Welcome to Building The Perfect NBA Player Part II: Speed. This is the second installment of a 10-part series in which we’ll be building an NBA player from scratch, using 10 different categories to create our player. If you want to keep an eye out for the other parts, check out the “Building” homepage.
What Makes Up NBA Speed?
For an NBA player, there are a couple of different categories of speed. Some players have tremendous top-end speeds without the ball. Others are remarkably fast up and down the court with the ball. Then, we have to talk about quickness. A quick first step is invaluable and can create just enough separation to get by a defender.
Ideally, our perfect NBA player will have a combination of an explosive first step, he’ll run the floor like a gazelle and he’ll be able to get past defenders in transition off the dribble. Let’s take a look at five candidates:
Lawson runs the show for the Denver Nuggets, who are one of the most high-octane offenses in the whole NBA. He’s diminutive in size and stature, but not in speed. He gets a lot of practice doing it as well, with the Nuggets playing at the second-fastest pace in the NBA in 2012-13. Lawson is more of a top-end speed guy, but his first step isn’t anything to be ashamed of.
We don’t often think of Parker when we think of fast players. Sure, he’s quick but is he fast? Not only is he fast, he’s the fastest player in the NBA with the ball, according to NBA cameras that measure speed. He was measured at 20.9 MPH, which was the best out of anyone. Parker is a contrast to Lawson in that he doesn’t get as many opportunities to show his skills. Still, we have to consider Parker because of that elite top-end speed.
Is Westbrook (pre-meniscus injury) the most athletic player in the NBA? Quite possibly. He is as explosive of a leaper this side of Blake Griffin and is devastating in the open court. In his pre-draft speed drills, he posted a terrific 3.08 in the dash, which was better than Lawson and just short of Derrick Rose and his 3.05. He might not be as fast with the ball running up the court, but give him a full head of speed at the 3-pt line and you’re getting dunked on.
If we ask Wall himself, he’ll say that he’s the fastest player in the NBA. Since we talked about pre-draft sprint times, we have to mention that Wall scored poorly (worse than all but Parker) in relation to the rest of the players on this list. Still, Wall has shown blinding speed and quickness since he entered the NBA. The only reason he isn’t a bonafide superstar at this point is his horrid shooting. Remember, we’re talking about the complete package here, which Wall has.
Conley is an excellent player who is blossoming into a leader for the Memphis Grizzlies. He isn’t thought of as a burner, but raw numbers tell us otherwise. He has a great mix of speed, quickness and crafty play. If your point guard can beat his man consistently through a myriad of ways, your team is going to do quite well. Nevertheless, we need speed here and Conley, while good at everything, doesn’t beat out any of our guys at any one thing.