Anthony Davis best power forward in NBA?

Ranking the League’s Starting Power Forwards

The 2016-17 NBA regular season doesn’t start until October 25th, but next week is the start for fans and players.  Media Day kicks off, as players will be peppered with questions surrounding new coaches, free agent signings, and expectations.  With that right around the corner, we are releasing the fourth of five player rankings, this time covering the confirmed (or projected) power forwards for each team.  There was a lot of discrepancy between the staff, and only two players were unanimous votes for their ranking, although I will argue all day for where Trevor Booker falls.  Power forward is an interesting position because of the variations of players.  There are “traditional” ones like Zach Randolph.  There are stretch fours like Draymond Green, Jabari Parker, and Tobias Harris.  There are freaks of nature like Kristaps Porzingis.  With the regular season approaching (35 days until tip), we will finish up the summer series by releasing the starting centers, head coaches, and a complete starting lineup power ranking, to finish up.  Comment with any objections.  We know you’ll have some. – Ryan

THE RANKINGS

DCredit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
The Power Forward position has plenty of offensive machines, defensive stalwarts, and those who can do both. Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

THE TOP 10

1. Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans

New Orleans’ own Anthony Davis, comes in at number one on the power forward list, after a rather underwhelming 4th season, considering he was a favorite to win the 2016 MVP Award.  Davis played the least amount of games of his career (61), after dealing mostly with injuries to his shoulder and knee.  Davis’ career high of 68 of 82 games played is certainly concerning at this point in his career and he and the team know that to be a consistent playoff team, he needs to be able to stay healthy.  Similar to our friend Bradley Beal, many of the injuries were of the freak variety.  In fact, both players came into the league in 2012, and Davis has only played 13 more games than Beal, who is commonly considered one of the most injury plagued young players in the league.  I went to a Pacers-Pelicans game back on January 8th, and after arriving three minutes into the game, sat down in my seats.  No more than 20 seconds later Davis hurt his back leaping over the front row of seats for a loose ball.  He left the game, did not return, and missed the next two games.  It’s great to see your team leader make hustle plays, and help get his teammates going, but at this point Davis should probably work on limiting the amount of punishment he takes on plays like that.  

On to the positives though.  Even in a down 2015-16 season, Davis averaged 24.3 points, 10.3 rebounds, 2 blocks, and 1.3 steals per game.  Those numbers were very close to his MVP caliber numbers from the 2014-15 season, when the Pelicans won 45 games.  That offseason Davis worked on expanding his range, which led to 1.8 three point attempts per game last season, on which he made 32%.  While his play seemed underwhelming last season, Davis’ “down” season still ranked as one of the best by a big man statistically since 1973, when the NBA began tracking steals and blocks.  Since that season, three players have averaged 24 points, 10 rebounds, 2 blocks, and 1 steal, in one of his first four seasons in the league.  Bob McAdoo did it in three of his first four years, David Robinson did it twice, and AD did it for the second time.  What I find even more astonishing though, are Davis’ huge games.  He has the ability to be the best defensive player and offensive player on the court every game, and it’s shown with some of his best performances.  I’ll highlight a few from the last two seasons:

Game 1: 39 points, 13 rebounds, 8 blocks, 3 steals

Game 2: 36 points, 14 rebounds, 9 blocks, 7 assists

Game 3: 40 points, 21 rebounds, 12-12 from the FT line

Game 4: 59 points (franchise record), 20 rebounds, 24-34 from the field, 2-2 from 3 point, 9-10 from the FT line, +18

Sometimes it feels like he still doesn’t get the ball as much on offense as he should, but with the availability of Tyreke Evans and Jrue Holiday in question to begin the season, expect the Pelicans to force feed Davis.  Hopefully, that early volume will help AD get into a rhythm, and help New Orleans return to the playoffs.  Also, hopefully AD doesn’t twist an ankle in one of the countless local potholes.  Anthony Davis is still 23 years old until mid March, is continually working on getting stronger, and can already do basically anything on the court.  He is first on one of my favorite lists: the player most likely to get a quadruple double.  Please don’t forget about him when projecting the best players of the rest of the decade.

