In the final installment of this two part series, I explore how NBA players from the ACC are performing thus far this season. The rankings are how I perceive the players thus far and are subject to change throughout the rest of the year. Without further ado, let’s get to the rankings out West.
1. Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers (Wake Forest)
CP3 is enjoying another all-star campaign, further solidifying his spot as the league’s best all-around point guard. He is helping lead the West-contending Clippers by averaging a double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds per game, while shooting nearly 52% from the floor. He will continue to produce out West as one of the most dynamic players in the league, as he searches for his first NBA championship this season.
2. Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs (Wake Forest)
Is there anything Tim Duncan can’t do? He is an ageless wonder. At age 38, he is still putting up ridiculous numbers for the defending champion Spurs. Duncan is averaging 14.4 points per game, and his 10.5 rebounds per game is his highest total in the last 5 years. Coach Gregg Popovich is doing his best to rest Duncan as much as he can throughout the regular season so that he will be ready for another inevitable playoff run. One thing is for certain, a 6th championship is not out of the question for the 14-time all-star.
3. Reggie Jackson, Oklahoma City Thunder (Boston College)
We all know that Reggie Jackson play. The question now is whether or not he will be the replacement if Russell Westbrook elects to eventually leave the Thunder in free agency. Regardless, Jackson is one of the key members of the Thunder rotation, as he is logging around 37 minutes per game, while averaging 18 points, 6.5 assists, and 5 rebounds, which are all career highs for him. On a star-studded Thunder team which has fought through a rash of injuries in the early part of the season, Jackson will be relied upon to help bring the Thunder back into contention in the Western Conference.
4. Derrick Favors, Utah Jazz (Georgia Tech)
It is now Derrick Favors’ fifth season in the NBA, and he is only getting better. In 21 starts this year, Favors’ 16.2 points per game and his 57% shooting percentage are both career highs for him. He is also averaging nearly 9 rebounds per game for the up-and-coming Utah Jazz. His improvement should continue this season and beyond.
5. Ty Lawson, Denver Nuggets (North Carolina)
As starting point guard of the struggling Denver Nuggets, Ty Lawson has continued to play as consistently as you could ask an NBA point guard to play. He is averaging 15.5 points and 10.1 assists per contest, but is only shooting 40% from the floor, which is a career-low. One would have to wonder if Lawson is pressing a bit, as Denver has struggled to score with much of their Western Conference opponents this season. Look for Lawson’s consistency to continue, although his lowered field goal percentage is something that should be monitored.
6. J.J. Redick, Los Angeles Clippers (Duke)
In 21 starts for the Los Angeles Clippers, J.J. Redick continues to light up the scoreboard from deep. His 2.3 made 3-point field goals per game is a career high, and he is shooting nearly 40% from beyond the arc, which is right in line with his career average from 3-point land. Redick’s 14.1 points per game is slightly below his career high that he set last year at 15.2, but the season is still young. He is in the prime of his career now and only time will tell whether or not his efforts will lead to an NBA championship for the Clippers.
7. Thaddeus Young, Minnesota Timberwolves (Georgia Tech)
While Young has been in and out of the lineup due to injury, he has averaged 14 points and nearly 5 rebounds in his 16 starts this season. Young does nothing that is extremely flashy, but he is a reliable veteran post player who is up to the task of performing well night in and night out when he is healthy. His presence on this young Minnesota Timberwolves team will pay dividends as they continue to get better this year and beyond.
8. Danny Green, San Antonio Spurs (North Carolina)
It’s hard to believe that Danny Green is already in his 6th season out of North Carolina. Since his breakout postseason two years ago, Green has continued to evolve as a basketball player. In 21 games this season, Green is averaging 11.5 points per game on 47% shooting, both of which are career highs if you discount his 49% shooting in 8 games played in his second season in the league. He currently sits at 41% from beyond the arc, which is right in line with what he has shot in his 5-years prior. He will be instrumental to the Spurs if they plan on making another deep playoff run.
