25-under-25: Roundtable discussion

BOSTON, MA - MAY 15: Otto Porter Jr. #22 of the Washington Wizards goes to the basket against the Boston Celtics during Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Semifinals of the 2017 NBA Playoffs on May 15, 2017 at TD Garden in Boston, MA. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - MAY 15: Otto Porter Jr. #22 of the Washington Wizards goes to the basket against the Boston Celtics during Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Semifinals of the 2017 NBA Playoffs on May 15, 2017 at TD Garden in Boston, MA. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images) /

The Step Back is rolling out its 25-under-25 list this week. Here we discuss some of the player we may have over or underrated and who might be moving up the list next season.

Which player was most overrated by the group?

Trevor Magnotti (@illegalscreens): Any of the centers in the middle of the pack could have been candidates to me, but I’m going to single out Jusuf Nurkic, who finished 13th despite playing only 20 games of admittedly awesome basketball. He was very good for Portland, and he did appear to make a crazy impact for them before he got injured, as they went 14-6 with him. But still, we can’t let 2.75 years of him struggling to connect with coaches and make a consistent impact on the floor in Denver slide by just because of that sample. Was he a bad fit with Jokic, with both of them looking better without the other? Yes. But like a lot of Portland’s other players, we can’t let one run of potentially unsustainable play overtake us. There is no world where Nurkic should be ahead of Nerlens Noel to me.

Paul Centopani (@pcentopani): Otto Porter being tenth on this list feels kinda silly. Look, Otto Porter is FINE. He provides the league’s current most-precious commodity of 3-and-D and is the third option on a solid Wizards team. But where’s left for him to go? Haven’t we reached peak-Porter? As far as upside and making an impact this year, I’d have half a dozen more guys above him.

Matt Cianfrone (@Matt_Cianfrone): The answer is Nurkic for me as well. Sure the Trail Blazers were really good for the 20 healthy games they had Nurkic but I’m not sure a lot of that wasn’t luck. Nurkic has some real flaws in his game and the underlying numbers around him aren’t exactly great. Combine that with a guy whose attitude can suddenly make him a really bad player and I probably wouldn’t even have him on my list, let alone at No. 13.

Chazz Scogna (@chazzscogna): The rookie trio of Ben Simmons, Lonzo Ball and Markelle Fultz. When we put this list together, we talked about the hardest part being projections limited to one season. Theoretically, and Basketball God-willing, this will be their worst seasons as pros. That’s not a knock on them — I think they’re all going to be good players — it’s just they’re still unknown commodities and will struggle at times this season. Slide them down and make them earn those top-half spots.

Ian Levy (@HickoryHigh): All the rookies. Rookies are generally bad, even the ones who are destined for stardom. Every rookie on this list — Ball, Simmons, Fultz, Smith Jr. — will contribute in the category of excitement but it’s unlikely that any really provide on-court value to match up with their ranks here.

Which player was most underrated by the group?

Magnotti: Nerlens. Even with his injury history and the Process still needing to be washed off him, he’s better than both Nurkic and Drummond, and definitely shouldn’t be behind Lonzo Ball and Gary Harris. Noel is a fine rim protector right now and seems actually able to explore his offensive capabilities in Dallas, and I think a full year of featured play next to Dennis Smith Jr. is going to do great things for his reputation. He has had his injury concerns, but there’s no way he’s only the 21st-best young player in the league right now.

Centopani: Giannis. We were capped with a 1-10 scale and Giannis deserves an 11.

Cianfrone: This was a tough one for me. As far as pure numbers go, Gary Harris not being in the top-15 feels crazy to me because he is really good. But he plays in Denver so that doesn’t help him. But I think I settled on Anthony Davis. Karl-Anthony Towns is incredible. So is Giannis Antetokounmpo. Neither of them is a better player than Anthony Davis right now. In fact to me Towns isn’t even close. Now we did take into account more than just play which is why I am fine with Giannis over Davis (that and I am a Bucks homer). But to me the list should be Antetokounmpo and Davis then an extremely large gap to everybody else. Those are two guys who you can argue are closer to top-5 in the league than top-10. No one else on this list is there yet.

Scogna: Cianfrone hitting nothing but net from 35 feet. Someone has to care for Anthony Davis.

Levy: Embiid. Obviously you have to account for injury concerns and clearly he still needs a lot of game experience to refine his tools. But in terms of raw potential he could easily be at the top of this list.

Which player will climb the rankings the most this year?

