Zak’s 2017 NBA Mock Draft (Version 5.0)

More commentary and updates to come as draft approaches. This mock predicts trades as well.

And check out Cole’s mock right here

Updated June 22nd, 4:30 PM

Round 1

#1) Philadelphia 76ers – Markelle Fultz (G, Washington)

Duh.

#2) Los Angeles Lakers – Lonzo Ball (G, UCLA)

All the talk of Jackon or Fox going here seems to have been a smokescreen to convince the Celtics to take Jackson #1. I still think Lonzo is the Lakers’ guy. The trading of Russell all but confirms it.

#3) *Sacramento Kings – Josh Jackson (F, Kansas)

*via trade with Boston. Teams swap 3 & 5, Celtics get additional future pick.

Whether the Kings want Jackson or Fox, they have to move ahead of Phoenix to guarantee it happens.

#4) Phoenix Suns – De’Aaron Fox (G, Kentucky)

The Eric Bledose era in Phoenix is coming to an end and Fox is the best player on the board.

#5) *Boston Celtics – Jayson Tatum (F, Duke)

Boston gets their guy at 5, picking up extra picks along the way.

#6) Orlando Magic – Dennis Smith Jr. (G, N.C. State)

DSJ is the most explosive guard in the class and should make for a fine Elfrid Payton replacement.

#7) *Dallas Mavericks – Frank Ntilikina (G, International)

*via trade with T’Wolves. Teams swap picks #7 & #9, T’Wolves receive additional future pick.

Both Dallas and New York love Ntilikina. Here, the Mavs leapfrog NY to ensure they get their guy. He’s a big guard still developing but reminds me of a longer George Hill.

#8) New York Knicks – Jonathan Isaac (F, Florida State)

The Knicks would have to be ecstatic to see Isaac on the board here. He’s a tantalizing and diverse defensive prospect, who also has great touch on his jumper and plays within himself offensively.

#9) *Minnesota Timberwolves – Lauri Markkanen (F, Arizona)

The Wolves grab the sweet shooting seven-footer they probably would’ve taken at 7, picking up a future pick in the process. A wise move.

#10) Sacramento Kings – Donovan Mitchell (G, Louisville)

Maybe Mitchell won’t develop the point guard skills the Kings would like with one of their two picks, but he’s going to be an elite defender capable of guarding 1-3. 

#11) Charlotte Hornets – Malik Monk (G, Kentucky)

I really thought Charlotte might take a center here, but the trade for Dwight Howard would seemingly end that idea. Monk would make for a nice pick though and would elevate the Charlotte bench right away with his ability to score without being ball dominant.

#12) Detroit Pistons – Zach Collins (F/C, Gonzaga)

Whether or not they view Drummond as part of the team’s future, Collins is a nice pickup outside the top 10.

#13) *Phoenix Suns – O.G. Anunoby (F, Indiana)

*via trade with Nuggets. Phoenix sends Eric Bledsoe and a future 2nd rounder in exchange for #13 & Emmanuel Mudiay

Enter the polarizing O.G. Anunoby, who’s ready to be a plus defender right away and showed some nice strides offensively pre-injury. Phoenix lands him, after trading Bledsoe for this pick to clear minutes for Fox.

#14) *Los Angeles Lakers – Luke Kennard (G, Duke)

*via trade with Heat. Miami receives #27, #28, & a future pick swap rights in exchange for #14

The Lakers reportedly LOVE Kennard and want to move up to get him. A possible a Paul George trade package involving picks #27 & #28 complicates things a bit but if Kennard is still on the board in the 12-16 I wouldn’t be surprised to see L.A. pounce.

#15) Portland Trail Blazers – D.J. Wilson (F, Michigan)

An intriguing faceup 4 with a high skill level offensively and great measurables/athleticism defensively. He finally started to put it together this year and thus has risen up boards.

#16) Chicago Bulls – John Collins (PF, Wake Forest)

Best low-post scorer in the draft. By no means a position of need but Chicago is rebuilding soon and I think Collins is better than Portis.

#17) Milwaukee Bucks – Jordan Bell (F, Oregon)

Rising up boards because he can both protect the rim and move his feet. Has the makings of an elite defender.

#18) Indiana Pacers – Terrance Ferguson (G/F, International)

Not quite ready yet but oozes potential as a 3nD wing. High level athlete. would be a nice start to Pacers rebuild.

#19) Atlanta Hawks – Bam Adebayo (C, Kentucky)

Bam has reportedly impressed many teams in workouts. He didn’t always get to show it at Kentucky but he’s got a really high skill level for a guy who also protects the rim and mauls inside. Atlanta would be wise to start their frontcourt rebuild around him.

#20) Portland Trail Blazers – Harry Giles (C, Duke)

Apparently the medicals are promising. Portland has three picks this round and a full roster already, so it’d be a nice risk for them regardless.

#21) Oklahoma City Thunder – Justin Jackson (F, UNC)

I’m not sure how real Jackson’s improvement as a perimter shooter actually is, but he’s a player who keeps getting better and makes up for his thin frame/average athleticism with smart positioning on both ends.
#22) Brooklyn Nets – Justin Patton (C, Creighton)

Upside pick for Brooklyn. Patton probably isn’t ready to play major minutes yet but he moves really well for a seven-footer.

#23) Toronto Raptors – T.J. Leaf (F, UCLA)

Skilled big who projects as a nice offensive option off bench.

#24) Utah Jazz – Wesley Iwundu (G/F, Kansas State)

Skilled guy with point guard instincts who defends. Evan Turner but maybe a better athlete. One of my personal 15 favorite players in this draft.

#25) Orlando Magic – Jonah Bolden (F, International)

Fast riser, arguable lottery talent. He can move.

#26) Portland Trail Blazers – Anzejs Paseckniks (F/C, International)

With three picks this round, Portland probably needs to trade or draft-n-stash someone. Paseckniks has become a late riser and looks like a great bet to go in the first.

#27) *Miami Heat – Ike Anigobogu (C, UCLA)

A big, big man who should at the very least turn into a plus rebounder and rim protector.

#28) *Miami Heat – Dwayne Bacon (G, Florida State)

I think this bouncy bucket getter is higher on team’s boards than the media is giving him credit for. I know Miami has looked closely at him. He’s ready to play. My favorite sleeper this year.

#29) San Antonio Spurs – Jawun Evans (G, Oklahoma State)

Lottery pick if he’s 2″ taller. Creates his own shot, distributes, and defends. A complete backup PG prospect.

#30) Utah Jazz – Derrick White (G, Colorado)

Arguably the best senior in the draft, White is a very good offensive combo guard who could be this year’s Malcolm Brogdon

 

2nd Round

This round is a crapshoot. Half these picks will be traded. This is more of a stab at which guys will actually be taken rather than where they’ll go.

#31) Charlotte Hornets – Semi Ojeleye (F, SMU)

#32) Phoenix Suns – Ivan Rabb (F/C, California)

#33) Orlando Magic – Tyler Lydon (F, Syracuse)

#34) Sacramento Kings – Isaiah Hartenstein (F/C, International)

#35) Orlando Magic – Frank Jackson (G, Duke)

#36) Philadelphia 76ers – Jarrett Allen (C, Texas)

#37) Boston Celtics – Mathias Lessort (F/C, International)

#38) Chicago Bulls – Thomas Bryant (C, Indiana)

#39) Philadelphia 76ers – Devin Robinson (F, Florida)

#40) New Orleans Pelicans – P.J. Dozier (G, South Carolina)

#41) Atlanta Hawks – Kyle Kuzma (F, Utah)

#42) Utah Jazz – Sterling Brown (G, SMU)

#43) Houston Rockets – Caleb Swanigan (F, Purdue)

#44) New York Knicks – Johnathan Motley (F, Baylor)

#45) Houston Rockets – Vlatko Cancar (F, International)

#46) Philadelphia 76ers – Edmond Summer (G, Xavier)

#47) Indiana Pacers – Tony Bradley (C, UNC)

#48) Milwaukee Bucks – V.J. Beachem (F, Notre Dame)

#49) Denver Nuggets – Cameron Oliver (F, Nevada)

#50) Philadelphia 76ers – Aleksandar Vezenkov (F, International)

#51) Denver Nuggets – Sindarius Thornwell (G, South Carolina)

#52) New Orleans Pelicans – Josh Hart (G, Villanova)

#53) Boston Celtics – Rolands Smits (F, International)

#54) Phoenix Suns – Isaiah Briscoe (G, Kentucky)

#55) Utah Jazz – Kobi Simmons (G, Arizona)

#56) Boston Celtics – Alec Peters (F, Valparaiso)

#57) Brooklyn Nets – Damyean Dotson (G/F, Oregon)

#58) New Yorks Knicks – Jaron Blossomgame (F, Clemson)

#59) San Antonio Spurs – Frank Mason (G, Kansas)

#60) Atlanta Hawks – Davon Reed (G/F, Miami)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cole’s 2017 NBA Mock Draft (Version 2.0)

Woj leaked me every pick already, so don’t even worry about watching the draft tonight. I got you all covered.


#1) Philadelphia 76ers – Markelle Fultz (PG, Washington)

Philly capitalizes on the Celtics questionable move of trading out of this pick to get Fultz, the clear top player in the draft. Philly now can hang a banner for having the most talented young core in the league.

#2) Los Angeles Lakers – Lonzo Ball (PG, UCLA)

This is a virtual lock now that DLoading is gone. I don’t like this fit as much without Russell in the fold, but Ball fits Luke Walton’s uptempo and free-flowing offense.

TRADE – Boston trades the rights to the 3rd overall pick, Jae Crowder, Terry Rozier and their own pick next year for Kristaps Porzingis.

#3) *New York Knicks – Josh Jackson (F, Kansas)

If Boston stays here, I think they’ll take Tatum, but Phil Jackson is reportedly trying to trade into the top 4 to take Josh Jackson. I don’t know why the Knicks are trying to trade Kristaps, but Boston takes advantage of the Knicks inept front office and nabs Porzingis while the Knicks get the talented and athletic wing in Jackson.

#4) Phoenix Suns – De’Aaron Fox (G, Kentucky)
Phoenix elects to pass on Tatum and take Fox, the more talented prospect. Fox will mesh well with Phoenix’s young and talented core. The Suns will then look to flip Eric Bledsoe.

#5) Sacramento Kings – Jayson Tatum (F, Duke)

Sacramento misses out on Fox, but they get a talented wing in Tatum. Tatum is a three level scorer who can rebound and is an underrated defender.

#6) Orlando Magic – Jonathan Isaac (F, Florida State)
New Magic GM John Hammond drafted Giannis while he was in Milwaukee, and he takes a similarly built and talented prospect in Isaac. Isaac is the second best player in the class.

#7) Minnesota Timberwolves – Zach Collins (F/C, Gonzaga)

Minnesota lands the talented big man in Collins that can play the 4 or 5. Collins can protect the rim, rebound and switch in pick and roll situations on defense, while provide shooting and post scoring on offense.

#8) New York Knicks – Dennis Smith Jr. (G, NC State)

The Knicks get their point guard of the future in Smith. Smith is a three level scorer with elite athletic tools. He has loads of potential if he can put it all together.

#9) Dallas Mavericks – Frank Ntilikina (G, International)

Dallas gets their choice of two talented guards here in Monk or Ntilikina, but decide to go with the big and French prospect. Ntilikina can play either guard spot and guard 1-3 on defense. He’ll also provide shooting.

#10) Sacramento Kings – Malik Monk (G, Kentucky)

The Kings miss out on the top point guards, but never fear, Monk is a great consolation prize. Monk can flat out shoot the rock. Sacramento will start him off ball, but will hope to mold him into a point guard to play next to Hield.

#11) Charlotte Hornets – Donovan Mitchell (G, Louisville)

The Hornets land the talented and athletic guard in Mitchell. Mitchell has been the biggest riser throughout the draft process. He can play and guard either guard position and score at all three levels.

#12) Detroit Pistons – Lauri Markkanen (F/C, Arizona)

Markkanen’s fall ends here. Detroit scoops up the extremely talented big man who is the best shooter in the draft. Markkanen will start off as a bench player with the ability to play either the 4 or 5.

#13) Denver Nuggets – O.G. Anunoby (F, Indiana)

The Nuggets land arguably the most talented defender in the draft. Anunoby is recovering from a knee injury, but the Nuggets can be patient with him. OG has a good shot to be a quality 3&D player in time.
TRADE – Miami trades the rights to this pick for the Lakers 27, 28 and Larry Nance Jr.

#14) *Los Angeles Lakers – Luke Kennard (G, Duke)
The Lakers reportedly want to trade back up into the lottery for Zach Collins or Luke Kennard. Kennard can score from 3 or from mid range. Kennard will complement Lonzo well on the offensive end..

#15) Portland Trail Blazers – John Collins (F, Wake Forest)

Portland lands Collins, the talented forward from Wake Forest. Collins can provide a spark off of the bench for the Blazers at the 4 position because of his low post scoring arsenal and rebounding ability.
#16) Chicago Bulls – Jarrett Allen (C, Texas)

The Bulls take a chance on the physical freak from Texas in big man Jarrett Allen. Allen won’t play much early, but he has the tools to develop into a good defensive big who defends the rim and rebounds, and scores in the low post on offense.
#17) Milwaukee Bucks – Ike Anigbogu (C, UCLA)

Milwaukee takes another long and athletic big man. Anigbogu should be able to protect the rim and rebound immediately. He also has the length and athletic ability to catch lobs at the rim.
#18) Indiana Pacers – Justin Jackson (F, North Carolina)

PG is likely on his way out, so the Pacers select his replacement here. I’m not a big fan of him, but the Pacers will rely on Jackson to score early.
#19) Atlanta Hawks – D.J. Wilson (F, Michigan)

The Hawks should start rebuilding now that their best player in Millsap is out. Wilson can stretch the floor, attack off the dribble, and is good guarding the pick and roll on defense.
#20) Portland Trail Blazers – Anzejs Paseckniks (C, International)

Portland doesn’t have a ton of room on their roster, so they elect to take a draft and stash guy here. Paseckniks has reportedly had great workouts throughout the draft process.
#21) Oklahoma City Thunder – T.J. Leaf (F, UCLA)

I like this fit a lot. Leaf can space the floor and give Russ more space to work with. Leaf is good enough off the dribble for a big man and is a decent rebounder.
#22) Brooklyn Nets – Harry Giles (C, Duke)

Brooklyn is rebuilding and they are in no rush to win now. Therefore, Giles makes sense here, as he was an extremely athletic and talented big man before the injuries. He has the potential to be a star role player.
#23) Toronto Raptors – Jordan Bell (F, Oregon)

Bell is one of my favorite players in this class. He’s an athletic big who is best on the defensive end, blocking shots and rebounding the ball. He can finish down low on offense and has shown he is capable of developing a shot.
#24) Utah Jazz – Bam Adebayo (C, Kentucky)

Utah lands the talented Kentucky big man here in Adebayo. Bam can backup Gobert and there won’t be a big dropoff from a rebounding and rim protection perspective. I think Bam should go higher than this, but alas.
#25) Orlando Magic – Tyler Lydon (F, Syracuse)

Lydon is a stretch 4 who can hit shots. He’ll come off of the bench and he’s a good complement to Aaron Gordon’s skillset.
#26) Portland Trail Blazers – Terrance Ferguson (F, International)

Portland takes a shot on the athletic forward Terrance Ferguson. Ferguson has the chance to develop into a nice 3&D player.
#27) *Miami Heat – Justin Patron (C, Creighton)

Miami takes the falling center in Patton. Patton is good guarding the pick and roll on defense and rim running on offense, but he’s raw pretty much everywhere else. Patton can backup Whiteside early on.
#28) *Miami Heat – Frank Jackson (G, Duke)

Jackson was overshadowed in his lone season at Duke, but he’s a talented guard. He can shoot and score, while offering the versatility to play either guard position.
#29) San Antonio Spurs – Caleb Swanigan (F, Purdue)

Swanigan has the potential to be a quality role player. He can hit shots, score down low and rebound the ball. No one can better maximize Swanigan’s skillset than Popovich.
#30) Utah Jazz – Wesley Iwundu (F, Kansas State)

Iwundu is tall (6’7”) and long (7’1” wingspan) and fits perfectly into the defensive minded Jazz team. He can guard 2-4 and showed an improved 3 point shot in his senior year at Kansas State.
 

