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NBA PM: The Best Third Year Player In The NBA

In this week’s group feature, we asked some of our guys who is the best third year player in the NBA?

Basketball Insiders



The Best Third Year Player In The NBA

In what is a weekly Thursday feature, we asked three of our Basketball Insiders to weigh in on a common question. This week we asked “Who’s The Best Third Year Player In The NBA?”

Karl-Anthony Towns

By selecting him with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, the Minnesota Timberwolves entrusted big-man Karl-Anthony Towns with the future of the franchise. For those who haven’t been paying attention, he hasn’t disappointed.

The seven-foot, 244-pound behemoth has made the transfer from the NCAA to NBA look seamless, which almost never happens with one-and-done players. After averaging 10.3 points, 6.7 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game during his lone season at the University of Kentucky, Towns stormed onto the NBA scene in 2015, finishing his rookie season with a stat-line of 18.3 points, 7.7 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game with a true shooting percentage of 59 percent. Towns was just the fourth rookie since the 1946-47 season to hold those averages, joining the ranks of David Robinson, Shaquille O’Neal and Alonzo Mourning.

His second season was even better. While his defensive numbers remained relatively the same, Towns’ offensive game showed major improvement on what were already solid numbers; he averaged 25.1 points and 12.3 rebounds per game with a true shooting percentage of 61.8 percent and totaled 9.9 offensive win shares. He shot at a 36.7 clip on 3.4 three-point attempts per game as well, a respectable rate for a man of Towns’ size. Towns’ Value Over Replacement Player (VORP) also ranked in at 5.3, good for 11th in the Association and ahead of guys like Chris Paul and Kevin Durant.

Towns will hope to take another leap next season, his third in the league and second under head coach Tom Thibodeau. His natural physical development alongside fellow youngster Andrew Wiggins and their continuity within Thibodeau’s system will certainly prove beneficial to both Towns’ overall game and the Timberwolves’ win-loss record next season, as will an improved roster that saw Jimmy Butler and Jeff Teague come into the fold during the offseason. Butler and Teague should open things up for Towns on the offensive end — although he was fully capable of getting his own offense last season — while Butler’s defensive presence, along with another year under the tutelage of Thibodeau, should help Towns hone his defensive craft. Towns has flashed potential defensive dominance, totaling 241 blocks and 114 steals across 164 career games and, if he is able to consistently make an impact, he could become one of the best all-around players in the NBA.

After adding Butler and Teague, along with other solid veterans like Jamal Crawford and Taj Gibson, the pressure will be on Minnesota to win next season. In the tough Western Conference, the Timberwolves will be hard pressed to be a top seed, but a winning record and their first playoff appearance in 14 seasons certainly aren’t out of the question. If Minnesota puts together a successful season, expect Towns to play a major role in it.

– Shane Rhodes

Myles Turner

For me, this is a close call between New York Knicks big man Kristaps Porzingis and Indiana Pacers center/forward Myles Turner.

Both teams will continue relying on their young big men. This is even more certain for the Pacers with the departure of star Paul George. Likewise, the Knicks will likely lean even more heavily on Porzingis, depending on the team’s ability to find an acceptable trade scenario that would allow the team to comfortably jettison Carmelo Anthony. Until a potential trade occurs, there is a ceiling on how much the team can build around Porzingis and maximize his abilities.

Accounting for that variable and current production leads me to select Turner as one of, if not the top 3rd Year Player. George’s departure leaves a gaping hole for the Pacers. His minutes per game (35.9) and usage percentage (28.9) needs to be reallocated. As a low post player, Turner doesn’t slot in as a one-to-one replacement for George but is in the best position based on talent, youth and overall abilities to step up and fill the void left by George.

