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NZPacer
01-15-2010, 05:23 PM
http://insider.espn.go.com/nba/insider/columns/story?columnist=thorpe_david&page=Sophs-100115

Sophomore 20: Large and in charge
By David Thorpe

Even though Derrick Rose and a few other second-year guards are playing great ball, the bigs are still the story for this class. So for this Sophomore 20 report, I've ranked the top big men and top guards separately.

For the bigs, there are 10 deserving candidates. For the guards, there is a major dropoff in production after the top 5. Let's take a look.


Top 10 bigs

1. Marc Gasol, Grizzlies
Although he was limited to three straight sub-double-digit scoring games recently, Gasol has been a rock for Memphis all season long. He is averaging almost 15 points and 10 rebounds a game. Bigs who require double-teams on offense but don't normally need help defending the post are a coach's dream. Gasol fits that bill.

The Grizzlies will need him to produce if they want to remain in playoff contention -- he averages 16 points per game in wins and 13 in losses. That's a big swing.

2. Brook Lopez, Nets
Lopez's success last season was no fluke. He's very good. That he's playing for the worst team in the league shouldn't change our opinion of him. Although he's not shooting well from midrange, he's killing people down low and blocking two shots a game.

As the Nets' franchise center, he needs to be the guy who leads the team back to respectability. A tough self-critic, Lopez is sometimes too focused on his own play and not focused enough on his whole team.

3. Kevin Love, Timberwolves
The best rebounding forward in basketball, Love is already a master of positioning. And a few more seasons of leaning out and getting more athletic will serve him well. If someone were to ask me who will have the most rebounds this decade, I'd probably say Love or Dwight Howard.

In addition, Love is a solid paint scorer who is starting to get to the free throw line with more frequency -- this is an important part of his overall development. He has earned a double-double in all but five games this season.

4. Danilo Gallinari, Knicks
Gallo still looks like the best shooter in this class despite his 0-for-7 outing in Oklahoma City on Monday. And like great shooters do, he has been able to bounce back from poor showings with strong performances. Check out what he did after three games in which he missed all of his 3-pointers:

On November 21, he made 3 of 8 shots from deep. On November 29, he made 4 of 5. And on December 17, he roasted the Bulls with 6 3s in 15 attempts.

5. Michael Beasley, Heat
Beasley may have some consistency issues off the court, in terms of focus and work ethic, but not on the court. Look at his monthly totals: In November, he averaged 14.2 ppg and 6.6 rpg; in December, he averaged 17.3 ppg and 6.6 rpg; and through seven games in January, he is averaging at 17.3 ppg and 6.7 rpg. Those are solid numbers for a No. 2 guy on a playoff team.

One of the best young bucket-getters in basketball, he's shooting well from the field, too. If he cuts down his 3-point attempts (16 for 59), he'd be even more effective.

6. Roy Hibbert, Pacers
Hibbert is becoming an important piece on the Pacers, albeit a situational one at times. He's had some terrific games against teams with legitimate big men inside, like his 26 and 8 game against Orlando and his 21 and 7 against Minnesota. But against smaller teams, like Toronto, he barely plays.

Overall, he's been just as productive as last season. And since he's getting nine more minutes a game than he did in his rookie season, his stats are better. But as the Pacers look to the future, it's still not clear if he's more than just an effective role player.

7. Jason Thompson, Kings
Thompson looked like a lock for this year's rook-soph game. However, he is really struggling now, averaging only 8.5 ppg and 7.3 rpg in January. What's worse is that his foul problems have increased -- he's averaging four a game in just 28 minutes.

The Kings thought they had their power forward of the future. But Thompson must fight for his spot going forward; Sacramento will likely be able to land a starting 4 through free agency or the draft if it so chooses.

8. Ersan Ilyasova, Bucks
Ilyasova appears to have hit a wall, averaging just 6 ppg in the new year after scoring 11.9 ppg in each of the season's two previous months. In fact, going back to December 21, he had five different games where he made just one field goal.

Part of his problem is shot selection -- almost half of his shot attempts have been 3s lately; in November and December, 3s accounted for only 35 percent of his overall shots. He's at his best when he's moving and finding shots inside the perimeter, as he's an excellent finisher.

9. Ryan Anderson, Magic
Struggling since Rashard Lewis returned to the lineup, Anderson averaged only 6.8 ppg on 33.3 percent shooting from 3 in December. So, he was benched for two games last week.

The Magic promptly lost at home to Toronto then again at Washington, so Van Gundy put Anderson back into the lineup. He responded by scoring 26 points in the next two games combined, making 4 of his 8 3-point attempts. And the Magic won both games. That is how you earn back rotation minutes.


10. Anthony Randolph, Warriors
Before going down with an ankle injury, if any player deserved more playing time, it was Randolph. Consider that his minutes had gone down to 19 per game this month and that he still averaged almost 12 ppg -- the same as he did with more playing time in November and December. His rebounds per game had been almost exactly the same from month to month as well.

Many young players let the roller coaster of playing time negatively impact their performance, but Randolph has avoided that with smarter shot selection despite the reduction in minutes. He may have some maturity issues behind the scenes, but any GM would be proud of a young player who has remained committed to getting better in an environment as strange as Golden State's.