9. Harrison Barnes, Golden State Warriors (North Carolina)
Barnes is one of the most exciting young players in the NBA, and in his third NBA season, he is enjoying an outstanding start. The 6’8″ swingman has gotten off to a hot start shooting from the floor, as his field goal percentage sits around 52% through the season’s first 20 games, a career high for him. He is also scoring 11.2 points per game, which also a career best for him. His ceiling is extremely high, and he has the potential to eventually develop into an all-star, should his starter minutes remain constant, and his numbers continue to improve.
10. Anthony Morrow, Oklahoma City Thunder (Georgia Tech)
In Anthony Morrow’s first five NBA seasons, he has resembled a nomad. He is now playing on his 6th team in 6 years, but has provided a reliable wing presence to the Oklahoma City Thunder. Morrow comes off of the bench and averages 10.4 points per game on 42% shooting, and is best relied upon to bring a scoring presence off the pine when Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are resting. He should continue thriving in this role, so long as he stays healthy and doesn’t get traded at the deadline.
11. Brandan Wright, Dallas Mavericks (North Carolina)
As Dirk Nowitzki’s backup in Dallas, Wright has had a very nice opening to the 2014 campaign. He is averaging 9 points and just north of 4 rebounds per contest while shooting nearly 75% from the floor. He is one of the first bench options Rick Carlisle turns to in the Dallas frontcourt, and he should continue to flourish in his role throughout the rest of the season.
12. Gorgui Dieng, Minnesota Timberwolves (Louisville)
A bona-fida 6’11” beast, Gorgui Dieng’s upside is as high as any young player’s could be in his second year in the NBA. Dieng has started in 12 of Minnesota’s 20 games, averaging 8.6 points per game to couple with 7.8 rebounds per contest. He is a key cog to Minnesota’s future, and should be the starting center for the Timberwolves for years to come.
13. Wesley Johnson, Los Angeles Lakers (Syracuse)
In 22 starts for the lowly Lakers, Wesley Johnson has performed well in his role. He is averaging 8.4 points and 3.5 rebounds per game on 41% shooting, which is right in line with his career numbers. While he will not always light up the scoreboard, he is steady and reliable, and really only starting because of the dearth of talent on the roster. Ideally, Johnson is an energetic swingman you bring off of the bench, but this current role will suffice so long as he continues to produce with consistency.
14. J.J. Hickson, Denver Nuggets (N.C. State)
In 13 games played this season after returning from a torn ACL, J.J. Hickson has not missed a beat. While he is still trying to get his feet back under him, he has shown glimpses of what has made him such a valuable big man over the last three seasons. Hickson is averaging 8 points and 8 rebounds per game, while playing on a restriction of less than 20 minutes per night. His numbers should only improve the rest of the season, as he continues to get stronger and back into playing condition.
15. Trevor Booker, Utah Jazz (Clemson)
On the heels of a successful start to his career in Washington, Trevor Booker has evolved into a similar role with the Utah Jazz, where he comes off of the bench and acts as an emergency starter when necessary. In his current role, Booker has scored 7.1 points per contest this season, although his rebounding has decreased to the lowest point since his rookie season, as he is only pulling down an average of 4.3 rebounds per game. While he needs to improve on the boards, his effectiveness off of the bench is needed on a young Utah Jazz team eager to make the next step.
16. Steven Adams, Oklahoma City Thunder (Pittsburgh)
Steven Adams is an extremely raw talent, but one with huge upside and glimpses of rapid improvement in his second season in the NBA. The 21-year old, 7-footer has started all 22 games for the Oklahoma City Thunder, and his 7.3 points per game and 6.4 rebounds per game both topple his rookie season numbers set last season. He has also increased his block total, as he generally swats one shot away per game. His post defense has always been solid, but it is quickly becoming one of the cornerstones of his game. He is one of the most interesting young players in the league, and I hope all of you are as excited as I am to see how he pans out down the line.
