Looking to the Future: Ranking by Position

Published: April 21, 2012

Positions are dead, so we create classes of players in this new edition, and rank them accordingly. 

If you have ever listened to one of our Hornets247 Podcasts, you probably know that I believe positions are dead. There are no such things as point guards or shooting guards. Tim Duncan is not a power forward, nor is he a center. Guys have roles on the team nowadays, roles that are too broad to be contained by a simple positional name. So I say positions are dead, but on this week’s Grantland podcast, Jalen Rose went one step further and said that they never existed. “Positions are listed so the novice fan can keep up with the game,” Rose stated. Couldn’t have said it better myself.

So while the novice fan spends his or her time putting a dream roster together by position, a GM constructs his puzzle by making sure he has guys who play roles that compliment each other and trying not to have too many pieces that overlap. Most teams look like they put their roster together the conventional way because seven footers are usually the most adept at getting rebounds, while six footers are usually the best at getting into the lane and dishing the rock, but it is the role the player plays (not their listed position) that is the most important thing in the GM’s eyes.

Because most fans and analysts are still stuck in the idea of “positions”, we see heated debates that simply don’t need to exist. The topic of whether Russell Westbrook is a “true point guard” comes up whenever OKC goes on a two or three game losing streak, as if there is such a thing as a “true point guard.” People think of Chris Paul or Steve Nash when they illicit this phrase, but how many titles have those guys won? Meanwhile, how many have Derek Fisher and Tony Parker won? In fact, here are your starting “point guards” for the last 21 championship teams: Jason Kidd, Derek Fisher, Rajon Rondo, Gary Payton, Tony Parker, Avery Johnson, Ron Harper, Kenny Smith, and BJ Armstrong.

Of those guys we have two pass first guards in Rajon Rondo and the washed up Jason Kidd, two defensive minded big guards in Harper and old Gary Payton, a scorer in Tony Parker, three floor spacing big shot makers in Armstrong, Smith, and Fisher, and an emotional leader in Avery Johnson. Aren’t these guys more different than they are similar? Then why do we all insist on labeling them by the same position?

Instead, I propose we just list guys as perimeter players or bigs and focus on the strengths that they bring to the table. And since I proposed it, that is exactly what I am going to do in this weeks LTTF column. And per these roles, we are going to list the need that the Hornets have for these types of players. We are only going to focus on the offensive roles that each player can fill, because the NBA is more about team defense nowadays, and frankly we don’t have enough space to get into sub categories. Let the ranking begin!

Perimeter Players



These guys are always looking to get their teammates involved first, and only look for their own to keep the defense honest or because their teammates are struggling.

Think: Chris Paul, Steve Nash

Hornets Need (On a Scale of 1-10): 3– There is not much need for a distributor if Eric Gordon is locked in for the long haul, since he is best with the ball in his hands. The Hornets are built to be in a lot of close games, and Gordon will be the guy making plays in the final five minutes, meaning a distributor would be relegated to the bench or sitting in the corner as Gordon works. If Gordon leaves, however, this would be a huge need for the Hornets.

1. Kendall Marshall, UNC– Marshall was second in the NCAA in assists, but did have a fairly high turnover rate to match. He would benefit the Hornets by getting some of their lesser skilled bigs easy buckets and Aminu the occasional fast break dunk, but he would be worthless as a deep threat when Gordon ran the offense.

2. Scott Machado, Iona- The only reason Marshall didn’t lead Division I in assists is because Scott Machado was making plays at Iona. Machado won’t go until the late first/early second round, but Dell could acquire another pick if he sees this as a need. Machado doesn’t have Marshall’s size, but he is a much better shooter from deep, giving him a better chance to stay on the court with Gordon in crunch time.

3. Marquis Teague, Kentucky- Teague was more of a bucket filler in high school, but learned to play the role of distributor after being paired with all that talent at Kentucky. For him to succeed in the league, he will have to continue that evolution and cut down on the turnovers. His wingspan allows him to cover multiple positions, but his outside shot needs a lot of work.


These guys can get their own or create for others, depending on the situation. They simply “make plays”. Hence, the name.

Think: Eric Gordon, Dwayne Wade, Russell Westbrook

Hornets Need- 5. Would it be the worst thing in the world if the Hornets had two Eric Gordon’s? People point to Golden State and their lack of success, but they had a playmaker and a bucket filler- neither of which could play defense. Two playmaker’s could actually work in a backcourt, and it doesn’t hurt that Gordon excels on the defensive end- allowing him to cover either position.

