Steve Kerr said he didn’t have flashbacks watching Steph Curry and Klay Thompson drain 3-pointers at Paycom Center on Monday night in the Warriors’ 128-120 win against the Oklahoma City Thunder, but it was hard not to think of the past when watching the Splash Brothers shine against their old rivals.

Gone are the days of Curry, Thompson, Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala, Harrison Barnes and Andrew Bogut battling the likes of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka, Andre Roberson and Steven Adams. The Thunder are young, fun and building their next core of stars.

A new rivalry could one day spark against Thunder stars such as Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Josh Giddey, Jalen Williams and Jaylin Williams, a healthy Lou Dort and after Chet Holmgren makes his NBA debut.

For the Warriors, Jordan Poole, Andrew Wiggins, Jonathan Kuminga, Patrick Baldwin Jr., James Wiseman, Moses Moody and the rest of the young Dubs might be leading the way. But on Monday night in OKC, it was time for Steph and Klay to make it rain on the Thunder once more.

The two combined to score 66 points. They made 53.7 percent of their 41 shots, 50 percent of their 28 3-pointers and all eight of their free throws went down. Curry led the way with a game-high 38 points, going 12-for-20 from the field, 8-for-14 from deep and 6-for-6 at the free-throw line. Thompson added 28 points as he went 10-for-21 overall, 6-for-14 beyond the arc and 2-for-2 on free throws.

Curry scored 13 points in the first quarter and was a plus-18 in plus/minus as the Warriors entered the second up 38-20. He made five of his seven shots and three of his four tries from long distance. Thompson was going shot for shot with him, scoring 10 while going 4-for-5 from the field and 2-for-3 on threes.

“You got to play the full 48,” Steve Kerr said to reporters after the win. “The start that we got off to, though, set the tone for the game. We played a great first quarter and they had to swim upstream the entire final three quarters. Even though they got close, we were able to hold them off.”

In that first quarter, the Warriors made 15 shots and all 15 were assisted. Their first 18 made shots were off assists. The streak ended when Jordan Poole dribbled past and around four different players on the Thunder before finishing off a fancy finger roll.

One game after the Warriors handed out a season-high 40 assists in a win over the Toronto Raptors, they totaled 37 assists Monday against the Thunder. Curry on Friday dished 11 assists. This time, he one-upped himself.

He and Draymond Green each topped all players with 12 assists apiece.

“Oh that first quarter was beautiful,” Thompson said. “I think the ball was humming around.”

The latter half of Curry’s 12 made shots were the most important. After dropping 18 points in the first half, he scored 20 in the second half. But the one with the longest meaning was his seventh made field goal of the night, a strong finish at the rim.

That gave him 7,217 made field goals for his career, passing the all-time great Wilt Chamberlain for the most in Warriors franchise history.

“What a legendary accomplishment,” Thompson said. “I mean, Wilt Chamberlain is one of the greatest athletes to ever walk this earth. The fact that Steph was able to do that a foot shorter than him, that’s special.”

Down the stretch, the Warriors received contributions from a handful of players in the win. Thompson scored the most out of the eight players who saw action in the fourth quarter, with nine points, three made shots, two free throws and one emphatic dunk.

The Warriors finished January with a 7-6 record. Thompson played 10 of those 13 games and put together his best month yet this season. He averaged 27 points on 45.9 percent shooting, 43.1 percent on 3-pointers and 90.9 percent on free throws.

Returning from his left shoulder injury on Jan. 10, Curry put an exclamation mark on the month as the Warriors won their third straight game and earned their first win streak on the road this season. In nine games this month, he averaged 29.1 points and 5.8 assists, shooting 47.8 percent from the field and 40.8 percent from downtown.

What was a slow start to the month was about as good of a finish as Curry and the Warriors could have hoped for.

“Just really smooth with the ball, running off the ball — off screens — playing good defense, rebounding,” Kerr said of Curry. “He was just quick to the ball and looked fantastic out there.”