17. Wayne Ellington, Los Angeles Lakers (North Carolina)
Ellington has been in and out of the rotation for the Lakers, but when he has played, he has produced. He is averaging 7 points per game coming off of the bench in Hollywood, while shooting a career high 49% from the field. Coach Byron Scott still does not seem to know what he is doing as far as lineups are concerned, so Ellington will play well when his number is called, but the amount of playing time Ellington will get on a consistent basis remains to be seen.
18. Ed Davis, Los Angeles Lakers (North Carolina)
Davis is in his first season with the Lakers, and while he is on a bad team, he is playing quite well. As one of the first choices off of the bench for coach Byron Scott, Ed Davis has averaged 7 points per game along with 7 rebounds. Additionally, he is shooting a career-high 65% from the floor, which is not too shabby for playing on a roster that, outside of Kobe, is mediocre at best.
19. Carlos Boozer, Los Angeles Lakers (Duke)
Although Carlos Boozer has voiced his frustration with his recent benching, he has nobody to blame but himself. He is averaging his lowest point total per game (12.5) since his rookie season in 2002. Boozer’s rebounding has also suffered, as he is pulling down an average of 6.7 boards per game, which is a career-low for him. If you put those two factors together with his laughable efforts on the defensive end, you get a player late in his career who has been anything but exciting to watch.
20. Austin Rivers, New Orleans Pelicans (Duke)
Rivers is in his third season with New Orleans, and continues his slow development under coach Monty Williams. While Rivers plays about 24 minutes per night, he continues to be a defensive liability, while struggling shooting. As a career 39% shooter from the floor, including 33% from behind the arc, he is trying to shake the notion that he come out of school too early and is not NBA ready. Unfortunately for him, he has continued to be unable to defy those odds through the early part of his career. Let’s see if he is able to improve his game at both ends throughout the rest of this season.
21. Lance Thomas, Oklahoma City Thunder (Duke)
As a guy who has struggled on the wing throughout his first three seasons in the NBA, a big question about Thomas’ game this season was whether or not he could improve as a shooter. Although he is averaging his highest point total of his career at a meager 5.6 ppg, he is only shooting 36% from the field. He has been on the floor more than ever this season, playing about 22 minutes per night, although his minutes have diminished greatly upon the return of Kevin Durant. He should however continue to play a role off of the bench throughout the rest of the season.
22. Al-Farouq Aminu, Dallas Mavericks (Wake Forest)
Dallas is loaded, and this is part of the reason why Al-Farouq Aminu is faced with his lowest total minutes per game of his career at 16.5. Aminu is also only averaging 5.4 points per game. This is a new, different role for him, and he should only see significant playing time if there is an unforeseen injury to one of the Mavs’ core players.
23. Miles Plumlee, Phoenix Suns (Duke)
In his third season out of Duke, Miles Plumlee has started all 23 games for the Suns, averaging 8 points, 9 rebounds, and nearly 2 blocks per game. He is as consistent as they come, although he rarely stuffs the stat sheet with electric numbers like his Western Conference counterparts. The Suns are benefitting from his presence night in and night out and Plumlee will continue to flourish in his current role on the team this season.
24. Vince Carter, Memphis Grizzlies (North Carolina)
In his 17th season out of North Carolina, Vince Carter is in the twilight of his career. At age 37, he is in his first season in Memphis, where he is coming off of the bench averaging 5.2 points per game on 32% shooting, both of which are career lows. While his playing time has been reduced drastically from last season in Dallas, Vince Carter can still play when given an ample opportunity, although he probably will not get another sizable opportunity for the rest of his career.
25. Rodney Hood, Utah Jazz (Duke)
Although Rodney Hood has been sidelined by injuries through about half of his rookie season thus far, he has looked respectable when he has played. In 12 games this season, the Jazz rookie is averaging 5 points per game and 3 rebounds, although his shooting percentage has hovered right around 30%. His shooting percentage will improve, but the Jazz have to be happy with the energy he has brought when he’s played, so long as he stays healthy.