Cole Rightley’s 2017 NBA Lottery Big Board (Version 1.0)

Cole’s (@TrashAsTweets) first 2017 NBA Draft big board. For Zak’s big board click here, and stay close for more content as the draft approaches.

The talent in this years draft is top heavy. It’s not as deep as once was thought of because of talents like Miles Bridges and Robert Williams opting to return to school. However, teams picking in the top ten will still be pleased with the star talent available to them and teams picking in the middle to late first round range will be excited with the role player potential with this years pool of talent. He are my top 14 players in the 2017 NBA draft as of April 22nd.

1) Markelle Fultz (PG, Freshman, Washington)

Markelle Fultz is the clear prize of this draft class. He is quite frankly in a tier of his own. If you were creating a point guard from scratch, you would end up creating Fultz. He has great size, standing at 6’4”, weighing 195 pounds with a 6’10’ wingspan. He’s not an elite athlete at the position, but he is a dang good one. Fultz greatest strength as a prospect is his ability to score at all three levels. He can get to the basket using his vast array of dribble moves, he can pull up and hit a mid-range jumper if a defender is sagging off, and he can hit the 3, in which he shot at a 41% clip in his lone season at Washington. He is a good passer and displays good vision. He dominates in the pick and roll, thanks to his ability to threaten the defense at all three levels, combined with his ability to whip passes to the screener or an open man on the perimeter. Although Washington’s defense this year was abysmal, it wasn’t because of Fultz. He was inconsistent on defense, but he has a ton of potential on that end of the floor because of his size, quick feet and length. Fultz is the clear-cut #1 prospect in this class.

2) Lonzo Ball (PG, Freshman, UCLA)

Lonzo Ball is an extremely unique point guard prospect. He is 6’6”, which is outstanding size for a two guard, let alone a point guard. Ball is a slightly above average athlete. He doesn’t have the foot speed to stay with good athletes at the position and must rely on his basketball instincts and size on that end of the floor. Although he’s not a particularly good individual defender, he is a pretty good team defender. He lets his instincts take over off the ball, flying in for steals and the occasional block.  Ball’s best quality by far as a prospect is his passing ability. He is an elite passer with elite vision. He does a pretty good job attacking the basket and finishing at the rim thanks to his size. The biggest question with Ball is if his unorthodox shot will translate to the next level. He shot the 3 at a 41% clip at UCLA, whether that was in catch and shoot situations, or with his patented step back heave off the dribble. He was able to get his shot off at the college level, but playing against bigger and more athletic players in the NBA will leave him with an extremely small room for error shooting the ball. The team that ends up with Ball will be extremely happy to get a player of his caliber and his ability to transform an offense.

3) Jonathan Isaac (F, Freshman, Florida State)

Jonathan Isaac is the ideal stretch 4 that the NBA looks for. He has good size at the position at nearly 6’11” with a 7’1” wingspan. He is a great defender with the ability to guard the 4 or the 3. He has quick feet, and can more than hold his own out guarding on the perimeter. He averaged nearly 2 steals and 2.5 blocks per 40 at Florida State. Offensively, Isaac can attack off the dribble due to his quickness and handle. He can shoot the 3, as evidenced by his nearly 35% behind the arc. He is extremely unselfish on offense, maybe a little too unselfish at times. He doesn’t go into a game thinking that he needs to “get his”. He lets the game come to him. He doesn’t really have any post moves at this point, and when he is in the post, he usually gets pushed off of his spot. He needs to get stronger to reach his full potential at the next level. Any team in the early part of the lottery looking for a stretch 4 with the ceiling of being an extremely good role player should look no further than Jonathan Isaac.

4) Josh Jackson (F, Freshman, Kansas)

The first thing that sticks out when watching Josh Jackson is his defensive ability. Jackson can stay with quick wings out on the perimeter and can bang down low with bigger players in the post. He displays good instincts on defense as shown by his 2 steals and 1.5 blocks per 40. He stands at 6’8” with a 6’10” wingspan. Jackson is a great athlete with extremely quick feet and strong body for someone his age. He is a great leaper, and will be able to catch any lobs thrown to him at the basket that are in his vicinity. Jackson is an ideal 3 at the next level, but can play some small ball 4 if needed because of his strength and rebounding ability. He is great at attacking the basket and finishing at the rim. He has rare vision for his position and he won’t hesitate in passing the ball. Jackson’s 3-point shot improved drastically over the course of the year, but his FT% remained very bad. His shot will be something to keep an eye on at the next level. The team that selects Jackson early in the draft will be pleased with his ability to guard the opposing team’s best player along with his skills attacking the basket and facilitating on the offensive end.

5) De’Aaron Fox (PG, Freshman, Kentucky)

De’Aaron Fox is a lightning quick player on both ends of the floor. He is extremely good athlete with good leaping ability. On offense, he is great at attacking the basket because of his great first step, but will struggle with length while finishing at the rim. He also will get pushed off his spot when attacking due to his lack of strength. He is a good and willing passer with an improving jump shot. He only shot 25% from 3 in college, but his shot improved throughout the course of the year. While statistically he wasn’t a good 3 point shooter, he was very good using a one dribble pull up. Defensively, Fox is an extremely fun watch. He is not scared to pick up the opposing team’s point guard full court and pressure him all the way up the floor. He is able to stay in front of nearly every single player he guards because of his elite foot speed. I honestly wouldn’t be shocked if De’Aaron Fox turns out to be a better pro than Lonzo Ball. He put Ball in a blender in both of their matchups showing off his elite athleticism and outstanding on-ball defense.

6) Jayson Tatum (F, Freshman, Duke)

Jayson Tatum is aesthetically pleasing to watch. Just watching his his smooth movements on both ends of the floor is fun. Tatum comes in at 6’8” with a 6’11” wingspan. He’s not super explosive, but he’s a pretty good athlete. Tatum is an extremely good offensive player that can score at all three levels. He is the best iso scorer in the draft, whether that be using his quick first step attacking the basket, using his ability to back defenders down and turn over either shoulder shooting the ball, or pulling up from 3 at a 34% rate while he was at Duke. Tatum doesn’t get the credit he deserves on defense. He is able to stay with most 3s, and can guard some 4s in small ball situations. He is a very good team defender and a very good rebounder for his position. Tatum can be a cornerstone piece to the team that selects him because of his elite scoring arsenal and underrated defensive ability.

7) Dennis Smith (PG, Freshman, NC State)

When watching Smith, the first thing that immediately stands out is his athletic ability. He is a very good athlete with an outstanding leaping ability in which he can be seen to to throw down highlight dunks. He is a tad undersized at the point guard position at 6’2”. He is a score first point guard but he is willing to pass the ball on offense. He is very effective in the pick and roll because of his ability to either attack the basket or shoot the 3, which he did at NC State at a 36% clip. He can be turnover prone on offense due to his bad decisions with the ball at times. Smith is very inconsistent on defense. He has the ability to stay with guards because of his athletic ability but didn’t do it enough in college. The team that gets Dennis Smith will be getting a player with elite athletic ability and the ability to score but a player that contains a lot of untapped potential if he buys in.

8) Lauri Markkanen (F/C, Freshman, Arizona)

Lauri Markkanen is the next European big man that can shoot the ball. He is a legit seven footer with unlimited range. He is a sniper on offense, shooting the 3 at a 42% clip at Arizona this past year. He has the ability to come off of screens and shoot the ball which is extremely rare for a player his size. I’m not sure if he’s a 4 or 5 at the next level, but whoever is guarding him will not be able to contest his shot due to his size and his slight lean back when shooting the ball. He is decent attacking off the dribble and has a couple of good post moves. He’s not a good passer and he doesn’t display good vision when attacking the basket or when facing double teams in the post. Markkanen improved defensively throughout the year but he still has a long ways to go on that end. He doesn’t have fast feet and will get pushed around down low. He is a decent rebounder but he offers no rim protection. I’m not sure he’s strong enough to guard 5s, or quick enough to guard 4s, which will obviously be a problem at the next level. The team that selects Markkanen early will love his shooting ability at his size with the hope that he can develop to an average defender on defense.

9) Malik Monk (G, Freshman, Kentucky)

Malik Monk gets buckets. He is a fantastic offensive player that can score in bunches. His size at 6’3” would suggest for him to be a point guard in the NBA, but he doesn’t display the passing ability or vision to be the lead ball handler full time. Due to that, he is an undersized two guard. Lucky for him, his freakish athletic ability helps compensate for his lack of size. Monk is an extremely good offensive player. He is best known for his three point shooting ability in which he shot at 40% at Kentucky, but he can also attack the basket and show off his very good leaping ability. He’s not very good as a defender right now, but he has the potential to stick with guards at the next level due to his athleticism. However, he will get bullied by bigger and stronger guards. If Monk isn’t scoring, he’s not impacting the game, which is why I think he is best suited as player who can come off the bench to provide a spark. Monk is a better prospect than Jamal Murray was last year, and the team that drafts him will be excited in his ability to immediately provide bench help.

10) O.G. Anunoby (F, Sophomore, Indiana)

OG Anunoby is a freak of nature. He is a 6’8” forward that weighs 230 pounds with a 7’6” wingspan. When watching Anunoby, his defense immediately sticks out. He is extremely quick for someone his size and is pretty strong. He has the ability to guard 2s, 3s or 4s, and probably some 1s and 5s at the next level. He is that good on defense. On offense, Anunoby is work in progress. He is a good straight line driver with rare leaping ability when attacking the rim. He has shown the potential to be able to knock down spot up 3s in which he shot at a 37% clip at in his two years at Indiana. However, he doesn’t have a good handle, can’t shoot off the dribble, and doesn’t have good vision. Anunoby is for sure a lottery talent, but his knee injury complicates things. The team that drafts Anunoby will first be hoping that he comes back fully healthy from his knee injury. If he shows signs of his old past, they will be ecstatic in his ability to immediately guard 1-5 at the next level with the hope that he can develop more on the offensive side of the ball.

11) Frank Ntilikina (PG, 19 y/o, International)

Frank Ntilikina’s size immediately sticks out as soon as you watch him. He has great size for the point guard position at 6’6” with a 7’ wingspan. His greatest strength as a player is his defensive ability. He’s a menace on defense. He uses his long arms to get in passing lanes and disrupt shots. He’s more  of a fluid athlete with good body control compared to an explosive athlete. On offense he has a good handle with the ability to drive the ball and finish at the basket due to his length and body control. He is also a willing passer. His shot has improved greatly over the past few years and he has extended his range to behind the three point line. Ntilikina is a very good point guard prospect because of his size, length, defensive ability and offensive improvement. He will be able to play early on for the team that drafts him because of his ability to impact games defensively now, while continuing to develop his offensive game on the job.

12) Zach Collins (C, Freshman, Gonzaga)

Zach Collins is an intriguing center prospect. He has good size at 7’ and 230 pounds with room to add strength. Collins’ offensive and defensive ability stands out for someone his age. On the offensive side of the ball, Collins has shown the ability to execute different post moves down on the block, displaying nice touch with either hand. He does struggle with length at the rim and can get pushed off of his spot at times. He can also step out at and hit mid range jumpers, or step behind the arc and shoot 3s in which he did at Gonzaga at a 48% rate, albeit he shot less than one per game. Defensively, you notice Collins’ length immediately. He blocked an incredible 2 shots per game while playing only 17 minutes per game, which translates to around 4 blocks per 40 minutes. The team drafting Collins will get a player that will develop into an above average starter at the center position with the ability to protect the rim on defense and score the ball in multiple ways on offense.

13) Luke Kennard (G, Sophomore, Duke)

Luke Kennard was the unexpected second best player on Duke this year. He took a big jump from his freshman to sophomore season. Kennard is a 6’5” guard prospect with the ability to score at all three levels. He is an extremely good shooter, whether that be from downtown, where he shot at 44% this past year, or whether that be from the mid range, in which he shows craftiness as a ball handler and impressive footwork. He can drive the ball and score at the rim, but will struggle at finishing due to his average athletic ability and lack of length. Kennard is a good player in the pick and roll due to his threat to score, combined with his handle and passing ability. On defense, due to his lack of athletic ability, he has trouble staying in front of quicker guards. However, he is a good team defender. Kennard is probably best used as a scorer and facilitator off the bench at the next level. The team that drafts him will be getting a good scorer and playmaker on the offensive end and a willing defender.

14) Bam Adebayo (C, Freshman, Kentucky)

Bam Adebayo is an imposing physical specimen. He is a 6’10”, 250 pound center prospect with a 7’2” wingspan. Bam is a good vertical athlete and a pretty good lateral mover. He was the defensive anchor for Kentucky this past year. He is very strong, and due to his length and strength, it is hard to score down low on him whether that be a big man trying to score on him in the post, or a guard/forward attacking the rim. Bam is a very good rebounder and can contribute to an NBA team early next year if he remains a consistent rebounder. However, he’s not particularly a smart defender at this stage, as his off ball defensive awareness needs to improve. Bam improved vastly on the offensive side of the floor throughout his lone season at Kentucky. He has always been able to catch lobs at the rim and score off of offensive rebounds, but he showed a greater display of post moves as the year went on. He can step out a little bit and shoot, but that is not a consistent part of his game yet. Wherever Bam goes come draft night, the team that drafts him will be getting an immediate contributor to the defensive end of the floor as a rebounder and a good enough shot blocker with potential on the offensive end.