2. Lamarcus Aldridge, San Antonio Spurs

On the surface Lamarcus Aldridge had a slight dip in per game production in his first season with the Spurs as he averaged 18.0 PPG and 8.5 Rebs a game. Given that he has averaged at least 20 PPG since 2010, one might wonder if he has started to decline as he enters his 30’s. Looking a little deeper at the numbers however Aldridge had arguably his best NBA season in 2015-2016. He shot a career best from the field (51.3%) and free throw line (85.8%). He was also asked to play within Popovich’s equal opportunity offensive gameplan which probably accounts for the decrease in scoring as he was the clear number one option in Portland for years. Although ranked #2 in a league that is stacked at PF, I am hesitant to say Aldridge is a true superstar who will carry a team to a title. He is certainly an extremely capable player who plays at a very high level especially at the offensive end, and a key contributor to one of the best teams in the league. – Jeremy

3. Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors

The Good: Green is the small ball movement in the NBA. His ability to shut down power forwards, match up with centers, protect the rim, and switch onto perimeter players is the reason he was the back-to-back runner-up for the Defensive Player of the Year award. That he does all that while being a 6’7 fat guy who shoots 38.8% from deep and finished 7th in the league in assists per game is what makes him one of the most valuable players in the NBA.

The Bad: I know what his penis looks like, which I definitely did not need to, he was stupid enough to taunt Lebron James into having the best three game stretch of his career, and he was out of Team USA’s rotation for most of the Olympics.

Verdict: In our shooting guard rankings I said Klay Thompson was the best 3rd option in the NBA. If that is the case than Green is the best 4th option. Green and Thompson will both see their stats take bigger hits than either Steph Curry or Kevin Durant, because that’s just how it works. But both still have elite skills that can’t be ignored: Thompson’s shooting and Green’s defense. – Charlie

4. Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers

It’s hard to grade Blake off of his injury rattled 2015-16 season, so I’m pretty sure all three writers ranked him mostly based off of his play two seasons ago.  Griffin has consistently shown that he is one of the most offensively impactful players in the league.  We know his dunks, but he also averages around 5 assists a game over his last two seasons.  On a team that relies so much on Chris Paul’s playmaking, Blake has proved that he can weather the storm in case of a Paul injury, which becomes more and more important each year.  If the Clippers could stay healthy and get a serviceable power forward they could really be scary, but we just know at least one of those can’t and won’t happen.

People, including team owner Steve Ballmer were understandably infuriated over Griffin punching his friend and team employee, while simultaneously breaking his hand, but the injury aligned with his calf injury, which is the real reason he missed so many games last year.  With how great Griffin can be, and the way superstar trades work in the NBA, the Clippers have no choice but to hope that he will return as good or better than he was before the drunken assault, and they can replace OKC in the Western Conference’s pecking order. – Ryan

5. Chris Bosh, Miami Heat

With Lebron James and Dwyane Wade both gone in Miami, the only remaining member of the Big 3 of South Beach is ironically the one who got the least credit for that eras success being Chris Bosh. Now the weight of the franchise seems to lay solely on the slender frame of Miami’s extremely skilled forward. Miami’s success this year will likely be determined by Bosh’s health. I read just this morning that it is becoming more and more likely Bosh will be able to play in the 2016-2017 season but will most likely be held out of one game of back-to-backs because of the nature of his medication for blood clots. Despite the fact that he will be limited to around 65 games this is a huge relief to Heat fans as Bosh is one of the best players in the league when healthy. Bosh has a lot to prove despite his stellar resume as he has never won a playoff series as the main star. I believe that if Bosh’s health allows him to put together a season his talents are capable of his numbers will return to his best Raptor days of 24 PPG and close to 11 Rebs. – Jeremy

6. Paul Millsap, Atlanta Hawks

Paul Millsap is one of the most versatile players in the NBA. Last season he finished 9th in the league in steals and 5th in blocks while also leading the Hawks in scoring and rebounding. He was one of two players (along with Boogie) to average at least 17 points, 9 rebounds, and 3 assists per game. He capped off his stellar season by helping the Hawks win their first round playoff series against the Celtics. His 45 points scored in game 4 were the most in any game of the 2016 playoffs.

