ZB: Assuming you meant guard here, the answer is probably no. Terry Rozier has been fantastic, but he is nowhere close to the upper echelon of NBA point guards; he’s not even the best point guard on his own team. Rozier has, however, proven that he can be a quality starting guard in this league and should command great value on the trade market this offseason. What makes me hesitant, however, are his home-road splits. In the playoffs, Rozier is averaging…
Home: 22.8 PPG, 50.5% FG, 54.3% 3PT, 0.9 TOV
Road: 13.3 PPG, 33.3% FG, 25.7% 3PT, 2.3 TOV
Rozier has played at an unsustainable level at home (you can’t shoot 50+% from deep forever) and has strongly regressed at home. He needs to be far less mercurial to ever be an all-star in this league.
The Celtics are so good “despite injuries” because they play unselfishly and are the best-coached team left in the playoffs. They don’t stray from the game-plan and don’t make mental mistakes. Hence, when Brad Stevens says “defend the 3-point line,” they do just that and don’t succumb to breakdowns defensively. In addition, they have so many guys who can fill in for one another that they tend to play to a consistent B+/A- level throughout the entire game. You don’t feel their lineup changes… when’s the last time you heard someone ask if the Celtics can “survive” minutes with somebody on the bench. They are interchangeable, hybridized, and have a rotation that’s smoothed out over the course of 48 minutes.
ZB: Top-5 in the league is certainly Donovan Mitchell’s ceiling, though I’m not sure he’ll ever get there. Mitchell has been unbelievable this season, thriving in a lead scoring role for a scrappy Utah Jazz team that has likewise rallied around his precocious leadership. Not many guys have been able to do what he’s been doing at such a young age, and the experience he’s gaining as a rookie is rare — he has 10-year NBA veterans looking across the floor and expecting him to make plays late in the shot-clock and late in games. He has the shooting ability, character, athleticism, and skill level to eventually become a top-5 player in the league.
The reason why I don’t believe he’ll ever get to that top-5 level, however, is his lack of a clear position in a positionally stratifying NBA. The way I see it, there are three positions in today’s league: creators, wings, and bigs. A creator isn’t your traditional “point guard,” but rather an offense-initiator whom is relied upon by his team to penetrate and make things happen. I’d include obvious guys like Harden or Westbrook here, but also Lebron, Jokic, Oladipo, etc. Mitchell is just a rookie, sure, but it already seems clear to me that he’s at his best with another lead ball-handler on the floor. I don’t think Mitchell is an off-ball wing, by any stretch, but I also don’t know if you can just throw four guys around him and say “make things happen.” He’s jumpy as the pick and roll ball-handler and not that great of a passer, two things that might limit him from ever reaching true top-5 status.
ZB: I’m very high on Bagley’s potential as a stretchy big at the next level. In fact, he might even be my favorite big-man prospect in the draft as he does just about everything you would want in a modern NBA big. He can stretch the floor and maintain your team’s spacing even as a “center,” shooting close to 40% from three during his lone season at Duke. Given his physical profile and limitless athleticism, I expect him to likewise become at least an average rim protector at the next level, making him the perfect fit as the lone big in a lineup surrounded by guards and shooters. If he can defend the rim and shoot 35+% from three, he allows you to play pretty much any lineup you want around him and still have a spaced floor offensively.
If those two things translate, the rest of his game will fit in seamlessly to the NBA. He is a freakish dunker and will be able to finish everything around the rim as a roll-man, and has a gazelle-like stride that will make him an absolute beast in transition. I’m thinking he becomes 75% of Anthony Davis — a lesser defender with perhaps a worse floor game offensively, but essentially “the same idea” as a player.
ZB: Great question here, Ben. Everything I’m hearing has been “bad news bears” for the 6-God. Off the record, but I’ll just run with it… I’ve been hearing from the commissioner’s office directed that the league is trying to block Drake’s ascent to “superfan” status and, in his place, wants to promote other superfans such as Phoenix Suns’ YouTube sensation Brawadis. It’s a strong market for superfans out there, and I don’t think the league wants a manufactured market advantage anywhere.
ZB: I’ll start with the caveat that the French Prince is one of my favorite players in the league. But the reverence is based in reality, as I truly think Frank has a bright future as the Knicks’ starting point guard. His counting stats were admittedly pretty bad this season, but his offense naturally will take longer to translate. Keep in mind that the kid was the second youngest player in the league this season and had the tough task of adjusting to life in America after coming over from France.
What gives me hope is his emerging Euro-flair skillset and limitless potential on defense, where he is already the league’s best in points allowed per possession as the defender of pick and roll ball handlers, per Synergy. I don’t think it is a stretch to say Frank is one of the 20 best defenders in the league heading into next season.
In terms of a career trajectory, I expect Frank to continue to improve alongside Kristaps Porzingis and especially benefit from the coaching of Knicks hire David Fizdale. Fizdale comes from a great system in Miami and fully embraced the Grit n’ Grind regime in Memphis, where he made Mike Conley a better player. Fizdale will embrace New York toughness and turn Frank into an absolute dog, where his length will become a problem for guards, night in and night out. At his peak, I’ll say he averages 18 points, 6 assists, and 6 boards. Don’t believe me, just watch.
Player Comps I’ll throw out are Steve Francis, Fat Lever, and Grant Hill.
ZB: Yes, though I don’t think it matters. LeBron can do it on his own, though the contributions he’s been getting in this Raptors series have been a lot better than expected. The rediscovery of Kevin Love has been fun to watch. The question was if the supporting cast will be “enough,” not if they will be good. And if LeBron is gonna fuck around and average 35, 10, and 9 on 55% shooting, with two triple-doubles in the playoffs, two buzzer-beating game winners, essentially coach his team, and single-handedly wipe the municipality of Toronto off of the map… then yes, they’ll definitely be enough. Hell, he’s basically his own supporting cast at this point.