It's July and nothing is happening, so let's talk basketball, because nobody is sick of basketball ever! Florida has a bunch of NBA players. Earlier in the year, I commented that the Gators were probably the third best current NBA school in terms of production and potential. Last year, taken alone, Florida is probably the second best school in the NBA, because Kevin Love and Russell Westbrook went down with injuries. Nobody ever beats Kentucky, so don't bother coming up with an argument. UK is to the NBA as Stanford is to the Director's Cup. Regardless of where you rank Florida, the Gators had a pretty good year. Two of the least productive NBA Gators won rings. One of the other bottom 5 was on the NBA runner up. No other school had two players in the Finals, and Florida had three, even if they are all extremely limited players at this point in their NBA career.
Florida didn't just send 8th and 9th men to the NBA Playoffs, though. Of Florida's best 6 players, 5 made the playoffs. In fact, of all the active Gators in the NBA, only Brad Beal and Marreese Speights failed to appear in the playoffs this year, because they were playing for the Wizards and Cavs, respectively.
But that's enough summary, the whole point of this is to figure out which Gator meant the most this year. Rings will not win or help in this argument, because the only Gators with rings won't even crack the 1st team of a hypothetical all-Gators team, which isn't so hypothetical as it is "I created it and put it at the end."
1.) Al Horford- 17.5 ppg, 10.2 rpg, .543 FG%, 1.1 bpg, 19.8 PER.
2.) David Lee- 18.5 ppg, 11.2 rpg, .519 FG%, 19.2 PER.
3.) Joakim Noah- 11.9 ppg, 11.1 rpg, 4.0 apg!, 2.1 bpg .481 FG%, 18.1 PER
I didn't intend to throw my hat in with the PER disciples, and I swear this is mostly a coincidence that the top 3 follow descending order of that stat. Honestly, if Noah had kept up his same numbers but played 74 games, he probably would have won, or at the very least finished 2nd. However, the fact remains that Horford played 8 more games and David Lee played 13 more games than Noah.
Speaking of Lee, WOW THIS YEAR. Mr Double-Double finished 6th in ppg for post players, and 4th in rebounds. Al Horford and Dwight Howard were the only other players to finish in the top 10 in both. However, Lee has a glaring weakness called defense. While his D Rating finally dropped to a serviceable 1.04 points/possession, his block rate remains abysmal. I'm not counting post season play here, but Golden State had to go away from Lee because he can't really defend and he can't stretch the floor, which is one way to say he has a gaping hole in his game especially with the NBA's better teams transitioning to small ball.
The other reason Lee didn't win is simple; Horford is really good. Like "The Heat would trade Bosh for Al Horford without really thinking too hard about it" good, and despite what everyone says, Bosh is an amazing basketball player. Horford's only weakness is he plays for Atlanta and he seemingly idolizes Tim Duncan, which is a bad way to get noticed in the NBA. Lee and Noah both had career years, and Al still bested both with the same season he's been having since 2009.
That's not to say this wasn't really close. Noah's scoring numbers lull people into mistaking him for a relatively average player, but his rebounds, assists, and blocks were all near the top of the NBA for centers. He finished 3rd on the Bulls in assists, despite playing only 66 games. Marc Gasol, Roy Hibbert and Tim Duncan were the only starting Center/Power Forwards who finished ahead of Noah in D rating.
But Horford wasn't that far behind in Noah's best category, finishing within 3 points of Noah, while playing 300 more minutes on the season. In fact, Marc Gasol was the only qualified center on the list who played more minutes than Horford. Ultimately, that is why Horford is the best Gator in the NBA, and why he was taken 3rd overall in 2007. He's within spitting distance of Lee as an offensive player and Noah as a defensive player, while remaining on the court for biggish center minutes.
4. Chandler Parsons 15.4 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 3.5 apg, .385 3pt%, 15.3 PER
Parsons went from smart 2nd round pick who was going to give his team a solid 20 minutes to one of the best point-forwards in the NBA in like 21 minutes this season. I honestly didn't think he had this high of a ceiling. I knew he could play from watching his senior year at UF, but there was no way that anyone expected him to be a borderline all-star, and probably the single greatest contract in the NBA (2nd round rookie deal). Houston won't trade him because he's worth too much, but geez, Morey probably likes telling people how smart he is right now for taking Parsons. Parsons could stay right where he is now as a player and carve out a long starting career. If he improves even a little bit, he's going to be on the short list of greatest 2nd round picks ever. You may say it's too early to make that kind of claim, and it really is, but Parsons' game is will age well, unless he gets devastatingly injured. He'll be good for a long time.
5. Brad Beal 13.9 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 2.4 apg, .386 3pt%, 13.9 PER
Beal went from "oh no" to "OH HELL YES" for Wizards fans as soon as Wall got healthy. He's not a great ball handler, so he'll always be limited by the PG he's playing next to. Currently, that's not much of a limit, because Wall's one of the best offensive guards in the world. With Wall, Beal was a world class shooter. Without him, he's an above average shooter. Beal will get better at shooting, where he's already good, and he's already an above average rebounder and a serviceable defender too. If he gets better at creating for himself, he's got a shot to be the next Ray Allen. If not, he can be the best JJ Redick ever. Either way, he's already a good player, and was the 5th best Gator last year.
Runner up: Corey Brewer
He shoots too damn much and he can't do it. He's a monster defender though.
First Team All Gator
G Brad Beal
G Corey Brewer
F Chandler Parsons
F Al Horford
C Joakim Noah
Ugh, this format is terrible, and imagining this team try to play is giving me nightmares. Let's try it again
G Brad Beal
F/G Chandler Parsons
F David Lee
F/C Al Horford
C Joakim Noah
Ok, this one isn't much better, since it can't space the floor, and nobody can really pass. Both Noah and Parsons can pass, but neither is a real PG. Screw it. Florida doesn't make a very good all-star team right now. Wait til Scottie Wilbekin gets into the league and gets suspended for drugs. Then the Gators will have a passer. Even if the all-Gator team wouldn't win against a good NBA team, it's still a damn good collection of players.