Over the summer the Hawks swapped Al Horford for Dwight Howard. On talent the move was a downgrade, but Millsap arguably fits better with Howard than with Horford. Howard is a better rim-protector and rebounder than Horford which allows Millsap, knowing the paint is protected, to freely switch onto smaller defenders. Howard is, however, a considerably worse offensive player than Horford at this point—and less of a leader. Millsap will be relied upon more than ever to stabilize the new-look Hawks. – Charlie

7. Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas Mavericks

Dirk, aka The Big German, is one of the greatest power forwards of all-time, and this past season passed Shaq for 6th on the All-Time Scoring list.  Dirk has been pretty consistent for the most part over the last four seasons.  He has the type of game that transitions well with age, and he showed it this past season, averaging 32 minutes a game for Dallas, and helping to lead the team to the playoffs despite injuries to key contributors Chandler Parsons and Deron Williams.  While Dirk’s speed is certainly not where it used to be now that he’s 38, and he can be taken advantage of in pick and roll, he still has many of the same qualities that have made him one of the best players of his generation.  The team expects that newcomer Andrew Bogut can help fill this hole on defense.  Nowitzki still excels from three (37% this season), can get his shot up over basically anyone, and turns the ball over at a very low rate (1.1 per game) for his usage rate (25.5%).  In fact, Dirk was the only player last season to post a usage rate over 25% and a turnover % below 7.  Kawhi Leonard and Lamarcus Aldridge were closest at a TOV% of 7.8. – Ryan

8. Kevin Love, Cleveland Cavaliers

Kevin Love’s career arc seems to be mirroring another one of King James’ teammates of Chris Bosh. Both put up stellar numbers on mediocre teams and then had to take a back seat as the third wheel to Lebron and Wade/Irving. Despite Love’s struggles fitting into Cleveland’s offensive schemes, and his lack of athleticism holds him back defensively, Love is still an extremely talented Forward who has the ability to stretch the floor with his shooting range and put pressure on defenses when he crashes the glass. Love has publicly stated that this past years finals experience has prepared him to change his mentality going into the 2016-2017 season so he can better help his team win. I think Love will continue to put up similar numbers in Cleveland, being around 16 PPG and flirting with double-doubles each night. For Love to move up the rankings however it won’t be so much about his statistics changing, which are more good than bad, but he will have to show that what he brings to the table is what the Cavs need to win. – Jeremy

9. Derrick Favors, Utah Jazz

Derrick Favors is the best player on the Utah Jazz. He averages an efficient 16 and 8 while teaming with Rudy Gobert to shut down the paint. His PER of 21.7 over the last two seasons is the 4th highest among power forwards over that span. Gordon Hayward is the primary creator and Gobert is the defensive anchor, but it is Favor’s two-way play that is the most valuable. He is a good pick and roll partner and has significantly improved his scoring touch since he came into the league. On defense he is mobile enough to guard power forwards and strong enough to protect the rim. If the Jazz live up to their high expectations look for Favors to be a first time All-Star this February. – Charlie

10. Serge Ibaka, Orlando Magic

Ibaka seems like he’s kind of been in limbo for the last few seasons, and although his trade from OKC to Orlando was sudden, it wasn’t shocking.  The Thunder had to make a move after the disappointing Conference Semifinals against Golden State to become more enticing for KD to stay, and Ibaka was the only real available player with significant value.  Ibaka will be a free agent next summer, which makes the move somewhat puzzling for the Magic, but then again they probably would have had to max Oladipo next summer anyway.  Ibaka will step right in and be the team’s defensive leader, and a sufficient stretch 4.  Last season was certainly a down year for Serge statistically.  Dealing with the return of Durant, and Serge himself coming back from injury, he shot only 32% from 3, down from 38%, his least PPG in four seasons, and his least blocks per game since his sophomore season.  Head coach Frank Vogel has already mentioned wanting to diversify Ibaka’s offensive repertoire, not leaving him to float in the corner as much as he did in Oklahoma City, and I think a team without two superstars will have better ball movement, which would greatly help Ibaka.  He and Nikola Vucevic could certainly team up to be one of the top big man duos in the league.  I’m still interested to see how the team fits in Aaron Gordon, but that was already covered here. – Ryan

