Power Ranking the NBA's Most Reckless Slashers
The jump shot will always be a fundamental element in the game of basketball. But on the nightly highlight shows, the ones who are celebrated the most are those who attack the the basket "with no regard for human life," as TNT's Kevin Harlan would describe it.
They are the slashers, the ones who dive to the rim seemingly oblivious to the chaos that surrounds them. The ones who are a jab-step or a crossover away from immortality (at least on YouTube, anyway). They are the latest in a long and storied line of players that includes Allen Iverson, Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant, among a host of others.
Of course, it should be noted that the three players above became far more crafty in the twilight of their respective careers, eschewing their reckless style to play more of a perimeter game.
So as we rank the best slashers in the NBA today, make sure to enjoy this current crop while you still can.
8. Tyreke Evans, Sacramento Kings
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No perimeter player in the league gets to basket as often as Sacramento's Tyreke Evans, a trait honed on the playgrounds of Chester, Penn. On the year, Evans is averaging 7.3 field goal attempts at the rim per game, tops among guards and third-best in the entire NBA.
The 6'6" Evans has exceptional size for a point guard, and his 220-pound frame allows him to absorb contact from opposing big men. Many of his dives toward the rim are ill-advised, however, resulting in more turnovers than most coaches would typically accept from their primary playmaker. Even so, very few guards can match up physically with Evans, so don't expect him to start settling for jump shots any time soon.
7. John Wall, Washington Wizards
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There may not be five more explosive players in the NBA than John Wall, Washington's blazingly-fast point guard with court vision that coaches dream of.
Speed is the key to Wall's game, and his ability to blow by defenders is what makes him productive despite a below-average jumper. If and when Wall improves his mid-range game, his offensive skill set will be on par with that of Derrick Rose.
Wall's reckless style led to a few nagging injuries last season, but even as he's increased his drives to the basket this year, Wall has been noticeably more careful in avoiding unnecessary contact. Provided that he stays healthy, he could be at or near the top of this ranking in very short order.
6. Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder
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Over the past two seasons, Russell Westbrook has made a conscious effort to get to the rim more often. Consequently, his field-goal percentage has risen from 41.8 percent back in 2009-10 to an impressive 47.5 percent this year.
Ball security is (and will likely remain) an issue with Westbrook due to his rash playing style, but a turnover or three is a small price to pay for everything that Westbrook provides to the Thunder offense.
It's no secret that he benefits greatly from the presence of Kevin Durant, and when Westbrook is matched up one-on-one with a defender, the play usually results in the young Oklahoma City point guard exploding to the basket for an easy dunk.
5. Monta Ellis, Milwaukee Bucks
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It's a shame that Monta Ellis now plays in the NBA's version of Siberia. With his recent trade to Milwaukee, most NBA fans won't get to see exactly how explosive the 6'3" guard can be.
Ellis' athleticism is freakishly impressive, and his crossover is among the best in the league. Yes...his PER isn't impressive, and he turns the rock over quite a bit, but Ellis excels at putting the ball in the basket, and he does just that in a variety of ways.
Now that he shares a backcourt with a young playmaker in Brandon Jennings, Ellis may be even more effective slashing to the basket as a member of the Bucks. No longer required to jump-start the offense on his own, expect him to be a little more carefree as he goes face-to-face with opposing bigs.
4. Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat
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Two years ago, Dwyane Wade would have led this list. But now, with eight-plus seasons under his belt, the 6'4" shooting guard has developed a solid mid-range game, eliminating the need for reckless drives to the basket.
That said, Wade's Euro Step is one of the hardest moves to defend in the NBA, and the Miami superstar uses it to knife through defenses with what appears to be little effort. Once he beats his man, there's not much that a help defender can do—even at 30 years old, Wade may be without peer when it comes to finishing at the rim.
Of course, it doesn't hurt matters that he plays alongside LeBron James; the threat of either of them breaking down their respective defensive assignment makes both of them that much more difficult to cover.
3. Rajon Rondo, Boston Celtics
The knock on Boston's Rajon Rondo is that his jump shot leaves much to be desired. But he's still found a way to be a career 48.2 percent shooter thanks to his ability to slash to the rack.
In fact, his sub-par jumper may work to his benefit, as defenses often give him ample space to operate and set up his drives to the basket. Rondo may be the quickest player in the league with the ball in his hands, deftly weaving around defenses while searching for just the right path to the hoop.
Unlike most slashers, the natural point guard instincts never seem to leave Rondo, as he's always looking to make the perfect pass to an open man if the opposing defense collapses on him.
2. LeBron James, Miami Heat
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In some ways, it isn't fair to classify LeBron James as a "reckless slasher." After all, he is 6'8" and 250 pounds—at that size, you can do pretty much whatever you want on the basketball court with little regard for the outcome.
Then again, it's hard to put any sort of tag on James, especially considering that he can handle the ball like a point guard, run the break to perfection and attack the basket better than virtually anyone we've ever seen.
This season, his field goal percentage at the rim is a ridiculous 76.8 percent, leaps and bounds above the league average. And while he can (and often does) break down defenders on the perimeter, James typically relies on mere brute force to make his way to the rack. It usually works.
1. Derrick Rose, Chicago Bulls
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Is Chicago's Derrick Rose the best point guard in the NBA? That question is still up for debate. But there's no denying that the Bulls' young superstar is the league's most reckless slasher.
Rose's drives to the basket are reminiscent of a young Allen Iverson. Unfortunately, those years of attacking the rim took a toll on Iverson's body, and the 23-year-old Rose is already beginning to show signs of wear and tear. Groin, toe and back injuries have already caused the 6'3" guard to miss significant time this year, so expect him to be a tad more cautious once he returns to the lineup.
The reigning MVP obviously does a lot of things well, but his body control might be his greatest asset. Several times a night, Rose contorts himself in seemingly ridiculous ways so that he can get a shot off from an incredible angle. Most of the time, those shots fall, and Rose has yet another clip on his personal highlight reel.