While playing alongside George, Turner put up 14.5 points, 7.3 rebounds, 2.1 blocks per game and sported a 51.1 shooting percentage in 31.4 minutes last season. Turner accomplished the above while maintaining a usage rating (19.5) that decreased from the year before (20.9). Despite the lower usage rate, his PER (18.5), which indicates offensive efficiency, went up from the year prior (15.4) and his win shares (8.0) also went up significantly from year prior (3.1). For comparison, Turner had a much higher win share, higher PER last year with a much lower usage rate than Porzingis.

The pressure will be on Turner. He won’t have the luxury of a star player two-way player next to him. Turner will need to step up his game as the quality of his team lowers and opponents shift their focus to him. While his production and usage will most likely increase it is not reasonable to expect him to continue his upward gains in efficiency as well.

A few additional skills help make Turner a special player. In both his one year in college and rookie season, Turner shot three-pointers at a below a 30 percent clip — poor shooting even for a big man. However, Turner shot a respectable percentage (34.8) per game last season. Although his three-point shooting attempts (1.4) per game only accounted for a fraction of his overall attempts (10.7), this skill will allow him to keep spacing on offense and will give more room to for his team to operate. With the above pressure on offense, Turner will need to show that he can maintain and improve upon his already solid defense, which includes his 2.1 blocks per game. With time, he should earn the respect of opponents attempting to score at the rim.

Room for improvement? Passing. Turner’s assists per game (1.3) last season leave something to be desired. If the offense is going to run though him, the ball needs to keep moving when appropriate.

This will be big year for the young big man and it’s fair to expect him to excel.

– James Blancarte

Nikola Jokic

While it’s hard to argue with Karl-Anthony Towns as the best third-year player for the upcoming NBA season, there’s one player who is unique enough to make a case: Nikola Jokic. The hardest and most difficult thing to find in the NBA is a superstar, and the Denver Nuggets — if Jokic continues to trend up — may have pulled off the ultra-rare feat of finding one in the second round.

By now you’ve probably read that Denver’s offense became the most efficient in the NBA after Jokic was permanently moved into the starting lineup. Tom West of Denver Stiffs has provided some excellent deep dive analysis of how the combination of shooting, creativity and efficiency near the basket and from midrange make Jokic such a dynamic player.

And as Daniel C. Lewis, also of Denver Stiffs, pointed out, Jokic became only the third player in the three-point era to average at least 16.7 points, 9.8 rebounds, 4.9 assists on 60.5 percent effective field goal shooting, joining Hall of Famers Kareem Abdul-Jabaar and Charles Barkley. If you’ll forgive the wordplay, the Joker is no joke as an NBA talent. But it was a third Denver Stiffs contributor, Adam Mares, who put Jokic’s talent into its proper perspective by joining forces with Pete Zayas of the Laker Film Room podcast to compare his talents to Lonzo Ball.

There are certain players — from Magic Johnson and Larry Bird to Jason Kidd and LeBron James — who see the game on a different mental level even than other star players. Call it “basketball IQ” or “feel for the game” or whatever you like. These are players who approach the game like a chess grandmaster, always thinking many moves ahead and analyzing the game in real time in a way their peers can’t match. Jokic and Ball are the two most recent players to enter the league with the potential to join that elite company.

But sometimes a player has those advanced mental attributes but lacks the physical qualities to parlay them into a Hall of Fame career. Kenny Anderson might be an example of this, as he was never fast or strong enough to match his cerebral attributes. And this is where Jokic falls short of Towns. He simply lacks the explosiveness to match Towns as either a rim attacker or protector. That doesn’t mean he can’t join that elite company, as he remains supremely-efficient around the basket thanks to his overwhelming skill. But Denver was the second-worst defensive team in the league with Jokic as a centerpiece. That will have to change if the Nuggets are ever to become contenders while building around this extraordinary talent.

– Buddy Grizzard

Every Thursday we’ll ask three of our guys to chime in on a common subject. If there is something you would like to see us address, drop it to us on Twitter at @BBallInsiders using the hashtag #ConversationThursday.