Porzingis held his own against some of the best power forwards in the league, and is maybe the only shining light for Knicks fans.
Porzingis held his own against some of the best power forwards in the league, and is maybe the only shining light for Knicks fans.

THE MIDDLE 10

11. Ben Simmons, Philadelphia 76ers

There was much debate amongst our writers on whether Simmons should be on this list at all, not because of his lack of talent, but because we are not really sure what position he is. The 76ers coaching staff have said they are not against playing the 6’10 rookie at Point Guard, his natural position seems to be Small Forward, but perhaps his most effective position will be Power Forward where his combination of size and speed can create mismatches for opposing teams. Simmons has been tentatively compared to Lebron James by scouts, as he has the unique combination of size, athleticism, and skills possessed by only a handful of NBA players throughout history. Simmon’s college resume backs up those claims as he averaged 19.2 Points, 11.8 Rebs and 4.8 Assists for LSU. Reports that Simmons gave up on the Bayou Tigers part through the season and didn’t take the year to work on his sketchy jump shot has me worried that Simmons will not bring the focus and work ethic needed to become an NBA superstar. Whether or not Simmons one day reaches the level of Lebron, becomes a very versatile talent like Lamar Odom, or falls by the wayside like Michael Beasley, Simmons brings the raw talent and versatility to be placed 11th going into the season as a rookie. – Jeremy

12. Kristaps Porzingis, New York Knicks

Kristaps Porzingis is a 7’3 power forward who doesn’t just move like a normal person, he also shoots 33% from three. His talent makes him a potential franchise player. But when thinking about his status in the league it is hard to know just how much the public perception of him is affected by the fact that he plays for 8.5 million fans who desperately need something to go right for the Knicks. That question is rendered inconsequential by the fact that the Zinger put up a stat line never before seen in the NBA with per game averages of 14.3 points, 7.3 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 1.9 blocks, and 1.1 three pointers. His most effective position is center, where he can protect the rim and stretch the floor, but he can’t handle the physicality of playing the position full-time. I hope we get to see lineups with Porzingis at center and Carmelo Anthony at power forward. – Charlie

13. Jabari Parker, Milwaukee Bucks

Parker was already having a pretty solid sophomore campaign after playing only 25 games in year 1, but he really upped his production after the All-Star break.  His PPG before the ASG Break: 11.3.  His PPG after the ASG Break: 18.9.  It helped that Jabari, then 14 months removed from his ACL tear was averaging 35+ minutes per game, but it was very encouraging to see that Parker could handle the increased workload, and he excelled.  This breakout also aligned with Giannis taking over PG duties with MCW injured so it will be worth monitoring if that has any effect early in the year. .  Jason Kidd is also very excited about Parker’s progress this summer, which while not surprising, it will be interesting if his expectations of great improvements in Parker’s three point shooting come true.  Parker was 1-10 from three point range before March, and 8-25 in March and April.  In addition to practicing on his three point shot, Jabari has been finding other ways to stay active during the long offseason by improving his beer pong shot.  Stay young big fella.  Parker’s weight and surprising athleticism also help him in comparison to other stretch 4s on the list.  Considering Jabari’s already improved from the stereotypical chubby big kid to a top two pick, I think he can make the additional improvements necessary to help Milwaukee, aka Team Futuristic. – Ryan

