The Whiteboard: Situational NBA big wing rankings

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports /

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Our big collaborative ranking project, the 25-under-25, will be coming in a few weeks but for the past few days, I’ve been messing around with some positional rankings here in The Whiteboard.

I find a generalized ranking of players based on fluid and largely obtuse positional rankings to be pretty pointless, so I’ve gone more granular. I have already ranked point guardsbig men, and small wings based on specific situations like isolating on a final possession, defending at the point of attack, getting post-up touches or setting screens. Here, I’m tackling big wings (players who primarily spend time at the 3 and 4).

As always, make sure to let me know everything I got wrong.

NBA big wing rankings: Who do you want running a high pick-and-roll?

It’s the most basic creation scenario for most primary scorers but wings need to be able to play-make as well. Ideally, you want a go who can score at all three levels to take what the defense hives him in the pick-and-roll, but also with the vision and creativity to find an open teammate. The best combine craft, skill and vision with outlier athletic tools.

1. LeBron James
2. Kevin Durant
3. Giannis Antetokounmpo
4. Kawhi Leonard
5. Jayson Tatum

NBA big wing rankings: Who do you want spotting up for a catch-and-shoot 3?

Catch. Shoot. Repeat.

1. Joe Ingles
2. Michael Porter Jr.
3. Khris Middleton
4. Saddiq Bey
5. Davis Bertans

NBA big wing rankings: Who do you want defending at the point of attack?

Defending at the point of attack requires quickness, strength, technique and tenaciousness. You want a guy who can pick up a ball-handler at halfcourt, can fight over the top of screens and stay attached to his man if they get beat initially.

1. Kawhi Leonard
2. Giannis Antetokounmpo
3. Khris Middleton
4. Jimmy Butler
5. Draymond Green

NBA big wing rankings: Who do you want running endlessly around off-ball screens?

This is about gravity as much as a shooting ability, a willingness to occupy the defense with constant motion and to never rest until they’ve found that sliver of open space.

1. Kevin Durant
2. Davis Bertans
3. Michael Porter Jr.
4. Bojan Bogdanovic
5. Jayson Tatum

NBA big wing rankings: Who do you want moonlighting as a center in small-ball lineups?

As positional responsibilities shirt, we’re seeing more and more big wings taking minutes as 5s in small-ball lineups. In these scenarios, they need to be able to hold up as a defensive anchor, both around the rim and in space, as well as leveraging perimeter skills on offense to take advantage of opposing bigs.

1. Draymond Green
2. Giannis Antetokounmpo
3. Zion Williamson
4. Julius Randle
5. John Collins

NBA big wing rankings Who do you want creating a clutch scoring opportunity?

Down two with under a minute left. Who is the guy you want reading the defense, orchestrating the offense and making sure your team gets a high-quality scoring opportunity, whether it’s pulling-up, driving to the basket, getting to the line or dumping it off?

1. Kevin Durant
2. LeBron James
3. Kawhi Leonard
4. Jayson Tatum
5. Giannis Antetokounmpo

NBA big wing rankings: Who do you want pulling up off the dribble?

The pull-up jumper is a very specific shot and it has become arguably the most important in the arsenal of elite creators. It is ideally used sparingly but the ability to make it reliably is what separates the best from merely the very good. It’s not just about the skill to make the shot, it’s also about the awareness of when to use it and the ability to create enough space to get it off.

1. Kevin Durant
2. Kawhi Leonard
3. Jayson Tatum
4. Danilo Gallinari
5. Michael Porter Jr.

NBA big wing rankings: Who do you want trying to grab-and-go in transition?

On a fast break, with the ball in their hands, you want a guy who can do a little bit of everything — explode to the basket with speed, power or craft, pull-up for a quick 3, manipulate the defense to create an easy look for a teammate and, most importantly, not turn the ball over.

1. LeBron James
2. Giannis Antetokounmpo
3. Jayson Tatum
4. Ben Simmons
5. Joe Ingles

NBA big wing rankings: Who do you want bullying a smaller player in the post?

With rotations trending smaller, some bigger wings are getting increased opportunities to take advantage of smaller defenders by taking them down in the post. This isn’t the core of any team’s offense but it’s an important situational advantage that smart teams can leverage.

1. Kawhi Leonard
2. LeBron James
3. Zion Williamson
4. Tobias Harris
5. Giannis Antetokounmpo


Who do you want negotiating with the sommelier at dinner? LeBron James.

Who do you want for an impromptu dunk contest? Miles Bridges and Aaron Gordon.

Who do you want with for your intramural flag football team? Zion Williamson.

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Owen Phillips has a great, multi-faceted breakdown of the season schedule including which teams are over- and under-represented on national television and whose schedule has them primed for a hot start.