1. Bradley Beal, Florida- He is too nice of a guy to say it, but Beal was hurt this year by having to play with some irrational confidence guys at UF. Kenny Boyton and Erving Walker are two of the most delusional players I have ever seen and they are more responsible for Beal’s offensive inconsistencies than Beal. He has a beautiful stroke, he plays hard, can attack the rim, and can make plays for others- and that is why he is a lock for a top 5 pick this year despite the average numbers. A pairing of him and Gordon would leave defenses seeing double.

2. Damian Lillard, Weber State- A truly gifted scorer who can fill it up by attacking the basket or shooting from the perimeter, Lillard is also capable of making plays for his teammates. He has greatly improved as a point guard from year to year, raising his assist rate and dramatically cutting his turnover rate since he became a starter. His quickness and wingspan also give him the potential to be an above average perimeter defender. If he can adjust to the level of competition, he might be the ideal backcourt partner for Eric Gordon.

3. Tony Wroten, Jr., Washington- What if Wroten would have gone to Kentucky? You can’t help but wonder what might have been if he went to a big program and played on the big stage with other highly talented players. Calipari has done tremendous things with similar point guards (Derek Rose, Tyreke Evens) and Wroten would have likely benefited from his tutelage. Instead, he is a supremely talented guy coming out a year or two too early and whichever team takes him is taking a huge gamble on a boom or bust prospect.

Bucket Fillers

While they can do other things from time to time, their primary strength is scoring, and they can do it in a variety of ways. Don’t expect a ton of assists from these guys. 

Think: Danny Granger, Marcus Thornton, Melo

Hornets Need- 9. While Monty and Dell preach defense, you still need to score points to win and the Hornets desperately need somebody else who can create buckets for themselves. A guy on the wing with Gordon who can get 20 PPG could make his life a lot easier and could actually make this team fun to watch.

1. Harrison Barnes, UNC- Barnes came into UNC and spent too much time behind the arc. This year, he took less three’s, took more shots in the paint, and raised his free throw attempts per game by 50%. Perhaps he was a little over-hyped coming in as a freshman, but media perception should not effect the evaluation of a players’ game. He is great in catch and shoot situations, is fluid and can handle being hit when he goes to the basket, and he developed a solid post up game at the end of his sophomore season. Just 19 years old, Barnes should be a top 10 scorer in the league when his game fully matures.

2. Austin Rivers, Duke- Rivers was another guy who didn’t live up to lofty expectations in his freshman year, but it is clear that he can get points in bunches. He was in a disciplined system in Duke that didn’t take advantage of his skill set, and it is more than likely that he will be a better scorer in the NBA than he was in college. He should be able to get to the bucket at will, and once his outside shot becomes more consistent, he could be a perennial Sixth Man of the Year Candidate a la Manu or Jason Terry.

3. Jeremy Lamb, UConn- Though immensely skilled, Lamb never got to be the clear go-to guy for the Huskies, as he took a back seat to Kemba Walker his freshman season and Shabazz Napier this past year. Lamb was clearly more talented than Napier, but Napier had the ball in his hands, so Lamb was not featured as much as he should have been. Like Beal and Rivers, Lamb might actually be a better pro player than college player if a team showcases him. He has several ways of scoring off the dribble and can fill it up from deep. To become an elite scorer, however, Lamb is going to have to get to the free throw line more often.

Lane Fillers

These guys are at their best running in the open floor  and scoring around the rim. The great ones also attack the offensive glass and get points that way.

Think: Shawn Marion, Kerry Kittles, Richard Jefferson, Paul George

Hornets Need- 4. While it would be nice to have some athleticism on the wing that could attack the rim, guys like this are most useful when they can get out and run. We have not seen any indication that Monty wants to push the ball, and the Hornets have been in the bottom ten in pace for the last seven years.

1. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Kentucky- MKG ranked #1 amongst prospects this year in transition scoring efficiency, converting 71% of the time in those situations. He has the speed and athleticism to fill the wing, and perhaps more importantly, he has the desire. Anybody who watched Kentucky play this year can probably recall five or six nasty falls that they saw MKG take while attacking the bucket hard on the break, yet he never stopped. Teams hate going against guys like that. His three-point shot is practically non-existant at this point, but being just 18, he has plenty of time to work on that. He has all the things that can’t be taught, including work ethic, and that is why there is every reason to believe he will develop the rest.