14. Zach Randolph, Memphis Grizzlies

At 35 years old going into his 16th season it’s understandable that Zach Randolph has lost a stepped at this stage of his career. While he remains one of the NBA’s best low post scorers (15.3 PPG in under 30 mins) his lack of speed hurts him defensively. What hurts Randolph more than his age however is that more and more teams are hitting the Grizzlies with small ball lineups to take advantage of Randolph’s horrid perimeter defense. While remaining one of the NBA’s best scoring and rebounding interior players, Randolph has become nothing more than a role player to be used only when the right matchups arise. – Jeremy

15. Markieff Morris, Washington Wizards

The origin story of these rankings is that Jeremy and I were comparing Morris, Marvin Williams, and Thaddeus Young—three Eastern Conference power forwards on playoff hopefuls—and trying to decide which was best. Morris and Young were both recently traded for first round picks while Williams just signed a $55M contract. Consensus is probably that Williams is the best of the three, but Ryan and I of course ranked Morris the highest.

Morris, I believe, is a player that experts are overlooking when projecting the Wizards for this season. The fact that he is a starting caliber power forward is a huge upgrade over last season. He is someone who can create his own offense while also taking advantage of what appears to be a good chemistry with John Wall, the best point guard he’s ever played with. He should be the team’s third leading scorer.

He brings toughness to a young team and I’m convinced he has a positive impact on defense. He can get out and run with the Wiz Kids and is a good passer, alley-oop catcher (that’s an advanced statistic), and finisher. Throw in his three point range and love for the chronic and you can bet he’ll be a fan-favorite in liberal DC. – Charlie

16. Marvin Williams, Charlotte Hornets

Since Jeremy didn’t write about Williams, I’ll try to do him justice as an unbiased fan.  He’s already got a better co-sign, with Sports Illustrated ranking him 65th on their top 100 list.  Marvin Williams has become a great stretch 4, in Charlotte.  He shot 40% on threes, 46% from the shorter corner three, and averaged a career high 8 rebounds per 36 minutes.  The year before Williams shot 47% on corner threes.  His highest mark besides the last two years in Charlotte is 40%, so he has certainly put in the work, and delivered.  The Hornets have spent so many of their previous first round picks on big men, yet have found their sweet spot by signing a 9 year veteran wing to fill up the position.  With Kemba Walker and Nic Batum leading the team, Williams isn’t asked to do too much on this team, something he was asked to do in Atlanta.  Over half of his shot attempts are threes, and most of the other shots come from the defender closing out hard and Williams driving past for a layup or a midrange jumpshot, thus Williams isn’t doing anything revolutionary, but the way he has been doing it is extraordinary.  Williams was 15th in the league in 3 point shooting %, and was one of only 3 PFs to finish in the top 20.  He also had a better corner 3P% than Klay Thompson.

17. Thaddeus Young, Indiana Pacers

Thaddeus Young is the type of player General Managers around the league are looking for. He is an athletic player who plays hard every night. He is tough enough to defend bigger forward down low, and fast enough to switch off onto guards on pick and rolls. He does all of the little things that helps a team win but doesn’t show on a stat sheet like deflect passes, dive on loose balls, and contest any shot around him. Even being a utility like player Young still puts up good numbers are 151. PPG and 9 Rebs a game last season. I look forward to seeing his defensive versatility in Indiana, where he will be on a roster much more ready to compete in the playoffs than the nets were last season. Although ranked in the bottom half of Power Forwards at 17th, I don’t think there is any team in the NBA that wouldn’t find his talents worth this price of his contract. – Jeremy

18. Tobias Harris, Detroit Pistons

A common theory is that Stan Van Gundy is trying to build this Pistons team in the mold of the Dwight Howard Magic team that he took to the finals in 2009—with Andre Drummond in the Howard role. Reggie Jackson is a better player than Jameer Nelson was, and maybe that makes up for the Pistons having no Hedo Turkoglu counterpart.