The rivalry between the Warriors and Thunder is long gone, for now. Nights of Steph and Klay lighting it up still are very much here to stay.

2023 NBA All-Star: Joel Embiid biggest starter snub; Anthony Davis had a strong case over Zion Williamson

Embiid should be starting over Giannis Antetokounmpo

The 2023 NBA All-Star starters were announced Thursday night, and naturally, a couple players who are looking at bench roles have a legitimate beef. First, here are the starters, which were selected using a weighted system in which the fan vote accounted for 50 percent, and the media and player votes 25 percent each.

It’s not an honest snub unless you can say who should be replaced, and in this case, Embiid deserved to start over Anteokounmpo. The media and players agreed, voting Embiid third among frontcourt players behind Tatum and Durant, but Embiid wound up fourth in the fan vote, where Giannis was first. That was the difference.

I get the argument that the fans are the lifeblood of the league and they should get to see who they want to see in the All-Star Game, but they got this one wrong. Embiid scores more than Antetokounmpo with a far better true-shooting percentage.

Embiid is top five in many catch-all advanced metrics, top 10 in all of them and trails only Jokic in PER. Giannis, meanwhile, barely outpaces Embiid in Defensive Win Shares and Defensive Box Plus/Minus while registering 14th in VORP, 18th in OBPM, 26th in RAPTOR WAR, 27th in Win Shares and 46th in OWS.

Those last couple numbers reflect Giannis’ continued shortcomings in the half-court, particularly as a perimeter creator. Giannis is incredible, obviously, but this season is serving as a reminder that he’s still a more flawed player than his status as arguably the best player in the world suggests.

Despite having to cover for James Harden and Tyrese Maxey in the backcourt, Embiid has Philly’s defense ranked No. 7 in the league, per Cleaning The Glass. Take Harden off the court, and Embiid has Philly operating at a 104.4 defensive rating, which would by far rank as the best in the league.

Giannis’ offense doesn’t look nearly as good, neither on paper nor to the eye. His midrange shooting is way down, and if you put him on the court without Jrue Holiday to create, the Bucks become a net neutral team, per CTG, with a bottom-dwelling offensive rating. All told, Giannis is in command of an offense that ranks 23rd both overall and in the half-court, per CTG.

Look, we’re splitting hairs here. Both Embiid and Antetokounmpo are top-of-the-food-chain players. But Embiid is having a better year, even when you factor in Khris Middleton’s absence. He should be higher than Giannis in the MVP race, and with all due respect to the fans, he should be starting in the All-Star Game.

Davis is averaging 27.2 points, 12.1 rebounds and 2.2 blocks with a 65.9 true-shooting. Those first three numbers trump Zion Williamson’s marks — the rebounds and blocks significantly. The TS percentages are nearly identical.

With Davis on the floor, the Lakers, with no other elite defenders, register what would be the league’s best defensive rating, per CTG. Zion has gotten better defensively, but he’s far more a product of a good New Orleans defense than a standout himself, whereas Davis is the Lakers’ defense. There was a stretch when Davis was the best player in the league this season. That cannot be said of Williamson.

So why wasn’t Davis named a starter? Simple, he hasn’t played enough — just 29 games. That would be a valid argument when we talk about the next guy on this list, Domantas Sabonis, who has played all but two games for the Kings, but Zion has only played 33 games himself. Playing four more games shouldn’t make Zion a starter when Davis has been the better player.

Domantas Sabonis
Sabonis has been an absolute stud for the Kings. A Nikola Jokic light, he’s a brute in the post but also the offensive hub of a second-ranked Kings offense that falls by 10 points per 100 possessions when he sits, per CTG. Care to guess how many players are averaging at least 18 points, 12 rebounds and seven boards this season? One. Sabonis.

As mentioned above, Sabonis has also played 45 games to Zion’s 33, and that’s to say nothing of the two more weeks, at least, that Williamson is in line to miss. The Kings have a a three-game edge over the Pels in the loss column entering play on Thursday. Sabonis ranks ahead of Williamson in VORP, BPM, DBPM, OBPM, WS, OWS, DWS and Total RAPTOR and RAPTOR WAR.

So what was the problem? Zion is a flashier name and scores more points, and fans are suckers for both. Zion got the fourth-most frontcourt fan votes; Sabonis was ninth. Zion has been awesome when he’s been on the court, but considering the gap in games played, Sabonis deserved this starting spot.

Tyrese Haliburton
Haliburton is the Sabonis of Eastern Conference guards. He has been magnificent all season, but he is not the big name. Seven guards got more fans votes, and he was sixth in the player vote.

Donovan Mitchell is a no-brainer starter, and Kyrie Irving is more than worthy. But if anyone has a legitimate beef over Irving, it’s Haliburton, who leads the league in assist percentage and is second to James Harden in assists per game despite not dominating the ball; Irving’s 29.1 usage rate ranks 19th league-wide, while Haliburton’s 23.7 ranks 82nd.

Haliburton is also a better shooter than Irving at 40 percent from 3 on almost eight attempts per game with a slightly higher true-shooting number. Again, I don’t have an issue with Irving being a starter. He’s been really good. But if Haliburton would’ve gotten the nod, I wouldn’t have objected that either. It’s a borderline snub. Definitely worth mentioning in this post.

LeBron James scoring record: Predicting when Lakers star will pass Kareem with game-by-game projections

LeBron James is just 117 points away from becoming the NBA’s all-time leading scorer

LeBron James has officially hit the home stretch of his pursuit of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s record for the most points in NBA history. After Saturday’s game against the Boston Celtics, he is 117 points shy of owning the career scoring title. The Lakers may have lost this game in heartbreaking fashion, especially for James, who was furious with a non-call on his possible game-winning layup.

But LeBron certainly did his part, scoring 41 points in an overtime defeat. (We had projected that he would score 29 points.) He finished the night with six 3s, shooting 15 of 30 from the floor. That performance shaved his pace down by a game, but he will sit out the Lakers’ next game on Monday against the Nets. At James’ season-long scoring average of 30.2 points per game, James would break the record in four games — a home date against the Thunder on Feb. 7 if he doesn’t miss any more time.

Of course, we know that averages can be a bit misleading.

And there are additional factors, including whether he wants to become the new standard-bearer in road game or in Los Angeles, or whether he can maintain he level of play week after week as a 38-year-old player who has spent more than half of his life performing an extremely high level.

On top of that, Anthony Davis is back in the lineup now. Rui Hachimura needs shots after his acquisition via trade as well. So maybe James gets hot for a few more games. Maybe he’s cold. So instead of relying on an average, let’s take a game-by-game approach to predict how many points he’ll score against each opponent to break Abdul-Jabbar’s all-time record.

The Lakers have been a bit more aggressive about playing James on both legs of back-to-backs recently. In the first four back-to-backs James would theoretically have been healthy enough to play, he participated in both halves just once. In their last four, he’s suited up for both legs all four times. The major difference is that Davis wasn’t available for the last three of the Lakers’ back-to-back sets. Now that he is, the Lakers can be a bit more judicious about when James plays. Nothing would ever keep him out of a Madison Square Garden game, so the Brooklyn contest on Monday became the obvious choice. Indeed, it was announced Sunday that James (and Davis) would sit out Monday’s game at Barclays Center. And with Kevin Durant sidelined, it might not even be an automatic loss for the Lakers. — Projected points away from record postgame: 117

New York’s defensive problems extend well beyond Mitchell Robinson’s absence. He’s missed the last four Knicks games, but they ranked 25th in defense (119.5 points per 100 possessions allowed) over their past 10. Their best perimeter defender has been Quentin Grimes, who is simply too small to handle James. That will leave RJ Barrett with the job. Barrett is fine defensively, but “fine” is rarely acceptable where James is concerned. Throw in his love of putting on a show for the New York fans and this could be his biggest game of the record push. — Projected points away from record postgame: 80

