Top 50 NBA Players: #39-35 Cousins, Jefferson, Monroe, Lopez, Hibbert

DeMarcus Cousins
Resume: 17.1 points, 9.9 rebounds (9th in league), 2.7 assists, 1.4 steals, 30.5 minutes, 47% FG, and 74% FT… Team record in games played: 26-49 (2-5 without)

Al Jefferson
Resume: 17.8 points, 9.2 rebounds, 1.0 steal (career best), 1.1 blocks, 33.1 minutes, 37 double-doubles (9th in league), 49% FG, and 77% FT… Team record in games played: 41-37 (2-2 without)

Brook Lopez
Resume: 19.4 points (10th in league), 6.9 rebounds, 2.1 blocks (7th in league, career best), 30.4 minutes, 52% FG, and 76% FT… Team record in games played: 46-28 (3-5 without)… Playoffs: 22.3 point, 7.4 rebounds, 3.0 blocks, 37.6 minutes, 47% FG, 89% FT, 3-4 record… All-Star

Greg Monroe
Resume: 16.0 points, 9.6 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.3 steals, 33.2 minutes, 37 double-doubles (9th in league), 49% FG, and 69% FT… Team record in games played: 29-52 (0-1 without)

Roy Hibbert
Resume: 11.9 points, 8.3 rebounds, 2.6 blocks (4th in league, career best), 28.7 minutes, 45% FG, and 74% FT… Team record in games played: 49-30 (0-2 without)… Playoffs: 17.0 points (career best), 9.9 rebounds, 1.9 blocks, 36.5 minutes (career best), 51% FG (career best), 80% FT (career best), 11-8 record

In the spirit of ESPN’s daily 5-on-5, here is my very own 1-on-5 evaluating five very good but not great “centers”, ranked 39th through 35th in my Top 50 rankings.

April 07, 2013; Sacramento, CA, USA; Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins (15) reacts after the play against the Memphis Grizzlies during the fourth quarter at Sleep Train Arena. The Grizzlies won 89-87. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

39: How far away is DeMarcus Cousins from breaking out?
This is kind of a loaded question. DeMarcus Cousins is an enigma. His potential is unknown not only because he was blessed with gifts that few are and if he uses all of them the right way he could be scary good, but also because his potential unfortunately may already be reached. Do we know for sure that Boogie Cousins will ever be anything more than what he is now; a tremendous talent who can’t quite put everything together, and will always be staving off the “lazy”, “selfish”, and “crazy” labels?  That’s a tough one to answer. Just as promising as his ability to score in the post is, his inability to play help defense and figure out what is a good shot and what is a bad shot is equally discouraging. Ultimately, Cousins will only be as good as his head allows him. At only 23 years old, Cousins could easily turn the corner at any point in time and skyrocket up the list. But he could also make it a habit to get suspended by his own team, try to fight out of town commentators, and wander down a road where so many young talents who didn’t quite pan out have wandered before. Only time will tell.

38: What exactly was the logic behind the Charlotte Bobcats signing Al Jefferson?
I wish I had a good answer, but I really don’t. In theory it sort of makes sense. Why not sign one of the top 5-7 centers in the league if you have the opportunity? Rather than going to battle with Bismack Biyombo, Brendan Haywood, Josh McRoberts, and Tyler Zeller 2.0 (Cody Zeller), the soon to be Hornets now have a legitimate post scorer, one who is among the best in the league. Big Al will certainly draw a share of double teams, making life much easier for young Bobcats perimeter players Kemba Walker, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Gerald Henderson, etc. But here is the problem: the Bobcats have been historically crappy over the last two years (28-120 over the last 148 games) and signing Jefferson will only deliver them to the edge of mediocrity right before the most hyped draft class in at least ten years.

Apr 12, 2013; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Utah Jazz center Al Jefferson (25) is defended by Minnesota Timberwolves center Greg Stiemsma (34) during the second half at EnergySolutions Arena. The Jazz won 107-100. Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

The last two seasons the Bobcats got an unlucky bounce of the ping pong balls, and this year in order to cash in with one of the top prospects, their luck will likely have to turn around. Jefferson is good enough to take a crappy team and make them mediocre, a terrible spot for any team to be in, especially now. Even though his ability to score in the post is something to marvel at, he ranks right at the top of the just recently made up Black Hole Power Rankings, and his defense is admittedly atrocious, disastrous, hideous, and any other depressing term you could think of that ends in “ous.”

