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?
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%).
#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.
#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.
#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.
#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.
#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.
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.
“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.
#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.
#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.
“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.