Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.
VIDEO: Has Paul George or Kawhi Leonard made the bigger jump this season?
> Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Jimmy Butler and Draymond Green: Which player has surprised you the most with his development so far in the NBA? And, if you were an NBA GM, which of these four players would you move heaven and earth to trade for?
Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: As far as development, I’ve got to be honest and say Jimmy Butler. He’s the one who, in all my wisdom, I watched upon his arrival in Chicago in 2011 and figured, “End-of-bench guy.” I saw flaws – flat shot, short arms, straight-up-and-down stance, small reputation at Marquette – but obviously didn’t see the hard work and drive going on behind the curtain. Trade for? Kawhi Leonard, because I think he still has untapped offensive upside to go with his athleticism and size, on top of all that Spurs pedigree. Of course the Bulls guy probably will prove me wrong again.
Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: They’re all A-listers. But in terms of surprise would have to go with Paul George because he’s the only one of the foursome making a comeback from a horrific injury. He’s actually playing the best basketball of his career. As a GM, in a close race I’d go after Kawhi Leonard. He’s the best shooter and gets the edge as defender over Draymond Green.
Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: Draymond Green. It’s not even close. He was drafted in the second round amid concern over whether he was a small forward or a power forward and then he turns into a critical part of a championship team while playing power forward and center. The Warriors didn’t even take him until their third pick of the 2012 draft, and now he’s going to be an All-Star in 2016. No one in any front office saw this coming. Who among the four players mentioned I break the bank to acquire depends on what my team looks like.
Shaun Powell, NBA.com: The choice is Draymond Green, a second-round pick in 2012 who has developed into one of the league’s best all-around players (passing, defense, rebounding, 3-point shooting, leadership). Leonard had all the tools except outside shooting, Butler was already an ace defender and George was a lottery pick. That said, I’d go hardest to get Leonard, because he’s on a reasonable contract and I think his ceiling is higher than the rest. He’s just now learning how to score, and we know about his D.
John Schuhmann, NBA.com: I didn’t watch any of these guys in college, but Draymond Green has to be the biggest surprise, in that he’s gone from second-round pick to one of the dozen best players in the NBA. He’s the most important part of the best defense in the league and has become a terrific pick-and-roll playmaker who keeps a top-5 offense rolling when defenses take the ball out of Stephen Curry‘s hands. I’d love to trade for any of them, because they’re all impact players on both ends of the floor, maybe the four best two-way players in the league. But my vote is for Leonard, who’s more than a year younger than any of the other three, is becoming a go-to guy on offense, and still has more developing to do.
Sekou Smith, NBA.com: Kawhi Leonard’s development has surprised me the most, given that I was not well-versed on him or his game when he was drafted. His improvement on the offensive end, complete with 3-point range and deft ballhandling skills, give him a wealth of skills on both ends of the floor that few players in the league possess. It’s funny, Paul George, Draymond Green and Jimmy Butler are three of the other guys in the league I’d put in that same category. As far as which one of these guys I’d make moves to trade for as a GM, George would top that list, but any one of these guys would be an extremely valuable addition to your franchise.
Ian Thomsen, NBA.com: Green has been the biggest surprise — he was a second-round pick who within three years was winning a championship with Golden State. But right now you’d have to say that George is the only player on this list who could become the No. 1 star on a championship team, because he can create his own shot and can rank among the best wing defenders in the NBA. Here’s the problem: You’re not going to be able to trade for him unless moving “heaven and earth” means including someone like LeBron James, Steph Curry or Anthony Davis.
Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: I’d say all of these guys have developed into great players, but for me the most spectacular development has been that of Kawhi Leonard, who along with a terrific offensive game has turned into the NBA’s best one-on-one defender. Which isn’t to detract from George, Butler or Green — they are all similarly great defenders and have the ability to score when necessary, with PG having perhaps the best offensive game of any of these four players. But for me, Leonard’s transformation into the player he is today is the most stunning, and the most promising, when you consider how much further he may still go.