The Pacers held James to just 22 points in their first meeting this season, but the greater concern here, even if it makes a win more likely, is that the absence of Tyrese Haliburton creates conditions for a blowout. The Lakers aren’t going to push James into extra minutes if this game isn’t close. So on the fourth night of a lengthy road trip, James will put up numbers, but he’s not going to go crazy. — Projected points away from record postgame: 55

When a healthy Anthony Davis plays against the Pelicans, he tends to dominate. He scored 87 points combined in two meetings against his old team in 2020. The trouble is, either the schedule or injuries have weakened him for most of his subsequent matchups. Now that Davis appears to be relatively healthy, he’s probably going to do the lion’s share of the scoring for the Lakers in this one. While James is currently on pace to break the record in this game, if he sits out the Nets matchup as we predict and tallies the previous numbers, he would be within striking distance on any night he steps on the floor following the five-game road trip. — Projected points away from record postgame: 31

This is roughly when we should expect the gravity of the record to hit him and for him to start pressing a bit. Remember, Stephen Curry was taking over 14 3-pointers per game in the seven games leading up to his 3-point record-breaker last season, and he was hitting them at only a 34.7 percent clip. So expect a high-volume, low-efficiency game out of James in this one, especially since he’ll be spending it in the “Dorture Chamber.” Few defenders are better at forcing big wings into shooting jumpers than Luguentz Dort, so this will likely be a relatively quiet James game, but he’ll just be a few buckets away by this point. — Projected points away from record postgame: 5

If you’re a conspiracy theorist, here’s something to take note of: The Feb. 7 game between the Lakers and Thunder is not slated for national television. The late window game for TNT is the Timberwolves against the Nuggets. But this game? It will be nationally televised as the second half of TNT’s back-to-back. Do with that information what you will. Regardless, the pace takes us to Milwaukee, a team James has tended to succeed against. It’s a home game for the Lakers, allowing the team plenty of room to honor him. It comes against a worthy opponent, and there will surely be postgame quotes about how Giannis Antetokounmpo — his opposing All-Star Game captain — might be next. It’s simply too easy a scene to set. Expect this game to be the record-breaker, and, word to the wise: If LeBron is as close to the record at tipoff as we think he is going to be, this isn’t the night to arrive fashionably late.

2023 NBA trade deadline: Ranking 20 best players who could change teams as Raptors stars lead list

This should be an active trade deadline

The NBA trade deadline is now less than two weeks away, yet thus far, the moves have been minimal. In fact, we’ve only seen two total trades to this point: Boston dumping Noah Vonleh on San Antonio and Washington sending Rui Hachimura to the Los Angeles Lakers.

Eventually, this is going to change. There is simply too much incentive for teams to trade at this deadline for it not to. Only two teams in the NBA are currently on pace to win 55 games. There is virtually no separation between the teams fighting for the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference, and things are even tighter in a Western Conference in which teams might find themselves in sixth place one night and 12th the next.

More than half of the league can talk itself into a deep playoff run this season, and as such, there is going to be plenty of action at the deadline as buyers try to secure their place atop their conferences. But who are the players who can help them do that? Here are the 20 best players that could be moved at the trade deadline. One notable caveat: we’re leaving out the All-Stars… for now. DeMar DeRozan, Zach LaVine and Bradley Beal are all sensible trade candidates given where their team stands, but until there’s credible reporting on their availability, we’ll stick with (slightly) smaller names.

20. Russell Westbrook
Well… we’ll start with one pretty big name. Westbrook is an interesting case. Nobody is trading for him with the intent of playing him. For all of the good press he’s earned for accepting a bench role, Westbrook is not only shooting worse than last season but turning the ball over more as well. All of the fatal flaws we’ve seen torpedo his postseason hopes in the past still exist. But he’s also a $47 million expiring contract, and if the Lakers plan to make a move that involves significant salary, Westbrook almost has to be in it. That’s where things get interesting. At $47 million, Westbrook is an albatross. Divide that salary by 10 and he suddenly looks pretty interesting. For all of his flaws, teams like the Clippers and Suns could really take advantage of the pressure he puts on the rim in small doses. If he’s dealt, expect him to generate a robust buyout market in a smaller role for a contender.

19. Caris LeVert
How much do teams believe in LeVert’s 3-point shooting? That’s the seminal question here. A three-level scorer hitting 38 percent of his 3-pointers on reasonable volume would be a great addition to any bench. If he’s closer to the 33 percent he made in his career prior to this season? Well, then you’re suddenly looking at a mid-range heavy reserve that doesn’t play much defense and needs a new contract. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s the sort of player that gets traded merely as matching salary to a team looking for a third guard rather than the sort of asset-generator the Cavs would like him to be. Cleveland would love to turn LeVert’s salary slot into a small forward that can either shoot or defend at a higher level than their 6-6 guard. Without any first-round picks to dangle, he’s their only path to that sort of player at the deadline.

18. Eric Gordon
Gordon’s 3-point shooting is deceptive in the other direction. He’s down to around 34 percent from deep this season, but remember, he’ll fire away from far behind the line and typically has to create his own shots because, well, Houston’s offense doesn’t exactly do a great job of setting up shooters. His ability to defend bigger players is valuable as well in the switch-heavy postseason, but Gordon is 34, and a quirk in his contract might turn off some cost-conscious buyers. Gordon will become a free agent after this season… unless his team wins the championship, which would guarantee him around $20.9 million.

16. Seth Curry
Curry and Joe Harris are really sharing this slot because the presence of one makes the other expendable. Both are having down years coming off of injuries. Both are among the best shooters in basketball when healthy. Both are sizable matching salaries for a Nets team that seems to want to be aggressive at the deadline. Curry is the better shot-creator of the two. Harris, in part because of his size, is the better defender. Curry’s expiring contract makes him the likelier of the two to be moved, but it will ultimately come down to who Brooklyn wants to acquire and how much salary they need to send out in return.

15. P.J. Washington
Washington isn’t an elite defender at any single position, but his positional versatility is critical for the small-ball postseason. Though primarily a power forward for his career, he’s slid down to small forward in certain matchups, and last season, he actually spent the bulk of his minutes at center. The playoffs prize lineup flexibility. Plenty of teams in need of forward help will be interested in Washington, but the team that gets him will likely be the one that wants to use him at center a bit as well.

14. Mike Conley
A trade for Conley is a trade for an adult in the room. He’s not going to score much for you at this stage of his career, and he, like the rest of Utah’s perimeter players, was absolutely torched defensively by the Mavericks last postseason, but if you can live with those defects, you’re getting the best floor general on the market. Need someone to settle down your offense and lead bench stretches? Conley is your man.

13. Jordan Clarkson
Speaking of Utah guards who couldn’t defend the Mavericks last spring, Clarkson’s shot creation has never been better than it is this season. He’s averaging career-highs in points and assists for a Jazz team that has needed him to take on more of a leadership burden. He’s done so quite well, but in addition to his defensive defects, his playoff history is not strong. Regular-season Clarkson is a 20-point scorer. Playoff Clarkson, thus far, is at 11.7 points per game on 41.3 percent from the field and 32.9 percent from deep.

12. Terry Rozier
An excellent shooter, a passable defender despite his small stature and still a fairly explosive attacker off the dribble, the concerns Rozier presents are contractual. Rozier is owed more than $70 million over the next three seasons, and if the Hornets intended to pay that to him, he wouldn’t be such a popular trade candidate. That is not a deal you absorb flippantly for a third guard. If you land Rozier now, it’s because you expect him to be your point guard for the next several seasons. There aren’t many contenders willing or able to make that sort of commitment, but if the asset cost is low enough, someone will.