Top 10 guards

1. Russell Westbrook, Thunder
Westbrook has been a better all-around player this season and it's showing in his stats and in the Thunder's win column. Exactly a year ago, Oklahoma City had a total of six wins. Six. It currently has 21.

The quarterback for his team, Westbrook is as much a reason for the Thunder's success as Scott Brooks or Kevin Durant. His turnover rate (11.1) is down, his assist rate (26.7) is up and he can still score 25-plus points when necessary. If you ever read about the impossibility of teaching a 2-guard to play the point, just revel in what's going on in Oklahoma City.

2. Derrick Rose, Bulls
Ah, normalcy reigns again in this report. After ranking 12th on this list last month, the reigning Rookie of the Year is moving up the charts. He has been the catalyst for the resurgence in Chi-town, scoring 21.3 points a game on 51.4 percent shooting this month -- not an easy feat considering teams still lay in wait for him.

It's hard to balance scoring and setting guys up when you are as explosive off the dribble as Rose is, but he's learning to do just that. And his shot looks smoother, too. He may never see the floor the way Steve Nash, Chris Paul or Deron Williams do, but he sees it well enough to be a fun guy to play with. I like him as a player more now than ever.


3. Eric Gordon, Clippers
Gordon is averaging 17 points per game and has a true shooting percentage of 58.7. Only one other shooting guard in the league is averaging more than 12 points a game with a true shooting percentage that high. Ray Allen, who averages 16.5 points a game and also boasts a 58.7 TS%. That's pretty special company for an undersized shooter like Gordon.

And Gordon is so much more than a shooter. He also gets to the line, where he averages almost four made free throws a game. And he's one of the more dynamic transition players in the NBA, too, as his strong build, combined with his agility and body control, make him very difficult to stop when he pushes the ball. He's still a bit of an "either/or" guy -- he either takes the 3 or drives to the rim -- but it seems only a matter of time before he improves his midrange game.

4. O.J. Mayo, Grizzlies
If the 3-point contest were held tonight, Mayo would be the favorite. He's making 54.8 percent from behind the arc since Jan. 1. But the thing I like the most when I watch Mayo now is how invested he seems to be in winning.

Despite all the hype that surrounded him in his rookie season, he doesn't appear to have any obvious issues conceding to the likes of Zach Randolph, Rudy Gay and even Marc Gasol. Mayo could easily be a top-two or top-three option on a number of teams, but he is basically No. 4 in Memphis. Accepting a lesser role has helped turn the Griz into a potential playoff team, and he deserves some credit for it.

5. George Hill, Spurs
Hill is having an outstanding January, combining hot shooting with solid and sometimes spectacular defense. He's shooting 25 of 37 from the field (7 of 12 from 3) this month while playing over 20 minutes a night for a team that's won 12 of its last 16. His accuracy from deep and energy on D make him a perfect role player in San Antonio.

The 26th pick in the 2008 draft, Hill is another example of the Spurs getting great value for their selections.

6. Jerryd Bayless, Blazers
Bayless has been a strong part of Portland's rejuvenated rotation, where he finds way to score from the perimeter, on drives and, of course, from the free throw line. He's taken 124 free throws in 560 minutes, whereas Mayo has only 121 free throw attempts in over 1,400 minutes. If Bayless can develop a consistent shot, his value would jump way up.

7. Mario Chalmers, Heat
In our rookie report last year, we mentioned that even though Chalmers was starting at point guard, he was not playing well enough to guarantee himself that spot in the future. That future arrived last weekend in the form of Rafer Alston, and now Chalmers is battling Carlos Arroyo for the backup spot. He's in the lead now, but that probably will be a race that goes back and forth until April.

8. Chris Douglas-Roberts, Nets
With the strong play of Yi Jianlian, who is getting some of the offense run through him in New Jersey, CDR's numbers have taken a hit.

He's scoring just 10 points a game this month and his three-point outing against Boston on Wednesday marked a season low. He can still get buckets if given a chance, but it appears the Nets see him ultimately as a bench player.

9. Courtney Lee, Nets
Defense is still his strong suit -- he's among the league's top 20 in steals per game and is the Nets' best perimeter shut-down guy. But his offense is improving, too, with better shot selection and a stronger eye for passing. He recently set a career high in points (28) and in 3s made (5), so perhaps he's close to breaking out as a shooter. His current 12.00 PER is also a career high.

10. Anthony Morrow, Warriors
Morrow has seen fewer shots and minutes ever since Stephen Curry started to come on strong. His last 20-plus point game was back on December 2 and his scoring average has dipped below 8 ppg this month.

IUfan4life
01-15-2010, 05:40 PM
O.J. Mayo only number 4???? also Jason Thompson is probably number two after Lopez imo

PacerDude
01-15-2010, 06:10 PM
Glad to see George Hill getting some props.

90'sNBARocked
01-15-2010, 06:36 PM
Glad to see George Hill getting some props.

Bayless getting props, no mention of Rush :eek::-o

I dont know why he would say The Pacers are seeing if Roy is more than a situational player

The only reason he comes out is if Obie decides to play small

I still think he can be effetive against a small lineup

Justin Tyme
01-15-2010, 07:10 PM
Bayless getting props, no mention of Rush :eek::-o



Sure hope Shade doesn't see this!

Shade
01-15-2010, 07:30 PM
Sure hope Shade doesn't see this!

:scream: