Power Ranking Every NBA Team's Best Sidekick

Bryant KnoxFeatured ColumnistSeptember 17, 2012

Power Ranking Every NBA Team's Best Sidekick

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    The NBA is full of superstars, and while they’re often the ones who receive the most credit, the sidekicks deserve recognition for the important roles they play throughout an 82-game season.

    Every contender needs a go-to scorer, but maybe it's just as important to have a complementary player who makes the star’s job that much easier.

    For every Batman there’s a Robin, and with a league full of super teams and Big Threes, there are a number of great players who help their squads despite being the No. 2 options.

    Ahead, we'll rank those from worst to first.

30. Charlotte Bobcats: Gerald Henderson

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    Michael Kidd-Gilchrist may not be the Charlotte Bobcats’ leading scorer this year, but there’s a very good chance he’ll become the leader of the team in his rookie season.

    With the 18-year-old as the potential face of the franchise, the next-most reliable player could prove to be Gerald Henderson.

    Henderson is coming off a career year in which he averaged 15.1 points, 4.1 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game.

    Kemba Walker, Ramon Sessions and Ben Gordon will all have an opportunity to play important roles, but if Henderson can carry his success from 2012 into the new year, he’ll be the right-hand man to Kidd-Gilchrist throughout the 2013 campaign.

29. Detroit Pistons: Rodney Stuckey

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    Greg Monroe is becoming one of the NBA’s best up-and-coming centers, and behind him, Rodney Stuckey has to be considered the Detroit Pistons' next-best player.

    The 26-year-old point guard averaged 14.8 points last season. While he only recorded 3.8 assists per game, he has the potential to be a great piece alongside sophomore guard Brandon Knight.

    If Andre Drummond can come into the league and prove he is one of the best big men in basketball, he could become the team’s No. 1 option. This could push Greg Monroe into the role of sidekick sooner rather than later.

28. Orlando Magic: Glen Davis

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    Glen Davis deserves a ton of credit for what he did for the Orlando Magic in Dwight Howard’s absence late last season.

    Despite career averages of just 7.9 points and 4.3 rebounds, the big man recorded 19.0 points and 9.2 rebounds in the playoffs last year.

    With the way Davis performed down the stretch, he has a chance to spend 2013 as the team’s best player—or at least move up this list. However, until we see it for longer stretches of time, Jameer Nelson remains Orlando’s safest option and overall floor general on a rebuilding squad.

27. Cleveland Cavaliers: Anderson Varejao

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    The Cleveland Cavaliers selected Dion Waiters with the No. 4 pick in the NBA draft. While he has the potential to become the team’s best player behind Kyrie Irving, he must prove that he was worthy of such a high pick before being handed such high praise.

    Anderson Varejao is the kind of player who simply makes the hustle plays and can keep the team going with his energy night in and night out.

    Having averaged 10.8 points and 11.5 rebounds per game last year, Varejao had his best NBA season to date.

    Tristan Thompson has a real shot at taking over the role of No. 2 if Varejao slips and Waiters never shows up, but for now, you have to take an established commodity over potential on such an unproven roster.

26. Toronto Raptors: Jonas Valanciunas

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    Assuming Kyle Lowry will come in and be the Toronto Raptors' best player this season, he’ll have a number of solid candidates to take over the sidekick role.

    Depending on who gets the starting nod, Landry Fields or Terrence Ross could very well become the No. 2 option. DeMar DeRozan also has a chance if he can become a more consistent player.

    That being said, European big man Jonas Valanciunas has a chance to make a huge impact during his rookie season.

    The 6’11” center is a mobile big man, and while he needs to add muscle, he can be the one who adds toughness and balance to a perimeter-oriented Raptors team this season.

25. Phoenix Suns: Goran Dragic

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    It may sound crazy, but Michael Beasley may have finally found the perfect system for him to become a No. 1 option.