 

2016 NBA Mock Draft (2 Rounds)

Crazy to think we’re just a few days away from the 2016 NBA Draft considering we JUST watched a game seven. I do a mock draft every year, because it’s fun. And I like fun.

No credentials or claimed expertise I just watch a lot of ball and love to rattle off takes.

Oh, no trades because I don’t want to think that much.

ROUND 1

1.       Philadelphia 76ers – Ben Simmons (SF/PF, LSU)

As much as Brandon Ingram seems like a better fit on paper due to Philly’s complete inability to shoot; when you pick number one, you pick based on your board, not need. All indications are that Simmons is Philly’s guy and has been for a couple years now despite his refusal to work out for them (I mean, if you’re Simmons, why would you work out for anyone?). He’s 6’ 10” with legit point guard skills and plus athleticism. Even if the shot never really comes, he’s going to be a star.

Alternate: Brandon Ingram

2.       Los Angeles Lakers – Brandon Ingram (SF, Duke)

The Lakers will choose whomever the Sixers don’t between Simmons and Ingram (as funny as the Bender rumors may be, they’re silly. If the Lakers really want Bender they can trade back up or out of this pick. Simmons/Ingram are too valuable around the league to just not take one of them). This is a nice scenario for them because given their current young core, Ingram appears to be the better fit. If D’Angelo Russell is your PG of the future using a top-2 pick on Simmons is a bit repetitive. If Ingram were to go to Philly you have to wonder if L.A. has a trade in place for this pick.

Alternate: Dragan Bender

3.       Boston Celtics – Dragan Bender (PF, Israel)

There are at least four prospects being linked to the Celtics here, as well as a million trade rumors. If they hold their pick, Bender is both the best fit for their roster and best value. His size, versatility, and shooting/passing skill would immediately improve their offense if he were to play in the NBA right away (and if not, who cares?). If not Bender, look for athletic swingman Jaylen Brown to go here. I just can’t justify mocking another guard to Boston. I want it to be Bender. I think it will be Bender. Please Danny Ainge, pick Bender so I don’t have to go on another bender.

Alternate: Jaylen Brown

4.       Phoenix Suns – Jaylen Brown (SF, California)

Phoenix is likely praying that Bender is still available here. High-upside bigs like Marquese Chriss and Deyonta Davis make sense to pair next to Alex Len, but the best players on the board here are all guards and wings. Jaylen Brown would be a nice compliment to sharpshooter Devin Booker on the wing and can certainly play the 4 spot in small-ball lineups. Bledsoe-Knight-Booker-Brown-Len is an intriguing core. They could go with a big here, but they also pick #13 and the board implies there will be much better post talent than wing talent available at that point.

Alternate: Marquese Chriss

5.       Minnesota Timberwolves – Kris Dunn (PG, Providence)

This selection would signify the impending end of the Ricky Rubio era in Minnesota, and a changing of the guards of sorts under Thibs (or as much of a changing of the guards as you can have with guys like Towns and Wiggins in tow). Dunn’s physicality on defense and playmaking ability should make him effective from day one, but of course his long-term success will be tied directly to the improvement of his jumper.

Alternate: Jamal Murray

6.       New Orleans Pelicans – Jamal Murray (SG, Kentucky)

Gotta think the Pelicans will look to add some punch to the backcourt here. Dunn would help a team that doesn’t really have a pure PG, but a shooter would also be nice. Looking at Hield or Murray, the former is the better ballhandler right now but Murray is 19. I simply like Murray more, but it’s a toss-up.

Alternate: Buddy Hield

7.       Denver Nuggets – Marquese Chriss (PF, Washington)

A shooter to pair next to Emmanuel Mudiay (i.e. Buddy Hield) would be nice, but so would an athletic big seeing as Kenneth Faried’s time in Denver appears to be coming to an end. Many are mocking Chriss as high as #3 to Boston. He’s the most athletic forward in the class but isn’t ready to play in an NBA game right now (needs LBs and some serious coaching). This would be a mutually beneficial pick. Also keep an eye on the skilled Henry Ellenson and rim-protecting savant Deyonta Davis (one of my favorite prospects in this class).

Alternate: Buddy Hield

8.       Sacramento Kings – Deyonta Davis (PF, Michigan State)

Davis is likely going somewhere in that 7-12 range. He’s physically strong and his 7’ 2” wingspan will allow him to be a great rim protector. He’s got athleticism and is great at running the floor. The offensive game will take time but he’s ready to play next to DeMarcus Cousins and improve this team right now. If Hield is still on the board here, like in this mock, he’s an obvious option and would widely be viewed as the best player available.

Alternate: Buddy Hield

9.       Toronto Raptors – Jakob Poeltl (C, Utah)

EVERYONE is mocking this pick, and it makes a lot of sense. Bismack probably played his way into a huge contract with another team, and the Raptors will want to replace him instantly and remain competitive. Poeltl has size, skill, and better feet than he gets credit for. He’s ready to step into an NBA rotation right away.

Alternate: Buddy Hield

10.   Milwaukee Bucks – Buddy Hield (SG, Indiana)

I’m going against the grain by having Hield fall this far. Most of my reasoning comes down to a pick-by-pick basis where I see better matches, but I must admit I’m not quite as high on him as others seem to be. He can shoot, and find his shot. He’s also improved drastically as a defender and ballhandler. But I still think he’s going to struggle against more athletic guys. Will he be anything more than a catch and shoot guy? He’d be a great value for the Bucks here though and they need a shooter.

Alternate: Henry Ellenson

11.   Orlando Magic – Domanatas Sabonis (PF, Gonzaga)

A strong and skilled big guy who can play either spot, Sabonis didn’t go to the combine or do many workouts, implying that someone in the lottery virtually guaranteed they’ll take him. Perhaps Orlando covets a more fluid athlete to put next to Vucevic, but I’m not entirely sure Vucevic is part of this team’s future.

Alternate: Skal Labissiere

12.   Utah Jazz – Timothe Luwawu (SG/SF, France)

I don’t believe Utah picking a ballhandler (like Wade Baldwin) here. It’s too early to give up on Exum, and Gordon Hayward does a lot of the creating for this offense anyways. The best prospects at this point aren’t ballhandlers. Timothe Luwawu is a long wing with plus-athleticism. He’s got to get better defensively but there’s nothing physically that suggests he can’t. Is he a bit repetitive on this roster? Maybe. But he’s a better prospect than any of the ballhandlers available.

Alternate: Wade Baldwin

13.   Phoenix Suns – Henry Ellenson (PF, Marquette)

Ellenson would probably be a top five pick if he was quicker on his feet. There are legit concerns about his ability to switch on defense and while he’s not a picture perfect fit next to Alex Len, he’s a skilled offensive player who can shoot and easily one of the two or three best guys available. I have the Suns going wing at #4, so a big makes sense here.

Alternate: Taurean Prince

14.   Chicago Bulls – Skal Labissiere (C, Kentucky)

The Bulls are perhaps in for the most interesting offseason in the league. What do they do? Do they completely blow it up after a hugely disappointing season or do they still believe they’re just a player or two away from winning in the East. Joakim Noah is as good as gone. If Jimmy Butler is still in Chicago and the team picks here, a developmental big who can shoot and protect the rim would be ideal. Skal did not have a good freshman season but this time one year ago many thought he was a surefire top 3 pick. He’s going to be a really good player once he gains some weight and tightens up his mental game. In fact, I think he’s a top 5 best prospect in this draft. Back concerns, though.

Alternate: Malachi Richardson

15.   Denver Nuggets – Furkan Korkmaz (SG/SF, Turkey)

Furkan can shoot, which is exactly what Denver will be looking for here if they go big at #7. And the Nuggets will need to stash at least one of their three first-rounders overseas for a year or two.

Alternate: Dejounte Murray

16.   Boston Celtics – Malik Beasley (SG, Florida State)

You figure the Celtics are looking into multiple trades and draft-and-stash players, but Beasley is intriguing here. This may seem like a reach but Beasley would probably be a lottery pick if he didn’t injure his leg pretty severely. He’s a great athlete and a knockdown shooter. Projects as a great 3-n-D wing and his ballhandling problems aren’t an issue seeing as he’ll be a bench guy you can easily pair with two other guards. I LOVE him as a potential Celtic.

Alternate: Ante Zizic

17.   Memphis Grizzlies – Wade Baldwin (PG/SG, Vanderbilt)

This would be a great situation for Memphis regardless of whether or not Mike Conley is back. Baldwin is a true combo guard with length and a very good shooter. He could realistically go as high as #8 to Sacramento, so this presents great value.

Alternate: Dejounte Murray

18.   Detroit Pistons – Taurean Prince (SF, Baylor)

A nice combo-forward who plays with toughness and can also drill threes. He’ll be able to guard the 3 or 4 in the league. Not the best fit on the Pistons current roster but he’s versatile enough to find a spot anywhere.

Alternate: Cheick Diallo

19.   Denver Nuggets – Cheick Diallo (PF/C, Kansas)

Saved himself with some impressive workouts after a disappointing season. He could still go in the lottery. He’s a very good athlete with quick feet and a 7’ 4” wingspan, which makes him valuable defensively. Zero post game. His offense is transition dunks and putbacks. But if you’re drafting Cheick, you know you’re getting a raw guy. Denver can make a luxury pick here.

Alternate: DeAndre Bembry

20.   Indiana Pacers – Tyler Ulis (PG, Kentucky)

Great burst, a nice shot, pesky defense, and UNREAL floor general ability. Ulis would be a homerun top 5 pick if he were even 6’ 2”. He’s not though, and that’ll likely limit him to a reserve role. Regardless, I think he’s in for a long career and a Pacers team likely moving on from George Hill could use all the point help they can get.

Alternate: Demetrius Jackson

21.   Atlanta Hawks – Ante Zizic (C, Croatia)

Not a guy who’s going to wow you with his skill and athleticism. More of a throwback type center. Rebounds, finishes at rim, doesn’t get moved in paint. Physically strong. Ready to play in NBA right away and it’s fair to think he’s going to develop at least a bit considering he’s just 19. Atlanta’s likely to be without Al Horford next year.

Alternate: Damian Jones

22.   Charlotte Hornets – Dejounte Murray (PG/SG, Washington)

6′ 5″ combo guard with a 6′ 10″ wingspan and legit playmaking skills, even if he needs to tighten up his decision making. Wows with some of the passes he makes, though he doesn’t do it consistently enough right now. Great athlete but needs to add weight and improve shot (and shot selection). Not ready to help a team right now but a high upside pick Charlotte can afford to make if there’s no one here they think will improve them immediately.

Alternate: Malachi RIchardson

23.   Boston Celtics – Thon Maker (PF/C, Sudan)

Draft him, stash him. A huge mystery. YEARS from being ready, but he’s 7′ 2″ with ballhandling skills and good feet. I doubt the Celtics use all three of their firsts, but if they do, they’re one of the few teams that can actually justify using one on Thon.

Alternate: Patrick McCaw

24.   Philadelphia 76ers – Demetrius Jackson (PG, Notre Dame)

Jackson is one of the best players still on the board and Philly simply needs talent on its perimeter. You wish he was bigger, but he’s an outstanding athlete and very good distributor. If the shot continues to improve I wouldn’t rule him out as an NBA starter in a couple years.

Alternate: Malcolm Brogdon

25.   Los Angeles Clippers – Malachi Richardson (SG/SF, Syracuse)

It’s rare to see a player’s stock improve so much over a two week span. Richardson has a 7′ 0″ wingspan and is a knockdown three-point shooter. He doesn’t have the athleticism to ever be much more than a shooter off the bench but, whatever, it’s the 25th pick and a contender like the Clippers need someone with one undeniable skill as opposed to a high-risk, high-reward guy.

Alternate: Denzel Valentine

26.   Philadelphia 76ers – DeAndre Bembry (SF, St. Joe’s)

Yet another Sixers draft pick. Bembry is a wing who’s developed an all-around game, though his jumper isn’t there yet. Could even play a point forward role.

Alternate: Juan Hernangomez

27.   Toronto Raptors – Patrick McCaw (SG, UNLV)

Needs to add weight before he can step into an NBA game but McCaw is a long, athletic shooter and a GREAT defender. If the Raptors go big at #9 they need to address the wing here.

Alternate: Denzel Valentine

28.   Phoenix Suns – Juan Hernangomez (PF, Spain)

Probably a draft-n-stash guy until he improves his footwork defensively, which very well may never happen. But he’s a floor stretching big who can bang inside a bit. NBA teams like that.

Alternate: Brice Johnson

29.   San Antonio Spurs – Denzel Valentine (SG, Michigan State)

Recent concerns over Valentine’s long-term longevity due to degenerative knee issues have probably dropped him out of the lottery, though some team could still take the risk. He’s a great ballhandler and distributor, a shooter, and can guard any perimeter spot. If you’re the Spurs and you even get 2 decent years out of him, that’s a steal this late.

Alternate: Gary Payton Jr.

30.   Golden State Warriors – Zhou Qi (C, China)

Warriors could use a rim protector ready from day 1 but I think they’ll go with a guy they can stash. Qi needs to get stronger but he has a 7′ 8″ wingspan and moves like a small forward. Stash him overseas for a few years.

Alternate: Chinanu Onuaku

ROUND 2

A crapshoot, as always.

1.       Boston Celtics – Malcolm Brogdon (SG, Virginia)

Great defender and playmaker probably ready to step into a rotation right away, but his long-term success will depend on improving his jumper.

2.       Los Angeles Lakers – Damian Jones (PF/C, Vanderbilt)

Borderline first-round talent. Never showed much at Vandy but he’s a seven-footer with great feet and vertical athleticism. High-upside pick.

3.       Los Angeles Clippers – Brice Johnson (PF, North Carolina)

Good athleticism, GREAT rebounder, more skilled offensively than he gets credit for. But he needs to get stronger to have a chance as a backup big.

4.       Phoenix Suns – Ben Bentil (PF, Providence)

I like Bentil more than most due his skill as stretch-4 but he really doesn’t give you much beyond nice touch inside the arc.

5.       Boston Celtics – Ivica Zubac (C, Croatia)

Stash him. 7′ 1″ 19 year-old with an NBA body. If he never develops anything or keeps getting hurt, *Terrence Howard voice* whatever mayne.

6.       Milwaukee Bucks – Chinanu Onuaku (C, Louisville)

A STEAL this late. Explosive, long athlete who’s going to be a good rim protector and finisher.

7.       Houston Rockets – A.J. Hammons – (C, Purdue)

7′ 0″ with a J.

8.       Milwaukee Bucks – Caris LeVert (SG/SF, Michigan)

Continues to hurt his foot which is scary but he’s a shooter with great length and underrated handling ability.

9.       New Orleans Pelicans – Stephen Zimmerman (C, UNLV)

Shot blocker with decent touch.

10.   New Orleans Pelicans – Michael Gbinije (SG, Syracuse)

24 years old already but he can shoot and hold his own defensively on the wing.

11.   Orlando Magic – Sheldon McClellan (SG, Miami)

Great athlete with a scorer’s mentality but will need to change his mindset. Will be unplayably inefficient in league if he doesn’t.

12.   Utah Jazz – Diamond Stone (C, Maryland)

High-upside pick this late due his strength down low and underrated post skills, but he can’t really move which limits him in the current NBA. Could be a bully big off bench though.

13.   Houston Rockets – Guerschon Yabusele (PF, France)

Stretch-4 with great athleticism but he’s short and doesn’t show anything defensively.

14.   Atlanta Hawks – Isaiah Whitehead (SG, Seton Hall)

Not efficient AT ALL but he improved every year in college, so maybe a good system like the one in Atlanta can make an NBA-level combo guard out of him.

15.   Boston Celtics – Isaia Cordinier (SG, France)

Draft-n-stash athletic wing.

16.   Dallas Mavericks – Gary Payton II (PG, Oregon State)

If he could shoot at even a slightly below average level he’s probably a lottery pick.

17.   Orlando Magic – Pascal Siakam (PF, New Mexico State)

Skilled big with limited upside who probably would’ve benefited from another year at the college level.

18.   Chicago Bulls – Georges Niang (SF/PF, Iowa State)

Doesn’t really project any plus-NBA skill but I just don’t see a player who was as good as he was in college going undrafted. Hoiberg connection.

19.   Detroit Pistons – Rade Zagorac (SF, Serbia)

Stash stretch big.

20.   Indiana Pacers – Kay Felder (PG, Oakland)

Great athlete but he’s only 5′ 9″.

21.   Boston Celtics – Mathias Lessort (PF, France)

Stash another one for the Celtics if they somehow hold their picks.

22.   Utah Jazz – Georgios Papagiannis (C, Greece)

The coolest last name of the draft actually projects as a decent rim protector. A steal this late.

23.   Denver Nuggets – Wayne Selden (SG, Kansas)

Shooter with length, could become a playable 3-n-D guy.

24.   Atlanta Hawks – Marcus Paige (PG, North Carolina)

Good one-on-one scorer but he’s going to have a tough time with NBA athletes.

25.   Brooklyn Nets – Joel Bolomboy (PF, Weber State)

One of my favorite sleepers. He can hit the boards hard.

26.   Denver Nuggets – Jake Layman (SF, Maryland)

Stretch forward.

27.   Memphis Grizzlies – Anthony “Cat” Barber (PG, NC State)

It’s a crapshoot this late but Cat has always found a way to be productive.

28.   Boston Celtics – Dorian Finney-Smith (SF, Florida)

LOVE him as a defensive sleeper due to his length and refined skills on that end.

29.   Sacramento Kings – Jarrod Uthoff (PF, Iowa)

Whatever.

30.   Utah Jazz – Daniel Hamilton (SG/SF, UCONN)

Whatever.

2015-2016 NBA Preview (Arbitrary Predictions, Pointless Superlatives, Memes)

ONE DAY. We’re one day away from the opening night of the 2015-2016 NBA season. It’s that time of the year. Time for Jusuf Nurkic using his ass, time for Spurs ball movement, time for Derrick Rose injuring a part of the body you didn’t even know existed. This is my season preview. Here, I’ll predict the standings in each conference as well as all major awards races. To piece things together, I threw together a few superlative teams. Those are just for fun.

For example…

The “Keep Gettin’ Dem Checks” All-Stars

these guys continue to find a way, against all odds, to collect an NBA paycheck.

  • Kobe Bryant: The Black Garter Snake will be the highest paid player in the league this season. That’d be chill if it was 2008.
  • Gerald Wallace: The Celtics will pay Crash $10.5 million this season and while he’s always good for a few comments to the press, that’s not worth $10.5 million.
  • Richard Jefferson: No, you don’t need to Google Richard Jefferson to verify he’s still in the league. He is. He’s on the Cavs.
  • Carlos Boozer: The Lakers were the “winners” of the Boozer waiver wire sweepstakes. Boozer will collect $13 million this year.
  • Anderson Varejao: On the last year of his deal, Varejao will squeez $9.7 million out of the Cavs despite being their fourth, maybe fifth, best big guy.

Thibsmeme

Now onto conference predictions, let’s start in the West. Because it’s better.

Western Conference

  1. Golden State Warriors: They were one of the very best teams in league history last year by any measure, and the gang is all back. There may be trendier picks to finish first in the West, but for now, logic says go with the Dubs. I expect Harrison Barnes to play more minutes and break out in a contract year.
  2. Houston Rockets: I’m all-in on Morey’s team, though they’ll be infuriating to watch due to how many free throws they’re going to take. Love what the Ty Lawson acquisition does for this team, and for James Harden. Trevor Ariza will shoot the ball better.
  3. San Antonio Spurs: I’m not concerned about Aldridge and Duncan perhaps not being perfect fits next to each other. Pop is smarter than me or you and he’ll figure it out. Kawhi Leonard, likely to see his usage jump up a bit, is a dark-horse MVP candidate.
  4. Oklahoma City Thunder: There are questions, such as whether or not they can stay healthy and who the hell the primary 2-guard will be. But Durant looks great, and having Kanter’s ability to score down low is only going to open things up for KD.
  5. Los Angeles Clippers: The bench will be better, right? There’s not much to dislike about the Clips, who’ll continue to improve defensively under Doc, I just like four teams in the West more.
  6. Phoenix Suns: My surprise team. I get that there are chemistry issues. I get that Brandon Knight and Eric Bledsoe may not be the perfect pairing. I’m aware that Markieff Morris wants a trade. Still, tons of talent and a great coach, so I’ll put my money on them figuring it out.
  7. Memphis Grizzlies: Play well throughout the season, fight like hell in the playoffs, ultimately lose due to lack of perimeter firepower, rinse, repeat. I don’t expect much else from the Griz, though perhaps contract year Mike Conley will take on a bigger scoring load.
  8. New Orleans Pelicans: This team just cannot catch a break when it comes to injuries. Anthony Davis will keep them in the hunt, as will Tyreke Evans if he plays like he did last year. But they really can’t afford to get off to a slow start in the brutal West.
  9. Utah Jazz: I think their 2nd half was a fluke? No, but I think the W/L numbers are a bit unsustainable. They benefited from a six-game winning streak where the only halfway decent team they beat was Houston. They’re very, very good on defense, but they simply need some semblance of playmaking or shooting from their backcourt. Trey Lyles was an interesting pick with both Devin Booker and Cameron Payne on the board.
  10. Sacramento Kings: They should be fine offensively under coach Karl. Rondo will be motivated, and they’ll get some wing scoring out of Gay, McLemore, and Bellinelli. Then there’s of course DeMarcus Cousins, the best center in the NBA. If this team can somehow sneak into the playoffs, he should probably win MVP.
  11. Dallas Mavericks: Wesley Matthews will need to pick up most, if not all, the scoring lost by Monta Ellis going to Indiana. They also won’t have Tyson Chandler. I only see them making the playoffs if Deron Williams somehow finds the fountain of youth.
  12. Denver Nuggets: I like the Nuggets to surprise and be a competitive team all year, assuming Gallo stays healthy. Emmanuel Mudiay was my #2 player in the draft and I genuinely think he’s an elite point guard prospect along the lines of Rose, Irving, Westbrook, etc. He’ll be thrown into the fire right away.
  13. Los Angeles Lakers: There are plenty of reasons to watch this team, and a few to think they won’t be completely screwed moving forward (Russell, Randle, and Clarkson appear to be really nice pieces). But Byron Scott is still the coach, and Kobe is still around halting the rebuild.
  14. Minnesotta Timberwolves: Will be regular entertainment for League Pass subscribers everywhere, but let’s tamper expectations for this year. They’re still a ways away from competing for a playoff spot in the West.
  15. Portland Trail Blazers: They’re going to be really, really bad. But Damian Lillard should have an opportunity to put up some pretty insane numbers, making this is a somewhat interesting team to follow.

Kevin-Durant-meme-backpack

The “What do five fingers say to the face?” All-Stars

these guys take not giving a fuck to a whole new level. they get angry, quickly, and are the most likely to smack the shit out of you.

  • Marcus Smart: Just ask Matt Bonner or that racist guy who yelled at him in college. It’s a good thing Smart plays in a level-headed city with little racism. OH WAIT.
  • Lance Stephenson: I really shouldn’t need to explain this one. Lance is the realest though.
  • Matt Barnes: I really shouldn’t need to explain this one either.
  • Hassan Whiteside: Dude is a HOT HEAD. There’s a chance he makes an All-Star team, there’s also a chance he assaults Erik Spoelstra and is immediately hauled off to jail.
  • DeMarcus Cousins: Boogie doesn’t take shit from anybody. He wilds the fuck out on an almost nightly basis. At the start of last year, it appeared he grew out of it, but, NOPE. Tiger don’t change its stripes.

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The “Bill Walton” All-Stars

the opposite of the above team. these guys are so calm, it’s almost like they’d rather burn one and play some Dead b-sides.

Bill-Walton-Crawdaddy

  • Kawhi Leonard: He doesn’t speak or show emotions. After the Finals, D-Wade literally said, “Kawhi Leonard, I don’t even know how he sounds. But he’s a bad boy.”
  • Glen Davis: “Yo, DeAndre…”
  • Klay Thompson: Klay is very chill on the court. He also got busted for weed in college to which students responded, he twists the tightest ones on campus.
  • Wilson Chandler: I’ve never seen his face change once. He also plays in Denver.
  • J.R. Smith: If you think J.R. is a hot head, that’s on you. The dude catches a buzz the night before playoff games.

5

JR-Smith-Blunt

Eastern Conference

  1. Cleveland Cavaliers: What’s the over/under on regular season games played for LeBron? I’m guessing he plays 64.
  2. Atlanta Hawks: I believe both Miami and Chicago have a better shot at beating Cleveland in a series, but the Hawks should be the 2nd best team in the East night-to-night. I don’t think the loss of Carroll will hurt thatmuch. They have a great coach, a great PG, and probably the best big man duo in the league. The Hawks will be fine.
  3. Chicago Bulls: We’ll see how Hoidberg handles his frontcourt minutes. It appears as if Mirotic and Gasol will be his starters, with Taj Gibson and the ghost of Joakim Noah spelling them. Regardless, there’s a ton of talent on this team when you factor in Jimmy Butler, whatever Derrick Rose is, and rookie Bobby Portis. If I’m Cleveland, I wouldn’t want to see them in the second round.
  4. Miami Heat: How this team gels remains a question mark, but Dragic-Wade-Deng-Bosh-Whiteside should be as good of a starting five as any in the East outside of Cleveland. Justise Winslow figures to play major minutes given the durability issues Wade & Deng present. He’s going to make some highlight reel plays, but can he dribble?
  5. Washington Wizards: Otto Porter Jr. stepping into Paul Pierce’s minutes should be a boost. But this team’s playoff chances hinge on how their bench guys play and whether or not Beal is healthy and focused. An improved John Wall will help, but how much better can he really get?
  6. Indiana Pacers: I really like the way George Hill played last year. Paul George is back. Monta Ellis was added. Hibbert should give them something. I LOVE the selection of Myles Turner at #11. In other words, I like Indy’s chances to snag a playoff spot.
  7. Boston Celtics: I doubt the Celtics win 55 like their second half pace from a year ago would suggest, but 45 seems to be a safe bet. That’ll surely get them in, given the rest of the conference. Amir Johnson adds some much-needed interior defense and a more aggressive Marcus Smart will make the starting five more potent offensively.
  8. Toronto Raptors: Their interior defense is going to be a major problem, but hopefully the Lowry-DeRozan-Carroll trio can pick up some slack. The bottom of the East will be a bit better, so I’d expect the Raptors to take a slight step back.
  9. Milwaukee Bucks: Will Jason Kidd actually give real minutes to John Henson? The Bucks are a team on the rise and they’ll be fun to watch but they’re the odd man out here for me. They can’t shoot. How much better will Greg Monroe really make them?
  10. New York Knicks: I expect the Knicks to be A LOT better. They have to be, right? Carmelo will be ready, Robin Lopez and Kyle O’Quinn will help. I think Jerian Grant emerges as their best guard sooner rather than later. Porzingis is the wild card. If he has a year one impact, they could sneak in.
  11. Detroit Pistons: I want to have faith in Van Gundy and Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson. I want to think that their awful start to last season that buried them won’t happen again. And I really like the selection of Stanley Johnson. But this is going to be a team that runs through Reggie Jackson.
  12. Charlotte Hornets: They looked great in the preseason, and should have a decent frontcourt rotation. But the loss of MKG is going to kill their defense and it’s hard to trust an attack led by Kemba Walker with questionable shooting to contribute much.
  13. Orlando Magic: On the rise. A lot of exciting young talent. I’m not sure how they’re going to defend the post, though. They’re probably just one year and a good draft pick away from contending for the playoffs.
  14. Brooklyn Nets: Knowing the Nets, they’ll probably find a way to get good seasons out of Joe Johnson, Brook Lopez, and Thaddeus Young…thus sneaking them into the playoffs. Nets fan, that would be bad. I know they don’t have their own pick this year, but this franchise needs to accept the fact that its quick-fix failed and blow everything up (starting with the GM & coach).
  15. Philadelphia 76ers: Nerlens Noel is that dude. He’s so much fun to watch terrorize the offense at all levels. That’s all I can say about this team.

orland-magic-head-coach-stan-van-gundy-and-famous-porn-star-ron-jeremy

The “Ricky Davis” All-Stars

a group of guys who are decent players but think they’re waaaaay better than they actually are.

  • Shane Larkin: Have you ever seen Larkin dribble or shoot? He thinks he’s Iverson, only, he’s a marginal NBA role player. FOH.
  • Dion Waiters: Dion Waiters is the best scorer on the Thunder or at least he is according to Dion Waiters.
  • Nick Young: If you thought Swaggy P wasn’t making this team, where the hell have you been?
  • Brandon Bass: “No Pass Bass” as they call him. Bass isn’t quite the egomaniac some of these guys are but every single time he touches the ball he either takes a J or drives straight at the hoop for a dunk he’s incapable of finishing.
  • Joakim Noah: Yo, Joakim, you just lost your job to NIKOLA MIROTIC. Stop with the screaming. Your All-NBA days are long behind you.

ricky-davis-o

Individual Awards

MVP: James Harden

I’m going with Harden because I believe he’s averaging 30+ on ridiculous efficiency numbers. Having Ty Lawson is really going to help him. His defense improves every year. The Rockets have a chance to emerge as the best team in the league and if that happens it feels like this will be a given (a la Steph last year). Obviously, guys like Curry and Davis and Durant should be right in the hunt. I don’t think LeBron is going to play enough games to really be consdiered heavily. DeMarcus Cousins and Kawhi Leonard are dark horses for me.

