Soph 20: Who's soaring in Year 2?

Beverley has a good chance to earn All-Defense honors at season's end and is shooting well from the 3-point line. He isn't a good pick-and-roll player yet, but playing alongside Harden means he doesn't have to be.


9. Jonas Valanciunas, Raptors
Just 21 years old, Valanciunas is already OK at most things, but he is very good at scoring with one-on-one post moves. And every team needs a post player who can score down on the blocks.

He has a terrific left hand and attacks his post-ups with an excellent plan, looking for a sweeping hook in the middle but always ready to counter baseline with a hook. He can face up and make shots, too.

Valanciunas is growing as a defender and a rebounder, though a bit more slowly than the Raptors would like to see.


10. Miles Plumlee, Suns
Plumlee wins the award for most improved player from this class so far. He was a benchwarmer for the Pacers last season, but is now posting double figures in scoring or rebounding almost nightly.

There is nothing special about Plumlee's game, other than his overall size, athleticism and heart. But he is beginning to show signs that he can attack defenders with some jabs and a quick step and draw fouls, which is great. If he can just get better at making free throws,   his game will rapidly improve.


11. Andrew Nicholson, Magic
Nicholson is one of those rare big men who has a plethora of moves and skills, but he is currently not the master of any of them. He is creative in the post, setting up defenders for right- or left-handed hooks, or for scoops under the raised arms of his defender. And he has a smooth-looking perimeter jumper that he is confident in. But he is not making his shots often enough to be an efficient scorer. He is also forcing the issue too often and not kicking the ball back out for a better shot or a re-post.


12. Harrison Barnes, Warriors
Barnes is the fourth player in this class who has star potential, which he showed in the playoffs last season. And he likely would be closer to reaching that level if the Warriors hadn't added Andre Iguodala this past summer.

An elite athlete with size, great shooting skill and a post game that can be dynamite in time, Barnes is currently figuring out how to use his tools in a backup role. But it would not be a surprise to see him in the top five of this list by early spring.


13. Tony Wroten, 76ers
Quick, fast, strong and long, Wroten rates as an elite athlete at point guard in every category except pure jumping ability. He also has good anticipation skills and a good sense for where the ball should go. The problem is Wroten just can't make perimeter shots. If he could, he'd be a starting-level point guard who has the ability to be a plus defender.

He's the perfect guard for a tanking team because he'll help his team lose now but win later if he develops. He'll pair beautifully with Michael Carter-Williams in Philly if either of them learns to shoot.

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