    If Beasley can truly put his energy into scoring points and playing uptempo, this team could become his, and Goran Dragic could go down as the next-best player on the Phoenix Suns roster.

    Dragic is coming off a career year, and with the Suns’ style of play catering to his game, he could step his performance up another level in Phoenix this year.

    Marcin Gortat deserves recognition for his production last season, but with Steve Nash gone, he’ll have to show that his numbers were more than just a byproduct of playing alongside one of the best facilitators that the NBA has to offer.

24. Washington Wizards: Bradley Beal

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    The Washington Wizards have had a busy offseason, and no move should prove to be better for their future than drafting Bradley Beal with the No. 3 pick in the NBA draft.

    Beal is a player who has a very high ceiling and should prove to be a playmaker right away.

    If he can crack the starting lineup over Jordan Crawford, he’ll make for a great No. 2 option behind John Wall with his shooting and scoring ability this season.

    Beal has the potential to rank higher on this list, but for now, we’ll have to wait and see exactly what his role is as the season progresses.

23. Houston Rockets: Jeremy Lin

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    Jeremy Lin is coming off of one of the more memorable seasons in recent memory.

    Having made a name for himself with the New York Kicks last year, the 24-year-old point guard has a chance to take his game to another level with the Houston Rockets.

    When put in the right situation, Lin can be both a scorer and a facilitator, and it will be interesting to see what his true role ends up being on his new team.

    Lin has a lot to improve upon when it comes to his game—namely turnovers—but on a Rockets roster with potentially more questions than answers, he could establish himself as one of the team’s best players behind Kevin Martin this season.

22. Portland Trail Blazers: Damian Lillard

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    How does a player who has never played a professional game rank ahead of so many players on his own NBA roster?

    By being as talented and having as much promise as Damian Lillard.

    Lillard was the sixth overall pick in the 2012 NBA draft, and he enters the league as the Portland Trail Blazers' starting point guard from day one.

    It also doesn’t hurt that the Blazers are a young team full of unproven prospects.

    LaMarcus Aldridge is the clear-cut leader in Portland, but behind him are two so-called veterans in 25-year-old Wesley Matthews and 23-year-old Nicolas Batum.

    Batum has a real chance at taking over the No. 2 role, but if Lillard pans out the way Portland hopes he will, the point guard has a shot at becoming the second-best player on this team very early in his playing days.

21. Philadelphia 76ers: Jrue Holiday

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    Although the Philadelphia 76ers don’t have a clear-cut No. 1 option at this point in the summer, it’s likely that Andrew Bynum takes over the gig under one of the best coaches in the Association, Doug Collins.

    If Bynum is able to be a primary scorer, Jrue Holiday could emerge as the second option behind the big man.

    Holiday’s numbers last year were a bit of a decline from those of 2011, but at 22 years old, the guard has a chance to truly take his game to another level with Andre Iguodala in Denver this season.

    Evan Turner is also primed for a breakout year, and if he can step up his game and show more production and consistency, he could become the second-best player on this team by the time the season is done.

20. New Orleans Hornets: Anthony Davis

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    It’s been quite a year for the New Orleans Hornets’ Anthony Davis.

    After being named the AP College Basketball Player of the Year and winning an NCAA championship, Davis was the consensus No. 1 pick in the draft and was chosen to represent the United States in Olympic competition.

    His success should carry over to the NBA, as his defensive presence will make him a leader even if his offensive game never fully develops.

    This team improved drastically this summer, and behind Eric Gordon, Davis should be the face of the franchise moving forward.

19. Dallas Mavericks: O.J. Mayo

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    O.J. Mayo has been riddled with inconsistency throughout his career. While a change of scenery isn’t always the solution, it just might be exactly what the 24-year-old guard needed.

    Next to Dirk Nowitzki, Mayo has a chance to take over a complementary role right away with the Dallas Mavericks.

    Mayo has been used as a reserve for a good part of his career. Now, with the prospect of earning a permanent spot in the starting lineup, he has a chance to show us all what he can do moving forward. 