Defensive Player of the Year: Kawhi Leonard

Sorry, Draymond, but Kawhi should’ve won this last year. He’s a savage defensively. Keep an eye on Nerlens Noel though…(but his team sucks)

6th Man of the Year: Isaiah Thomas

Thomas would’ve won this last year had he played with Celtics all season. He’s the best player on a likely playoff team and he comes off the bench every night, only to carry the offense from that point forward.

Most Improved Player: John Henson

It’ll come down to whether or not Kidd gives him the minutes. He’s a stud defensively, hits the glass hard on both ends, and has really developed a few nice post moves. He’s a double-double guy with 2+ blocks per if he gets the chance.

Rookie of the Year: Karl-Anthony Towns

Boring, but some of us (cough cough) thought he was the surefire #1 pick and a future superstar before last season even started, but then Chad Ford and everyone else at ESPN insisted that Okafor was the clear #1. Towns will get plenty of minutes and get plenty of looks offensively. Though i do think Emmanuel Mudiay and Jahlil Okafor are both going to have similar opportunities.

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Coach of the Year: Jeff Hornacek (Suns)

If the Suns make the playoffs like I think they will, it has to be Hornacek. The usual suspects like Pop and Doc will be in the hunt, and there will be a ton of eyes on Billy Donovan and Fred Hoidberg as well. Also, Brad Stevens is a beautiful man and I’m currently gazing into his eyes thanks to the blow-up doll I made.

And finally…

The “F*ck Duke” All-Stars

Because we all hate Duke. you should root against these guys. just be nice to Justise Winslow, that guy is awesome.

  • Kyrie Irving: Real talk, Kyrie is actually overrated (as I said in my top 100, statistically, he’s Isaiah Thomas).
  • Austin Rivers: That time he wore that fresh creamsicle Bucs hat is and will always be the highlight of his career.
  • Gerald Henderson: Fuck you, nobody’s forgotten. Also, he’s not very good and can’t shoot.
  • Josh McRoberts: The wackest player in the NBA, no debate.
  • Jahlil Okafor: Not Jahlil’s fault, but I really hate how you assholes anointed him the best big man prospect of the decade when he wasn’t even the best in his own class.

Good luck to your team this season! Unless you root for the Lakers, Nets, Knicks, or Heat. In that case, I hope all the horrible things in the world happen to you and only you.

BdlyFPEIMAAiAgz

The Top 100 NBA Players of ’15-’16 (Part 2, #’s 50-1)

Here, I finish my ranking of the top 100 NBA players coming into the season. You can find Part 1, where I rank #’s 51-100, right here.

This’ll be a long one so let’s get right into it.

“I’m in favor of drug tests. As long as they’re multiple choice.” – Kurt Rambis

#50) Khris Middleton (Wing, Bucks, 24 y/o)

Middleton has become a plus defensive player who’s also one of the best deep shooters in the league, making him well worth the 5 year/$70M extension the Bucks gave him. He’s deadly from the corners (52.3%), and he takes a significant volume of his shots from there.

You’d like to see Middleton show a bit more playmaking ability but the rest of the Bucks team moves the ball fairly well so it’s not a major issue. His shooting is so important for a playoff team that can’t really shoot for shit outside of him.

#49) Nerlens Noel (Big, 76ers, 21 y/o)

Nerlens is already a defense force. He blocks shots, rotates all over the floor, and gets a ton of steals from using his length to intercept passes. His offensive game is obviously still a work in progress but he flashed an improving midrange game towards the end of last year. On the boards, Noel relies on pure athleticism right now. We could be talking about one of the top five rebounders in the league as he improves his positional play.

Noel is a clear building block for a team that has struggled to find those despite a plethora of lottery picks over the last few years. Having Okafor next to him will only help.

#48) Isaiah Thomas (G, Celtics, 26 y/o)

#47) Kyrie Irving (G, Cavaliers, 23 y/o)

Hear me out…”Player A” and “Player B” per 36 minutes/rates that last three seasons…

Player A: 21.7 Pts, 5.8 asts, 45.0% FG, 21.0 PER, .280 FTr, .148 WS/48

Player B: 20.8 pts, 6.0 asts, 43.9% FG, 19.5 PER, .382 FTr, .143 WS/48

Player A is former #1 overall pick and supposed “transcendent point guard talent” Kyrie Irving. Player B is Celtics 6th man Isaiah Thomas. I don’t doubt Kyrie’s potential. He’s a big, athletic guard with a ridiculous handle and perfect shooting form. But right now all the numbers say he’s a good volume scorer who doesn’t really create for others or player defense. He’s not a superstar right now. He’s a good second option or very good third option.

There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s just the Celtics get the same out of Isaiah Thomas for half the money. Kyrie ranks ahead because of the upside his physical profile suggests, but it’s players like Thomas we should be comparing Kyrie to, not guys like Paul, Curry, and Westbrook. At least for now.

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#46) Chandler Parsons (Wing, Mavericks, 26 y/o/)

Parsons was very good for Dallas last year, in fact, it was probably the best season of his young career. He’s a great shooter from anywhere on the floor. He’s made his release a lot quicker, not that it really matters seeing he’s 6’ 9”.

Parsons functioned as a point forward of sorts at Florida but we haven’t seen his playmaking skills translate to the pro game. I think he’ll need to flash those if Dallas hopes to be as good offensively as they were a year ago.

#45) DeMar DeRozan (Wing, Raptors, 26 y/o)

There are a lot of reasons to not like DeMar DeRozan. His shot selection is questionable at best, and he’s not good enough of a jump shooter to even come close to justifying said shot selection.

But there are only a handful of guys who defend the opponent’s top wing for 35 minutes a night and still give you a reasonably efficient 20 points (DeRozan gets to the line A LOT). DeRozan’s overall skill level has also improved. He’s more than just a cutter now. He can handle and create for himself or teammates.

#44) Danny Green (Wing, Spurs, 28 y/o)

How can you not love Danny Green? A second-round pick who rather than try to do too much, groomed himself into one of the best shooters and perimeter defenders in the game (he’s another “3 & D” guy, as the kids would say). Green probably could’ve gotten more money elsewhere but elected to sign an extension with the Spurs, a team whose halfcourt offense is perfect for him.

62% of Green’s shots come from deep. Considering he makes them at a rate higher than most players make from midrange, that’s an effective strategy.

#43) Jeff Teague (G, Hawks, 27 y/o)

Teague’s been a pretty solid player his whole career, but the offensive juggernaut that was the ’14-‘15 Atlanta Hawks really boosted some of his numbers (career-highs in PER, true shooting, assist %). He’s always good defensively as well.

Teague isn’t an insane athlete or elite shooter so he’s not as aesthetically pleasing as some other top PG’s but he’s certainly one of the better ones in the league (I only have 8 ranked higher, and it’s a really deep position right now).

#42) Al Jefferson (Big, Hornets, 30 y/o)

Big Al has never quite developed the overall dominance we hoped for but he’s always been one of the best post scorers in the league, though his numbers took a slight hit last year in a Charlotte offense that had no shooting, allowing defenses to collapse on him every time he touched it. He had a FG% of less than 49.0 for the first time in his career.

Jefferson is in a contract year. At just 30, he could be in for one more huge payday if he puts up his usual numbers. Having Kaminsky next to him at times will help get him some space and one-on-one matchups on the block.

“Mick Jagger is in better shape than far too many NBA players. It’s up in the air whether the same can be said of Keith Richards.” – Bill Walton

#41) Eric Bledsoe (G, Suns, 25 y/o)

Bledsoe is an explosive athlete and tenacious defender (when he wants to be). Other than Westbrook, I don’t think there’s another guard who puts as much physical pressure on an opponent at both ends. Bledsoe has made serious strides as a point guard and shooter. The fact that he’s missed the AS game the last two years is a testament to just how many great guards there are in the West.

Long-term, I like Bledsoe alongside Knight much more than I like Bledsoe alongside Dragic. The Suns have quietly built a good core and there’s no reason they can’t make the playoffs this year, even in the West.

#40) Kyle Korver (Wing, Hawks, 34 y/o)

All Korver does is shoot threes, so what? He made 49.2% of them, and well over 50% on threes from the corners. Having a guy like Korver who can stand far away from the motion of an offense and require a defender to play him tight essentially allows you to play a more open game in the backcourt. This was how Atlanta was able to get such favorable looks for Millsap and Horford.

Korver was well-deserving of last year’s All-Star selection. He’s led the league in 3pt% the last two years, and hasn’t shot below 41% from deep since ’08. Regardless of his defense or your team’s makeup, your winning percentage gets a boost from Korver taking five or six triples a game. He doesn’t even really need to be open, either. All of his 3pt shooting numbers are insane. 50.3% on catch-n-shoots, 46.3% on pullups, over 43% on CONTESTED attempts.

#39) Giannis Antetonkounmpo (N/A, Bucks, 20 y/o)

Having Giannis this high, I’m assuming some improvement will happen, not that he isn’t already very good. A 6’ 11” 20 year-old with guard skills is not something you see every day. Giannis’ shooting needs to improve. He needs to at least show some willingness to pull up from outside the paint. Right now he scores off sheer length, though he’s improved his back-to-basket game tremendously.

Giannis is also a terror on defense and on transition, despite that fact that he’s still learning the game. I would argue he was pretty close to being a top 50 player last year, and he’s obviously nowhere near his ceiling yet.

#38) Kyle Lowry (G, Raptors, 29 y/o)

Horrible slump. Lowry is taking a lot of Twitter heat for it. It seemed like once the general public finally started recognizing Lowry’s ability, he stopped playing well. But looking at what he’s done over the course of his career, the second-half of last season is an outlier, not the real Kyle Lowry. And maybe he just got pissed that he was one of, like, two guys on his team playing defense.

He shoots the ball well and does a good job setting things up, though last year the Raptors offense wasn’t exactly assist-friendly. Lowry will likely find more space to attack the hoop with some of the floor-stretching Carroll will bring to the lineup.

#37) Derrick Favors (Big, Jazz, 24 y/o)

The first of THREE Jazz players in my top 50. The team was so good defensively after the Kanter trade, and Favors was a big part of that. He handles good post scorers very well and has the athleticism/size combo to be a great rim protector, not that he really needs to be seeing as they have Gobert.

Favors has also become a reliable and efficient low-post scorer. He can keep you honest from midrange and overpower you on the block. He’s very hard to defend. Looking at some of the power forwards I have a few slots ahead of him, I’m really thinking Favors has a chance to outplay them this year.

#36) Gordon Hayward (Wing, Jazz, 25 y/o)

I really don’t care how inefficient Gordon Hayward is. He’s been asked to function as a high usage point forward for Utah his whole career. And here’s the thing, HE WAS ACTUALLY REALLY EFFFICIENT LAST YEAR.

He’s got an awkward, streaky shot. But he had a 50% eFG last year. You’ll take that out of a guy who has to work in the volume Hayward does. He’s of course very capable of running the offense, though he’s not great off the dribble so I think Utah needs to cut back on his one-on-one drives. He works on defense and uses his length to help make up for his lack of lateral quickness. Just a very good all-around player who’s worth the $15M Utah will pay him this year.

#35) Andrew Wiggins (Wing, Timberwolves, 20 y/o)

Wiggins had a great rookie year and I’m personally not concerned with the streaky shooting. The coaches put him in “let him do whatever he wants and he’ll learn from it” mode. Wiggins finished the year averaging 16.9 points and 4.6 boards on 43.7% FG%, very respectable numbers. He also flashed his athleticism on the other end.

Developing a more consistent jumper will go a long way for Wiggins, and his release suggests that will happen. At the very worst, Wiggins is going to a volume scorer and plus defender. He’s not going to be LeBron or Durant statistically, but he’s got a good shot at being a slightly better Paul George.

#34) Pau Gasol (Big, Bulls, 35 y/o)

Pau had a very nice first year in Chicago, even if his defense was questionable at times. He had a career-best season in terms of rebounding. His ability to score from anywhere inside the arc helped a Bulls team that can have a very ugly offense. I don’t think he’s in danger of losing any minutes with Hoidberg in town.

Gasol quietly continues to add to his Hall-of-Fame worthy resume. A couple more seasons like he had last year, and it should be a lock.

“The new moron in town is Chad Ford of ESPN.com” – Mark Cuban

#33) Dirk Nowitzki (Big, Mavericks, 37 y/o)

As expected, Dirk’s volume and usage continues to decline with his age, but his effectiveness has not. One of the most prolific scorers of the last 20 years is still more than capable of getting his smooth jumper up from any spot and angle. Dirk isn’t carrying you to a title, but he’s still a damn good offensive cornerstone.

I would expect Dirk to play a similar role to last year. You figure Wesley Matthews takes at least 75% of Ellis’ field goal attempts. I don’t think Dallas wants to put much more of a scoring burden on Dirk’s aging shoulders.

#32) Zach Randolph (big, Grizzlies, 34 y/o)

Z-Bo since ’03 (his first year getting real minutes)…

18.7 ppg, 10.4 rpg, 19.6 PER, 52.3% true shooting.

He’s a wrecking ball down low, always has been, and still is. He was as good as ever last year for Memphis and he’s not a player who relies on athleticism, meaning he’s going to continue to age well. It’s ridiculous that he’s only made 2 All-Star teams. I expect 18 & 10 out of Z-Bo, again.

#31) Paul Millsap (Big, Hawks, 30 y/o)

Everyone finally realized just how good Millsap is last year thanks to the Hawks dominating for most of the season. He’s a capable one-on-one defender and scorer from both midrange and down low. He uses angles and leverage well to help make up for his less than ideal height.

Putting him, Z-Bo, Dirk, and Pau next to each other is just a coincidence, but I genuinely feel Millsap is the best of that bunch right now.

#30 Andre Drummond (Big, Pistons, 22)

#29) DeAndre Jordan (Big, Clippers, 27)

#28) Rudy Gobert (Big, Jazz, 23)

Let’s look at what these three did last year per 36 minutes…

Drummond: 16.2 pts, 15.9 rbs, 2.2 blks, 51.4% FG, 38.9% FT, 21.4 PER

Jordan: 12.1 pts, 15.7 rbs, 2.3 blks, 71.0% FG, 39.7% FT, 21.0 PER

Gobert: 11.4 pts, 12.9 rbs, 3.2 blks, 60.4% FG, 62.3% FT, 21.6 PER

How close to one another are these three? Here’s why I gave the edge to Gobert…

He’s the NBA’s best rim protector. Not only does he block more shots, but he’s much quicker on his feet than Drummond or Jordan. He can step out further than they can. He’s longer and he has better timing. Both Jordan and Drummond make spectacular blocks, but the team defensive numbers when they’re on the court vs when they’re off aren’t very encouraging. Gobert is also by far the best free-throw shooter of the bunch. You don’t have to take him out. Would Jordan shoot 71% from the field if the majority of his points didn’t come on put backs and alley-oops from CP3? Probably not. Drummond has the best offensive skill set of the three, though Gobert appears to be developing a post game.

