Here’s the next group of guys, who I would classify as some of the best in the game, but not quite elite. Many of these guys are still on the rise and could push their way into that top ten in a few years though. Here they are:
20. Dion Waiters, Cleveland Cavaliers
Stats: 15.9 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 3.0 APG
Waiters has been the talk of trade rumors recently that could land Kevin Love in Cleveland, but for now, he remains a very solid player for the Cavs. After bringing in LeBron James and drafting Andrew Wiggins though, the need for offensive production has decreased greatly. His 15.9 PPG was a great stat, making him one of the highest scorers on the team. He usually didn’t start, instead coming off the bench as their primary sixth man throughout the season. I assume he’ll have a similar role next year if he stays with the Cavs, but if he gets traded to the Sixers for example, he’d likely be a full-time starter. Either way he can produce.
19. J.J. Redick, Los Angeles Clippers
Stats: 15.2 PPG, 2.1 RPG, 2.2 APG
Redick is a sure-fire way to get points in a hurry, mainly because of his natural ability to hit three point shots. He was one of the best 3-point shooters in college, and while that hasn’t completely translated to the NBA, he’s still a very good scorer as the Clippers’ starting SG. He has also played in the bench role as well, but with Jamal Crawford as the team’s sixth man, Redick was pushed up to the starting position once he came back from an injury. He was very efficient last year and I expect him to continue that next year, presuming he plays more than 35 games, the amount he played this past year.
18. Victor Oladipo, Orlando Magic
Stats: 13.8 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 4.1 APG
I’m sure that if Michael Carter-Williams wasn’t in the NBA, Oladipo would’ve won the Rookie of the Year award. He got stuck on one of the worst teams in the league, but made an impact early, averaging a high amount of both rebounds and assists for comparable players. His scoring and shooting are still improving, especially his long range shooting, but as only a rookie, he will have plenty of time to improve. The fact that he’s already this high on the list suggests that he could become one of the best shooting guards in the league. If he can get more consistent on the offensive end, he’ll really help the rebuilding Magic win some games.
17. Eric Gordon, New Orleans Pelicans
Stats: 15.4 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 3.3 APG
I have had my qualms about Gordon over the years because of how often he gets hurt and how many shots it takes him to get to that 15.5 per game, and he has continued to prove my point. It was actually the most games he played in a season since his rookie year (64), as well as tied for his most starts in his career (also 64), but it’s still a big pain to have him miss 18 games in year. That’s close to a quarter of the season! He has shown strokes of genius and a will to score, but his inconsistency proves to be a big fault in his game. Four years ago, Gordon averaged 22.3 PPG for the Clippers. Where is that Eric Gordon? If he can get back to that level, I’ll accept it. I just don’t see it ever happening again.
16. Joe Johnson, Brooklyn Nets
Stats: 15.8 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 2.7 APG
Like his fellow backcourt member Deron Williams, he is close to the top of the list of most overpaid players in the NBA. It is really impossible to keep up the offensive production he did in Atlanta when there are so many other scorers on the Nets’ team, but still, he has not lived up to his hype or his contract. His two years in Boston have been very underwhelming, and I’m starting to think that Johnson’s career as a big name scorer are over. He still has enough juice to put up 15-16 PPG, but don’t expect much else along the way. With 13 seasons already under his belt, he’s nearing the end.
15. Gerald Green, Phoenix Suns
Stats: 15.8 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 1.5 APG
Green exploded for the Suns last year for one of the best players on their team. This is a guy who has played on 7 teams in 7 seasons and has only twice averaged double digit PPG. After Eric Bledsoe went down midway through the season, Goran Dragic was pushed to the PG position and Green was brought in as the starting SG, dominating along the way. He had a high PER of 16.55 and a very solid 40% clip from beyond the arc. If the Suns decide to re-sign Bledsoe, Green will likely be pushed to the bench, but he could be an awesome sixth man scorer. The Suns turned this guy into a great player, as they did with Bledsoe, Dragic, and P.J. Tucker.
14. Wesley Matthews, Portland Trail Blazers
Stats: 16.4 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 2.4 APG
Matthews has quietly been getting better over the years as he starts tons of games for the improving Trail Blazers. Actually, he started all 82 games for the Blazers last season as their SG and was one of their best scorers at 16.4 PPG, his career high. He’s also an excellent 3-point shooter, averaging 2.5 per game last year. I’d like to see backup C.J. McCollum challenge him for minutes (because I’m a Lehigh guy), but Matthews seems to have his role pretty firmly in place. He is definitely one of the best three-point shooters, finishing just behind Green in the league in 3-pointers made (Green was fourth in the league and Matthews was fifth).
13. Klay Thompson, Golden State Warriors
Stats: 18.4 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 2.2 APG
As one half of the Splash Brothers in Golden State, he’s really something special. He doesn’t quite provide enough in terms of rebounds and assists to consider him an elite SG in the league, but his scoring alone make him a key player to have on a team. Keeping in line with the 3-point machines, Thompson finished 2nd in the league in 3-pointers with an astounding 223, only behind his teammate Stephen Curry. If Thompson added a little more across the stat sheet then I think that’d push him over the edge, but as for now, I think #13 is a perfect place to list him. He is going to be a scary good shooter.
12. Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards
Stats: 17.1 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 3.3 APG
I really really like Bradley Beal. Many forget that he was the 3rd pick in the 2012 Draft, which was just a few years ago. Last year was obviously his best season of the two, which was definitely helped by the fact that he was able to stay healthy for most of it. For being such a good 3-point shooter, it’s strange that his overall shooting percentage is only 41.9%. I’m not sure if this is a case of taking too many long 2’s or him needing to just improve his close in game, but either way he has to work on that. Otherwise, he’s on track to lead the Wizards to something special.
11. Manu Ginobli, San Antonio Spurs
Stats: 12.3 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 4.3 APG
Ginobli’s stats probably look terrible in comparison to the rest of the guys on this list, and that’s partly because he’s actually a sixth man. How did he end up this high on the list then? PER and the intangibles. He’s the kind of player that is so good on the court without doing anything because he makes everyone else better. With a whopping 20.06 PER, he ranks fourth in the position in that category, behind only the top 3 overall players on my list. He’s a smart shooter and can play great defense, while passing and rebounding well too. He’s the full package for a player.