, and scored 13.5 a game and led the team in scoring while being 4th on the team in usage rate.

3. Joel Embiid - C No stats (Injured all season)

This ranking is basically an assumption based on Embiid's potential. Embiid is also one of the rawest prospects to have come out of the draft last season, and is years away from even being at the point of his projection that Noel is at currently. But the ceiling is high on Embiid, if he can just unlock the potential.

4. Tony Wroten - SG 16.9ppg, 5.2apg, 26% 3FG, 15.0 PER

The stats for this year are deceptive, since Wroten played less than half of the season. However, taking 2013-14 into account as well, this is the second year in a row that Wroten has shown himself to be a starter-caliber player in the NBA, even if he is pretty ball-dominant.

5. Isaiah Canaan - PG 9.2ppg, 37% 3FG, 12.8 PER

It may be the time spent watching Canaan playing for the Rockets and hoisting 3 after 3 in the layups-and-3-pointers offense, but I just love watching Canaan shoot. He's a gifted scorer with a sweet stroke, and I'm a sucker for that combination. Canaan will probably never be even an adequate defender, but that's mostly due to his size: listed at 6'0'', he looks like Isaiah Thomas out there on the court - and Thomas is listed at 5'9''.

6. Thomas Robinson - PF 5.7ppg, 5.6rpg, 15.3 PER

Robinson was drafted with really high expectations after a really good career at Kansas, but has yet to live up to that standard of excellence. His ceiling, if he can reach it, is a kind of modern Charles Barkley-type, due to his ability to shoot, rebound, dribble, pass, and do basically everything in the big frame that he's got. Notice how much this roster breakdown features the term "potential"? The Sixers really are basketball's Houston Astros. And sadly, the long, Astros-like rebuild comes with lots of losses. Whatever, more ping-pong balls in the lottery for Philly!

7. Henry Sims - C 8.0ppg, 4.9rpg, 14.5 PER

Henry Sims is your prototypical "walk and chew gum at the same time" center - he doesn't score at a great rate, and doesn't rebound that well either. He's got great percentages, but that's mostly because most of his shot attempts come right at the basket. Ho hum.

8. Hollis Thompson - SG 8.8ppg, 40% 3FG, 11.0 PER

Dude can shoot, and likes to shoot, but can he do anything else? A mainstay in the Philly lineup given this roster, I think Thompson struggles to get minutes on a playoff-caliber team.

9. Luc Richard Mbah a Moute - PF 9.9ppg, 4.9rpg, 10.6 PER

The "old guy" on this team at 28 (Richardson, 34, only played in 19 games), Mbah a Moute doesn't do anything exceptionally well. His game fashions itself as "stretch-4", but he's kind of undersized to play power forward at 6'8'' (aka the same height as Golden State PG Shaun Livingston) in the NBA nowadays.

10. Ish Smith - PG 6.1ppg, 3.3apg, 12.3 PER

The fastest player in the NBA, as per multiple sources. However, speed isn't one of those "carrying tools" like 3-point shooting and rebounding ability.

11. Jason Richardson - SG 9.1ppg, 3.5rpg, 11.7 PER

A shell of his former self, J-Rich didn't play until February this season, after not playing a single NBA game in all of 2013-14. Dude can still shoot 3's a little bit, and jacked up 5 a game this season.

12. JaKarr Sampson - SG 5.2ppg, 2.2rpg, 9.4 PER

Sampson is a 6'9'' shooting guard. That's...insane. Also, for what it's worth, he found himself in the starting lineup in almost half of his games played. JaKarr Sampson is also a sneaky-good name, in that it's really fun to say out loud. But he doesn't hold a candle compared to...

13. Furkan Aldemir - PF 2.3ppg, 4.3rpg, 12.0 PER

Coolest name on this team (which is saying something), and probably top 5 in the whole league. Furkan. Aldemir. Try it yourself, it's fun!

14. Glenn Robinson III - SG 2.1ppg, 1.1rpg, 8.5 PER

Have we already tried to give Glenn Robinson III a nickname yet? Should it be completely based upon his dad's nickname, the Big Dog? Or should he blaze his own trail and find something separate to be known by? Big questions surrounding the Little Dog/GR3. None surrounding his actual play on the court, though.

15. Jerami Grant - SF 6.3ppg, 3.0rpg, 8.7 PER

Yeesh, the bottom of this list is filled with guys who really should be in the D-League.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Ranking Every Player in the NBA - Minnesota Timberwolves

A few days ago, I began the massive undertaking of ranking every player in the NBA, breaking it up by going team-by-team before compiling all 30 teams' rankings into a huge, 450-player list. To read more about my thought process going into this, or to understand the criteria of how rankings are determined, see the first rankings here.

