This list is based on how good I expect each player to be during the 2017-2018 season. It’s not based solely on numbers, it’s not based on pay, and it’s not based on popularity. These are my top 100 basketball players in the NBA for this coming season.
100. Darren Collison (PG, Indiana Pacers)
2016-2017 Stats: 13.2 ppg, 4.6 apg, 41.7% 3PT
Collison is a steady, veteran point guard that plays with toughness. Indiana will count on him to lead a rebooted team, something he did well in his time with the Kings. His IQ, shooting, and pick-and-roll skills make Collison a valuable floor general.
99. Dario Saric (PF, Philadelphia 76ers)
2016-2017 Stats: 12.8 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 2.2 apg
There was a legitimate argument for Saric to win Rookie of the Year after spending two seasons overseas. As a key piece of Philly’s F.E.D.S. core, the Croatian’s versatility allows him to play multiple roles. He plays with poise both in the post and handling on the perimeter. Once that jumper improves, Saric is going to be an ideal stretch four.
98. Elfrid Payton (PG, Orlando Magic)
2016-2017 Stats: 12.8 ppg, 6.5 apg, 4.7 rpg
It was generally a disappointing first half of the season for Payton, but after the break, he was a nightly triple-double threat. For the last month, it seemed like the flip finally started to switch. Orlando’s decision to draft another frontcourt player indicated the organization’s trust in the speedy distributor. Obviously, his jumper is still a wreck, but that will be mediated if he continues to use his length to finish in the paint.
97. Wilson Chandler (SF, Denver Nuggets)
2016-2017 Stats: 15.7 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 2.0 apg
Denver started to have a logjam on the wing with Chandler and Danilo Gallinari, so they decided to trade the latter. Chandler could be the leading scorer for Denver, though he may be a deadline trade piece. He’s coming off the best scoring and rebounding season of his career, so look for more good work from the 30-year old.
96. Mason Plumlee (C, Free Agent)
2016-2017 Stats: 10.4 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 3.5 apg
I’m fully expecting Plumlee to return to Denver where his rebounding and frontcourt depth is crucial for the Nuggets. Few bigs can pass the ball like the Duke grad, working as a threat in the high post or in transition. Though often overlooked, post players with endless motors are one of the necessities of a good team.
95. Reggie Jackson (PG, Detroit Pistons)
2016-2017 Stats: 14.5 ppg, 5.2 apg, 36% 3PT
Jackson took a big jump in the wrong direction last season. He has always put up somewhat overinflated stats due to his usage, but last year he was an inefficient, ball-stopping lead guard. So why is he on this list? Because he is still a strong penetrating guard that can get his mid-range whenever he wants to. If Stan Van Gundy can convince him to penetrate a little more than he’d demand a higher spot.
94. Zach Randolph (PF, Sacramento Kings)
2016-2017 Stats: 14.1 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 1.7 apg
This is if he is able to play this year. In his first season coming off the bench, Zeebo showed that he’s still got it. His per minute production skyrocketed being used in shorter stints. At 36, it’s good that Randolph joins a team that is coached by someone he is familiar with. On a young Sacramento team, he’ll be a mentor and go-to post presence.
93. Enes Kanter (PF, Oklahoma City Thunder)
2016-2017 Stats: 14.3 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 54.5% FG
Kanter is consistently one of the top bench scorers in the NBA. Defensively he isn’t much of a presence, but his footwork and touch in the half-court make him a big part of the Thunder’s success. More attention of Russell Westbrook and Paul George could open up the glass for more putbacks.
92. Julius Randle (PF, Los Angeles Lakers)
2016-2017 Stats: 13.2 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 3.6 apg
Though he’s a bit of a wild bull in transition, Randle is a force attacking downhill. He put an emphasis on chiseling his body and improving his handle so he can thrive in a more up-tempo style. The presence of competent outside shooters will give Randle more room to bulldoze other fours.
