Climbing the Charts: Two Sixers top 25 under 25
Think the Sixers’ season and future is completely derailed by Andrew Bynum? Think again! ESPN released their list of top 25 NBA players under the age of 25 and wouldn’t you know it, there are two 76ers on that list.
Despite how hard I tend to be on the hometown hoops team (I do it out of love, I swear) this is actually a pretty big achievement, especially for a team as down in the dumps as ours currently is.
The rankings are based on current stats, natural potential, projected wins above replacement player (WARP) over the next 3 seasons and, well, age (duh).
In case you hadn’t been able to guess the two yet, the big unveil:
Courtesy of: ESPN.Com
(To put these rankings in perspective: Kevin Durant is #1, Eric Beldsoe is number 25. Jrue is sandwiched between Kenneth Faried and Anthony Davis. Thaddeus is between Nicolas Batum and Paul George.)
Thoughts? Well as past gushing and forthcoming articles have and will attest, I could not agree more with Jrue’s inclusion on this list. Thought I might just quibble about where on the list he falls. Or, more specifically, who is above him.
Brook Lopez, Steph Curry and Kenneth Faried are all ranked ahead of Holiday, in that order. While I don’t for a minute doubt the skill or potential of any of them, I’d argue Jrue would be drafted ahead of them in any franchise building exercise. He nears or betters all of them now, and is the youngest of the group as well.
Most importantly, Holiday’s upside is not limited by a singular critical flaw, which cannot be said of those other three. Lopez is a bad rebounder for his size and position. A really bad one. And, after 5 years in the league, that’s not something anyone expects him to fix.
Curry, while a lethal sharpshooter and good passer, will likely never bulk up enough to be a plus defender. Not to mention his ankles of glass which have to worry every Golden State fan.
Faried, while filled with boundless energy and breathtaking athleticism, is rather undersized as a power forward, has no touch or reliable offensive game. He will never be a number one (or possibly even number 2) option on a playoff team, I’d say that’s a decent hamper on potential.
Jrue on the other hand, is in no way encumbered. I would argue that none of his weaknesses: turnovers, getting to the free-throw line…that’s about it actually… Are anywhere near irreparable. In fact, looking at the way other young guards have developed, those are the two most likely things to mature out of his game naturally.
But I really shouldn’t quibble over Jrue, he made it onto this list for the second time in his short career (coming in at #24 last year). And, he still has two more seasons of growth to rise a bit higher.
Thad on the other hand, I have some reservations about.
While I know this list in part uses WAR projections and other behind the scenes advanced stats to complile. I just don’t see Thad having the upside of the others guys on this list, especially some of those ranked lower. Quite the contrary. I feel Young may be maximizing his potential right now.
Much has been made of his off-season muscle gain. And it’s certainly helped him take a step up in production, especially in terms of rebounding and post defense. But I don’t know where else it’s going to be feasible for him to improve. Shooting? Dribbling? Haven’t seen any of it yet.
Keep in mind that while still months shy of his 25th birthday, Young has been in the league for six years now, and I’ve never heard of him being a laggard in practice. If he hasn’t developed a consistent 20-foot jumper yet, he may just not have the touch or mechanics for it. Plenty of players plateau in terms of a specific silo of development. Sadly, it seems, Thad’s jumper and handle fit that bill.
Now it’s possible playing next to another legit big (Bynum for an off-chance example) may open the game up for him a little bit more and give his stats the jump needed to be considered “near elite” but that remains to be seen. No doubt playing with a legitimate PG this year has helped immensely.
All that said, it’s worth remembering that Thaddeus Young was once ranked as the third best high school prospect in the country behind only Greg Oden and Kevin Durant. If Oden hadn’t gone villain in “Unbreakable”, he would surely be on this list and the company would seem all the more elite.
Notice that you don’t remember the 4th guy from that class. As it turned out, Young rested on the precipice of a talent gulf that year. Oden and Durant got away with all the talent (if not the health) while Young made away some, he is also an inherently limited player.
That critically limited talent, which describes a few others on this list, like the aforementioned Kenneth Faried, makes Young a fitting inclusion then I suppose.
Either way, for the Sixers and for my fandom, I hope I’m right about Holiday and wrong about Young.