Today, we move on to bigger and brighter things (okay, that's a complete overstatement): Kevin Garnett's Minnesota Timberwolves!

Nothing ever changes, really.

1. Andrew Wiggins - SF 16.8ppg, 4.5rpg, 13.9 PER

The #1 overall draft pick last year (for the Cavaliers) has played in every game this season, is top 5 in minutes played in THE LEAGUE, and is already a great defender. Those who were expecting the Second Coming of LeBron James on the offensive end knew deep in their hearts that they were being ridiculous, but his offensive game isn't a train wreck. His game is less shooting and more athleticism currently, like many superstars that have come before him (see: Kobe, LeBron) - so there's still hope that his shooting numbers will increase as he grows into his "NBA game". He's a blue-chipper already, and the future is so bright because his high-ceiling potential seems like such a sure thing. I like Andrew Wiggins, if you couldn't tell.

2. Nikola Pekovic - C 12.5ppg, 7.5rpg, 0.39bpg, 16.7 PER

I also like Nikola Pekovic, and let's be real: his physical appearance likens him to Gimli, except tall (How terrifying a combination is that?! That would give Gimli a huge range for his axe, which was his major drawback. Seriously. Holy crap). Anyway. Pekovic is a monster on the boards in seemingly every game I watch of his, yet only averages 7.5/game. Why? I don't know, maybe I'm his good luck charm or something. The major drawbacks to Pekovic's game are health (he's never played more than 62 games in a season) and defense (see his pitiful blocks numbers above - HE'S 6'11'' AND WEIGHS 295 LBS). But when he's on, he's like a Montenegrin (yup, that's the correct demonym) Zach Randolph. And on this roster, that's good enough for 2nd.

3. Zach LaVine - PG 10.0ppg, 3.5apg, 11.0 PER

Zach LaVine can jump. And water is wet. But also, Zach LaVine can shoot too! 37% from 3-point range isn't anything to sneeze at, and he shot 94 of them, so that's a bunch of points coming in multiples of 3. I know the slam dunk competition doesn't count towards wins or losses for the Timberwolves on the season, so it really doesn't matter in the end, but LaVine showed a really easy confidence that made me feel more optimistic about his future.

4. Ricky Rubio - PG 10.3ppg, 8.8apg, 1.7spg, 15.3 PER

Woohoo! Pretty Tricky Ricky is here! Ricky Rubio makes watching/playing basketball seem more fun, and that honestly added into his ranking up this high. That is, it's fun until he's left alone on the 3-point line, and he goes all wide-eyed, and he clangs another shot off the back iron. Yup, Rubio still hasn't figured out that all-important aspect of the game: the shot. That didn't stop him from shooting though, 85% of his field goals attempted this year were jumpshots, with 35% of his 2's going in and an incredible 17% of his 3's finding the bottom of the net. That's not the good kind of incredible, either. Dude is a wizard on the defensive end though, and makes at least one pass per game that makes you cover your mouth and look away out of sheer respect for the hustle.

5. Kevin Martin - SG 19.7ppg, 39% 3FG, 16.4 PER

Kevin Martin doesn't play defense, doesn't pass, doesn't rebound, and doesn't tip well at restaurants. Ok, maybe that last one is an unfounded accusation. So why is he #4 on this list? Because Kevin Martin can flat out score. Inside, outside, fallaway J's, drawing fouls, the whole shebang. Kevin Martin has unconventional form, but it goes in more often than not.

6. Shabazz Muhammad - SF 13.5ppg, 39% 3FG, 20.0 PER

I think Shabazz must be learning from Kevin Martin, because his stat line emulates Martin's - sweet shooting, and not much else. For what it's worth, Muhammad led this team in 3FG%. So there's that.

7. Gary Neal - SG 11.8ppg, 35% 3FG, 15.2 PER

Mr. Never Cold is a plug-and-play bench scorer, and that kind of role is welcome on any team. Now, his scoring would definitely be more welcome on a team that actually plays in games that matter, but Gary Neal continues to shoot the ball well from everywhere he hoists it up. There's still some residual resentment from when he played for San Antonio, I'm not going to lie.

8. Gorgui Dieng - C 9.7ppg, 8.3rpg, 1.73bpg (!), 17.3 PER

Emeka Okafor 2.0 is an absolute force on the defensive end. Almost 2 blocks per game! Whew. I definitely didn't see that coming when I watched him play at Louisville. Hopefully he can add in some low-post moves to allow his defense to continue to shine.

