Kristaps Porzingis is the 40th Best Player in Basketball

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Throughout the offseason, Pick and Popovich will rank the top 50 players in the NBA. To be clear, these are 50 best players for the 2016-17 season, regardless of team situation, past performance or future potential. If you’re trying to win a championship in 2016-17, these are the 50 players you’d want most. 

Why He’s Great: Last season, as a rookie, Kristaps Porzingis had a game in which he made two three-pointers, blocked seven shots, grabbed 14 rebounds and turned the ball over only three times. That has never happened in NBA history. I repeat, that has NEVER happened in NBA history. Here’s the proof. Keep in mind, this happened when he was a rookie.

And things like this are going to keep happening. Nothing can be taken off of the board. Might the Knicks try him as the ball-handler in a pick-and-roll? Is he mobile enough to play small forward in ultra big lineups? Imagine a super villain cloned Dirk Nowitzki, but some of Hakeem Olajuwon’s DNA was already in the vile and then they just stuck a bit of flubber on his shoes for fun. That’s pretty much what we’re looking at with KP.

There is absolutely no precedent for what Kristaps Porzingis might one day become. We’re talking about an all-time rim protecter who projects as a future knockdown shooter. He’s 7’3”, but he still played in 72 games as a rookie. As far as we can tell, he’s a one-of-a-kind player who’s going to be durable enough to stay on the court enough to prove it.

Why He’s Below No. 39 (Kemba Walker): We have no idea when Porzingis is going to hit his peak because his peak simply doesn’t exist in NBA history. There’s no timetable for his development. He might turn into a superstar as early as next season. He also might just be a slightly better version of his rookie self, someone good for 16 or 17 inefficient points and a mixed bag of rebounding, passing and shot-blocking. No. 40 is splitting the difference. Kemba Walker is a star right now. He already is who he’s going to be as a player, and that’s much easier to project.

And it’s not as though Porzingis is a flawless super player. He’s so skinny that bigger forwards and centers can still bully him. His basketball IQ still has a long way to go and there are still certain defensive rotations that make him look lost. And for all of the blustering about what his shot is going to be, over his last 20 games of last season he made fewer than 30% of his three’s.

We have to be honest about who Porzingis is right now, a gawky pseudo-rookie barely out of his teens without a stable organization to guide him. He’s going to be great. But right now, he’s just good.

J.J. Redick is the 41st Best Player in Basketball

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Throughout the offseason, Pick and Popovich will rank the top 50 players in the NBA. To be clear, these are 50 best players for the 2016-17 season, regardless of team situation, past performance or future potential. If you’re trying to win a championship in 2016-17, these are the 50 players you’d want most. 

Why He’s GreatJ.J. Redick might’ve just had the second-best shooting season in NBA history. He became just the second player ever to make at least 200 three-pointers and shooting 47.5% or better from long range. Only Kyle Korver has ever done that, but you completely didn’t notice because of everything Stephen Curry did.

But shooting is far from Redick’s only contribution. He’s one of the more underrated defenders in basketball. Opposing shooters shot 3.3% worse against Redick than against an average defender and the Clippers’ defense was 3.3 points per 100 possessions worse without Redick on the floor than with him. He’s one of the more physical defenders of his size in basketball and he never gets any credit for it.

He can even dribble a little bit! He made 53.4% of shots on drives last season and averaged two per game. That’s not a huge number, but it’s added value. Most catch-and-shooters can’t move with the ball. That Redick can makes him that much more dangerous.

Redick’s reputation is based largely on opinions formed when he was in college. It’s stupid. He’s one of the best two-way players in basketball and it’s time we started treating him like it.

Why He’s Below No. 40 (Kristaps Porzingis): Because all of those things Redick does well, Porzingis does too. And Porzingis is 7’3”. A 7’3” shooter/dribbler/defender is more important than a  6’4” shooter/dribbler/defender.

Plus, Redick is getting older. He’s 32 and has played 10 seasons. Shooting ages well, but other skills don’t. He’s going to start wearing down, and his foot was hurt far worse than anyone believed at the time. There’s every reason to believe that he’s going to get better and have a great season, but most of the players on this list are in their 20’s. Redick is at a disadvantage against them.

And Redick’s skills are inherently complementary. Yes, he can dribble, but he can dribble in the way that Scooby Doo can speak. It’s technically true but would you want Scooby Doo giving a lecture on particle physics? No, because his English is great for a dog but crappy by normal standards. Redick’s best skills work far better with great teammates than they do with crappy ones. He never has to defend the best guard on the other team, he gets plenty of open three’s, these are things that happen when you play with Chris Paul. Redick can’t be blamed for that, but he loses some credit. Paul makes everyone look great.

Fake NBA Trade of the Day 4/29/16: Cousins to the Knicks

Boogie Knicks

Every day, Pick and Popovich will post one fake trade and explain why it makes sense for every team involved to make it. There are no parameters beyond fitting within the salary cap. Sometimes the trades will involve stars, others role players. They are not grounded in actual rumors, they just make sense on paper. During the 2016 NBA Playoffs, each week will feature seven fake trades of one star player. This is DeMarcus Cousins Week. 

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Sacramento Kings Receive:                                                  New York Knicks Receive:

Kristaps Porzingis                                                                     DeMarcus Cousins

Robin Lopez                                                                                Marco Belinelli

Jose Calderon

                                                             

Why Sacramento would make this trade: Because Kristaps Porzingis is a future franchise player they’d control for at least four more seasons and, in all likelihood, closer to eight or nine. That gives them plenty of time to convince him to stick around and maybe build a contender.

 

Why New York would make this trade: Because Phil Jackson is old. He doesn’t want to wait around for Porzingis to hit his prime. With Cousins and Carmelo Anthony he’d have two stars right now. He could go all in for a title over the next few years. Would it work? Probably not. But it’s at least conceivable.