B/R NBA 200: Ranking the Top Bigs Heading into 2016-17

Adam Fromal@fromal09National NBA Featured ColumnistSeptember 14, 2016

B/R NBA 200: Ranking the Top Bigs Heading into 2016-17

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    Bigs won't dominate 2016-17 NBA highlight reels quite as frequently as guards, but they'll still dominate games. The Association's versatile crop of frontcourt studs is now capable of thriving on both the interior and perimeter, showing off skills previously reserved for littles.

    Draymond Green is coming off a year in which he helped lead the Golden State Warriors to a record-setting 73 wins during the regular season, but is he individually superior to Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins and Paul Millsap? How high can the frontcourt trio of Nikola Jokic, Kristaps Porzingis and Karl-Anthony Towns rise after their respective rookie campaigns?

    We aren't projecting how well everyone will perform during the upcoming season, but where they are as 2016-17 gets underway. Thus, we use the end of last season as our starting point. Not every player starts out on level footing, either; The NBA 200 metric identifies those who performed best during the 2015-16 regular campaign*. Potential doesn't matter, and neither does reputation or playoff performance (too variable)—it's all about what happened this past regular season only.

    In this edition, we're looking at power forwards (PF), combo bigs (CB) and centers (C). All positions are graded using the same criteria (rim protection was added into the equation for bigger positions), but the categories are weighted differently to reflect changing roles, with max scores in parentheses: 

    • Scoring (20)
    • Non-Scoring Offense: Facilitating (5) and Off-Ball Offense (10)
    • Defense: On-Ball (15 for power forwards, 12 for combo bigs and 10 for centers), Off-Ball (15) and Rim Protection (10 for power forwards, 13 for combo bigs and 15 for centers)
    • Rebounding (15)
    • Durability (10)

    For a full explanation of how these scores were determined, go here. And do note these aren't your father's classifications for each position. Spots were determined by how much time was spent at each position throughout the season, largely based on data from Basketball-Reference.com, and we're expanding the traditional five to include four combo positions.

    In the case of ties, the order is determined in subjective fashion by ranking the more coveted player in the higher spot. That was done by a voting committee comprised of myself, three B/R National NBA Featured Columnists (Grant HughesZach Buckley and Dan Favale) and B/R Associate NBA Editor (Joel Cordes).

    There are 73 bigs considered, so you can click "Next" to start the whole list or skip ahead to Bigs 50-41 if you want.

    Wings are ranked here, with guards here and our total 200 is here.

    Note: All statistics come from Basketball-Reference.com and NBA.com unless otherwise indicated. Injury information comes from Pro Sports Transactions. In order to qualify for the rankings, players must have suited up in at least 30 games and logged no fewer than 500 minutes. This intro was adapted from last year's edition.

    *Thus, a "retired-in-the-offseason" player like Tim Duncan or Kobe Bryant will still show up here as well. Even though they're (sadly) not playing again, they're a valuable placeholder that helps show where 2016-17's bunch stacks up in comparison at the start of the season. 

73. Trey Lyles, PF, Utah Jazz

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    Scoring

    9/20

    Can Trey Lyles score? It's easy to believe after he thrived from every range as a rookie, even knocking down 38.3 percent of his three-point attempts and hitting more than 40 percent of his long twos. But the Utah Jazz often had him work as a spot-up player rather than a shot-creator or via scoring opportunities, which depressed his per-game average to a mere 6.1 points. 

    Non-Scoring Offense

    9/15

    Lyles will one day be able to space the court as a stretch 4, but his facilitating skills are more questionable. This may stem solely from the team's unwillingness to let him handle the rock, but he had trouble generating assists and finished his first professional campaign with more turnovers than dimes. 

    Defense

    30/40

    No matter how active Lyles may be away from the primary offensive flow, he won't be a quality defensive big until he protects the rim. He hemorrhaged points when not alongside Derrick Favors or Rudy Gobert and as the last line of defense. While facing three shots per game (a surprisingly large amount, given his diminished run), he allowed opponents to shoot 55 percent at the hoop. 

    Rebounding

    9/15

    The issue isn't a lack of volume or an inability to grab contested rebounds, so much as a troubling inconsistency. It's problematic when a guard can't haul in at least half of his rebounding opportunities, but it's far more disturbing when a big can't. Lyles should be thankful he checks the other boxes, because his conversion rate of just 49.9 percent would otherwise be a death knell. 

    Durability

    9/10

    Lyles played 80 games with exactly zero notable injuries, but the Jazz didn't give him a chance to earn a perfect durability score. He averaged just 17.3 minutes and wasn't nearly mobile enough on the defensive end. 

    Overall

    66/100

    Utah should be excited about Lyles' immense two-way potential, but the sharp-shooting big has plenty to work on as his career progresses. He must pick his rebounding opportunities more wisely, show better instincts while playing interior defense and prove he can maintain his impressive shooting percentages with a bigger role. 

72. Boban Marjanovic, C, Detroit Pistons

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    Scoring

    11/20

    As a per-minute scorer, Boban Marjanovic was unimpeachable. He averaged an even 21 points per 36 minutes while shooting 60.3 percent from the field and 76.3 percent from the charity stripe, displaying touch around the basket and a deft stroke from mid-range. However, the 7'3" behemoth didn't fill a large role for the San Antonio Spurs, relying on his teammates' feeds and putting up his numbers in small doses.

    Non-Scoring Offense

    7/15

    Passing may well be the only distinct weakness here. Marjanovic's ability to space out the court as a shooter certainly didn't qualify, but the 28-year-old struggled to make proper feeds during his rookie season. It was far too easy for opponents to throw double-teams at him in the hopes he'd force up a shot or make an ill-advised attempt to pass back out to the perimeter. 

    Defense

    33/40

    It was brutally difficult to score against Marjanovic in the post or when driving the lane, but his off-ball work failed to meet the same standard. His immobility left him uncomfortable against quick bigs who liked working outside the paint, and he was a liability as soon as he left the restricted area, even if his size sometimes allowed him to recover where other players couldn't. 

    Rebounding

    9/15

    While it's impressive that the Serbian center recorded 13.7 rebounds per 36 minutes, it's not that relevant when he averaged just over a quarter of that time. He did everything he could in his small sample, but no player is capable of posting elite numbers without more run.

    Durability

    6/10

    Though the Spurs constantly bounced between activating and deactivating Marjanovic, that was more due to the depth of the team's frontcourt than any injuries the center suffered. He'll get more opportunities to prove he can remain durable now that he's signed with the Detroit Pistons. 

    Overall

    66/100

    Marjanovic played well enough as a rookie that he asserted himself as a nice high-upside gamble—one the Pistons chose to go for. No one truly knows whether the 28-year-old can continue to look this good when filling a larger role, but it's a risk they should be willing to take after he thrived in small doses and posted a jaw-dropping player efficiency rating of 27.7—better than any rookie not named Wilt Chamberla