18. Utah Jazz: Paul Millsap

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    Al Jefferson led the Utah Jazz in points, rebounds and blocks in 2012, but Paul Millsap has been a viable second option despite his size at the power forward position.

    At just 6’8”, Millsap averaged 16.6 points, 8.8 rebounds and 1.8 steals per game for the Jazz last year.

    Millsap is a high-energy player, which should match up nicely with Mo Williams and Marvin Williams this season.

    Derrick Favors is a very good up-and-coming big man, but as long as Millsap continues to produce, he’ll be a crucial part of this team’s success moving forward.

17. Golden State Warriors: Andrew Bogut

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    The Golden State Warriors should push for a playoff spot this season. With Monta Ellis now on the Milwaukee Bucks, the No. 1 spot has to fall directly to Stephen Curry.

    As for No. 2? That’s a more complicated issue.

    With Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes and David Lee all on the roster, any one of them could show their value this year. But if Andrew Bogut can come back healthy, he could prove to be the most important piece to the equation behind Curry.

    The seven-footer has been riddled with injuries his entire career. While he’s never been the most dominant presence down low, he’s always been competent as long as he can stay healthy.

    There are possibilities all over the board for another No. 2, but with such a fast-paced offense in place, Bogut could add a balance to the team that they wouldn’t have with Ellis still on the roster.

16. San Antonio Spurs: Tim Duncan

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    Naming the San Antonio Spurs’ second-most important player is tricky for any fan who appreciates what the Big Three has done throughout their time together.

    After an MVP-like season, Tony Parker truly established himself as the No. 1 option last year. While Manu Ginobili can still be productive, he will need to stay healthy following his injury-riddled 2012 campaign.

    Historically speaking, Tim Duncan deserves a much higher ranking on this list. However, heading into his 16th NBA season, he’s no longer the All-Star he once was.

    It’s more than possible than Manu Ginobili comes back healthy and plays the role of No. 2 this season. However, if Duncan remains a reliable presence—both inside and out—and continues to pull down boards and block shots, he’ll be the second-most important player in San Antonio.

15. Minnesota Timberwolves: Ricky Rubio

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    The Minnesota Timberwolves have an up-and-coming roster. With one of the league’s best players in Kevin Love leading the way, Ricky Rubio has a chance to shine if healthy this season.

    Before falling to injury in 2012, Rubio was having a fantastic rookie year.

    With averages of 10.6 points, 8.2 assists and 2.2 steals per game, Rubio was a crucial part of the team’s push at the playoffs.

    The Wolves will look differently than they did last season, but if their pace stays the same and Rubio is allowed to create, he’ll help the Wolves take the next step toward returning to the postseason.

14. Denver Nuggets: Andre Iguodala

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    Andre Iguodala has played the part of go-to player throughout a good portion of his career. Now finding himself with the Denver Nuggets, he may take a step back to a more comfortable role as the No. 2 option.

    Ty Lawson isn’t a superstar in this league, but with the strides he’s taken early in his career, it’s not difficult to picture the Nuggets becoming his team before the end of the 2013 season.

    Iguodala should be able to come in and add to the team’s already-fast pace. His numbers are solid, his shooting is reliable, and his ability to play in the fast break will complement Lawson’s ability to push the tempo.

    This team was good last year, but with Iguodala on the roster, they have a chance to push themselves deeper into the playoffs.

13. Milwaukee Bucks: Brandon Jennings

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    Brandon Jennings has been the No. 1 option on the Milwaukee Bucks in the past, but with Monta Ellis now on the roster, the 22-year-old guard will likely become the sidekick in this year’s rotation.

    Jennings can be a dynamic scorer at times, but he has struggled with consistency—as well as his jump shot—since arriving to the league in 2009.

    He is a great player with loads of potential, but with a career shooting percentage of 39.3 percent from the field, he may take a bit of a backseat to Ellis in 2013.