More Twitter: Make sure you are following all of our guys on Twitter to ensure you are getting the very latest from our team: @stevekylerNBA, @MikeAScotto, @LangGreene, @EricPincus, @joelbrigham, @TommyBeer, @MokeHamilton, @jblancartenba, @Ben_Dowsett, @CodyTaylorNBA, @SpinDavies, @BuddyGrizzard, @JamesB_NBA, @DennisChambers, and @Ben__Nadeau .


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Sources: Milwaukee Bucks Fire Coach Jason Kidd

Basketball Insiders



The Milwaukee Bucks have fired coach Jason Kidd, sources ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

Source: Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN

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Defensive Player Of The Year Watch – 1/22/17

Spencer Davies checks into the DPOY race with his latest list of candidates.

Spencer Davies



It’s a new year and Basketball Insiders is continuing its Defensive Player of the Year watch with sample sizes widening and new players emerging in the conversation.

There were a couple of names knocked out of the list, but that gives more of a spotlight to those who have really stepped up since our last edition ran on December 29. Without further ado, let’s get into it.

 6. Hassan Whiteside

After missing nearly a month of action with a knee injury, Whiteside has returned with a vengeance. The Miami HEAT were already a good defensive team before he came back, but he’s really bolstered that reputation even further. Since Dec. 26, the 7-foot center has recorded eight multi-block games. In five of those, he had at least four swats, including a six-rejection performance in a win at Milwaukee. Overall in ESPN’s Defensive Real-Plus Minus, Whiteside owns by far the best rating at 4.73. “Agent Block” is back and daring all comers to try him.

5. Anthony Davis

Slowly but surely, the New Orleans Pelicans are creeping away from the bottom of the league in defensive rating. Once ranked in the bottom five a few weeks ago, they’ve shot up to 18th in the league (108.4) rather quickly. While that’s not the most impressive statistic to provide, the obvious reason for their improved standing on that end of the floor is Davis. He’s been an absolute workhorse for Alvin Gentry in the restricted area as an elite rim protector, with a heavy responsibility and a ton of minutes. Without him on the floor, the Pels are allowing 8.9 more points per 100 possessions, which puts Davis in the 96th percentile according to Cleaning The Glass.

4. Josh Richardson

Notice there are two members of the HEAT on this list. It’s because they are on fire right now, no pun intended, so it’s about time they received some love in the conversation for DPOY. Whiteside was addressed first, but if we’re talking about a greater sample size with consistent evidence, Richardson fits the bill. Opponents are attempting over 11 shots per game against him, yet are only making 38.9 percent of those tries. That’s the lowest conversion rate in the league with a minimum of 10 attempts.

Battling injuries a season ago, Richardson has played in all 46 games for Miami this year. While it’s been a team effort, he is the heart and soul of Erik Spoelstra’s defense, taking on the most difficult assignments each game. For that reason, he deserves long overdue recognition on this list.

3. Kevin Durant

This isn’t a case where Durant is slipping because of his performances. He’s only ranked third this time around because of the job others have done outside of him. The Golden State Warriors are still a juggernaut on both sides of the court. He’s still a top-notch individual defender. The numbers don’t suggest otherwise and the eye test certainly confirms it.

In isolation situations, Durant is allowing only 0.53 points per possession, which is second in the NBA to only Tony Snell. When it comes to crunch time, he’s always locking up. In fourth quarters, he is limiting the competition to shooting less than 30 percent—and his defended field goal percentage and field goal percentage discrepancy is the best in the league at -17.2. He’s got as good of a chance as anybody to take home DPOY.

2. Joel Embiid

Everybody loves to focus on the off-court antics and hilarities that come with Embiid, but the man deserves his due when it comes to his reputation in the NBA as a truly dominant big. The Philadelphia 76ers have won seven out of their last eight games and it has started on the defensive end of the floor.

Take the games against Boston, for example. Al Horford is a crucial part of the Celtics offense and has had problems getting going against the 23-year-old. In the 22 minutes per game, he’s been on the floor along with him, Horford has been held to below 30 percent from the field on an average of nine attempts. With Embiid off, he’s converted nearly 73 percent of his tries.