By this theory Harris is the Rashard Lewis counterpart. The expectation that he can play a similar role to a 2-time All Star comes from the Pistons 17-11 record after trading for him. In Orlando Howard took care of all the rebounding and rim protection, which allowed them to play Lewis, a more offense-oriented power forward, next to him. Howard would roll to the rim and help defenders were afraid to leave Lewis behind the arc. Now Drummond is no Dwight Howard defensively, but he can certainly gobble up all the rebounds, which allows them so start Harris, a combo-forward, and the four. Count me as a little lower on him than Ryan or Jeremy. – Charlie

19. Luol Deng, Los Angeles Lakers

Luke Walton just came out and said that Brandon Ingram won’t open the season as the starting small forward because “You develop the young core by rewarding them when they play well,” so it’s likely Deng will start at SF, with Randle coming in at PF.  I’ll still argue for why Deng should start at PF.  Durability concerns have been brought up because of his extensive minutes logged over the years, and starting Deng would give the team the ability to play him around 26-28 minutes a game, and still provide minutes for young player Julius Randle and Larry Nance Jr.  The only centers for the Lakers are Timofey Mozgov and Tarik Black, so it’s already likely that they’ll play one of the young PFs at center, and Deng has shown he is a very serviceable stretch 4.  Additionally, as is the case in both conferences, the level of talent and athleticism at the small forward position can be overwhelming for a player entering his 14th season, who has played 31,477 combined regular season and playoff minutes in the NBA.  Deng started 73 games last season, many of those at PF after Chris Bosh was ruled out for the season, helped the Heat make it to the second round of the playoffs, and signed a 4yr/$72 Million contract.  Oh and Brandon Ingram was the #2 pick on a team whose over under is 24.5.  Let the kid start Luke. – Ryan

20. Ryan Anderson, Houston Rockets

One of the oldest sayings in basketball is “if you can shoot, you can play”. While thousands of little guards tried to argue that this saying makes them deserving of a roster spot, Ryan Anderson proves that if you are tall and can shoot, you can play. That is exactly what Ryan Anderson is. He is tall at 6’10 and can shoot the daylight out of a basketball. This set of talents gives Anderson nice numbers are 17 PPG and 6 Rebs a game in around 30 minutes of actions. Anderson is ranked so low on our rankings despite these nice numbers however because his inability to defend, and for his size 6 rebounds is nothing to be proud of. Anderson signed with the Rockets this past season and should find himself in a starting job for this first time in his career. The Rockets are a perfect fit for Anderson as their office and coaching staff seems to put extreme value in players who can out the ball in the basket and don’t care about anything else. – Jeremy

Nikola Mirotic - Chicago Bulls - Great Wall of Chinatown
There’s at least one promising Power Forward in the Bottom 10 of this list

THE BOTTOM 10

21. Kenneth Faried, Denver Nuggets

Kenneth Faried’s thing is that he was on the 2014 USA National Team that won the FIBA World Cup. That is a great accomplishment, but a bit misleading. He is really only a rebounding and energy specialist who is below average at both offense and defense. He is a valuable rotation player but a below average starter. – Charlie

22. Nikola Mirotic, Chicago Bulls

After a rather slow start to his sophomore season, Mirotic played much better the second half of the season.  After missing February with an injury, Nikola returned to shoot 43% from 3 in March, and 47% in April.  Nikola will have to bring more consistency this season though, as he will be a key offensive cog in the machine.  In wins he shot 43.5% on threes, but in losses he shot 32%.  For the season, Miro was second on the team in TS%, and shot 39% from three, after a very underwhelming 31% mark in his rookie year.  He will be expected to continue that strong shooting performance this season, with the other 4 starters being average to well below average outside shooters.  Nikola averaged 5 three point attempts in 25 minutes per game last season, and I look forward to seeing his attempts reach 7+ per game, mainly because he’s never seen a shot he didn’t like.  Having been Euroleague MVP two years in a row, Mirotic has supreme confidence, and hopefully the presence of Dwyane Wade and Jimmy Butler won’t limit his promising growth path. – Ryan