#27) Serge Ibaka (Big, Thunder, 26 y/o)

Serge has become a legitimate stretch big who also happens to be on of the league’s best rim protectors. That’s a very valuable combo. He shot 37.6% from deep on over 3 attempts a game. We are yet to see what OKC is with a healthy Russ, a healthy KD, and an improved Serge. Watch out.

He’s probably never going to tighten up his footwork and become truly dominant in the post, so continuing to hit threes is important for his scoring output.

#26) Damian Lillard (G, Trail Blazers, 25 y/o)

Lillard, much like Kyrie, is a shoot-first point guard who doesn’t play much defense. So why do I have Lillard slotted 20 spots higher?

Well, the easy answer is because he’s better, but that’s probably not enough for the Kyrie stans. Lillard is a much more potent distributor. He’s put up slightly better assist numbers despite not spending almost his entire career in an offense completely based around his dribbling (Kyrie). Without Aldridge, Lillard is going to have to create even more. The Blazers will be bad, but I think Lillard’s going to average 24 & 8 with better shooting numbers than his slump-ridden 3rd NBA season. To each is his own, but I’d take Lillard over Kyrie without thinking twice.

Oh, and Dame can spit.

“I can be bought. If they paid me enough, I’d work for the Klan.” – Charles Barkley

#25) Chris Bosh (Big, Heat, 31 y/o)

Bosh was great last year before that unfortunate heart ailment was discovered. He’s still as good defensively one-on-one down low as anybody in the league. Without LeBron eating up possessions, Bosh took nearly 5 more attempts a game and averaged over 20 for the first time since he was a Raptor.

Bosh, who’s developed 3-pt range, does a nice job with his shot selection. He can still take guys in the post, and does so every now and then. Miami will need his A-game if they want to have any shot at a top 2 or 3 seed in the East.

#24) Klay Thompson (Wing, Warriors, 25 y/o)

First off, Klay is much better defensively and on the break than he gets credit for. His size and fluidity are big parts of this. But let’s be honest, Klay is good because he can light you up in a hurry.

His shooting percentages from everywhere one the floor saw a big jump playing in Kerr’s system. He needs very little space to get his shot off and can do so falling back or leaning off the catch. There’s no reason to think Klay’s shooting numbers from last year were a fluke.

#23) Dwyane Wade (G, Heat, 33 y/o)

60 games of Wade is better than 80 games of almost any other player in the NBA. He flops, and he’s annoying, but he’s also still one of the best one-on-one scorers around. Never a very good 3pt shooter, Wade makes up for it by being perhaps the best midrange scorer in the league. He nails step back jumpers and has a back-to-the-basket game reminiscent of Gary Payton. He’s crafty and strong, even though he’s not quite as explosive anymore.

Wade was outstanding last year, as per usual. His scoring efficiency took a predictable hit as he didn’t have LeBron to create wide-open fastbreak layups for him, but he still had a respectable 48.3% eFG.

#22) Mike Conley (G, Grizzlies, 28 y/o)

Conley is probably the best defensive PG in the NBA. Pair that with the fact that he’s a pretty damn good halfcourt floor general who shoots 35%+ from deep every year and you have the formula for a very effective NBA point. Could the Grizzlies use a little more improvisational ability out of Conley? Sure, but it’s not his fault they’ve failed to address their lack of solid one-on-one perimeter guys.

I only have four PG’s ranked higher than Conley.

#21) Dwight Howard (Big, Rockets, 29 y/o)

Dwight never became as good as he should have. Some of that has to do with injuries, and some of it has to do with his struggles at developing a truly great post game (he’s gotten better, but still…). With that said, Howard is still one of the best plus-minus defenders in the league and he can take over lesser team inside when he wants to.

He figures to average around 16 & 12 again on something close to 60% FG. Howard never became the transcendent superstar many of us expected, at least not for more than a couple years, but he’s still well on his way to a HOF career and one of the 25 best players in the league.

#20) Al Horford (Big, Hawks, 29 y/o)

Horford stays healthy, and the Hawks play well. Surprise, surprise. #20 may seem high for a guy who only averaged 15 & 7 but Atlanta’s depth and balanced attack limited both Horford’s minutes and chances.

He’s the best midrange shooter in the league. Horford hit 49.4% of his shots in between 16’ and the 3pt arc last year. That’d be ridiculous for a superstar wing, much less a big guy who also defends at an elite level. Horford is Atlanta’s best player, and that’s saying something.

#19) Draymond Green (N/A, Warriors, 25 y/o)

We all know what Draymond can do defensively, but the key to him being able to stay on the court are his offensive improvements. You can’t leave him WIDE open from deep (33.7% on 4+ attempts a game). He’s a very effective point forward, putting up an impressive ast% of 16.1.

Draymond is probably going to get better too. You figure his shooting will improve a bit and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Kerr run more plays through him given his ability to pass the ball. He’s also a fucking savage.

#18) Jimmy Butler (Wing, Bulls, 26 y/o)

He probably never should’ve removed the rearview mirror in his car, but it’s cool I guess, since Jimmy Butler is pretty good. Shooting slumps be damned, Butler finished with some impressive figures last year (46.2% FG, 37.8% 3pt). He carried Chicago’s offense at times, proving himself capable of being a one-on-one halfcourt scorer.

Butler is obviously a good defender capable of guarding multiple spots. It’s interesting how Butler, not Rose or Noah, has grown into Chicago’s true franchise player.

“I don’t like gay people and I don’t like to be around gay people. I am homophobic. I don’t like it. It shouldn’t be in the world or in the United States.” – Tim Hardaway

#17) Paul George (Wing, Pacers, 25 y/o)

Came back for 91 minutes last year so it’s a tiny sample size, but he did shoot 9 for 22 from deep. If he can flirt with 40% for an entire season, he’ll be more than capable of carrying the Pacers offense. We’re just one year removed from PG-13 averaging 21.7 with 6.8 boards and providing some of the most versatile defense in the NBA.

He’s stated publicly that he doesn’t like playing the 4, but he’s going to have to in certain situations. He’s a long 6’ 9” and has made two All-Defensive teams, I don’t get his gripe.

#16) Kevin Love (Big, Cavaliers, 27 y/o)

I’m still screaming about the way the Cavs used Kevin Love last year. You don’t take one of the NBA’s best rebounders and low post scorers and make him primarily a shooter. Love’s great from deep, but there’s no reason over 41% of his attempts should be coming from there.

The Cavs have a deep frontcourt rotation, assuming Thompson is back, but Love is still clearly their 2nd best player. His averages were going to take a hit playing next to LeBron, but Love still had a disappointing season by any measure. He’ll be much better.

#15) Carmelo Anthony (Wing, Knicks, 31 y/o)

I need to see a healthy Melo show signs of decline before I bump him down much. He’s still one of the five best volume scorers in the league, and he scores with respectable efficiency from anywhere on the court. Yes, he’s a black hole, but it’s not like the Knicks are loaded with secondary guys that can carry the load for stretches.

I’m pretty sure we’ll see Carmelo score in the high-20’s once again. I’m not sure what that really means, but he’ll continue to put up some of the more impressive scoring numbers the league has ever seen.

#14) Tim Duncan (Big, Spurs, 39 y/o)

This isn’t a career achievement award; Duncan is still one of the league’s best on both ends. He wastes no effort, every rotation he makes is to the right spot and he knows himself so well offensively. A guy who can give a loaded team 13 & 9 on less than 30 minutes a night with GREAT defense? That’s valuable.

Duncan and Aldridge may not seem like the perfect fit, but they’re both outstanding individual players all-around. I’m pretty sure Pop knows more than all of us and will figure it out.

#13) John Wall (G, Wizards, 25 y/o)

If Wall were to develop even a league average 3pt shot, he’d probably move up five spots. He’s either the best or second best distributor in the NBA (CP3), and his explosiveness allows him to be an effective scorer inside the arc despite the fact that he struggles to keep defenders honest.

Wall D’s up as well. We saw in the playoffs last year just how much this team relies on him for basically everything.

#12) LaMarcus Aldridge (Big, Spurs, 30 y/o)

Aldridge is such a naturally-gifted offensive player. His smooth jumper is nearly impossible to block given his length, and his post game became great the second he entered the league. The consensus seems to be the LMA’s volume will go down in San Antonio, but I’m not so sure. Duncan’s ability to play from the high post, combined with the floor spacing the Spurs have, should free up Aldridge for a ton of one-on-one matchups on the block, where he’s basically unstoppable.

A very good individual defender as well, Aldridge’s arrival in San Antonio is going to cause a lot of problems for the West contenders that don’t have great bigs.

#11) Kawhi Leonard (Wing, Spurs, 24 y/o)

You can’t fully quantify Kawhi’s defensive impact. Well, maybe someone like Kevin Pelton or Drew Cannon can, but I sure as hell can’t with the information I have access to. But if you watch Kawhi, you don’t really need any numbers to see his impact. He’s a disruptive force. Great one-on-one, versatile, outstanding at moving over for help and intercepting passing lanes. If you’re going up against a LeBron or a Durant in a seven game series, is there a player you’d rather have on your team than Kawhi?

He gives you a lot offensively as well, even if he seemingly lost his jumper for most of last year. 36.8% from deep for his career is fine. If Kawhi can even become a top 20 or 25 offensive player, he jumps into the top 5 or 6 overall. He’s that good defensively.

THE TOP 10

everyone in the top 10 gets their own meme or gif, these guys are special

“The negotiation was difficult, but that’s all water under the table.” – Shawn Kemp

#10) Blake Griffin (Big, Clippers, 26 y/o)

We still don’t give Blake enough credit for how much better he’s gotten on the block, both defensively and offensively. His improving jump shot helps his game as well. And then of course he’s a specimen who is just too strong to be held down. When he jumps, he powers through contact. I don’t really care about his rebounding numbers, because they’re dramatically altered by playing next to DeAndre Jordan.

And is there a better passing big man in the game than Blake Griffin? I was really debating Blake vs. the next two guys on this list. Ultimately, I put Blake here because his skill set is still developing and he isn’t great defensively.

#9) Marc Gasol (Big, Grizzlies, 30 y/o)

The Grizzlies defense plays you tight, and the only means of escape are to funnel ballhandlers into Marc Gasol, which generally works out well for Memphis. Offensively, it all runs through him as well. He can catch the ball at the high post and his 7’ 1” body makes it nearly impossible to stop his excellent court vision and respectable jumper from there.

Gasol rightfully was named to the All-NBA 1st team last year, and finished 9th in MVP shares. I’m not sure how much better he can get at this point, but does anybody care? He’s great.

#8) DeMarcus Cousins (Big, Kings, 25 y/o)

He plays on the Kings and can be polarizing but Boogie is a legitimate superstar on both ends. He’s actually had to focus on setting up other a little more than I’d like to see to this point in his career, but that should change with Rondo now in Sac-town.

The only big who put up more impressive numbers than Boogie last year was Anthony Davis, and strangely enough, their head-to-head matchups greatly favor Cousins. He’s averaged 27 & 17 with 6 dimes on 50% FG against Davis.

#7) Chris Paul (G, Clippers, 30 y/o)

Curry and Westbrook are more exciting/likable, but Paul is still the best point guard in the league, in the classic sense. CP3 was solid last year. It was probably his best season as a Clipper. He played all 82, averaged 19-10-4 on 48.5% FG, and led the league in offensive win shares.

I think some weight will be taken off Paul’s shoulders this year. The Clips have many potent ballhandlers.

#6) Russell Westbrook (G, Thunder, 26 y/o)

Sure, Russ isn’t the perfect running mate for KD. A less ball dominant guard would be nice, but anyone asking for the duo to break-up or calling for a trade are out of their minds. “Fit” doesn’t really matter when you can pair two of the game’s true superstars together. LeBron & Wade were never perfect fits for one another in a scheme sense, but it didn’t matter.

All Westbrook did last year was win a scoring title while also leading the league in usage and putting up careers highs across the board. He was OKC. And he did this while having his most efficient season as a distributor. It’s hard to blame Russ for the turnovers and at times lackadaisical defense last year. He was asked to do soooo much.

#5) James Harden (G, Rockets, 26 y/o)

Harden is really the perfect superstar for Daryl Morey. He either forces his way into the paint and gets to the line, or takes a three (which is great when he hits 37.9% from deep).

Harden was asked to take on a larger role last year in terms of playmaking and rebounding. He answered the call, but that’s probably not ideal. With Ty Lawson in town, I expect Harden to actually score more. I’ll bet anything Harden wins the scoring title this year.

#4) Stephen Curry (G, Warriors, 27 y/o)

Steph is probably the best 3pt shooter in NBA history. He also handles the ball flawlessly, plays plus-defense, and sets up teammates at a great rate given his relatively low usage (for a superstar PG). His ascension to superstar status and team-friendly deal (he signed the dotted line one year too early), make him the NBA’s best bang-for-your-buck player.

I don’t think Steph will have any problem repeating his numbers from last year. In fact, they could take a boost seeing as he might be playing more minutes since it’s simply impossible the Warriors blow that many teams out again.

#3) Kevin Durant (Wing, Thunder, 27 y/o)

I’m always going to have concerns about a 6’ 10” guy with a history of foot issues, but that’s not why I ranked Durant this “low”. I just think the next two guys are better.

But KD is great. He’s the best scorer in the league. Continued development of his back-to-the-basket game will only make him more deadly. He’s a 6’ 10” guy with explosive athleticism who handles the ball like a point guard and shoots 40% from deep. You can’t stop that. Well, maybe Kawhi can.

#2) Anthony Davis (Big, Pelicans, 22 y/o)

Once Ant starts nailing threes, we’re all fucked. I’m pretty sure he’s going to have a quadruple-double with blocks this year. He’s just a freak. The Pellies were only an 8-seed last year. Won’t happen again. They can win a playoff series if they get matched up with anyone other than GS.

Davis continues to work on his offensive repertoire. The less than stellar team defensive numbers with Davis on the court were more a reflection of Monty Williams than AD.

#1) LeBron James (Wing, Cavaliers, 30 y/o)

You could certainly argue that Harden, Davis, Curry, and even Westbrook were better last year. You could argue any of those four plus Durant will be better this year. But I until I see a player definitively dominate more than LeBron, I can’t rank him anywhere else. He’ll be more efficient in year two with Blatt & Co.

If the Cavs don’t win the title this year, a lot of blame is going to be thrown around, but as always, most of it will unfairly go towards LeBron. He’s still the best player in the NBA. He’s the best player of his generation. For my money, he’s the best player of all-time. And after all, it’s hard to be humble when you’re stuntin’ on the Jumbo-tron.

Go Celtics.