2. Perry Jones III, Baylor- He just simply can not be listed as a big in my “roles” piece. If he is going to make it in this league, it will be as a super lengthy, super bouncy wing who gives opposing perimeter players nightmares. Imagine Trevor Ariza with three extra inches of height, eight extra inches of wingspan, and more raw skill and athleticism. If I draft Jones, that is where I am trying to take him- forget about putting on bulk and developing a low post game. I want Paul George 2.0 (or at least Al-Farouq Aminu 1.5).

3. Moe Harkless, St.Johns– A darkhorse candidate for the Hornets, Harkless could be a guy that the Hornets could target if they get another first round pick, and especially if they get rid of Ariza. His outside game is pretty much non-existent, but Harkless does a fantastic job of finishing in transition and on cuts in the half court. Another kid who is just 18 years of age, Harkless will need some time to develop, but could be a diamond in the rough down the road.


Bucket fillers without the versatility, Marksman score primarily from the perimeter and are larger dependant on others to get open looks.

Think: JJ Reddick, James Jones, Gary Neal, Kyle Korver

Hornets Need: 5. This could increase if the Hornets let Belinelli go, but after Monty’s recent comments, one would expect him to stay. Still, the more shooters the better on a team with a penetrator like Gordon.

1. Terrance Ross, Wahington- Most look at Ross’s body and think ‘slasher’, but nearly 70% of his shots this year were shots from 16+ feet, including nearly 6 three-pointers per game. Ross is one of the best players in this draft coming off picks, and that is one of the staples of Monty’s offense. If Marco is gone, Ross could be a suitable replacement with a higher ceiling.

2. Doron Lamb, Kentucky- Lamb might be the best pure shooter to come out in the last 3-4 years, but he really can’t do much else. He can play point guard in a pinch, similar to Marco, and is a willing defender, but he is going to make it in this league as a shooter. If the Hornets are lucky and can acquire Davis, it might be wise to pick up another first round pick and acquire Lamb to help space the floor.

3. John Jenkins, Vanderbilt- Jenkins is slightly more versatile than Lamb, but is a notch below as a spot up shooter. He might be better than Lamb, however, coming off of screens and shooting off the dribble. Jenkins is another guy who can space the floor and he doesn’t seem to have a conscious, as evidenced by his nearly 9 three-point attempts a game.

Big Men


The Centerpoint

The rare low-post option that the whole offense runs through. These guys must be able to score anytime they are covered one-on-on and can also make a play for their teammates when doubled.

Think: Tim Duncan, Chris Webber, Hakeem Olaquwon

Hornets Need: 10. This is a 10 for every team in the league.

Doesn’t Exist in 2012 Draft

Mr. Inside-Out

These guys are most effective in the low post, but can take their game to the perimeter if needed. 

Think: LaMarcus Aldridge, Pau Gasol, Al Jefferson

Hornets Need: 9. Even if Landry and Kaman are brought back, the Hornets will have a huge need here because those two have drifted further and further away from the rim each year they have been in the league. Jason Smith is deadly from 16-20 feet, and Gustavo has a limited ceiling. An inside force would balance this team offensively.

1. Anthony Davis, Kentucky- Those who want to pick apart the clear #1 choice will say that he is an offensive liability, but that simply isn’t true. He only took 8 shots a game at Kentucky and was 5th in usage rate at Kentucky, yet he still was uber-efficient and displayed a variety of offensive moves/skill sets. Of course we know he can convert alley-oops and he was the best in the NCAA at converting after getting an offensive rebound, but he also displayed a hook from the left post, a turnaround from either side, and the ability to hit the jumper- all the way out to the three-point line. For all his offensive “deficiencies”, he is further along than guys like Malone, Ewing, and Olaquwon at the same age.

2. Thomas Robinson, Kansas- Robinson has a wide array of skills as a post player, though all of them will need some refinement as he comes into the league. He is able to shoot the hook over either shoulder and he can also face up from either the high post or the low post a la Tim Duncan. His jumper is smooth for a big man, and he too has shown some three-point range, but where he is most deadly is on the pick and roll. That is nice, because that just so happens to be Eric Gordon’s biggest strength as well. Hopefully, Robinson can get his FT% closer to 80% (68% last year), because he figures to get fouled a lot with the way he attacks the rim.