Magnotti: I’m a big Myles Turner believer, and I think this is the year that he asserts himself firmly into the Porzingis/Embiid/Towns/Jokic conversation as the hipster’s choice of high-profile young center. I thought he should have been an All-Star last year, and I think without Paul George, his creation skills are going to be put on prominent display this season. I think he can be a real number one option on offense, and surrounding him with accessory players like Oladipo, Sabonis, Bogdanovic, and Thad Young actually might prop up Indiana’s season. They’re going to be bad still, but Turner is going to make a big leap in terms of his perception around the league this year.

Centopani: Myles Turner. Mostly because of the reasons Trevor outlined above, and partially because Indiana resembles the Island of Misfit Toys.

Cianfrone: Count me in on the Myles Turner bandwagon. Watch the Denver duo as well, as I think either Harris or Jamal Murray could shoot up the list if the Nuggets are good enough to make the playoffs.

Scogna: Perhaps this is cheating, but if I’m to take this question pretty literally, then that top seven is locked in. I think it’ll be difficult for any of the bottom four to crack the top three. It’s just how stacked the top of the list is. So for me, and here’s where my hypocrisy shows, I’ll go with Simmons. He’s going to be the point guard running with a superstar in the making (Embiid, if he can stay healthy) on a team that acquired shooting and is committed to winning. Saying he’s the next Giannis Antetokounmpo is really strong, but he’s on that level of freak athlete and playmaking. There’s no reason he can’t jump six or seven spots. And if we dropped him like I said earlier, then he’ll jump even more!

Levy: I’ll go with Jaylen Brown. I’m fascinated by his potential and I think he’s going to look much better this season with more shot creators in that Boston offense. I think he could easily be scraping the top-12 or so next season.

Which player who didn’t make the top-25 deserved a spot?

Magnotti: It’s pretty clear to me that Dennis Schroder should be on this list. The guy has his warts, but how are you going to put Lonzo Ball or Marcus Smart ahead of him? Schroder’s a good pick-and-roll scorer, and a difficult cover on any night, even if he’s not the most efficient player.
Advanced numbers don’t like him because of that, but he still has room to improve, and he’s a very solid mid-range shooter and scorer at the rim, which this Hawks team will need this year. Yeah, he’s probably not a top-10 point guard in the league, and there’s doubt he ever gets there. But he’s at least worth a spot on this list, because he’s at least proven himself as a capable starter, which many in the back half of our top-25 cannot say.

Centopani: De’Aaron Fox gives Sacramento their most exciting point guard prospect since White Chocolate Jason Williams. He may not start right away, but I think they eventually settle into heavy three-guard lineups with him, George Hill, and Buddy Hield. The Kings should be fun this season with hope for the future, thanks in large part to Fox and his John Wall-upside.

Cianfrone: I wish I could say Jabari Parker but knee injuries are stupid. But I will be a Bucks homer anyway and say Thon Maker. Milwaukee is going to be pretty good this season and Maker should be a big reason why. And considering the things he does well (move on the perimeter, run the floor and play hard) shouldn’t regress it is hard to see him being anything below average. To have him below a bunch of (admittedly good) rookies and a guy who has been bad more often than he has been good in his career (Nurkic) seems crazy to me.

Scogna: I’m with Magnotti. I have this weird fascination with Schroder. Sometimes he looks fantastic and other times he can be the most frustrating guy on the floor. But as a known commodity, and a starter in a point-guard driven league, he deserves a little more credit.

Levy: Clint Capela. He’s not as flashy but he has a utility that a lot of players on our list can’t claim. He actually plays a specific role and excels in it, helping his team player winning basketball. His ceiling may not be as high, but he’s closer to reaching it than a lot of guys on our list.

Which player from the 2018 NBA Draft Class could rank highest on this list next year?

Magnotti: I still think Michael Porter Jr. has the highest potential in this class. I think his ability to create his own shot at his size from the perimeter gives him a leg up on the competition, and he should be a capable first-year player just because of that skill. Even if he doesn’t go number one, he’s my early favorite to have the highest ranking in this group next year.

Centopani: I’m just gonna leave this here.

Cianfrone: I’m not a prospects expert but I’ll take the Doncic. The guy has repeatedly helped Anthony Randolph look good from what I understand. I can’t imagine what he could do with good NBA players.

Next: Meet the 25 best players under the age of 25

Scogna: Magnotti just making this easy for me. You present a combination of freak athlete and versatility, you have my attention. I think with Porter Jr. too is a lot of his issues — like ball-handling — are simply issues he can work on as he goes on. But his shot creating at his size fills me giddiness.

Levy: Doncic is the future.