12. Sacramento Kings: DeMarcus Cousins

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    Depending on how they’re playing throughout the season, Marcus Thornton and Tyreke Evans seemingly switch back and forth as the No. 1 and No. 3 options on the Sacramento Kings.

    The No. 2 option? That belongs to DeMarcus Cousins all the way.

    Cousins averaged 18.1 points, 11.0 rebounds and 1.2 blocks last year. Despite his inconsistencies, he had a number of downright dominant performances.

    With another great showing, Cousins will absolutely work his way up this list—if not up to the No. 1 option for Sacramento—but with consistency and maturity issues still lingering, we’ll have to see how he progresses heading into the new season.

11. Memphis Grizzlies: Marc Gasol

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    Marc Gasol is a center who has become reliable on both ends of the floor.

    His strength is one of his biggest assets. While he's not a No. 1 option by any means, he uses his massive frame to bully players down low.

    Having averaged 14.6 points, 8.9 rebounds and 1.9 blocks last season, he was arguably the best player on the team behind an All-Star-caliber player in Rudy Gay.

    If Zach Randolph can come back healthy in 2013, he’ll have a legitimate chance of regaining the No. 2 spot on this roster, but for the time being, Gasol deserves credit for his 2012 showing.

10. Chicago Bulls: Luol Deng

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    Luol Deng’s health will play a big role in how well—and how much—he plays this season. If he is able to take the court in 2013, he’ll be one of the most important pieces as long as Derrick Rose is sidelined.

    Joakim Noah has the potential to become the Chicago Bulls’ second-best player, but with Deng on the roster, you know you have an All-Star at the small forward position.

    Rose remains this team’s best player whether he plays or not, but if Deng can play the way he did last season, he could be the team’s most effective player in their superstar’s absence.

9. Atlanta Hawks: Al Horford

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    With Joe Johnson gone this season, the Atlanta Hawks should officially become Josh Smith’s team.

    Smith should be the leader in a number of statistical categories, but big man Al Horford should be right there next to him as a crucial part of this team’s playoff pursuit.

    Horford has played away from his natural power forward position his entire career, but his incredible strength and ability to spread the floor have made him a force despite being an undersized center.

    If Horford can stay healthy in 2013, he’ll be one of the better big men in the league when all is said and done.

8. Indiana Pacers: Roy Hibbert

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    The Indiana Pacers are one of the fortunate few teams in the NBA that has a relatively young roster yet is seemingly past most of the growing pains.

    Behind Danny Granger, Roy Hibbert has to be considered the anchor of the team that challenged the Miami Heat in the second round of the 2011-12 postseason.

    Although Hibbert only averaged 12.8 points per game last year, he proved he can be a dominant inside presence in the playoffs with his 11.2 per-game rebounding average and 3.1 blocked shots.

    Hibbert has the potential to become a greater force on offense. If he can learn to fully utilize his 7’2” frame, he’ll become one of the best two-way centers currently in the game.

7. Brooklyn Nets: Joe Johnson

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    Joe Johnson will have to adjust to a new role as second fiddle with the Brooklyn Nets, but alongside one of the best point guards in the NBA in Deron Williams, it will be a move he’ll have to make for the team to succeed this season.

    Much was made about Johnson’s contract this summer, and while it is one of the heftiest currently on the market, he’s no scrub coming into a new-look Nets organization.

    Johnson averaged 18.8 points in 2012, and while the team won’t likely run as many isolation sets as the Atlanta Hawks, he’ll still find ways to score alongside Williams this season.

6. New York Knicks: Amar’e Stoudemire

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    Criticize Amar’e Stoudemire all you want about the way the New York Knicks’ season ended—both on and off the court—but the 29-year-old big man is still one of the best power forwards in the game today.

    Stoudemire is coming off a season in which he averaged an unusually low 17.5 points per game (as well as only 7.9 rebounds), but he remains a presence who can make plays and dominate a game with his incredible athleticism.

