Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
Ty Lawson, Denver Nuggets
Mike Conley, Memphis Grizzlies
Ricky Rubio, Minnesota Timberwolves
Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers
Brandon Jennings, Milwaukee Bucks
Lawson has evolved into a top-notch floor manager. He makes quick and coherent decisions, is impossible to defend off the dribble and absolutely lethal in transition.
His three-point shooting has reached a new level as well. His percentage has declined, but he's now attempting more than three a game and hitting over 36 percent of them.
What truly hinders Lawson is his size. He forces a sufficient amount of steals, but when defending bigger guards, he gets killed on post-ups and screens. Still, he's a warrior.
Well, actually, he's a member of the Nuggets, but you get my point.
If you're not a fan of Mike Conley, you're not a proponent of stellar basketball. He's an understated playmaker with a tight handle. He can switch directions and hands on a whim. His defensive intensity is through the roof, but then again, he plays for the Grizzlies.
Conley has the potential to be a star, but I'm not sure if he feels the same way. He doesn't look for his shot enough, almost like he'll be waived if he averages more than 12 shot attempts per game.
Rubio can be elite. He's an incisive passer with great instincts and seemingly breaks down defenses before he crosses the timeline. He's got Chris Paul-like hands on defense, but he plays a bit far off his defenders, seemingly deeming it a necessary sacrifice to clog the passing lanes. But it's not (again, see Paul).
Rubio needs to add some lift, rotation and arc to his jump shot before he starts toiling with elite-level status. Like yesterday.
Raise your hand if you thought Lillard would be the runaway candidate for Rookie of the Year. Now, for those of you raising your hands, check your pants, because they're on fire.
Lillard was revered for his scoring at Weber State, much like he is at the NBA level. Few could have foreseen how well he has adjusted to running an offense, though. Ball control and reading first steps on defense are aspects of his game he needs to improve, but otherwise, all indications are that he's a star in the making.
I've said a whole lot of unflattering things about Jennings in the past, and rightfully so. To understand just how inefficient he is, consider that he makes Russell Westbrook look like one of the more accurate offensive players in the league.
Nevertheless, he can light up the scoreboard, and he's not a cursory passer. Perhaps if he switches locales this summer, he'll find himself with a team that can surround him with the talent necessary to succeed, help him adjust his attitude and allow him to leapfrog a tier or two.