91. Steven Adams (C, Oklahoma City Thunder)
2016-2017 Stats: 11.3 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 57.1% FG
What separates Adams is his relentless, bruising style of play. Every year he has taken steps to use his size to score more, even turning into the top recipient of Russell Westbrook’s assists. I’m assuming the upward trajectory will continue and allow Adams to become the Thunder’s third fiddle.
90. Nikola Vucevic (C, Orlando Magic)
2016-2017 Stats: 14.6 ppg, 10.4 rpg, 2.8 apg
Vucevic seems like he’s been on the trade block since he became a member of the Magic. That hasn’t stopped him from averaging a double-double four of the last five years. Like many centers, he worked to expand his range to the three-point line, connecting on 23 threes a year ago. Whether it’s in Orlando or somewhere else, Vucevic brings nightly production.
89. De’Aaron Fox (PG, Sacramento Kings)
2016-2017 Stats (at Kentucky): 16.7 ppg, 4.6 apg, 1.5 spg
The 5th pick of this year’s draft comes with a lot of league-ready tools. He is already one of the 10 fastest players in the league with the ball, a determined on-ball defender, and a slick playmaker. Rumors are swirling that he may be involved in trade discussions for Kyrie Irving which just speaks to his ability. He won’t be thrown into the fire, in fact, he’ll have plenty of time to learn how to maximize his profile.
88. JJ Redick (SG, Philadelphia 76ers)
2016-2017 Stats: 15.0 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 42.9% 3PT
Arguably the league’s best shooter joined the Process at the perfect time. Redick will be the veteran leader in the lineup while providing much-needed space for the young guns to attack. He has been the model pro and has become a good enough positional defender to stay on the court late in games. The Sixers hope his shooting rubs off on his teammates as much as his professionalism does.
87. Ryan Anderson (PF, Houston Rockets)
2016-2017 Stats: 13.6 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 40.3% 3PT
Anderson was a stretch four before it was the norm. In a system that shoots more threes than any team in NBA history, he was the sniper Houston expected him to be. If you thought James Harden got him good looks, wait until you see how many wide open threes Chris Paul creates. He’s not the offensive focal point he was in New Orleans, but he will be a much more efficient scorer this year.
86. Aaron Gordon (PF, Orlando Magic)
2016-2017 Stats: 12.7 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 1.9 apg
Magic fans feel like they’ve been waiting for Gordon to breakout for a while, but he is only 21 years old. It finally seems like they are set to play him at four where his ball-handling is more of a gift than a crutch. Spending more time around the rim allows Gordon to use his explosiveness to its best while continuing to grow as a playmaker.
85. Tim Hardaway Jr. (SG, New York Knicks)
2016-2017 Stats: 14.5 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 2.3 apg
First, the Knicks got rid of Hardaway Jr., now they signed him for $71 million. He has a scorer’s mentality, but the best part of his game is his creativity off the bounce. With the spacing in games, having a 6-foot-6 wing player that can get his own shot is sought after. Assuming Carmelo Anthony is dealt, Hardaway should be the featured perimeter scorer in the Big Apple.
84. Buddy Hield (SG, Sacramento Kings)
2016-2017 Stats: 10.6 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 39.1% 3PT
Hield couldn’t find his stride in New Orleans. A mid-season trade to Sacramento proved to be the turning point of his season, as he averaged 15.1 points on 43% shooting from three after that. A big hope in Sacramento is that he continues to play with confidence and turn into a consistent threat to drop 20 points. That may not come this year, but the progress has been there.
83. Andre Iguodala (SF, Golden State Warriors)
2016-2017 Stats: 7.6 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 3.4 apg
Iggy passed up on a huge contract somewhere else to stay in Golden State. Even as he ages, he still has some of the best hands in the league. He’s a jack-of-all-trades capable of accepting the best perimeter scorer assignment on defense. You can continue to expect a lot of 10-5-5 lines.
82. Nerlens Noel (PF, Free Agent)
2016-2017 Stats: 8.7 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 1.3 bpg
Dallas can match any offer he gets, so I’d be shocked to see Noel anywhere else next year. Noel has the rare skill of being able to dominate the game with his defense without scoring a single point. Maverick brass has raved about his impact on the team when he’s on the court. With more minutes, there is a real chance Noel lives up to the large contract he is likely to sign.