11. D’Angelo Russell
Russell has a higher upside than Rozier, but he’ll probably command a bigger deal in free agency this offseason. That’s worthwhile in the right setting. Russell is by far the superior playmaker, and while his shooting waxes and wanes, he’s a better individual shot-creator as well. He’s a trick defensive fit on most teams though. Minnesota found success last season playing him off of the ball in their aggressive scheme, allowing him to take advantage of his basketball IQ to call out coverages and help at the basket. That’s a tricky piece to fit on most defenses, especially in the playoffs, when opponents hunt poor individual defenders into extinction. Russell has kept Minnesota afloat lately, though, and Anthony Edwards is thriving enough in his presence to dispel fit concerns. If the Timberwolves trade him, it will be because they’ve found a long-term point guard option they prefer.

10. Jakob Poeltl
Poeltl is the rare high-end big man that doesn’t shoot or catch lobs. That makes him a more complicated offensive fit, but a rewarding one in the right setting. Poeltl is a gifted passer and clever screener, someone who can help take advantage of the shooters and shot-creators you have even if he’s not going to take much more than a few push shots per game himself. His defense is the real attraction here, though. He can survive on the perimeter, but he’s among the NBA’s best rim protectors even without blocking a copious amount of shots. Put the right point-of-attack defenders in front of him and he can absolutely anchor a postseason defense.

9. John Collins
Collins isn’t anchoring anything, but his offensive game is far more diverse than Poeltl’s. He can shoot. He can dunk lobs. He can post up. He can even dribble a bit. Stick him with a high-usage pick-and-roll creator and he offers a very nice dose of unpredictability to your offense. In a more egalitarian system, he’ll sneak his way to 20 points in transition and off putbacks and with the shots he creates for himself. You need to be able to protect him defensively as Atlanta did with Clint Capela during their Eastern Conference finals run, but doing so opens up a whole lot for the right offense.

8. Nikola Vucevic
The Bulls are likely dragging their feet on LaVine and DeRozan until the offseason at least, but that’s not a luxury they can afford with Vucevic. The two-time All-Star will be a free agent this offseason, and the frugal Bulls may not be willing to break the bank for a 32-year-old that can’t defend in the postseason. Still, Vucevic has managed to build up a good chunk of his trade value after a down year a season ago. He’s shooting a career-high 59.4 percent on 2-pointers this season, but perhaps more importantly, is back up to 37.6 percent on his 3-pointers. Not many teams can work him into their defense seamlessly, but if nothing else, he’s a killer bench big in the right matchups that can start without intruding on an incumbent star’s territory offensively.

7. Gary Trent Jr.
The offense is a given. Trent is going to shoot somewhere between average and above average from deep on high volume with the ability to create his own shot and pick up points within the flow of just about any offense. Last season, he paired that scoring with the best defense of his career. Nick Nurse criticized him for his defense earlier this season, but just about every Raptor not named OG Anunoby is having a down year on that end of the floor. Trent has a player option. He has every reason to commit himself defensively on a contender, but his inconsistency remains a real concern.

6. Alex Caruso
There’s no fit question here. Alex Caruso defends everybody. He even held his own against Giannis Antetokounmpo last postseason. FiveThirtyEight’s RAPTOR ranks him as the best defender in the NBA at any position, and it’s not hard to see why. Guards can’t get around him, and he’s practically immune to screens. His length and low center of gravity allow him to defend any position. His reflexes are lightning-quick. His basketball IQ is stellar, and that translates to his offense as well, where he feasts as a cutter and connective passer. If you can tolerate his low 3-point volume (though he’s hitting 39 percent of his attempts this season!) Caruso will give you the sort of role player that can work in any lineup construction on any kind of roster.