Another matchup you can examine is with Andre Drummond. The two have had their fair share of words with each other, but Embiid’s had the edge one-on-one. Similar to Horford, the Detroit Pistons big man has had a rough time against him. Embiid has limited Drummond to under 38 percent on five attempts per game in an average of over 23 minutes on the floor together. When he’s not playing, Drummond has had close to a 78 percent success rate.

Regarding centers, Embiid ranks second in ESPN’s DRPM and fifth in Basketball Reference’s Defensive Box Plus-Minus. Citing Cleaning The Glass, the Sixers are allowing 10 more points per 100 possessions when he’s sitting, which slots Embiid into the 97th percentile.

He’s altering shots. He’s blocking shots. He’s forcing kick outs. And that’s a big reason why the NBA gave Embiid its Eastern Conference Player of the Week honors. Trust The Process.

1. Paul George

Basketball Insiders was well represented this past Saturday in Cleveland when the Oklahoma City Thunder decimated the Cavaliers in their own building. The focus was on the “OK3” exposing a terrible defense, but the real story in this game was how in-tune and sound George was on both ends of the court. He was sizzling shooting the basketball, but perhaps more defining was shutting down LeBron James on a day that was supposed to belong to him.

Any time 23 got the ball to try and get the Cavs going, George was there. He suffocated him with pressure, forcing James into bad decisions and contested shots. The talk of the day was the 30,000-point mark, but PG-13 had other ideas.

“I was hopeful that it took two games for him to get to that,” George said after the 148-124 win at Quicken Loans Arena. “I actually didn’t know that stat until right before coming into [Saturday]. They told me he needed 25 to go to 30,000. I’ve been a part of a lot of those baskets that he’s had, so that’s an achievement or milestone I didn’t want to be a part of.”

Thunder teammate Steven Adams spoke to his prowess on that end of the floor.

“He’s a really good defender man,” Adams said. “It was like a perfect matchup, honestly. He played LeBron really well in terms of our system and what we want him doing. He did an amazing job there.”

Oklahoma City head coach Billy Donovan is a huge fan as well.

“He really I think puts forth good effort,” Donovan said pre-game. “He’s long, smart. He’s disruptive. He’s got good feet. He’s a physical defender. He’s hard to shoot over. Certainly, with he and Andre [Roberson] on the wings, that’s certainly bolstered our defense.”

That was one performance, but it’s obvious how much George brings to the table as one of the toughest guys to score on in this league. He’s got a league-leading 188 deflections and is tied with Eric Bledsoe at the top of the NBA with 2.2 steals per game.

Recently, the Thunder have allowed 91 points at most in three of their last four games. They are also in the top three allowing just 104.7 points per 100 possessions and George has been a huge part of that.

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NBA AM: Most Likely All-Star Snubs

Damian Lillard seems to top the All-Star snub list every season. It couldn’t happen again, could it?

Joel Brigham



This year the NBA has famously decided to mix up the way the All-Star rosters work, while rather infamously deciding against televising the draft that will organize those players into teams, but even as some things change, some things remain the same.

Just like every year, there will be snubs when the All-Star reserves are announced on Tuesday night. Oh, there will be snubs.

The starters already have been selected, chosen by a combination of fan votes, media votes and player votes, the latter of which were taken so seriously that Summer League legend Jack Cooley even earned a single nomination from one especially ornery player voter.

For those that missed the starters, they include LeBron James, DeMar DeRozan, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kyrie Irving, and Joel Embiid from the Eastern Conference and Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, DeMarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis, and James Harden from the Western Conference.

That leaves seven more reserves from each conference and way more deserving players than that from which to choose. These will be selected by the coaches, per tradition, but it’s anybody’s guess who ends up making the team. There absolutely are going to be some massive snubs this year, so let’s take a quick look at the most likely candidates to earn roster spots this winter, as well as who that might leave out of this year’s event in Los Angeles.

