To all of the loyal The Fro and The Flow podcast fans out there, I'm sure you're aware that Jack Martin and I have a nearly-weekly segment titled Watch The Throne (Yes, the segment is inspired by the greatest collaboration of all-time, Watch The Throne, by Jay-Z and Kanye West).
During this podcast segment, Jack Sparkin' and I break down the most talented basketball players in the world at that current moment by ranking them 1-15 (Think of it like this: If you were to start an NBA team today from scratch, zilch, nada, who would be the first player that you'd choose to help you win if they were all available?).
Because Jack and I are so dedicated to watching, observing, and sucking however much milk we can out of the NBA's utter, and are also two separate human beings, we have some disagreements every so often.
This daily column over the next 18 days will be relatively similar to that segment. The biggest, and most important difference is that this cluster fuck of a ranking will be an attempt towards breaking down the most valuable players in the NBA in accordance with how vital they are to their team's success.
(Say, if you took Stephen Curry off of the Golden State Warriors, would they still be able to win a championship this season? Or if you took Giannis off of the Bucks would they win 45 games? And other hypothetical things of that nature).
This is what the rankings look like so far.
THE SUBSTANCE REPORT RANKINGS
30. Lou "Two Girls and They Get Along Like I'm Lou Will" Williams
29. Domantas "Arvydas's Son" Sabonis
28. Montrezl "Holy Shit That Guy Tries Hard" Harrell
27. Mike "Never Leaving Memphis Because Cash Rules Everything Around Me C.R.E.A.M.!" Conley
26. Klay "Not Just Steph's Sidekick" Thompson
25. Trae "Ugliest Player in the League" Young
24. Ben "Kendall Jenner's Bae/Fresh Prince" Simmons
23. Nikola "Diet Jokic" Vucevic
22. Karl-Anthony "Who Was the Last Good Player With Two First Names?" Towns
21. Blake "Pray My Knees Will Be Okay Come April" Griffin
20. Devin "Should I Just Become A Point Guard" Booker
Devin Booker, the youngest player to ever record 70 points in a single game of basketball, celebrated his record setting performance's two year anniversary yesterday. Devin Booker is 22 years and 146 days old. He was 20 (!) years old when he annihilated the entire defense of the Boston Celtics.
The best scorer in the world, James Harden, hasn't even eclipsed the 70 point mark this season... yet. There is no part of me that wants to exclude Harden's possibility of doing that before the season ends, but as of right now, it doesn't seem like anyone else is going to be scoring 70 points soon.
Booker is the franchise cornerstone for the heavily tanking Suns, and most basketball-related people have set it in stone in their minds that he is a shooting guard. D-Book has shifted that narrative over the course of the 2018-19 season. The young vet out of Kentucky is averaging a cool 6.8 assists per game, the most by a total of two-and-a-half whole assists in his career. He's always been recognized as a bonafide bucket getter, but the leader of the ValleyBoyz has put on a passing display this season. He's now capable of picking D's apart in not just one way, but two.
Although his team hasn't made the leap that the loyal fans of Phoenix want to see, Booker has. He's revolutionized his game by becoming a transcending combo guard, who may be even better at the point guard position than the Two. If you check out the highlight above, then you'll notice that Ayton's been killing the post this season as well, and has proved that he's a legit 5 for the Suns to plug in the paint.
Devin Booker Statistics
Career: 21.1 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 4.2 APG, 43.3% FG, 35.3% 3PT, 85.2% FT, 0.8 SPG, 0.3 BPG, 3.1 TO
This season: 25.6 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 6.8 APG, 45.4% FG, 32% 3PT, 86% FT, 0.9 SPG, 0.2 BPG, 4.1 TO
Booker has escalated his statistics in the three primary box score categories this season. Points, rebounds, and assists, he's gotten better at each of these categories. His field goal percentage has gone up two percentages, while his three point percentage has declined. He's taking more difficult shots now off of the dribble since he's asked to be more of a playmaker, which prevents him from accessing easier catch-and-shoot looks.
Booker could benefit from another primary playmaker to feed him less contested jumpers, but the slight difference in percentage isn't anything to bask in. The same goes for Book's turnovers, they're anticipated to rise parallel to his responsibility.
Overall, Booker is a scary talent moving forward. He's the ideal combo guard for any franchise considering his age, talent, and demeanor.
19. Anthony "'I'll Tell On You to Rich Paul!'/AD" Davis
From a strictly skill perspective, Anthony Davis is one of the six to seven most talented players in the league. There is no arguing that whatsoever. The legitimate superstar of a center is nearly 7 feet tall, and he moves like a gazelle down the floor with or without the ball in his hands. The man has the skills of a point guard (I mean, he was a point guard before he hit an insane growth spurt that catapulted him into the center position and the national limelight at Kentucky under Coach Cal's championship roster), and the body of Kevin Garnett or Tim Duncan. He's already proved that talent-wise he could be one of the three to four best power forwards or centers of all-time.
But, from an importance to a team perspective, this year Davis has shown the world that he may not be as important as fans initially suggested. During AD's demand for a trade soap opera-esque episode, the Pelicans actually fared better when Davis was off of the court. Young players like Julius Randle (another Kentucky big) and Jahlil Okafor (#DukeInTheNBA) were able to grow into their own games, and showcase their skills as prioritized post players. Jrue Holiday, an ultra talented combo guard who's improved year-in and year-out, has managed to excel during the games that featured Anthony's absence.
Frankly, I don't know exactly why Davis is so fed up with the talent around him in New Orleans. Jrue, Randle, and Jahlil are a talented core for the Pelicans to build around moving forward once the front office finally makes a Davis transaction.
I do imagine that AD is going to be an absolute force on whichever team he ends up on moving forward. Whether it be the Celtics, Lakers, Knicks, or some other team that's not at the forefront of the hunt, the big man is going to show the world exactly what he's capable of on the biggest of stages. It would be a complete shock to me if he didn't win a championship in the next 5-6 years.
His talent is eye-poppingly impressive when you take a peak at his statistics, but it's even more impressive when you just sit down and watch him play a game of basketball. Here's what AD's stats look like this year in comparison to the rest of his career.
Anthony Davis Statistics
Career: 23.7 PPG, 10.5 RPG, 2.1 APG, 51.7% FG, 31.4% 3PT, 79.5% FT, 1.4 SPG, 2.4 BPG, 1.9 TO
This season: 25.9 PPG, 12 RPG, 3.9 APG, 51.7% FG, 33.1% 3PT, 79.4% FT, 1.6 SPG, 2.4 BPG, 2 TO
Davis has had a career season despite his trade demanding temper tantrum. He's pumped his assists per game up to nearly four, doubling his career average, and is hardly averaging any more turnovers despite this escalation.
The downside of this improvement in his playmaking ability is that his unselfishness has declined his scoring output by nearly two and a half points. AD was once a big that was capable of dropping anywhere between 30-40 points on any given night. This season, we just haven't seen that tenacity on his behalf to put the ball in the basket at the same rate we've been accustomed to the past two seasons.
It's safe to say that Davis still hasn't reached his ultimate peak yet, but he's definitely going to need a change of scenery if he's ever going to fully reach his maximum potential. Although that may be the case, Davis isn't officially a free agent until not this off-season, but the next (contrary to popular belief). Hopefully the Pelicans can reach a reasonable deal this summer which will result in Davis playing alongside another certified superstar for the first time in his career (I don't consider Boogie a "superstar" quite yet).