    As one of the best pick-and-roll bigs in the league, he can finish strong at the rim or pull back and keep defenses honest with his midrange jumper.

    If Stoudemire can stay healthy and bounce back from an off year in 2012, he’ll prove once again why he's still one of the league's elite players.

5. Boston Celtics: Paul Pierce

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    Paul Pierce is getting older, but having spent 14 years with the same team, he remains one of the true faces of the Boston Celtics organization.

    To some, he is still the best player on the team. His point-per-game average is still around 20, and his fingerprints are all over the stat sheet as his playing days continue.

    To most, however, Rajon Rondo has taken over that title.

    Pierce is past his prime; there’s no denying that. Even if Rondo is the team's best player, the 34-year-old Pierce can still make a difference and will continue to be the top scoring option as long as he can keep producing.

4. Los Angeles Clippers: Blake Griffin

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    Blake Griffin’s career didn’t start the way he’d hoped, but after a knee injury that sidelined him for his entire rookie season, he’s bounced back tremendously and become one of the most exciting players in the entire NBA.

    The 6’10”, 251-pound power forward is an incredible leaper and can finish over virtually anybody, with power unmatched by most in this league.

    His ability to run the floor matches up nicely with Chris Paul, and he even handles the ball well for a player of his position.

    His game must continue to improvement in certain areas—his jump shot still needs work and his defense is suspect—but there’s no denying that last season’s averages of 20.7 points and 10.9 rebounds make him a viable partner alongside one of the best point guards that the NBA has to offer.

3. Oklahoma City Thunder: Russell Westbrook

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    Russell Westbrook is quickly becoming one of the NBA’s best point guards. If it wasn’t for Kevin Durant, he’d be the best player on a young, talented Oklahoma City Thunder roster.

    The 23-year-old guard averaged 23.6 points, 5.5 assists and 4.6 rebounds per game in 2012.

    Averaging a near career low in assists last season—and a career high in field-goal attempts—his decision-making skills have come under question the past few years, and rightfully so. Nonetheless, his ability to attack the rim is up there with the best that the league has to offer.

    His fast-break pull-up jumper is becoming one of the more unstoppable moves in the NBA. If you step up on him, he’ll dribble past you and explode at the rim. If you stay back, he’ll rise up and drain the jumper.

    Westbrook was nearly in the top 10 for MVP votes last season, and if you want to claim he deserves an even higher ranking on this list, you won’t hear many complaints. The Thunder clearly made it work between him and Durant throughout their 2012 championship run.

2. Miami Heat: Dwyane Wade

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    In the eyes of most reasonable onlookers, LeBron James’ historic 2012 season finally helped establish himself as the clear-cut best player on the Miami Heat.

    During James’ first season in Miami, it would have been a toss-up as to whose team it was—with the edge probably going to Wade. But after the MVP performance he put together all last year, James has become the man heading into the 2013 season.

    However, this isn’t to take away from what Wade has done for this team.

    Despite missing 17 games to injury, Wade averaged 22.1 points, 4.6 assists and 4.8 rebounds en route to the Heat’s championship achievement.

    Wade has conceded to the notion that he now plays behind James. While that may be true in Miami at this point, the 30-year-old megastar would be the No. 1 option on virtually every other team in the NBA.

1. Los Angeles Lakers: Dwight Howard

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    There’s no better No. 2 option in the Association than the best center in the game, Dwight Howard.

    Howard has been a go-to scorer with the Orlando Magic his entire career, and while he’s still a franchise player, he’s going to be joining a squad that has been—and still is—Kobe Bryant’s team.

    The new Princeton offense will be great in Los Angeles when it comes to creating motion and teamwork this season, but it may not be the best style of play when it comes to getting Howard involved—at least right away.

    If you want to claim that Howard will be Batman and Bryant will be Robin, you have an argument.

    But until we see age finally catch up to Bryant—or Howard truly command the team early this year—the 34-year-old veteran will remain the No. 1 option on the Lakers moving forward.