Franchise Guys: Top 30 NBA Players (25–21)
25. DeMar DeRozan- SG, Toronto Raptors
There is a reason DeRozan earned himself a max contract this summer: he’s one of the top scorers in the NBA. DeRozan made the fourth most two-point field goals in the league, and he excels at hitting tough shots:
DeRozan has an arsenal of offensive moves and used them all on his way to averaging 23.5 points per game in 2015–16.
Step backs? Check.
Post fadeaways? Yep.
Finishing above the rim? You bet.
Ouch. Poor MozGod. DeRozan makes a living on his ability to make tough 2s, and his knack for getting to the rim to draw fouls is uncanny.
DeRozan took the third most foul shots in 15–16 and made the second most, hitting at an 85 percent clip. DeRozan finished fifth in the league in And-1s, as he completed 52 three-point plays.
DeRozan can drill a midrange jumper with ease, but cannot hit the same shot from a couple steps back. His three-point problem has to be mental. DeRozan made a career best 33.8 percent of his shots from distance in 15–16, still not a great number, but better than his 28.3 percent career average. If he can develop confidence and consistency with his three-point jumper, DeRozan could vault into the top 15 players in the NBA.
The Bottom Line
DeRozan’s ability to put the ball in the basket is what sets him apart from his peers. He and backcourt mate Kyle Lowry have led the resurgence of the Toronto Raptors. Can the duo finally unseat the Cavaliers as the bullies of the Eastern Conference? Stay tuned.
24. Kyle Lowry- PG, Toronto Raptors
Let’s stay in Toronto. Like DeRozan, Lowry makes his money offensively. The Villanova product is a score-first gunner, making the fifth most threes in 2015–16 and converting at a 38.8 percent clip. Lowry is not afraid to let it fly, and especially loves the off-the-dribble three:
Going over on a pick and roll is supposed to take away the threat of a three-point shot, but Lowry has developed a pull up, leaning three-pointer to counter that strategy:
Lowry’s conditioning has always been a concern. He received a lot of credit for coming into the 15–16 training camp in shape, but I’ve never subscribed to the idea of praising a professional athlete for taking care of his/her body. However, Lowry was able to play more minutes (34.5 MPG in 14–15, 37.0 in 15–16) in more games (70 in 14–15, 77 in 15–16), thus making him more valuable.
The Bottom Line
The Raptors have a nice core of players all in or nearing their primes. They can make a real run in the Eastern Conference, but with the Cavs’ newfound championship swagger and teams like the Celtics loading up, their window is closing. It’s up to Lowry and DeRozan to deliver.
23. Chris Bosh- PF, Miami Heat
Disclaimer: this ranking is assuming that Bosh is fully healthy and is able to play basketball again at the same level as before his blood clots. Bosh received a lot of criticism during the Big Three era in Miami. Some of it was deserved, like the fact that he looks like a dinosaur…
…but most of the talk was off-base. Bosh’s ability to space the floor is a game changer. In today’s NBA where the three-point shot is such a critical part of the game, bigs like Bosh who can stretch the defense become exponentially more valuable. You could even say big men that can’t shoot are becoming extinct (I’m funny!). Bosh is also a capable defender that can protect the rim, giving him the rare combination of a three-point shooter who can play interior defense.
Some believe that Chris Bosh may never play in the NBA again due to recurring blood clots. He’s going through an ugly breakup with the Miami Heat as the sides failed to see eye-to-eye on Bosh’s future. Bosh is optimistic about a return, so here’s to hoping we get to enjoy watching Chris Bosh play basketball again.
The Bottom Line
Bosh’s versatility make him great on the court, but he’s also an asset off the court. Bosh simply wants to win basketball games, and that showed in Miami as he took less money to be the third wheel of a championship team. His selflessness is contagious and can help to create a winning culture in an NBA locker room, driving his franchise that much closer to the ultimate goal.
22. Andre Drummond- C, Detroit Pistons
Drummond is by far the best rebounder in the NBA. He led the league last year in offensive rebounds with 395, crushing the second place finishers (Robin Lopez and Tristan Thompson each had 268), by more than 100 boards. Drummond’s effort on the glass translates on the defensive end as well, as he also led the league in total defensive rebounds grabbed with 803. For reference, second place finisher DeAndre Jordan snagged 792, and then the third place man, Julius Randle, grabbed 657. That’s a big difference. Long story short, Andre Drummond is good at catching missed shots. Drummond’s size, quickness, and leaping ability all allow him to snare 14.8 rebounds per night. At 6'11, 280 pounds, Drummond is a behemoth that moves like a small forward. His athleticism is freakish.
Think of the last person you talked to. That person can probably shoot free throws better than Andre Drummond. He was last among qualified players in free throw percentage, hitting at an abysmal 35.5 percent rate. It’s hard to get worse without intentionally trying to miss. Infamous free throw bricker Shaquille O’Neal had a career average of 52.7 percent, a big leap ahead of Andre Drummond’s 15–16 clip. Drummond’s foul shot struggles are more indicative of a larger problem; his relative lack of skill. Drummond dominates games solely using his athleticism; he boxes people out with his strength, and then jumps higher than the opponent for the rebound. Offensively, he lacks a refined post game. Drummond scores by bulling his way to the rim using superior quickness and force. How will his game age when his athleticism won’t absolve his other sins? That’s a long ways down the road, but it’s worth considering when selecting a player to build a franchise around.
The Bottom Line
Drummond’s elite rebounding is what makes him a franchise guy. By gaining extra possessions for his team, Drummond can influence the outcome of the game on any given night. Being bigger, stronger, and quicker than the opponent never has an off-night, as say a jump shot does. Drummond’s night-to-night reliability separates him from the field.
21. Karl-Anthony Towns- C, Minnesota Timberwolves
KAT shattered the high expectations many had for him coming into his rookie year by averaging 18 points and 11 rebounds with 2 blocks per game. He was tremendous and even received some All-NBA votes, rare for a rookie. Towns has already shown an elite all-around game, and he’s just 20 years old. KAT’s shooting stroke is feathery; he shot 50.6 percent from 16 feet to the three-point line, a statistic that was among the league leaders and bodes well for this future. As KAT continues to develop and become more comfortable shooting from range, I believe he can turn into a legit 50/40/90 candidate as a seven footer. Combine that stroke with highly advanced footwork and a soft touch around the rim, and KAT will be virtually unguardable. Defensively, Towns alters shots at the rim and his engine is always revving. Perhaps Towns’ strongest characteristic is his personality. KAT is adored by all of his Timberwolves teammates, especially newly retired Kevin Garnett, and people within the organization and around the league rave about his work ethic and demeanor.
Coming into just his second year in the league, Towns still has a lot to learn. Consistency on a game-to-game basis will be the next step in his basketball maturation. Cutting down on fouls is another area in which Towns could stand some improvement, as last year he would take himself out of games by committing unnecessary fouls.
The Bottom Line
The sky is the limit for Karl-Anthony Towns. KAT’s beyond-his-years maturity and his transcendent talents can make him the face of the NBA for the next decade. He’s that good. Guys like this don’t come around very often, and I truly think we could be watching one of the all-time greats growing right before our eyes.