The Top 100 NBA Players of ’15-’16 (Part 1, #’s 100-51)

We’ve almost made it. We’re so close no longer having to pretend to have watched the baseball game last night. The 2015-2016 NBA season tips off in, like, a week. I’m celebrating by counting down the top 100 players in the league heading into the season. This is part 1.

Please note, this isn’t a list of who were the best last year, or who will be the best in a couple years. That’s taken into consideration, but this is my take on who will be the best 100 players this year. Rookies are eligible. Guys who spent most of last season injured are eligible. Jonas Jerebko is eligible (he did not make the list but I just like typing his name).

As always, there are no credentials here. I’m just a pretty fly white guy who watches way too much basketball and tweets rude things at Chris Broussard. Any tats you see below come from basketball reference, NBA.com, 82 Games, etc. You know, the usual places. Let’s start things off with some big names who DIDN’T make the top 100.

Notable guys who just ain’t got the juice like that…

Kemba Walker: Exciting player, can carry an offense for short stretches, but it’s hard to have any sustained success offensively with a point guard who takes 15 shots a game but makes less than 40% of them.

Michael Carter-Williams: Still very much a work in progress. Length causes problems for his opponents but his upside is limited until his jumper vastly improves.

Roy Hibbert: I still believe Hibbert has a ton of value, but his offensive game has gotten worse each of the last three years. There are times, not just in the last three minutes, where he simply cannot be on the court. How can you put a guy like that in your top 100?

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D’Angelo Russell: I really like Russell long-term, but he’s a guy who’s most effective when he has the ball in his hands for the majority of the shot clock. Not sure that’s going to happen in year one next to Kobe or Lou Williams and with Byron Scott as his coach.

Trevor Ariza: Ariza started 82 games for the Rockets last year but his efficiency took a huge hit. He really needs a true PG, always has. Perhaps Houston’s addition of Ty Lawson will help him.

Nikola Mirotic: Will one of the biggest surprises in the league last year get even more playing time and shots under Hoidberg? Probably. Is that a good thing for Chicago? I’m not sure.

Deron Williams: Stop living in 2012, which happens to be the last time D-Will played at least 70 games and/or had a PER of 20+. He’s a “keep gettin’ dem checks” All-Star (yes, I will be doing a “Keep Gettin’ Dem Checks” All-Stars post).

David West: Still a key player on what should be one of the better teams in the East, but he doesn’t move as well anymore, and that hurts his defense. He can still be a major matchup problem, especially when used as a 5 in small-ball lineups (which the Pacers need to do, despite Paul George’s complaints about playing the 4).

Rajon Rondo: Not really sure what to say. I wouldn’t be all that surprised if he and Boogie formed a dangerous duo and Rondo led the league in assists again. I also wouldn’t be surprised if he gets traded twice this year. Can’t put him in the top 100 after last year.

Paul Pierce: I’m not doubting that The Truth is going to find a way to have a major impact on this year’s playoffs. I’m just doubting his true value to an up-tempo team over the course of an 82 game season.

John Henson: Big fan of what he does in limited minutes, not sure why his minutes are still being limited. He’s going to have a great year. Was #101 for me.

And without further adieu, the top 100…

“I thought LeBron James was just another guy brought in to help me score.” – Ricky Davis

#100) Ricky Rubio (G, Timberwolves, 24 y/o)

Rubio is an enigma. He’s over 2 steals a game for his career, but gambles a lot and struggles to stay in front of quick guards. He’s one of the NBA’s best passers and fastbreak players, but his shooting is still so bad that teams play the pass to a Rondo-esque extent.

He only played 22 games last season. Maaybe he can recapture the burst he had his rookie year. Something very troubling to me is that he only shot 31.7% from inside five feet in those 22 games. Guards who can’t shoot jumpers simply have to be effective at the rim, though Rubio’s improving a lot from midrange.

#99) Lou Williams (G, Lakers, 28 y/o)

The reigning 6th Man of the Year is what he is at this point, a high-volume shooter who can win you games if you use him correctly. Luckily, the Raptors did just that, giving him 25 minutes per and making sure he was hardly ever in a position to matchup on an opposing guard who’s actually a threat. The Lakers have the backcourt depth to use him the same way, but it’s Byron Scott, so who the fuck knows?

Lou-Will takes nearly half his attempts from deep, though 43.6% shooting from midrange is quite good. I like the idea of Jordan Clarkson and D’Angelo Russell making plays while Lou hangs out in the corner, where he’s deadly from (48.1%).

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#98) Steven Adams (Big, Thunder, 22 y/o)

Adams is a very, very good defender in the paint, where he forces opponents to shoot 5.5% less than the league average. If you translate his numbers to the minutes of a high-quality starter, and you’re talking about a probable double-double who plays plus-plus defense. He’s bad free-throw shooter and gets exposed in an open-floor game so he’s unlikely to ever see those kind of minutes, but Adams is a very good role player and the Thunder can’t hope to defend San Antonio or L.A. without him.

#97) Jahlil Okafor (Big, 76ers, 19 y/o)

Okafor and Nerlens Noel are perfect for each other. It really wouldn’t shock me if Okafor averages 15 & 8 with 55% shooting on his way to a Rookie of the Year prize. There’s no reason for Philly to not run the offense through him. He should touch the ball on the block every possession.

Long-term, however, I’m a little bullish on Jahlil. He simply cannot rotate or get off his feet defensively. I do think NBA conditioning will help him here, but there’s no reason a guy his size is so ineffective at an entire half of the game. And his hands are just soooo big I wonder if he’s ever going to really improve as a shooter. Despite the fact that I’m not nearly as high on Okafor as most, I still have in the top 100, so, yeah, he’s going to be good.

#96) Reggie Jackson (G, Pistons, 25 y/o)

Bobby Shmurda is a great offensive combo-guard whether coming off the bench or in the starting five. I have absolutely no problem with Detroit giving him 5 yrs/$80M given the current financial landscape. He was very effective after the trade last season when his usage skyrocketed.

He’s probably never going to be any better than average defensively, and his does dominate the ball. But he’s also only been the league for 4 years and has never had a clearly defined role. Maybe the stability in Detroit will help him.

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#95) Joe Johnson (Wing, Nets, 34 y/o)

Johnson has made an obscene amount of money playing basketball for a guy who was always good but never great. Good for him. He’ll get $24.8M from the Nets this year. Maybe the Nets can convince a desperate contender to give up a decent pick at the deadline, but I doubt it. The Nets aren’t realistic about themselves. They should’ve given up last year and had a fire sale but instead went all-in trying to get the 8-seed (congrats guys, btw).

On the court, Johnson is still a pretty good albeit inefficient perimeter scorer. His size continues to save him. I would expect slightly more effort this year seeing as he can probably squeeze one more decent contract out of somebody if the ’13-’14 Joe Johnson shows up.

#94 Nene Hilario (Big, Wizards, 33 y/o)

I fucking love Nene. He doesn’t block a lot of shots, but don’t let that fool you, he’s a very good defender. Great one-on-one in the post, and opponents shoot significantly worse at the rim when he’s on the floor. He plays within himself offensively and continues to be one of the league’s better defensive rebounders.

11 points & 5 boards may not seem like top 100 material but Nene’s 11 & 5 is more effective than some guys’ 15 & 8.

#93) Kenneth Faried (Big, Nuggets, 25 y/o)

So people seem to have soured on Faried a bit. His limitations are clear, but they’ve always been clear. Given Faried’s lack of length and overall skill, you’re not asking him to anchor your defense or be a huge part of your offense in the halfcourt, or at least you shouldn’t be.

So what does Faried do well? He runs the floor as well as any big in the league, and he crashes the offensive glass as well as any big in the league. Those are two very important skills in today’s NBA game. His 2.4 contested offensive rebounds per game were the best in the league.

#92) Terrence Jones (Wing/Big, Rockets, 23 y/o)

To me, Terrence Jones is one of the leagues most underrated players, and a guy who’s always been deserving of more minutes. He defends both forward spots. He shoots extremely efficiently, and is even good for the occasional three. He pounds the offensive glass. And he’s a great athlete, so he doesn’t get exposed in an open-floor game. Very few guys in the league can claim all of these things.

On the final year of his rookie deal, expect Jones’ free agency to be one of the storylines of next summer. He’s very good and would have better per game numbers if he wasn’t on a Houston team that doesn’t ask for too much out of him.

“Our offense is like the Pythagorean theorem. There is no answer.” – Shaq

#91) Emmanuel Mudiay (G, Nuggets, 19 y/o)

Mudiay was my #2 player in the draft after Towns. I really don’t care how bad his sure-to-improve jumpshot looks right now, he’s 19. He’s both a dynamic physical presence and athlete at the point guard position. He had the best court-vision in the draft. At the very least, he’s going to help you defensively and in transition right away.

Larry Brown was right when he said that had Mudiay gone to college he would’ve been in the discussion for #1 overall. I believe he’s going thrive right away, as the Nuggets have no reason to hold him back.

#90) Donatas Motiejunas (Big, Rockets, 25 y/o)

A rapidly improving seven-footer with good athleticism and skill who has range out to downtown? He’s the perfect complement to Dwight Howard down low. The Rockets were patient with him during his first two years and let him develop before thrusting him into action last year. The results were quite good.

Donatas didn’t take as many threes last year, but I’d expect him to starting chucking them up again. It’s crazy to me looking at my list realizingI have 89 guys ranked ahead of him. He’s great.

#89) Tobias Harris (Wing, Magic, 23 y/o)

What do we do with Tobias Harris? He’s a guy who clearly has talent and has shown the ability to score from all three levels, but has done so with average efficiency on a bad team. Orlando sees him as part of the future, as they tossed him $64M this summer.

Harris played 72% of his minutes at the 3 last year, compared to just 26% the year before that. I like him a lot more at the 4, where he can be a dynamic floor-stretcher and still hold up defensively thanks to his impressive upper-body strength.

#88) Tristan Thompson (Big, Cavaliers, 24 y/o)

Is Tristan worth $90M? Probably not, but he’s certainly worth more than $40M. He does more than just rebound, and besides, he’s so good on the offensive glass, his rebounding alone is probably worth $50M over 4 years.

His offensive efficiency benefited greatly from the arrival of LeBron, and it’ll only get better in year two. Here’s the kicker, the Cavs were net a 3 points better per 100 possessions with Tristan on the floor than they were with him off it. They have to find a way to bring him back. They’re not touching the tops dogs in the West of they don’t.

#87 Andrew Bogut (Big, Warriors, 30 y/o)

Bogut disappeared from the rotation in the Finals because that’s what the matchups dictated. You’re fooling yourself if you think he still isn’t an important part of the best team in the NBA. He’s stayed relatively healthy over the last two years, and his impact on the Dubs down low has been huge. He’s by far their best rim protector, one of the league’s best in fact, and he completely controls the defensive glass (26.5 DRB%).

Very few players impact that game the way Bogut does in less than 25 minutes. There’s a reason the very intelligent Warriors front office extended him. Bogut has lead the NBA in defensive box plus/minus for two straight years.

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#86) Rudy Gay (Wing, Kings, 29 y/o)

Gay quietly had the best all-around statistical season of his career for the Kings last year. He’s become a much more willing distributor, making his always-high usage numbers easier to swallow, though both figure to dip a bit given the addition of Rajon Rondo. The bad on-court defensive numbers for lineups with him are more indicative of the Kings being a complete mess than anything else.

I’d still like to see Gay take more threes, specifically from the corners. There’s no reason a high-volume player who can shoot like Gay should take less than 1 corner three a game.

#85 Monta Ellis (G, Pacers, 29 y/o)

Monta is coming off his best season, but projecting what he’s going to do with Indiana, in a much more closed offense, is tricky. He needs to rediscover his 3-pt shot, because I doubt he’s going to be handling that ball that much.

He’ll have the benefit of not having to exert too much effort defensively, as George Hill figures to take the opponents top guard. I’d like to Monta get to the line more, a free throw rate of .224 is too low for a guy with a shaky 3-pt shot.

#84) JJ Redick (G, Clippers, 31 y/o)

I didn’t think JJ Redick would even be in the league at this point, much less be starting for a legitimate title contender. He’s always been dynamite from deep but over the last few years he’s become an above average perimeter defender, making it almost impossible to take him out of crunch-time lineups.

I do think the Clippers use him too much as ballhandler considering he doesn’t create for others and they have one of the very best point guards in the league.

“Jordan isn’t going to turn this franchise around. I wouldn’t ask him to. He’s a very good offensive player, but not an overpowering offensive player.” – Rod Thorn after the ’84 Draft.

#83) Otto Porter Jr. (Wing, Wizards, 22 y/o)

Here’s a guy who’s going to finally break out with neither Paul Pierce nor Trevor Ariza in town to block him in the rotation. Porter is a very skilled scorer from all three levels, can create for himself and others, and has a physical profile that should make him an above-average defender in time.

Any NBA stats for Porter need to be taken with three gains of salt given the tiny sample size, so this is ranking is solely based off what I believe he’s going to do based on what I thought of him coming out of Georgetown.

#82) Kobe Bryant (Wing, Lakers, 37 y/o)

And we arrive at Kobe. How do we rank a guy who’s undeniably one of the 20 best players ever but has played a total of just 41 games over the last two season? Kobe might not be one of the best 100 players anymore, but he also might be one of top 20. Realistically, I expect Kobe to be what he has been over the last half-decade when healthy, a volume scorer who on a nightly basis will either shoot you out of a game or drop 40 and win one by himself.

There’s no way around it, Kobe has been horribly inefficient when on the court the last two years. But I believe a large part of that comes from having no help in the backcourt. Having Russell and Williams next to him to keep defenses honest could go a long way. Guessing his stat line? I’ll go with 24 points, 5 boards, 3 dimes on 41.7% FG shooting. That’d be a “win” for the Lakers.

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#81) Elfrid Payton (G, Magic, 21 y/o)

Payton was so exciting as a rookie. He constantly took over games with his physicality on both ends. He’s already great at the rim and creating for other off the dribble, though his jumper looked every bit as bad as advertised. Even a minor improvement there would go a long way.

The Payton-Oladipo backcourt is a divisive one. There’s so much athleticism and defensive tenacity, but also a lot to be desired in terms of efficiency and floor-spacing. I expect both players to make big improvements overall. I was a HUGE fan of Payton coming into the draft, liked him more than Marcus Smart even.

#80) Taj Gibson (Big. Bulls, 30 y/o)

I’m worried Gibson is going to lose even more minutes to Mirotic in Hoidberg’s attack. I sort of understand why he would, but Taj is just so consistent on both ends. Maybe he becomes trade bait?

He does a great job around the rim, whether he’s finishing or preventing a taller player from finishing. Statistically speaking, he was actually a better defender than Noah last year. You still have to wonder what Gibson could do if he was ever a starter and primary option for a team. I think he’s a 15 & 8 guy.

#79 Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (Wing, Hornets, 22 y/o)

MKG is going to miss a significant chunk of the season with a dislocated shoulder, but I still wanted to put him on here. He’s the best one-on-one defender in the NBA not named Tony Allen, and he’s made some real progress offensively.