The Eastern Conference

Let’s start with the “sure things,” which almost certainly will include with Indian Pacers guard Victor Oladipo. Not only is he putting up a career-best 24/5/4 line, but he’s also averaging two steals per night for an Indiana team that currently lives in the playoff picture despite dismal expectations. That’s almost entirely because of Oladipo.

In the frontcourt, there was plenty of healthy debate when Embiid was voted the starter over Al Horford and Kristaps Porzingis, so there’s a very good chance that those two guys find their way to the roster, as well.

Kevin Love, who also is having a monster statistical season, seems like the most obvious third frontcourt guy, but his defense stinks and the Cavs haven’t exactly proven themselves worthy of two All-Stars. Detroit’s Andre Drummond and Tobias Harris both are having borderline All-Star seasons for a borderline playoff team, but they are the closest contenders to stealing away that third frontcourt reserve slot from Love.

Beyond that, Bradley Beal or John Wall likely will be the “other” guard reserve, but choosing which one is dicey. Wall’s the four-time All-Star, but Beal arguably is having the better year and has been snubbed for this event entirely too many times already. It doesn’t seem likely that both guys will make the team.

The wild cards could be that “other” Wizards guard among Beal and Wall, one of those two Pistons players, Miami’s Goran Dragic (they are fourth in the conference, rather surprisingly), Milwaukee’s Khris Middleton, Toronto’s Kyle Lowry, or Rookie of the Year candidate Ben Simmons.

What seems most probable is that Oladipo and Beal earn the Eastern Conference reserve slots, with Horford, Porzingis and Love earning the backup frontcourt positions. Lowry and Wall feel most likely as reserves.

That means the most likely Eastern Conference snubs will be: Goran Dragic, Ben Simmons, Andre Drummod, Tobias Harris and Khris Middleton.

The level of controversy with this group feels fairly low, though if Dragic or Drummond were to make the team over Wall or Love, the conversation would be a lot feistier.

The Western Conference

Choosing the reserve guards in the Western Conference is a no-brainer. It will be MVP candidates Jimmy Butler and Russell Westbrook, which immediately means that if Klay Thompson, Damian Lillard, Chris Paul and Paul George are not named as Wild Card players, they will be left off of the team. That’s about as “yikes” as “yikes” gets.

The battle for the frontcourt spots are going to be no less brutal, even with Kawhi Leonard effectively out of consideration having missed so much time at the beginning of the season. The Spurs will have an All-Star anyway, though, which makes LaMarcus Aldridge all but a lock.

Towns, who is averaging a 20/12 with over two assists and 1.5 blocks per game on one of the West’s top teams, also feels likely to get in. That means Draymond Green and Nikola Jokic are the two guys expected to battle over that last frontcourt spot, and both deserve real consideration. Green’s importance is less obvious to this Warriors team with Durant on the roster, but he’s no less essential even if his offensive numbers are down. Jokic, meanwhile, has kept Denver in the playoff hunt even without Paul Millsap, and is the best passing big man in the game.

The most likely scenario in terms of Western Conference reserves has Butler and Westbrook getting voted in at guard, Aldridge, Towns and Green voted in as frontcourt players, and Thompson and Lillard voted in as the wild cards.

That means the most likely Western Conference snubs will be: Chris Paul, Paul George, and Nikola Jokic.

Paul has missed 17 games this season, which is just too many when there are so many other great guards from which to choose, and George’s usage has dropped massively in Oklahoma City. As for Jokic, somebody has to get snubbed, and the other reasonable possibility is that he be named a wild card player at the expense of Lillard, and no NBA fan should have to see that happen yet again.

The 2018 NBA All-Star Reserves will be announced at 7:00 p.m. EST on January 23 on TNT.

Tune in Tuesday night to see which players will make the team, and which will inevitably be snubbed.

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