NBA Second Options: Who Are the Best Number Two Options on NBA Teams?

If you want to be a championship team in the NBA, you can’t just have one star player. You need to have options beyond your top guy. The best teams have at least two or three players who can go off every single night for points. Going into the 2021-2022 season, some teams are better off than others in terms of their number two scoring options. Here is every NBA team’s second option, ranked from worst to best.

30. Thunder: Darius Bazley

The clear-cut number one in Oklahoma City is Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. After him, it is wide open. I’m going with Bazley, who could make a big jump in his third season. Bazley needs to increase his efficiency, as splits of 40/29/70 all have room for improvement. No matter who is the number two guy in OKC, they still have the toughest situation out of any team.

29. Magic: Cole Anthony

The Magic are truly scoring by committee during their rebuild. Of their leading scorers last year, Terrence Ross is the top returner with 15.6 PPG. You can take your pick of their crowded backcourt for a number two option. I’m going with Anthony, who proved there wasn’t a shot he didn’t love last year. Jalen Suggs or RJ Hampton could become the true number two option, or Jonathan Isaac or Markelle Fultz may when they return from injury. The Magic might have one of the most confusing pecking orders in all of the NBA.

28. Kings: Buddy Hield

For how much longer will Hield be the second option in Sacramento? Their backcourt rotation is crowded with him, De’Aaron Fox, Tyrese Haliburton, and top pick Davion Mitchell all there. Hield has declined in his efficiency and his points per game in the last three seasons. He’ll likely be the odd man out soon enough, and Haliburton or Mitchell will replace him as the second option.

27. Rockets: John Wall

Trying to rank the Rockets’ scoring options is a hard process. Christian Wood deserves the title of top guy after averaging 21 PPG last year. Right behind him though in scoring last year was Wall, with 20.6 PPG. Second overall pick Jalen Green may be the next best scorer this year, but you have to credit Wall’s body of work. His contract may be an albatross for his production but Wall is still capable of going off on nights when his shot is falling.

26. Pistons: Cade Cunningham

Ranking rookies is always hard, but really who will the Pistons be relying on this coming season? Jerami Grant gets the benefit of the doubt as the number one guy after a breakout season last year. Aside from him, Cunningham is the main guy being asked to get buckets. He played well in the Summer League and has the diverse skill set needed to score in a variety of different ways. Once he gets into a rhythm, he’ll either move up this list or supplant Grant as the number one guy.

25. Spurs: Keldon Johnson

The Spurs are in full tear-down and youth movement mode now with the departure of DeMar DeRozan. Dejounte Murray is the highest returning scorer, and Olympic gold medallist Johnson will be his right-hand man. In his second season, Johnson contributed 12.8 PPG. He needs to work on shot selection and his field goal percentage, but he’ll have plenty of opportunity on a young Spurs team.

24. Cavaliers: Darius Garland

Will the backcourt of Garland and Collin Sexton work out? Cleveland seems intent on making SexLand work. Last year Garland was second on the team in scoring with 17.4 PPG. His effective field goal percentage took a solid jump (47.6 percent to 51.7 percent). If he can make another jump like that, he’ll be a quality number two option, though he may be overtaken by promising young center Jarrett Allen.

23. Raptors: Fred VanVleet

Placing VanVleet is tricky. He was a great glue guy and sixth man for the Raptors NBA Championship three seasons ago. Last season VanVleet increased his scoring output but struggled with efficiency as he became the number two guy behind Pascal Siakam. The Raptors are stuck in limbo between rebuilding and competing. If VanVleet turns up his scoring and playmaking, they may try to speed up the rebuild and rally around VanVleet and Siakam.

22. Grizzlies: Jaren Jackson Jr.

The Grizzlies are committed to the Jackson Jr.-Ja Morant pairing to make them competitive in the west. Jackson Jr. only played in 11 games after returning from a meniscus tear last season. Will he be able to capitalize on the potential he showed as a fourth overall pick in 2018? For the Grizzlies to rise above the play-in game, they’ll need Jackson Jr. to at least approach 20 points per game.

