I wrote a post earlier in the day listing the top 20 scorers under the age of 25 years old. I organized then organized them by points per game, position and age.
This post will now take a different view of these high quality young scorers, and it will do so by asking one question — Well we know they can score, but who on this list helps their team in additional ways outside of scoring?
The question will have three sub sections — Who’s a good defender? A good rebounder? A good passer/playmaker? — which we’ll use to help figure out who the exceptional talents truly are.
Big Men — Al Jefferson, Chris Bosh, Dwight Howard, LaMarcus Aldridge – four players.
Wings — LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Danny Granger, Kevin Martin, Brandon Roy, Carmelo Anthony, Rudy Gay, Andre Iguodala, Al Thornton, Jeff Green* — ten players.
Guards — Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Devin Harris, Ben Gordon, OJ Mayo, Nate Robinson — six players.
19 of these 20 players play between 35-39 minutes so it’s not really necessary to even out the minutes for comparison’s sake. The only player who does not play that many minutes is Nate Robinson, who himself plays 30 minutes.
Above Average Defenders
How many players amongst the above list of twenty players do you consider to be above average defensively? I count six players.
Who are above average defenders at their position?
Big Men — Dwight Howard — One out of four. Dwight Howard is a DpoY candidate.
Wings — LeBron James, Andre Iguodala, Carmelo Anthony — Three out of ten. Both LeBron and Iggy are elite defenders. Melo has become a slightly above average defender over the last year.
Guards — Chris Paul, Deron Williams — Two above average defenders but no elite ones.
Note One: Some players could boost their ratings significantly on this list by switching their position. Jeff Green (PF to SF) is the best example of this. Jeff Green was left off this list because he plays power forward, but he is an above average defender when played on the perimeter. Another example is actually a player on the list above and that is OJ Mayo (SG to PG), who may transition from a slightly above average defender into an elite one with a position change.
Note Two: Devin Harris did not make this list because his defensive effort since joining NJ has been sub-par, but he has shown us in the past that he is clearly capable of being a high quality defender. Ditto for Chris Bosh, who’s been slightly below average defensively this season but is capable of being an above average defender. Three other players — Granger, Gordon, Mayo — are currently mediocre defenders.
I count six defenders who are above average …. but do you rate anyone else on this list as an above average? Someone that deserves more consideration from myself for their defensive contributions?
It’s disturbing that only 30% of our twenty best scorers under the age of 25 play above average defense.
We’ll look at this from two views, firstly by their overall numbers and then by position:
Rebounds Per Game
How many players average more than five rebounds per game?
- Dwight Howard – 13.9rpg
- Al Jefferson — 11.0rpg
- Chris Bosh – 9.4rpg
- LeBron James – 7.4rpg
- LaMarcus Aldridge – 7.2rpg
- Jeff Green — 7.1rpg
- Carmelo Anthony — 7.1rpg
- Kevin Durant -- 6.6rpg
- Andre Iguodala – 6.0rpg
- Rudy Gay -- 5.6rpg
- Chris Paul — 5.4rpg
- Al Thornton – 5.2rpg
- Danny Granger – 5.0rpg
Who are above average rebounders by their position?
Big Men — Dwight Howard, Al Jefferson and Chris Bosh — Dwight Howard is the league’s leading rebounder, and is joined by a second elite rebounder in Al Jefferson. Chris Bosh is not in their class but he is an above average rebounder.
Wings — LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant, Andre Iguodala, Brandon Roy — LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony are two of the best rebounding small forwards in the league. In time, I expect Durant to join them on that list, but for now he’s a couple of notches below them but still above average. Brandon Roy is the worst rebounder of the five, but he is above average for a two guard. Iggy has mainly played the small forward position over the past two years and he’s above average on the boards there, but he’d get a big bump from playing his previous position of shooting guard and would be placed in Melo’s/James’ class after accounting for position.
Guards — Chris Paul, Nate Robinson — Chris Paul is a top three rebounding point guard in the league, just behind Kidd and Rondo. Nate Robinson pulls down four boards in just thirty minutes, and is well above average for his position too.
Note One: A couple of players, who I left off the above list because of the positions they currently play, would be above average rebounders if they switched positions. Jeff Green (PF to SF) and OJ Mayo (SG to PG) are the two best examples.
That leaves us with 10 players who are above average rebounders at their position, in other words half of this list are good rebounders and half are not good rebounders.
When it comes to elite scorers, my single favourite complementary offensive skill for those players to possess is the ability to create easy shots for teammates.
So here we have the twenty best scorers under the age of 25, some of the most exciting young talent in the league, but how many of them are legitimate playmakers also?
This is an incredibly tough list for a big man to crack and even the best passing bigs average low assist numbers (Pau Gasol — 3.5apg), so our primary focus here is on the perimeter players.
Assists Per Game
How many players average more than four assists?
- Chris Paul — 11.0apg
- Deron Williams — 10.6apg
- LeBron James — 7.2apg
- Devin Harris — 7.1apg
- Andre Igoudala — 5.3apg
- Brandon Roy — 5.1apg
- Nate Robinson –4.0apg
How many players on the above list of 20 are above average passers+playmakers for their position? I count only six players.
Big Men — Chris Bosh — Slightly above average but not special. The three other big men are below average passers.
Wings — LeBron James, Brandon Roy, Andre Iguodala — Brandon Roy is the best floor general, ball handler, playmaker, passer on this list … closely followed by LeBron James. Both of these players are capable of playing the point at an All-Star level. Andre Iguodala is another notch below but still very impressive in each regard.
Guards — Chris Paul, Deron Williams — The two best point guards in the NBA.
That gives us five high level playmakers and one big man who’s slightly above average.
What I find most interesting about this list are the names who are not on my list — Kevin Durant, Danny Granger, Kevin Martin, Carmelo Anthony, Ben Gordon, OJ Mayo, Rudy Gay, Devin Harris, Nate Robinson, Al Thornton.
There were only three players who made the list in all three categories and ranked highly in each category — LeBron James, Chris Paul, Andre Iguodala.
There were five players who hit two categories — Dwight Howard, Carmelo Anthony, Deron Williams, Brandon Roy, Chris Bosh.
There were three other players who hit only one category — Kevin Durant, Nate Robinson, Al Jefferson.
And these where the scorers who failed to make any one of the above categories — Kevin Martin, Ben Gordon, Rudy Gay, LaMarcus Aldridge, Jeff Green*, Devin Harris, Al Thornton, OJ Mayo, Danny Granger – that is nine out of the twenty players who make a lack of contribution outside of scoring for their respective teams.
* Jeff Green — mainly due to the position he plays, and secondarily from not using the passing/playmaking skills that he clearly possesses often enough. Although it bears mentioning, that it is likely a position change would result in decrease in his numbers, particularly his scoring.
We have twenty high level scorers under the age of 25, all of whom score more than 17ppg and a dozen of whom score over 20 points per game. But how did they fare in each category?
- Only 6 out of 20 made the above average defenders list
- Only 10 out of 20 made the quality rebounders list
- Only 6 out of 20 made the quality passers list.
- Only 3 players made each category.
Final Thoughts — It’s easy to see why LeBron James is such a dominant player in this league. He was the only player to rank at the highest level in each of the four categories we’ve looked at — scoring, defense, rebounding, and passing.
Chris Paul and Andre Iguodala made it onto each of the four categories, but each player had one section where they fell down in comparison to elite players in that area. For Iggy it was his scoring, and for Paul it was his defense.