Wednesday, February 27, 2013
Telep's Top 10: Frontcourt players
By Dave Telep
The basketball world is flush with comparisons these days. Is Michael Jordan the greatest? Where is LeBron James in the conversation? Comparing players from different eras is tough. For this week’s Top 10 I set out to compare and rank frontcourt prospects from different classes and found it equally vexing.
Harry Giles, the No. 1 player in the ESPN 25, could miss the upcoming season with a knee injury.
Last weekend, I spent a few days watching freshman Harry Giles (Greensboro, N.C./Wesleyan Christian). This kid is special, and it got me thinking: On a list of best frontcourt players in the country, just how special would he be? And that’s where it got tough.
You have to reward the stud seniors for their ability to play at a high level over a long period of time while taking into account the talent of the next wave of prospects. So that’s what I did. The following is a mashup of classes and positions culminating in a list of the 10 (actually 11; I cheated at No. 10) best frontcourt players in the country regardless of class.
Score a player from list and you’ve entered rarified air in the paint and, in some cases, beyond.
Editor’s note: This top 10 list of frontcourt players is comprised solely of power forwards and centers as we considered small forwards to be wing players for purposes of this comparison.
The nation’s top 10 frontcourt players
1. Julius Randle, PF, 2013 Think of a powerful locomotive with sleek lettering on the side and a smokestack that’s constantly puffing. That’s Randle. Relentless, skilled and powerful define him. To be his size and have that kind of pop in the paint and at the rim are special qualities.
2. Jahlil Okafor, C, 2014 This one is a throwback to the post players of yesteryear. The most recent comparison for Okafor is current Boston Celtics and former Ohio State big man Jared Sullinger. When Okafor parks himself in the lane and uses his soft mitts to power through or around defenders, you sense the nervousness of the other guys. He’s a legit low-block terror.
3. Aaron Gordon, PF, 2013 He’s different than anyone on this list. Gordon is that lethal combination of leaping ability, athleticism and force. He covers a ton of ground defensively, you can’t box him out and in a few steps he’s at the other end of the floor.
4. Ivan Rabb, PF, 2015 Like Gordon, Rabb is a Bay Area kid. As a freshman, he aced the look test. As a sophomore, he’s become a blend of upside and production who warranted a rise in the rankings (he’s now No. 1 overall in the 2015 class).
No. 4 junior Trey Lyles has the talent to eventually battle for the top spot.
5. Trey Lyles, PF, 2014 I’ve always compared his inside game and savvy to Carlos Boozer’s, but C-Booze doesn’t have T-Lyles’ perimeter game. You know what you’re getting out of this kid: awesome blend of power and skill that makes him a near-impossible guard on the high school level.
6. Harry Giles, PF, 2016 Yes, this is an awfully high ranking for a freshman, but this is no ordinary freshman. Giles is 6-foot-9, 14 years old and has a scent of greatness in his game. His basketball brain matches his soft touch as a scorer and passer. A year from now when he gets comfortable being aggressive, the parade of college coaches seeking his signature will be long and distinguished. The best part about Giles is that he has no idea he belongs on this list. His degree of humility is sky high.
7. Karl Towns Jr., C, 2014 It’s uncommon for high school kids to be this strong and agile when it comes to running the floor. What’s been interesting regarding Towns is that he’s backed up a lot of hype with real numbers this season. Towns doesn’t have to rely on his scoring, either; he can hang his hat on rebounding and rejecting if need be.
8. Chris McCullough, PF, 2014 Close your eyes and think Chris Bosh; that’s McCullough. We love the lefty’s frame, transition game and ability to score from inside out to mid-range. Like Bosh, when he rebounds he’s on a different level.
9. Noah Vonleh, PF, 2013 He’s probably the best ball-handler and creator on this list. Vonleh has a serious wingspan to go with an offensive-minded attacking style.
10a. Dakari Johnson, C, 2013
10b. Diamond Stone, C, 2015 I couldn’t pick between the two and basically see them together anyway. Here’s what I mean. Stone is ahead of Johnson as a sophomore, but Johnson is finishing strong, the way you’d want a senior to do it. Johnson is a well-rounded center and Stone is more of a low-block maven. Think of them tying on this list as almost a passing of the torch between two giants with similar dimensions. Johnson blazed the path and Stone is in hot pursuit.
It was painful not being able to find spots in the top 10 for junior center Cliff Alexander and junior power forward Kevon Looney. What will be interesting is 365 days from now when we revisit this list.