Yesterday, Andrew McCarthy told you how Eric Bledsoe and DeMarcus Cousins made Sports Illustrated’s list of the NBA’s Top 100 players, which is slowly being unveiled this week. Bledsoe and Cousins came in at #95 and #53, respectively, and today, SI released players 50-31. Two more Cats made the cut: Anthony Davis at #41 and John Wall at #40.
41. Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans (F/C, 20)
2012-13 stats: 28.8 MPG, 13.5 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 1.8 BPG, 1.2 SPG, 51.6 FG%
2012-13 advanced stats: 21.7 PER, 6.1 Win Shares, +0.8 RAPM
The No. 1 pick in 2012 had a superb rookie season, but he didn’t enjoy the full hype treatment because of New Orleans’ poor season, a series of minor injuries and the shadow cast by Damian Lillard’s award-winning campaign. The offseason is a good time for “take a step back” appraisals and Davis, a top high school recruit and a dominant force during his one year at Kentucky, is a perfect candidate for such an evaluation.
Davis, 20, won an Olympic gold medal and averaged 16.9 points, 10.2 rebounds, 2.2 blocks and 1.5 steals per 36 minutes while placing in the top 10 among power forwards and centers in PER and block percentage as a teenager. He can play at least two (if not three) positions, he’s already an excellent finisher around the hoop despite a slender frame that is filling out, and he spent the summer working on adding a mid-range jumper to his arsenal. By the way, if you forget about him for a few seconds, he’s liable to snatch the ball out of the air, dribble coast-to-coast and finish with a dunk for good measure.
If every NBA player were thrown into a draft, Davis would be selected in the top 10, at the very least, given his potential for perennial All-Star play on both sides of the ball and his drama-free, strictly basketball approach. Excited yet? – B.G.
40. John Wall, Washington Wizards (G, 23)
2012-13 stats: 32.7 MPG, 18.5 PPG, 7.6 APG, 4.0 RPG, 1.3 SPG, 44.1 FG%, 26.7 3FG%
2012-13 advanced stats: 20.8 PER, 4.5 Win Shares, +2.9 RAPM
Watching Wall play often requires having the remote control in hand, as his amazing court vision allows him to thread seemingly impossible passes that are well worth a second viewing. But his playmaking style isn’t channeled merely for entertainment value. Last season, Wall’s presence on the court was the difference between Washington’s scoring at a league-average rate (102.1 points per 100 possessions) and posting – rather decisively – the worst offensive mark (94.8) in the league. Some of that trade-off stems from the dismal quality of Wall’s replacements, but bringing the Wizards’ offense to respectability still stands as an impressive accomplishment.
Even better things could be in store for Wall, whose combination of natural athleticism and passing ability positions him well for further growth. Where he struggles are in matters of feel and patience. While he has the potential to make spectacular plays, Wall doesn’t always fully explore his options before committing to a given course. He occasionally drives into crowds expecting to find a passing angle that never materializes, or puts too much emphasis on beating the defender in front of him rather than the entirety of the opponent’s coverage. These are fixable habits, and Wall, who has played 184 games in three seasons after spending one year at Kentucky, is still learning how to run an offense. He should gain insight into those areas and others as his game matures.
There’s no question, though, that Wall suffers for his lack of a steady jumper, and more specifically his lack of three-point range. He made only 12-of-45 from beyond the arc last season after hitting 3-of-42 the previous season, encouraging opponents to lay back in coverage and wait for his inevitable drive. But even though Wall isn’t directly contributing to Washington’s floor spacing, his style of play enables those who do. Only five players in the league created more three-pointers with their assists last season, according to Hoopdata, and the Wizards shot 40.6 percent from long range with Wall on the floor (Golden State led the NBA at 40.3 percent). He’d make his own work easier if he could develop into a consistent shooting threat, but for now Wall manages to stretch out the defense with dart passes to the wings. – R.M.
Davis and Wall are two of the NBA’s rising stars right now, and in a few years, could be even higher on this list. Wall in particular had a stellar end to last season, and with a new max contract in hand, his confidence is sky high. SI will release the rest of the rankings this week, and surely Rajon Rondo will be in there somewhere.
Do you agree with SI’s take?