9. Anthony Bennett - PF 5.2ppg, 3.7rpg, 11.4 PER

Yikes, this is ugly. If Gorgui is Emeka 2.0, then can Anthony Bennett be Kwame Brown 0.5?

10. Chase Budinger - SF 6.8ppg, 36% 3FG, 12.3 PER

Budinger didn't turn into the all-around player that some people thought he might've been.

11. Justin Hamilton - C 9.4ppg, 5.3rpg, 1.50bpg, 18.8 PER

Doesn't seem to be a scorer, doesn't have exceptional rebounding numbers, but has really pleasantly-surprising block numbers, especially for the amount of minutes he's playing.

12. Adreian Payne - PF 7.4ppg, 5.5rpg, 8.2 PER

The former standout at Michigan State has worked his way into the starting lineup, which is saying something. The rest of his game may still be in the college/pro-ball limbo, so the hope is that it continues to develop a la Greg Monroe.

13. Kevin Garnett - PF 7.6ppg, 5.2rpg, 19.4 PER (in 5 games with Minnesota)

The Big Ticket is back in Minny, giving T-Wolves fans over the age of 25 a reason to come to the Target Center. However, gone is the automatic 20-10 guy of the late-90's/early-00's, as Garnett is now a defensive mouthpiece on one end, and an endless loop of pick-and-pop 20-footers on the offensive side. KG keeps gettin' dem checks though, and continues to be the Barry Bonds of career earnings: setting the bar so high that no one may ever reach it ($315 million and counting).

14. Lorenzo Brown - PG 3.9ppg, 3.2apg, 10.5 PER

I didn't know who Brown was before I started doing this research, so the thing that elevates him above Hummel is that he fills out the stat sheet more. Splitting hairs, though.

15. Robbie Hummel - SF 4.4ppg, 3.0rpg, 10.1 PER

Dude was great at Purdue, though.

Oh, and one last thing...

2015 First-Round Playoffs Predictions (since you asked):
Western Conference
1 Warriors over 8 Pelicans in 5
2 Rockets over 7 Mavericks in 7
6 Spurs over 3 Clippers in 5
5 Memphis over 4 Trailblazers in 6

Eastern Conference
1 Hawks over 8 Nets in 4
2 Cavaliers over 7 Celtics in 5
3 Bulls over 6 Bucks in 6
5 Wizards over 4 Raptors in 7

Out-of-Left-Field Prediction:
Even though they'll inevitably succumb to the Bulls, the Milwaukee Bucks will be the 1st-round surprise breakout team, since they really haven't come to the public consciousness yet and they've got a nice little thing going up there. #fearthedeer (is that still a thing?)

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Ranking Every Player in the NBA - New York Knicks

The 2014-15 NBA regular season is coming to a close, so now is really the best time to look back on the season that was. I'm a human, and therefore I like to rank things. Combining these two thoughts together compels me to rank every player in the NBA, right? Is that how logic works? Whatever, I've watched a LOT of League Pass, and I'm just sadistic enough to actually enjoy an undertaking like this.

Now, it seems impossible to just start ranking players out of the blue: Jordan Clarkson or Kent Bazemore? Kevin Garnett or Amare Stoudemire? So, I'm going to go team-by-team, and then at the end compile them all into a humongo-list of the 450 NBA players.

Important question, before we start: what's the criteria? Good question, Jordan. I'm ranking based on one question: who would I rather have, if I was an NBA GM? Thus, a player's salary is essentially only used as a tiebreaker between two otherwise-equal players, and an elite roleplayer can edge out an aging star, etc.

Since the playoffs are about to start, thus leaving 14 of the teams completely out of the public conscience, let's start at the bottom of the standings and work our way up. That's right! That means...the Knicks are on the clock! Damn, this is going to start out pretty ugly isn't it? Hopefully I can stick with this until it actually gets fun.

Without further ado, your 2014-15 New York Knickerbockers!

Best team nickname fashioned after a piece of outdated clothing, hands down. Sorry, Spurs.
The list:

1. Carmelo Anthony - SF (Injured) 24.2ppg, 6.6rpg, 21.6 PER

Don't overthink this one: Carmelo is by far the best player on this team even despite his increasing age (30) and high price tag ($22.4mil this season, or about as much as the Knicks are paying Amare Stoudemire - who you'll notice didn't make this list, because he plays for the Dallas Mavericks). Carmelo is an incredible shotmaker, even if that comes at the price of him being incredibly ball-dominant (32.9% usage rate). On a team like this, however, I'm sure his teammates are actually pretty content to let him dribble and shoot as he wishes.