3. Jared Sullinger, Ohio State- Some mocks have Sullinger dropping out of the lottery, but I just don’t see how that can realistically happen if you look at his low-post game. He has such a great touch down low, and his wide body allows him to get position while creating an excellent entry target. While he does struggle against bigger guys, he has the versatility to take his game outside where they will have to handle him off the dribble or chase him out to the three-point line. The tales of Sullinger’s demise have been greatly exaggerted, and he would be a steal if he lasted all the way to the Hornets second pick in the draft.

Mr. Outside-In

These guys often are too quick to be covered by traditional four’s and too big to be covered by traditional three’s, so they start outside if covered by a big and work the low post if covered by a wing. More pick and pop than pick and roll.

Think: Antawn Jamison, David West, Al Harrington

Hornets Need: 3. The pick and pop game is alive and well with Jason Smith and Aminu can even swing over to play the stretch four. There is not much of a need here for this type of player.

1. Terrance Jones, Kentucky- It’s hard not to think of Antawn Jamison when you watch Jones, as their skill set and overall demeanor are remarkably similar. Jones likes to catch the ball at the top of the key and take what the defense gives him. If they play off him, he is more than capable of hitting a long two or three, and if they play up on him he can take the ball to the hole and finish in a variety of ways. Many will argue that he settles for the three too much, and Calipari has called him selfish and lazy in the past, but if a coach can get through to him, he is one of the three or four most talented offensive players in this draft.

2. Royce White, Iowa State- White is a throwback in a lot of ways, and when we look back in five years, he will have been way over drafted or way under drafted. He does everything (literally, everything) well, but nothing great as evidenced by the fact that he led his team in points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks, but did not finish in the top 30 in the NCAA in any of those categories. What that most likely means is that White can be some sort of role or niche player in the NBA; perhaps a guy who can be the leader of a second unit and can give a team a new dimension that opponents have to account for. White running the point forward with Aminu playing stretch four, Ayon at center and two dead-eye shooters in the backcourt would be intriguing and would most second-units nightmares.

3. Draymond Green, Michigan State- Big Baby Davis, with more toughness. Green is a load on the glass and can step out to the three point line, but will probably be at his best as a high post player who can work well with a dominant low-post presence. He has a high basketball IQ and gets the most out of his ability, but unfortunately the Hornets already have enough guys who fit that profile.

Straight Postin’ Garbage Pickers (SPGP for short)

If these guys leave the low block, it is by mere accident. They are always on the low block and score via simple post move, alley-oop, or on an offensive rebound.

Think: Tyson Chandler, Dejuan Blair, Serge Ibaka

Hornets Need: 7. If Okafor were two inches taller and played with more fire and passion, this spot would be filled for the Hornets, but that is simply not the case. Somebody with length around the rim would be great to clean up Gordon’s misses when he draws 2-3 guys at the rim.

1. Andre Drummond, UConn- There is no better way to show that you belong in this category than to shoot under 30% from the free throw line, and Drummond did just that this past year. And not only was he bad at the free-throw line, but he was equally horrible in post-up situations, converting just 32% of those opportunities. He is strictly a easy putback and dunk guy at this point in his career, similar to DeAndre Jordan and TC early in their careers. The hope is that he will develop the other aspects of his game and that his defense will make a team happy they took him with a top five pick. At least, that is what I will tell Ryan Schwan if the Hornets select him.

2. Tyler Zeller, UNC- Zeller did step out and hit 17 footers this year and he has one or two ugly low-post moves that work against inferior competition from time to time, but in the NBA he is going to make his living cleaning up the glass and running the floor in transition. If Zeller is guarded by tradition center’s in the NBA, he should be able to beat his man down the floor nearly every possession, giving him the ability to get easy points or develop deep low post presence. The bad news with Zeller is he is a black hole when he gets the ball in the post, but the good news is that he is an excellent free-throw shooter and will likely get you two points when his tenacity gets him to the line.

3. John Henson, UNC- Henson has showed more potential than Zeller offensively, developing a turnaround jumper this past season and an almost unstoppable lefty hook, but he is still pretty raw. People will think of Branden Wright when they look at Henson, but they are completely different players. Henson is far more fluid and has bulked up considerably at UNC, while Wright has been unable to do so. Henson has put on nearly 40 pounds since coming in as a freshman, and if he can put on 10-20 more while continuing the development in his offensive game, he can be one of the top five players in this draft when we look back years from now.

Looking to the Future is a weekly piece that you can find every Saturday only on Hornets247.com. For past articles, click here. 




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