If there’s one thing to be learned about the NBA, it’s that a championship can’t be won on the back of one player. How obvious was this last season in the playoffs when Russell Westbrook was injured and the Thunder relied completely on Kevin Durant isolations? Even with Durant being one of the top three players in the league, he couldn’t will a team to a playoff series victory by himself.
For every spectacular play a Batman makes, there’s a Robin somewhere on the team that made the play possible. Let’s be honest, Kobe needed Shaq, Jordan needed Pippen, Malone needed Stockton (he actually needed more than that, unfortunately), LeBron needed Wade, so on and so forth. Most barbershop discussions center around the best player in the NBA, but what about the second option? Some of these second options can even contend as some of the best players in the league.
This piece isn’t about rating players based on talent — it’s about which ones have mastered this particular role on their specific team. With this in mind, lets rank the top 15 second options in the NBA.
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15. KEVIN MARTIN
Kevin Love has been pleading for some sort of offensive help in Minnesota for years. Finally that help has arrived in the form of Kevin Martin. Martin often looked confused and disgruntled with OKC last season, which led to him having one of the worst seasons of his career. Martin decided to join the Timberwolves and coach Rick Adelman, who coached Martin for multiple years with the Kings and Rockets. While Kevin Love can do everything on the floor, Kevin Martin is there to knock down all the open shots on the perimeter. The reunion has gone as planned, so far.
After only putting up 14.0 PPG last season, Martin is scoring 19.7 PPG this season on 43 percent shooting from the field and 40 percent shooting from deep. The offense is scoring 4.4 more points per 100 possessions with Martin on the floor (per 82games.com), which is in part because of Martin’s ability to space the floor. Per SportVU, Martin is shooting 43.1 percent on catch and shoot three-pointers, which is higher than Kevin Love and Carmelo Anthony. Kevin Love finally has a reliable option on the perimeter that can consistently knock down shots when all the attention is on the MVP candidate big man.
Martin just looks more comfortable on the floor, he’s always been a big time scorer and he’s getting the chance to showcase that in Minnesota. Martin has also been extremely valuable in spacing the floor for the Timberwolves, teams have to know where he is at all times. Martin is resurrecting his career in Minnesota, in part to being the second option to Kevin Love.
14. ROY HIBBERT
When the defense is all over Paul George (like they should be every possession), it’s nice to have a 7-2, 280-pound road block to throw it down to in the post. Enter Roy Hibbert, who easily became one of the better big men in the NBA with his 17.0 points and 10.0 boards in the playoffs last season. Hibbert is the main reason that Miami went out and signed Greg Oden this offseason. People can argue that Lance Stephenson is the second option in Indiana. While Stephenson has improved this season, Hibbert still boasts a 20.6 usage rate, compared to 18.9 for Stephenson.
This season, Hibbert is averaging 12.8 points, 8.0 rebounds and 2.7 blocks per game, with a defensive rating of 91.4 (per SportVU). He’s one of the best rim protectors in the NBA, next to Anthony Davis and has yet to really breakout (scoring wise). Offensively, the Pacers are scoring 9.4 points more per 100 possessions with Hibbert on the court (per 82games.com). Defensively, the Pacers give up 4.3 less points per 100 possessions when Hibbert is on the court (per 82games.com). No matter what side of the ball, Hibbert is a benefactor for the Pacers when he’s on the floor. He doesn’t have to be scoring to be effective; Hibbert’s presence makes the Pacers a better team.
The Pacers thrive off of defense and this is where Hibbert is so important. He might not stand out when you think of second options, but he’s a necessary piece to arguably everything the Pacers do. Per SportVU, opponents are only converting on 40.9 percent of their attempts at the rim on Hibbert, which is better than Anthony Davis, DeAndre Jordan and Serge Ibaka. Paul George is without a doubt the sheriff in Indiana, but the sheriff would be nothing without his deputy, Roy Hibbert.
13. BRADLEY BEAL
After taking a scary fall about a week ago, I thought my article would once again be decimated and ruined by injuries. Thankfully, an MRI revealed Beal suffered a left knee bruise and the injury isn’t thought to be serious. Back to business. Bradley Beal has one job when he’s on the court and that’s to drop jumpers. Playing along the explosive John Wall, one can find Beal camping the three-point line like a cobra, waiting for the right time to strike. As soon as Wall drops into the lane, Beal’s eyes light up like a Christmas tree as a pass zips through defenders and into the shooting hand of Beal as he raises up and drops one in. Buckets. That’s what you will likely see from the Wizards if you catch them on a good night, considering jump shots account for 88 percent of Beal’s offense (per 82games.com). If John Wall is the crazy barbarian running into the fire, than Beal is the silent sniper waiting for his time to shine.
Bradley Beal has been doing just that this season, averaging 17.7 PPG on 41 percent shooting from the field, but more importantly 45 percent shooting from deep. Bradley Beal has been a spark plug for the Wizards and is the perfect complement to John Wall. Per 82games.com, the Wizards are scoring nearly six more points when Beal is on the floor, compared to Beal being off the floor. John Wall is top three in assists this season with 8.8 per game and the superb play of Bradley Beal as his sidekick is a main reason.