21. Knicks: Kemba Walker

It will be interesting to see what the Knicks get in Walker and if he even turns into the second option there. He’s a dynamic scorer but has had injury issues for two years and had a downturn in his shooting percentages as well. If Walker is healthy, he’ll bring a scoring punch to pair with Julius Randle. Derrick Rose, R.J. Barrett, and Immanuel Quickley are all waiting in the wings though if Walker doesn’t contribute quickly.

20. Jazz: Mike Conley

Rudy Gobert is the second-best Utah player, but an offensive threat he is not. That makes Conley the second option beside backcourt mate Donovan Mitchell. Conley, finally an All-Star last year at 33, is a decent finisher at the rim for his size and increased his three-point shooting last season. He shot a career-best 41.2 percent on a career-high 6.6 threes a game.

19. Mavericks: Kristaps Porzingis

Porzingis’ low ranking is a direct result of his poor playoff performance. After being a 20 PPG player during the regular season, Porzingis disappeared as Luka Doncic struggled to carry the Mavericks. 47 percent from the field, 29 percent from three, and only 13.1 PPG is not a great second option. We’ll see if the pressure makes Porzingis go back to his All-Star form, or if it punches his ticket out of Dallas.

18. Wizards: Spencer Dinwiddie

Out with Russell Westbrook and in with Dinwiddie as Bradley Beal’s running mate. He should be able to benefit from the extra attention Beal draws. While he’s bouncing back from an ACL injury, Dinwiddie did average 20.6 PPG two seasons ago. If he can recapture that form, Dinwiddie will emerge from a surprisingly deep Wizards rotation as Beal’s right-hand man.

17. Pacers: Malcolm Brogdon

The Pacers are a score-by-committee team, but we’ll say for this list that Domantas Sabonis is the number one guy. Brogdon was actually the leading scorer at 21.2 PPG, but he also functions as the primary playmaker for the squad. Never a dominant scorer, he can hit open shots and create for others. He called his own number a bit more last season, so it will be interesting to see if he continues to do so this year.

16. Timberwolves: D’Angelo Russell

Russell is one player who will be overtaken soon by another player on his team. Anthony Edwards showed explosive scoring prowess in his rookie season, but for now, Russell remains the number two option for the Timberwolves. He’s a quality outside scorer that can go off for points in bunches.

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15. Nuggets: Michael Porter Jr.

Jamal Murray has an argument as the number two behind reigning MVP Nikola Jokic, but he is out for most of the first half of the season. Denver’s going to be looking at third-year Porter Jr. to continue to improve his scoring. Last year he averaged 19 PPG on 54 percent shooting. He’s going to be expected to take a larger role and take pressure off of Jokic.

14. Hornets: LaMelo Ball

Ball is the best player and the player with the most upside on the Hornets, but he may not be the number one scoring option. That remains Gordon Hayward after a bounce-back season last year. Ball could continue to develop and become the number one producer on the team after a Rookie of the Year season last year. He’ll look to increase his 43.6 percent overall field goal percentage in year two.

13. Hawks: John Collins

Collins’ scoring went down last year as the young Hawks developed and Trae Young continued to become a true number one. He secured the bag this summer with a just-below-max contract, which is just right for his production. Collins can hit shots from the outside (a career 38 percent mark from beyond the arc) but also provides low-block scoring that opens things up for Young on the outside.

12. Bulls: Nikola Vucevic

The Bulls are going to be able to score this coming year. Zach LaVine, coming off an all-star appearance, will have another all-star in Vucevic for a full season. Vooch is one of the most well-rounded centers in the league. He averaged 23.4 PPG and shot 40 percent on 6.3 3PA per game. Demar DeRozan will take some touches too, but Vucevic should be the second-highest scorer on the Bulls this year.

11. 76ers: Tobias Harris

Ben Simmons isn’t the number two option, no matter what Joel Embiid says about them being cool. Instead, it’s Harris who has been a model of consistency. He’s never averaged less than 19 PPG in Philadelphia and provides some outside shooting to space for dominant big man Embiid. He’s a quiet killer for Philadelphia, and one of the better secondary options to have on the team.

