Fernando Medina/Getty Images
22. Washington Wizards: Rui Hachimura, Ish Smith, Thomas Bryant
This is not ideal. It is also all the Wizards have. They will be without their three best players in Disney—Bradley Beal, Davis Bertans, John Wall—and won’t even have Thomas Bryant for a while as he recovers from COVID-19.
Quibbling over this selection is futile. Does Moritz Wagner belong over Rui Hachimura? What about Troy Brown Jr.? Maybe.
Wagner has the strongest case if he starts shooting threes again. But subbing out the rookie for anyone else doesn’t result in a material change. Washington is the least equipped of any team on the Disney campus right now.
21. San Antonio Spurs: DeMar DeRozan, Dejounte Murray, Derrick White
Building a trio with players who have logged hardly any time together doesn’t sit right. So it goes, though, for the Spurs. LaMarcus Aldridge is done for the year after undergoing right shoulder surgery, and ranking Rudy Gay, Patty Mills or Jakob Poeltl ahead of Dejounte Murray or Derrick White goes a little too far.
Spacing concerns abound for this troika, which has tallied a grand total of 146 possessions together, through which San Antonio owns an offensive rating in the, ahem, 6th percentile. Murray (37.8 percent) and White (35.6 percent) are faring just fine from beyond the arc, but their accuracy doesn’t come on appreciable volume or functionality (i.e. off-the-bounce looks).
Unless they or DeRozan undergo a stark offensive transformation, this isn’t a threesome that projects to do much damage or even see a ton of time.
20. Brooklyn Nets: Jarrett Allen, Joe Harris, Caris LeVert
Injuries and health concerns have ravaged the Nets roster just as much as they’ve ripped through the Wizards’ depth chart. But Brooklyn is decidedly better off than its counterparts. Each of its top-three players remaining would be part of any other NBA rotation.
Floating the Nets’ playoff chances will still be a chore—though much less so given the state of the Wizards.
Jarrett Allen, Joe Harris and Caris LeVert have barely played without both Spencer Dinwiddie and Kyrie Irving. LeVert has the off-the-bounce juice to shoulder a bulk of the shot-creation duties—he leads the league in pull-up three-point percentage among players to attempt at least three per game—but the offensive utility of Allen and Harris takes a hit without a more established setup man by their sides.
19. Sacramento Kings: De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield, Richaun Holmes
Richaun Holmes gets the nod despite appearing in just 39 games so far (shoulder injury). De’Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield were the only Kings players to crack the NBA 100, which makes this a more flexible selection process, and Holmes played well enough during his time on the court to warrant top-three-player-on-his-team treatment.
Sacramento has also fared quite well with all three in tow.
The offense puts up 118.3 points per 100 possessions to anchor a plus-2.7 net rating. That efficiency is in line with the makeup of this trio. Fox is already offensive-engine material, an amalgam of burst and decision-making with some functional shooting, while Hield remains a deadeye floor spacer. Holmes offers a strong presence around the rim, both as a roll man and putback hunter.
These three get infinitely more intriguing if Holmes is encouraged to let ‘er rip from long range. Whether they can rise much higher is a different story. Their collective defense needs to even out. Holmes can make stops around the bucket but isn’t an active deterrent, and Hield too often finds himself on the wrong end of bad matchups.
18. Orlando Magic: Evan Fournier, Aaron Gordon, Nikola Vucevic
Jonathan Isaac would be a shoo-in for Orlando’s trio if it sounded like he was going to return from his left knee injury. It doesn’t.
Evan Fournier, Aaron Gordon and Nikola Vucevic typify a league-average threesome. They all have their use, but it doesn’t coalesce into something much bigger. The absence of a primary offensive creator hurts most. Vooch can carry certain lineups but isn’t a face-up prober. Fournier is best deployed as a tertiary playmaker.
Gordon gives this troika, which has struggled to defend the rim and three-point line, in no small part due to Isaac’s limited availability, some wiggle room to surprise on offense. He has improved his pick-and-roll decision-making and is hitting 40.7 percent of his spot-up threes since Jan. 15. Orlando will be a lot better off if he can find his touch as a face-up scorer. (That’s a pretty monstrous if.)
17. Memphis Grizzlies: Jaren Jackson Jr., Ja Morant, Jonas Valanciunas
Jaren Jackson Jr. and Jonas Valanciunas aren’t the cleanest offensive fit, even though they both have range that extends beyond the arc. Neither is much of a threat off the dribble, and Valanciunas’ minimal outside volume is schemeable when the Grizzlies aren’t flush with knockdown-shooting wings.
That doesn’t make this the wrong triangle for Memphis. Valanciunas has been damn good this season, and Jackson’s three-point volume is mission-critical to the half-court balance. Maaaybe Brandon Clarke has a case for one of the spots, but the Grizzlies will still brush up against the same ceiling.
Fortunately for them, Ja Morant allows them to stave off a bottom-five ranking. His combination of shot-making and vision is lineup-proof, and Memphis has defended at an above-average clip with Jackson and Valanciunas on the frontline. (For what it’s worth: Clarke and Valanciunas have been interesting in limited action together.)
16. Indiana Pacers: Malcolm Brogdon, Domantas Sabonis, Myles Turner
Victor Oladipo may wind up rejoining the Pacers rotation in Disney. He would replace Malcolm Brogdon or Myles Turner if and when he makes his return. Until his playing becomes official, though, this is Indy’s trio. And it’s not half bad.
The Pacers are plus-6.6 points per 100 possessions when Brogdon, Turner and Domantas Sabonis play without Oladipo, a differential buoyed almost entirely by a defensive performance that ranks inside the 98th percentile and includes top-shelf rim protection.
Surviving on the offensive end is a lot harder without Oladipo. Brogdon cannot replicate his off-the-dribble jumper or the pressure he puts on the rim, and Indiana still runs into spacing issues with Sabonis and Turner in the half-court.
One question worth considering: How much does Oladipo improve the Pacers’ trio ranking? Probably not much. He perked up on offense ahead of the league’s closure, but Indiana can’t be sure what’ll it get from him, and the competition to come is pretty stiff.