Unconventional NBA Rank: Best Transition Bigs
This series will rank the top players in some intangible skills or statistical areas that do not show up in traditional boxscores. This will be for last season’s production and does not necessarily reflect upcoming potential.
Our next set of rankings attempts to rank the best big men in transition from last season. This set of rankings incorporates speed, quickness in getting down the floor, filling space, decision making and finishing. Outlet passes are a big part of sparking transition opportunities for teammates but I was more interested in which big men could actually run the floor, so they were largely ignored for this purpose.
#4 DeMarcus Cousins
After just signing his four year extension, Cousins lands at #4 on this list, as he showed some nice quickness for a player of his size. According to My Synergy Sports, he ranked 37th among all NBA players with 1.32 points per possession (PPP). He did not use many transition possessions, as only 8% of his possessions were in transition, despite the Kings being the 8th fastest team last season.
He has nice acceleration and determination to get down the floor when he sees the potential for an easy basket. However, many of his transition opportunities came because he had not yet made it all the way back down the floor for defense before the Kings secured the ball. He was then able to leak out with nobody in front of him for the easy finish.
In transition, he also struggles with his decision-making, which is a problem in other areas as well. When he gets a full head of steam, he does not always have the recognition to see when he needs to give the ball up to a teammate, which puts him in position to create offensive fouls.
Due to his elite finishing and desire to get those easy baskets, Cousins is a strong transition big man. However, his turnovers (13% of transition opportunities end in turnovers) hold him back from moving further up this list.
#3 David Lee
Lee’s PPP on his own transition opportunities are not as strong as Cousins, as he scored only 1.22 PPP in transition but his ability to create for his teammates puts him higher on this list. He has nice dribbling skills for a big man and he seems comfortable putting the ball on the floor and going coast to coast in transition for a layup or assist.
Lee’s issue is that when his first thought after corralling a rebound is to put the ball on the floor immediately, defenses can swarm him for easy steals. This forces him into unnecessary turnovers, which could be lessened if he would outlet the ball to a guard and let them lead the break.
#2 Anthony Davis
In his rookie season, Davis was limited by injuries but he showed some of the best transition skills for a big man when he was on the court. With 1.56 PPP, he ranked 2nd among all players in the NBA. He flies up and down the court and finishes well for a big men.
Even when he starts under the rim, he can beat the defense down the court and with his wingspan, he can grab nearly every pass and finish at the rim. It will be interesting to see how Davis fits with Jrue Holiday in transition, as the Sixers were one of the slowest teams last season. Holiday can get out and run if allowed, so Davis could see the same success in transition this season as well.
#1 DeAndre Jordan
The best transition big, in my mind, is DeAndre Jordan. Much of this is helped by playing alongside Chris Paul, but Jordan shows the desire to get to the rim and look for the pass. His 1.39 PPP ranks 15th in the league, with transition opportunities making up 12.8% of his possessions.
What is different about the way Jordan runs the floor compares to the rest of the list is how Jordan runs down the sides of the floor while allowing the ball handler to fill the middle of the court. Watching the other clips, most of the other bigs run rim to rim or trail the play in transition. Jordan lets Paul or the other guards fill the middle of the court while Jordan runs the wing.