23. Al-Farouq Aminu, Portland Trail Blazers

Aminu is coming off of his best NBA season with Portland last season. He averaged 10.2 PPG and 6.1 Rebs. Aminu is a serviceable starting forward proven last year as he was a key contributor to a western conference playoff team. It is unclear if Aminu is in the long-term plans for Portland’s young and talented roster, but for now he will play his role and do nothing to hurt whatever franchise he plays for. – Jeremy

24. Patrick Patterson, Toronto Raptors

At this point in the rankings we are making a leap of faith projecting the starters. Last season Luis Scola started at power forward for the Raptors, which is amazing considering they won 56 games. This year it could be Jared Sullinger ,who started for the Celtics last year; DeMarre Carroll, who will close a lot of games at power forward if not start there; or Patterson, who was their best power forward in the playoffs. Patterson’s three point shooting makes him a weapon. – Charlie

25. Amir Johnson, Boston Celtics

The last player drafted directly from high school to the NBA, Johnson is still only 29 years old, and an 11-year veteran, who’s been a key contributor in his 6 years in Toronto and lone season in Boston.  Johnson has started 220 of 231 games in his last three seasons, and has mainly been used as a defensive big man, who is also mobile enough to guard stretch fours.  Johnson only played 22 minutes per game this season, and will have to do some adjusting with All-Star Horford joining the team, but his veteran leadership is valuable to a young team hoping to get into the Eastern Conference’s elite.  He won’t wow anyone with his offensive skillset, but every team needs a player like Johnson.  He should still be a leader in FG%, where he’s a career 57% shooter, on 5.6 attempts per game. – Ryan

26. Gorgui Dieng, Minnesota Timberwolves

This is probably a make or break year for Gorgui Dieng as he enters the final year of his rookie contract. Dieng will start the year at Power Forward, and his performance will show the rest of the league that he either deserves to be a starting forward in the NBA or he will forever be an energy guy off the bench. There are certainly aspects to Dieng’s game that are valuable. He is a good shot blocker and a decent rebounder. Without much of an offensive game, he will have to improve his one-on-one defense to carve a starting niche in the NBA. – Jeremy

27. Omri Casspi, Sacramento Kings

God knows who the Kings will start this season. Dave Joerger is at least a sane person so hopefully he doesn’t force Cousins to play out of position (or from a Wizards perspective hopefully he does). Joeger could start any of Gay, Casspi, Koufos, or Cauley-Stein next to Cousins in the frontcourt. Their best lineups last year had Gay at 4, but he will either start at 3 or get traded. Casspi is a good stretch-4 while Koufos and WCS are better on defense. – Charlie

28. Ersan Ilyasova, Oklahoma City Thunder

As great as Enes Kanter was on offense last season, this OKC team will really need outside shooting help, and that’s exactly what Ilyasova will be asked to do.  He shot 41% from 3 on two attempts per game last season, and even if he only plays 20 minutes per game, he should be able to at least double those attempts from 3.  I mean OKC will most likely be starting Westbrook, Oladipo, Roberson, and Adams at the other four positions.  Oladipo shot the best from three at 35%, which was a career high.  I won’t shit on the Thunder too much for this extreme lack of shooting because I still feel bad about how their summer went, and I’m excited to see Westbrook try his hardest to average a triple double and dunk on the whole Warriors franchise.  Also, random, but I never noticed how much he looks like the European James Franco. – Ryan

29. Dragan Bender, Phoenix Suns

I have my doubts that Bender will end up being a starter at all this season but his high draft stock earns him the benefits of my doubt. He has been said to be a tall, athletic, skilled european player who has unlimited potential. If it were not for the recent emergence of Porzingis I would start labeling these scouting reports to lead to the making of certain busts. Bender is only 18 years old. Even if he is the real deal, it is unlikely that he will show a lot of production this season, starting or not for the suns. – Jeremy

30. Trevor Booker, Brooklyn Nets

There is only one team in the league the Cook Book would start for, and he plays for that team. – Charlie


Each Writer’s Individual Rankings

Top players in the NBA - Great Wall of Chinatown

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