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.