26. T.J. Warren, Phoenix Suns (N.C. State)
The 14th overall pick and reigning ACC Player of the Year has only played in 8 games for the Suns in his rookie season. He is averaging 4 points per game on 47% shooting in his limited game action. He is still in the early stages of his development and isn’t quite ready to take on a substantial role yet, but as a big-time scorer with a ton of upside, Warren is worth the wait.
27. Raymond Felton, Dallas Mavericks (North Carolina)
After being traded from the Knicks to the Mavericks in the off-season, Felton has yet to suit up and play for his new team. A plethora of injuries and a 4-game suspension for a felony gun charge have both kept him from taking the court for the Mavs, who will benefit immediately when he is ready to play.
28. Francisco Garcia, Houston Rockets (Louisville)
Garcia has a very limited role with the Rockets, but that’s probably because he shoots 27% from the field. When Rockets players are injured, he plays. That’s pretty much the extent of his role in Houston.
29. Erick Green, Denver Nuggets (Virginia Tech)
The 2012 NCAA Division-1 leading scorer is in his second professional season, but is in his rookie season in the NBA after spending last season playing overseas in Italy for Montepaschi Siena. Green has seen limited minutes in Denver behind a stacked backcourt featuring Ty Lawson, Nate Robinson, Aaron Afflalo, Gary Harris, and Randy Foye. While his minutes have been limited, Green has played well when given an opportunity, as he is averaging 4.5 points per game on 60% shooting.
30. Reggie Bullock, Los Angeles Clippers (North Carolina)
Bullock has had an interesting start to his second professional season with the Clippers. He has only played in 12 games, but started in two of those games. He has been in and out of the rotation for the Clips, and still has not really found his niche in his second year under Doc Rivers. For now, don’t expect much from Bullock, who is only averaging around 3 points per game when he does get playing time.
31. John Salmons, New Orleans Pelicans (Miami (FL))
The 12th year veteran out of Miami (FL) is seldom used by the Pelicans. He is only averaging 2.7 points per game and has appeared in only 12 of New Orleans’ 20 games this season. He is only going to be seen in about every other game this season, but is more than capable of being a respectable role player if given a sizable opportunity. Stay tuned.
32. Tyler Ennis, Phoenix Suns (Syracuse)
As a rookie out of Syracuse, 20-year old Tyler Ennis has participated in only 5 games for the Suns this season, making a minimal impact. After a breakout season for the Orange last year, Ennis decided to make the jump to the NBA, despite the widespread belief that he may not be ready for professional competition. His development as a player should be watched this season, although it would be surprising if he made any contributions to what should be a playoff team in Phoenix.
33. Ryan Kelly, Los Angeles Lakers (Duke)
The Lakers are bad, but they aren’t bad enough to play Ryan Kelly. The second year forward out of Duke has only seen action in three games this season, leaving little room for him to make any impact whatsoever.
34. Shavlik Randolph, Phoenix Suns (Duke)
As a career back-up, Randolph has been used throughout most of his career as a practice player who participated in a limited role in the regular season. This trend has continued this season, as he has only suited up in 10 games for the Suns, while averaging only about 6 minutes per game. Don’t expect much from Randolph unless the entire team becomes debilitated by injury.
35. Russ Smith, New Orleans Pelicans (Louisville)
Smith, a rookie sparkplug out of Louisville, has yet to make a significant contribution to the Pelicans this season. His assignment to the D-League’s Fort Wayne Mad Ants is a testament to his lack of NBA readiness, but could potentially make an impact in the future. Only time will tell.
36. Ish Smith, Oklahoma City Thunder (Wake Forest)
Let’s cut to the chase: The only time Ish Smith will see the floor is if Russell Westbrook, Reggie Jackson, and Jeremy Lamb are all hurt at the same time. He’s at the end of the bench in OKC.
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