5. Kyle Kuzma
Here’s the $100 million question: is Kuzma going to be both satisfied and effective as more of a catch-and-shoot role player if he’s traded to another contender? He’s made it clear he’s enjoyed being able to expand his game in Washington. He’s still not enough of a shot-creator to justify significant possession investment. Those things are useful for bench lineups and attacking closeouts, but ultimately, how appealing is a 34 percent 3-point shooter that probably shouldn’t do all that much more offensively to a contender? That shooting is the only question. He’s grown enough as a rebounder, defender and general space navigator over the past three seasons to fit in as a glorified role player even if that isn’t his preferred situation. Now that the Wizards have traded Hachimura, though, Kuzma may not be as available as he once appeared.

4. Bojan Bogdanovic
Bogdanovic is flirting with the best offensive numbers of his career, and he’s doing it on a team with absolutely no shot creation. He’s on pace to set new career highs in true shooting percentage and effective field goal percentage while coming quite close to breaking his previous highs in both 2-point shooting and 3-point shooting. Bogdanovic is aging like a fine wine, and that’s only going to continue on a team that can do a better job of creating open looks for him. Such a roster would take better advantage of his individual creation as well, and he’s no slouch defensively either. There are no major questions when it comes to Bogdanovic in the postseason. He’s going to help whichever team he lands with.

3. Myles Turner
Hey, speaking of career highs, Turner is on pace to set new ones in points, rebounds and 3-point percentage. It turns out, breaking up his timeshare with Domantas Sabonis worked wonders for both parties. Now Turner is arguably the NBA’s best 3-and-D center, and any team with a shooting deficit elsewhere on the roster could use Turner to make up for it. It becomes a lot easier to survive Ben Simmons’ shooting offensively with someone like Turner on the floor, for instance, and a number of rim-heavy teams could take advantage of his unique gifts. As such, Indiana won’t let him go cheap. While he’s set to be a free agent this offseason, there have reportedly been extension talks already. Any team trading for Turner needs to be ready to give him a long-term deal.

2. Fred VanVleet
To a normal player, dipping from 38 percent on 3-pointers to 34 percent would be a relatively minor development. For VanVleet, it’s deadly. Not only does VanVleet take more 3-pointers than 2-pointers, but he’s never even shot 45 percent on 2-pointers for a season. VanVleet doesn’t get to the basket. He doesn’t have a mid-range bag. He shoots 3-pointers and orchestrates your offense. That’s his game. When it’s going right, as it did a season ago, he’s an All-Star. When it goes wrong, as it is this year, things get more complicated. He’s seen a similar defensive dip, though that isn’t as dire given his age. He can still defend up a position or two, and aside from Caruso, he’s the best answer to Stephen Curry and his ilk on this list. There’s an inherent risk in investing multiple picks and a long-term contract in a player like VanVleet, who is so dependent on a few traits to generate his value, but the best version of him is absolutely worth it.

1. OG Anunoby
Someone has reportedly offered Toronto three first-round picks for Anunoby. There’s a reason they haven’t accepted yet. Anunoby is the platonic ideal of the 3-and-D wing, perhaps the single most valuable sub-star in basketball. He’s the best defender of big wings in basketball. He’s an above-average shooter on reasonable value. The only real question here is how badly Anunoby wants to expand his game in a bigger role. Reports have indicated that his ambitions extend beyond the 3-and-D realm, but like Kuzma, even if he’s improved as a ball-handler, he’s still not the sort of player that can be trusted to carry a significant shot-creation load. Given his 2025 player option, any team acquiring Anunoby would need to acquiesce to some extent. This is not a player you trade for as a low-maintenance playoff role player. He’s more like what Andrew Wiggins was to the Warriors a season ago. His primary job will be defense and he can scale his usage down alongside the starters, but his team is ultimately going to have to devote some possessions to him as a ball-handler. If the right team does that, it would be adding the sort of player all 30 teams desperately covet.