He doesn’t take threes and he’s never going to, but at least he developed an average midrange game (50% from 10’-16’, 37% from 16’-3pt). He’s also quite good at finishing on the break. It can be frustrating watching MKG and Kemba in the halfcourt, but they make stuff happen in an open-floor game.

#78 Andre Iguodala (Wing, Warriors, 31 y/o)

Iggy is a very good role player. A great defender, good enough 3-pt shooter, and potent fastbreak guy. But I’m not going to let a remarkable Finals performance hide the fact that, at times, he was a dead spot for the Dubs offensively. What could he really do at this point if he didn’t have Curry and Thompson on the floor with him?

He played 26.9 minutes per last year. I’d expect that to dip slightly as the Warriors try to save his 30+ year-old legs with a ton of miles on them for the playoffs. Iggy has 7 seasons under his belt where he played 60+ games and averaged 35+ minutes.

#77) Marcus Smart (G, Celtics, 21 y/o)

The reason I, and pretty much everyone else, expects big things out of Smart this year is because he actually did quite well as a rookie in the areas we thought he’d struggle at (specifically, jump-shooting). If he can use his sheer strength to wreak havoc off the bounce like we all expect him to, he can become a very good offensive player instead of just a passable one.

Smart is already one of the best defensive guards in the league. With his size, lateral movement, and quick hands; he can present matchup problems for even some of the freak athletes at the guard spot. He and Bradley played extremely well together despite having no rim protection backing them.

#76) Tyreke Evans (G, Pelicans, 26 y/o)

Can we talk about the year Tyreke Evans quietly had? He was the 2nd best player on his team. He averaged 17.6 pts, 5.6 boards, and 7 dimes per 36 minutes (with a 17.7 PER to boot). Any praise directed at the Pellies rightly goes to Anthony Davis, but ‘Reke is no slouch.

He does on the drive what you hope Marcus Smart will learn to do, using his strong shoulders to create angles and get shots up amidst the trees. Last year saw Evans take threes at the highest rate of his career. I’m not sure if that’s something he’s consciously trying to work on, but it should be. That’s how he can take the next step.

“I knew it was time to retire when I was driving down the lane and got called for a three-second violation.” – Johnny Kerr

#75) Wesley Matthews (Wing, Mavericks, 29 y/o)

Wes was probably smart to get out of Rip City when he did. You knew someone was going to pay him, as he’s the perfect “3 & D” guy in a league that’s obsessed with those type of players. Matthews is aided by the fact that he’s just as effective from deep above the break as he is from the corner.

He averaged 15.4 points a game during his 5 season with Blazers, and he’ll have to at least keep that production going in Dallas for them to be a playoff team in the brutal West.

#74) Markieff Morris (Big, Suns, 26 y/o)

Simply put, the league’s most underrated player. He defends, rebounds, runs the floor, and hits jumpers out to the arc. He’s sort of the perfect starting power forward in today’s NBA. He’s a lot more versatile than he gets credit for.

Markeiff passes the ball as well as any big in the league, and he can even step out and move laterally on the perimeter if the possession calls for it. I’d have a hard time ever taking him off the floor if I was a coach.

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#73) Timofey Mozgov (Big, Cavaliers, 29 y/o)

Mozgov isn’t some fluky guy. He’s always been very good, it’s just he was grossly underutilized in Denver. He has tremendous hands for a man of his size, and even though he doesn’t move very well, his defensive awareness makes him an effective rim protector.

Offensively, Mozgov is actually an accomplished passer with a good midrange jumper. You didn’t see it that much with the Cavs in the playoffs because literally everything ran through LeBron, but Timofey can be quite the terror from the high post.

#72) Marcin Gortat (Big, Wizards, 31 y/o)

Gortat is boring, but maybe that’s a good thing. Over the last four years when he’s gotten big minutes, he’s averaging 13 & 9 on 54.6% FG shooting while also adding good rim protection. That’s valuable, hence the reason the ‘Zards gave him $60M over 5 years.

He doesn’t have the skill to get much better offensively, but that’s fine. In a league with so many big men trying to become shooters, fans can take comfort in the fact that Gortat knows what he can’t do.

#71) Danilo Gallinari (Wing, Nuggets, 27 y/o)

Please please please stay healthy. Gallinari is very good when on the court. His 3-pt range attached to his 6’ 10” body is obviously deadly, and Gallinari’s inefficiency is largely a product of playing in a Nuggets offense that’s never really had anyone to take pressure off him.

The Nuggets will likely be bad again, but they could be closer to an 8-seed in the West than people think if Gallo stays healthy and Mudiay does what I expect him to.

#70) Brook Lopez (Big, Nets, 27 y/o)

#69) Robin Lopez (Big, Knicks, 27 y/o)

So, let’s break down the Lopez twins. Keep in mind that they couldn’t be more different. Brook is a remarkable offensive talent who does everything he can not to bang, Robin is the exact opposite.

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Brook is way better, right? His offensive numbers trump Robin’s and his defense/rebounding numbers are only a smidgen worse. I’m not so sure. Their usage rates differ greatly. Brook simply has been given more opportunity, in terms of minutes and gameplan, to be the primary scorer and rebounder for his team. Brook is the better athlete and therefore better shot blocker, but Robin is waaaay better at post defense and rotating. You also needs to consider that Robin has gotten better every year whereas Brook arguably peaked two years ago. Taking health into consideration that Brook is also the more injury prone of the two and I’d much rather pay Robin than pay Brook.

Also, if I was starting a ska band, I would choose Robin over Brook.

#68) Harrison Barnes (Wing, Warriors, 23 y/o)

Harrison Barnes is a borderline All-Star if he’s playing on any other team in the league. He does it all. He defends well, moves in transition, plays within the flow of the game, and shot over 40% from deep last year. His usage rate was just 14.9. If it was even 20, I’m pretty sure he’s averaging 15-18 points on still very good shooting numbers. Bonus points for being able to play the small-ball 4 when Draymond needs a breather.

In the last year of his rookie deal, I’ll assume Barnes is going to show out in hopes of getting a team to offer him a huge pay raise and big role. Maybe he’ll stay with the Dubs on a hometown discount, but you can’t blame him for chasing the money and stats if that’s what ultimately happens. Seriously, any fan who has ever criticized another for player for going elsewhere because there was more money needs to die.

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“When Michael Jordan scored 69 points, I knew I’d always remember it as the night me and Michael combined for 70 points” – Stacey King

#67) Bradley Beal (Wing, Wizards, 22 y/o)

At times, Bradley Beal looks like the best off-guard in the NBA not named James Harden. He’s a smooth athlete with a beautiful jumper who can defend when he wants to. But three years into the league, he hasn’t put it all together yet, though last year was certainly his best.

Beal, much like Barnes, is a contract year guy I’d expect All-Star level numbers from.

#66) Tony Allen (Wing, Grizzlies, 33 y/o)

There isn’t a more impactful defender NBA under 6’ 10”. He held opposing wings to a PER of just 11.6 last year. That’s the norm for him.

#65) Brandon Knight (G, Suns, 23 y/o)

Knight was killing it last year in Milwaukee before hitting a bad shooting slump after the trade (it was only 11 games, too small of a sample size for me to believe it means anything). He’s a shoot-first player whom you’d prefer guards the opposing point, which can be tricky, but the Suns have a guy in Eric Bledsoe who should allow for that.

Knight can break people down off the dribble and he nails threes. He’s never going to be a perfect model of efficiency made he made great strides with his shot selection last year. Having a team finally committing to him as an SG should only help.

#64) Karl-Anthony Towns (Big, Timberwolves, 19 y/o)

Yes, I really do think KAT will be better this season than everybody I ranked below him. It’s going to be hard to keep him off the floor right away because of what he brings defensively, and he’s much further along offensively than he gets credit for. A tremendous amount of skill, the sky really is the limit for him. I think he’s going to be a top 10 player in this league within five years.

The T’Wolves should be fun to watch. They won’t be good, but they’ll be fun to watch.

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#63) Hassan Whiteside (Big, Heat, 26 y/o)

Perhaps Hassan Whiteside is a one-year wonder, but I doubt it. He moves so easily for a seven-footer, it just took him some time to physically reach the level where he needed to be at to play in the NBA. He also spent his first two years with the Kings, so you can’t really hold anything against him.

Whiteside averaged 17 & 15 per 36 last year on 62.8% FG while chipping in 3.9 blocks. Those are prime-Tyson Chandler numbers. He can anchor a defense and cause damage around the rim offensively. If you’re in the crowd that thinks Miami is one of the two best teams in the East, Hassan has to be a big reason why.

#62) Joakim Noah (Big, Bulls, 30 y/o)

There’s no way around it, Joakim was bad last year. He wasn’t only not his former All-NBA self, he was blatantly bad. His usually wise shot selection disappeared, and his rebounding and defensive impact dipped to league average levels.

I expect some sort of a bounce back. He’s probably never making another All-NBA team, but even with a slight cut in minutes, he should have no problem becoming that double-double guy who creates for others and plays plus-plus defense once again. The Bulls need it, especially if Gibson’s minutes are getting cut.

#61) Ty Lawson (G, Rockets, 27 y/o)

Love everything about Houston acquiring Lawson. Love what it does for Lawson, love what it does for Harden, love what it does for this team on the break. Lawson is an outstanding offensive player, one of the best passers in the league who’s gotten good enough as a shooter to keep defenders honest.

If Patrick Beverly is healthy, Houston will be able to get creative with how they handle their backcourt rotation.

#60) Tyson Chandler (Big, Suns, 33 y/o)

Chandler is still one of the very best rim protectors in the league and his presence alone is going to make Phoenix significantly better. He also completely dominates the glass on both ends. Seems like a very good fit next to Markieff Morris.

Chandler has helped every team he’s ever gone to. He continues to fly under the radar but that might stop if the Suns make as much noise as I expect them to.

“Kobe took over in the 2nd half, especially in the 3rd and 4th quarters” – Magic Johnson, on live-TV

#59) Jonas Valancuinas (Big, Raptors, 23 y/o)

When you really look at even the most basic numbers, Jonas jumps out. He never had the vertical athleticism we thought he did coming out, but he doesn’t really need it. He was good for 16 & 12 per 36 last year and did that very efficiently. He’s also not that bad defensively, which is more than most of the Raps roster can say.

Note that he was the Raps best player in the playoffs last year so I’m thinking Aubrey might be making a song about him soon.

#58) Greg Monroe (Big, Bucks, 25 y/o)

Monroe is automatically tha gawd for turning down the Knicks to go to Milwaukee. He’s also a good basketball player, a skilled big who can shoot J’s, pass out of double teams, and rebound. His defense is always going to leave something to be desired but he does enough well to be worth a market max contract.

I would like to see him be a bit more aggressive on the offensive glass. It was something he did so well at G’Town but it hasn’t really translated yet.

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#57) Goran Dragic (G, Heat, 29 y/o)

I’m probably a bit lower on Dragic than the average hoops fan. I think his numbers were pumped up by the way Phoenix used him, and that remarkable ’13-’14 season he had looks more like an outlier than the norm. Regardless, he was a get for Miami last year and seeing as they’re trying to win while Wade and Bosh can still walk they sort of had to bring him back.

Dragic was actually more efficient as a member of the Heat last year. I still don’t think he’s the ideal fit for a running mate with Wade, both of them being ball dominant guards and whatnot, but he was too talented for Miami to pass up.

#56) Nikola Vucevic (Big, Magic, 24 y/o)

Very good, dare I say elite(?), offensive numbers have become the norm for Vuc. He scores and crashes the defensive glass at a high rate. He averaged 19 & 11 per game last year. He’s got great hands and a nice touch from anywhere inside the arc.

But he is so, so bad defensively and I’m not sure if his athleticism, or lack thereof, is going to allow him to become much better. He also doesn’t seem to care too much for hitting the offensive glass. Vuc is a much better fantasy basketball player than real life one.

#55) Tony Parker (G, Spurs, 33 y/o)

Tough guy to rank. What do the Spurs even expect out of Parker at this point? It really doesn’t matter what he does during the season as long as he’s relatively healthy come April, right?

The should-be future Hall-of-Famer got more than few nights off last season, and it was his least effective year since he was a rookie. He still understands driving lanes better than anybody and has enough burst to get by guys but he’s simply not as effective at the rim as he once was. His always-lacking defense has tailed off dramatically over the last three years. If its Duncan’s last season, I’d guess its Parker’s too.

#54) Jabari Parker (Wing/Big, Bucks, 20 y/o)

Jabari was sort of awesome before he tore his ACL last year. 25 games at 12 & 5 on 49% FG shooting with VERY good defense. It’s not out of the question to think Parker is close to an All-Star level guy this year if he improves his perimeter shooting, which guys coming off knee and foot injuries often do.

The Parker vs Wiggins debate is going to be fun. I’ve ALWAYS thought it was Wiggins (just like I’ve ALWAYS thought it was Towns > Okafor), but there’s a good chance that Jabari and Andrew are duking it out in AS Games for years to come.

#53) DeMarre Carroll (Wing, Raptors, 29 y/o)

Big get for the Raptors, and some well-earned money for Carroll, who’s emerged as an elite perimeter defender and knockdown shooter. The Raptors play more one-on-one basketball than the Hawks do, which doesn’t benefit Carroll’s role in the offense, but I’m sure he’ll be fine.

Carroll shot a very impressive 44.4% on corner three last year. He’ll need to keep that up playing next to a non-shooter wing in DeMar DeRozan.

#52) Derrick Rose (G, Bulls, 27 y/o)

Before we talk about this “former MVP”, let’s note that it’s a joke that Rose won the MVP during the best season of LeBron’s career. Okay, back to the point. What can we expect from Rose? 60 games? If he even plays 60, how good is he at this point?

Rose really struggled as a defender and playmaker when on the court last year. He was basically an inefficient shoot-first point guard. That’s not what made him so dynamic a couple years ago. Assuming he never gets 100% of his explosiveness back, he simply has to improve his jump shooting. It’s gotten slightly better since his rookie year but it’s still a problem. I’m rooting for Rose to make me look foolish for putting him this low, I just have no confidence that he will.

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“The one thing that always bothered me when I played in the NBA was I really got irritated when they put a white guy on me.” – Larry Bird

#51) Victor Oladipo (G, Magic, 23 y/o)

Oladipo is an exciting player on both ends and a guy who’s made some real strides. He’s improved immensely as a shooter, though he still has a ways to go in terms of being able to create his own shot.

On the break and on defense, there are few combo guards better than Dipo, though his effort was questionable at times last year. I expect the Magic to compete for a playoff spot in the East (if they want to) and with that will come a more consistent Oladipo night-to-night.

That’s what I got for now.

Top 50 coming just as soon as I finish reading Shea Serrano’s new book.