37: When will people realize how good Greg Monroe is?
-(Checking a calendar) Hopefully soon. Depending on how well the new look Detroit Pistons come together this season, it could be sooner rather than later. Then again, Monroe could easily be overlooked, especially with flashier teammates like Josh Smith, Brandon Jennings and Andre Drummond in the picture. Monroe is as consistent and durable as any other center in the league (NOTE: I know Monroe is technically the starting power forward now with Drummond in Detroit, but how am I supposed to make this 1-on-5 work if I have one power forward in the middle of four centers?), notching 88 double-doubles in his first three seasons and playing in all but three games. Much like the previous two centers mentioned, and the next one to follow, Monroe’s defensive impact is a work in progress. But he’s just as talented on the offensive end as any other big man in the league. Don’t let the lack of attention paid to him fool you.

May 4, 2013; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Brooklyn Nets center Brook Lopez (11) dunks against the Chicago Bulls during the second half in game seven of the first round of the 2013 NBA Playoffs at the Barclays Center. The Bulls won 99-93. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

36: Why isn’t Brook Lopez, who is widely regarded as the best offensive center in basketball, higher than 36th on the list?
-Have you ever had a really good bowl of chicken noodle soup? Not an average bowl; a really good bowl of chicken noodle soup. That’s the best way I can describe how I feel about Brook Lopez. No, I don’t get warm soup belly… that’s not what I mean. What is mean is this: typically when I finish a really good bowl of chicken noodle soup I’m left thinking, “Man, that was delicious, BUT I wish there was more, and I wish it would’ve been a New England clam chowder or broccoli cheddar instead.” That doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy the chicken noodle. And this isn’t indicative of a lack of appreciation for how talented Lopez is. I’m just always left wanting a little bit more when I get done watching him. Maybe it’s because like his team as a whole, he’s so damn boring (again, sort of like chicken noodle soup), but I never find him as impressive, impactful or even entertaining as some of his center counterparts left to come in the countdown. His scoring ability is natural and impressive, yet his rebounding numbers are embarrassing and his defense isn’t where it ideally should be. Chicken noodle soup will always give you warm soup belly, which is great, but that’s about it. Lopez will give you 20 points a night and not much else.

35: Was Roy Hibbert’s postseason success a product of favorable matchups or a sign of progression in his game?
-I’ll say a little of both. I’m positive that I’ll catch some heat for moving Hibbert up so high after leaving him off my mid-season edition of the top 50 list. Back in February, I argued the following:

Roy Hibbert (#44) is averaging 9.9 points and 8.3 rebounds, which is all fine and dandy until you consider the following four things: (1) Both of those numbers are down from last year, (2) He’s 26 years old and has no injury history, so there really isn’t a good reason why those number should be down, (3) He’s averaging a pedestrian 9.9 points on putrid 42% shooting, (4) This wouldn’t be a problem if he wasn’t 7’2 and the starting center on an eastern conference contender.

So what is the case for moving Hibbert back into the top 50?

He was significantly better after the All-Star break (15.7 points, 8.2 rebounds, 2.5 blocks, 51% FG) than he was before the All-Star break (10.3 points, 8.3 rebounds, 2.6 blocks, 41% FG)… He’s the anchor of either the best or second best defense in the NBA (depending on how you feel about Memphis)… He took Tyson Chandler to the woodshed in Games 3 and 6 in the 2nd Round, and made it just about impossible for the Knicks to score in the paint (Just ask Carmelo Anthony about that)… He housed a Gatorade so quickly that it turned into a “Roy Hibbert Challenge” on SportsNation… He played with an edge that he hadn’t shown before, especially in the Conference Finals when he was so good he commanded a double team when he touched the ball in the post, which is something that I would’ve literally bet money against if I had the chance to do so in February.

To me, all of that warranted Hibbert’s ascension. Did he catch a break playing against an ill Tyson Chandler and Miami’s ragtag group of pseudo-centers in back to back rounds? Of course. But he shouldn’t be penalized for thriving in a favorable situation. Hibbert did something I didn’t think he could do. He dominated, played pissed off, and nearly led the Pacers to the NBA Finals.

Come back on September 25th to check out #34 in the countdown!

Topics: Al Jefferson, Brook Lopez, Brooklyn Nets, Charlotte Bobcats, DeMarcus Cousins, Detroit Pistons, Greg Monroe, Indiana Pacers, NBA Offseason, Roy Hibbert, Sacramento Kings, Top 50 Players

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  • Big Dogg

    Very interesting analysis john hooks. you seem to have the intellectual ability and wide range of vocabulary to be a great sportswriter. why don’t you give it a shot…oh wait I forgot. websites don’t hire people to write who spew out misspelled nonsense and curse words. get a life mister