2. Jose Calderon - PG 9.1ppg, 4.7apg, 11.4 PER

Leading the Knicks in assists, and the only 40% 3-point shooter on the team, Calderon fits a bunch of roles that just aren't utilized on a bad team.

3. Tim Hardaway Jr. - SG 11.1ppg, 11.6 PER

I'm ranking Hardaway Jr. this high purely based on his potential, based on flashes shown in midseason. His upside seems to be as a jumpshooter, although he definitely hasn't figured out the defensive side of the NBA game yet. That can change with more playing time though, and perhaps some of the defensive woes have come from simply playing on an apathetic, lottery-bound team.

4. Alexey Shved - G 14.8ppg, 4.6rpg, 3.6apg, 20.6 PER

Shved spent most of the year on the Sixers, padding his stats, then sat the bench for a short period with the Rockets, before finally getting a chance to play (and shine) with the Knicks. Shved fills out the entire stat sheet, and gets to the free-throw line fairly consistently, which is a plus. Hard to tell if he's a good stats, bad team guy, though.

5. Andrea Bargnani - C 14.8ppg, 4.4rpg, 16.7 PER

The former #1 overall pick never really panned out as a sweet-shooting big man. Really, the "stretch 5" part of his game just means that he doesn't factor into the rebounding game, and his 36% 3FG rate doesn't validate his position so far from the basket anyway. Weird to think that Bargs and LaMarcus Aldridge (now THAT is what a stretch 4 can really look like) went 1-2 in the '06 Draft.

(Coach Derek Fisher would rank here if he could actually suit up and play in games)

6. Langston Galloway - PG 11.6ppg, 4.3rpg, 3.2apg, 11.8 PER

An undrafted free agent, Galloway is taking the minutes that Shane Larkin apparently didn't want. A good-enough shooter, Galloway jumps off the stats sheet in rebounds: 3.5 defensive rebounds per game, and he's 6'2''! I appreciate point guards who work to get the ball back on offense.

7. Lance Thomas - SF 8.3ppg, 8.7 PER

Here's where it starts to get really ugly: Lance Thomas is your replacement for Melo, New York! You're only losing 16 points/game, and 13 points of PER in your starting lineup - oh wow, no wonder the Knicks are the worst team in the league.

8. Cole Aldrich - C 5.3ppg, 5.4rpg, 17.5 PER

When Aldrich went to Kansas, I thought he was an unstoppable force. Turns out, that may have been the peak of his powers. But Aldrich absolutely gets after it on the defensive end nowadays, and leads the team in rebounding rate by a comfortable margin. Hey, like Jalen Rose says - all a big man has to do is prove that he can walk and chew gum at the same time. Just look at Kendrick Perkins' career whenever you're feeling down, Cole. If he can do it, you can do it!

9. Cleanthony Early - SF 5.4ppg, 8.7 PER

I may have him ranked 4 spots too high here based solely on his FANTASTIC first/last name combo. And basketball is such a great sport to call out a guy's name to as you take an ill-advised jumper on the playground (Kobe!/Lebron!/Mosgov!). And I just love thinking about Marv Albert calling out a "Cleanthony Early!" in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals (keep dreaming, Knicks fans). Do I have anything to say about Early's game? No.

10. Shane Larkin - PG 6.2ppg, 2.9apg, 10.9 PER

Barry Larkin's son! He needs to have a "carrying tool" (sorry for the baseball term, but it works here) in order to stick on a team. You can get better defensively, or improve your 3-point shooting, or work harder rebounding, but you've gotta have one thing that separates you from the rest of the world. Larkin has the pedigree, just not the results to show from that yet.

11. Jason Smith - PF 7.8ppg, 3.9rpg, 11.9 PER

A huge guy (7'0'') who can't shoot, and doesn't rebound. What is there to love?

12. Lou Amundson - PF 6.1ppg, 6.2rpg, 1.26bpg, 12.8 PER

Defensively solid, but that's not a standout point as most backup centers are good defensively in the NBA. Just don't ask Sweet Lou to shoot free throws (44% career).

13. Quincy Acy - PF 5.8ppg, 4.4rpg, 12.1 PER

Energy guy with a great beard. Reggie Evans 2.0?

14. Travis Wear - SF 3.9ppg, 8.6 PER


15. Ricky Ledo - SG 8.4ppg, 8.5 PER