10. Trailblazers: CJ McCollum

The pairing of Damian Lillard and McCollum isn’t bringing a lot of success to The City of Roses. That’s mainly due to the pair’s defensive shortcomings and the lack of a supporting cast for the pair. McCollum is still a shooter’s shooter. Since becoming a starter in 2015-2016, McCollum has never averaged lower than 20 PPG. That kind of stability is what some teams would dream of in a primary scorer, let alone a second option.

9. Pelicans: Brandon Ingram

There are rumors that people around Zion Williamson are not happy with who the Pelicans have surrounded him with. Ingram is not a part of that problem. A dynamic offensive player who can be seen as a poor man’s Kevin Durant, Ingram has been a consistent scorer. He’s averaged 23.8 PPG in back-to-back seasons with the same effective field goal percentage (53.1 percent).

8. Warriors: Klay Thompson

Ranking Thompson is one of the hardest parts of this list. When he returns to the NBA he is sure to continue being the Robin to Steph Curry’s Batman. Thompson is coming off of injuries that have kept him out since 2018/2019. If there is no rust, Thompson moves up closer to the top five. However, Thompson will fall if he struggles to regain the shooting stroke that made him so dangerous.

7. Heat: Bam Adebayo

Part of Bam’s top 10 ranking is a projection on how he’ll do with the new-look Heat. Adebayo should benefit from some easy post buckets courtesy of new point guard Kyle Lowry. Bam will get supreme spacing with Duncan Robinson and Tyler Herro on the outside. He shot 57 percent on 12.5 FGA last year. Expect those attempts to go up with his efficiency to remain the same.

6. Suns: Chris Paul

An ageless wonder, Paul got paid this offseason after helping lead the Suns to the NBA Finals. Paul continues to be an outstanding shooter, shooting his second-best career percentage from the field last season at 49.9 percent. Deandre Ayton will eventually surpass Paul as the second option behind Devin Booker, but for now, Paul’s a top-level secondary scorer.

5. Celtics: Jaylen Brown

I am a believer in Jaylen Brown as an offensive stud. He increased his offensive output to 24.7 PPG, a top-20 mark in the league. Brown had his best shooting percentages across the board with a 48/40/76 set of splits. The Celtics have two of the top scorers in the league, an enviable position to be in. Brown could make a leap into the top three with another all-star season this year.

4. Bucks: Khris Middleton

Kash Money Middleton benefited strongly from the Bucks championship campaign. In the NBA Playoffs, Middleton became the midrange maestro. He averaged 23.6 PPG and was a true number two for Giannis. Many had wondered if Middleton was a strong enough second start to carry the Bucks to a title. He proved them wrong this year.

3. Clippers: Paul George

Playoff P/Pandemic P gets a lot of flack, but he’s still a legitimate number one option on many teams. With Kawhi Leonard in town, he gets to operate as a 1B or top-flight two. George had 23 PPG last year, with shooting splits of 47/41/87. He’s definitely one of the best in the NBA, memes be damned.

2. Lakers: Anthony Davis

When will Davis be the number one for the Lakers instead of LeBron? James is superhuman, so he won’t decline like a regular player. That means that for now, James remains the number one with an All-NBA level player as his secondary option. One area for Davis to improve is still his outside shooting.

1. Nets: James Harden

It’s hard to not put a former scoring champ in the number one spot. The real question with the Nets was whether to put Harden or Kyrie Irving as the number two. Harden may transition to more of a point guard for the Nets, but the man is a walking bucket. He’s the best number two scorer on a team for sure this season.

Evan Gomes is a freelance pop culture and sports writer. Follow him on Twitter at @ItsEvanGomes, and check out his two podcasts: Crossbody of Work and The Pop Capsule Podcast. Check out his latest articles on the NBA for BellyUp here.

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Evan Gomes

Evan is a freelance writer and podcast host. He hosts two podcasts: Crossbody of Work & Pop Capsule Podcast. Catch him on Twitter to talk basketball, professional wrestling and the Taylor Swift discography.

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