81. Evan Fournier (SG, Orlando Magic)
2016-2017 Stats: 17.2 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 3.0 apg
Fournier was given the chance to show he’s worthy of a go-to scoring role. He received mixed reviews, dropping his efficiency by a decent amount but displaying a willingness to take big shots. The Frenchman has a lot of skill on the perimeter, which should facilitate another year where he puts up numbers for a youthful squad.
80. Josh Jackson (SF, Phoenix Suns)
2016-2017 Stats (at Kansas): 16.3 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 3.0 apg
Jackson isn’t your normal rookie. He feeds off of the competition and couldn’t care less about the numbers on the stat sheet. There is something to be said for a player that excels when the pressure is on. Phoenix fans will notice his defensive and athleticism first, but it may take some time to appreciate the passing and rebounding that make him such a complete prospect. He’ll be guarding the best player on the other team and making it his goal to take their will.
79. Patrick Beverley (PG, Los Angeles Clippers)
2016-2017 Stats: 9.5 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 4.2 apg
I dare you to find a more tenacious defender in the NBA. He earned his spot on the All-Defensive First Team, and that toughness will rub off on his LA teammates. We all know his defense and effort are top of the line, but his shooting stroke is remarkably underappreciated. Doc Rivers will have a field day sending Beverley at the top guards in the West.
78. Jae Crowder (SF, Boston Celtics)
2016-2017 Stats: 13.9 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 39.8% 3PT
People were ready to write Crowder off as soon as Gordon Hayward was signed. Danny Ainge knew better, keeping the pitbull forward who does the dirty work for the Celtics. There is no way his scoring doesn’t take a hit, but his ability to defend the most elite wings makes him invaluable right now.
77. Derrick Rose (PG, Cleveland Cavaliers)
2016-2017 Stats: 18.0 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 4.4 apg
It’s been a sad fall for the former MVP. The good news is that he had a relatively healthy season where he showed some flashes of the explosive point guard from years ago. He’s still only 28, so there is time be a top three option on a team if he plays within himself. Unfortunately, his shooting is still an issue, but he just put up his highest field goal percentage in eight years. Rose still has some life left in his game.
76. Rudy Gay (SF, San Antonio Spurs)
2016-2017 Stats: 18.7 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 37.2% 3PT
It must be nice to get a scorer like Gay on the cheap the way the Spurs did. After being criticized for having empty stats, he is focused on being a part of a winning team. He gets double digits in his sleep though it often comes at the expense of his team’s success. Gay will finally be able to show he can be a big part of a contender.
75. Ricky Rubio (PG, Utah Jazz)
2016-2017 Stats: 11.1 ppg, 9.1 apg, 1.7 spg
Rubio was incredibly underappreciated in Minnesota. He isn’t a scoring guard or a lockdown defender. But he is one of the most creative playmakers in the league who is heading into his prime. His shooting is improving, he can weave through defenses, and his craftiness works wonders in the pick-and-roll. Utah is a great spot for Rubio to flourish throwing lobs to Rudy Gobert.
74. Dirk Nowitzki (PF, Dallas Mavericks)
2016-2017 Stats: 14.2 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 37.8% 3PT
He doesn’t have much burst in his legs left, but that historic skill set is still there. Since his game has never been oriented around athleticism, Dirk is still able to fill it up at an old age. He could play into his forties if he wants, while still giving 10-15 points a night in limited time. Nothing new from the future Hall of Famer.
73. Jrue Holiday (PG, New Orleans Pelicans)
2016-2017 Stats: 15.4 ppg, 7.3 apg, 1.5 spg
Injuries have always slowed Holiday down. When in the lineup, he is a solid scorer that has good vision to set up his teammates. He’s also a plus defender that can contain both guard spots. The addition of Rajon Rondo should allow him to play more off the ball where he has shown he can succeed.
72. Brook Lopez (C, Los Angeles Lakers)
2016-2017 Stats: 20.5 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 2.2 apg
Lopez has long been one of the best back-to-basket scorers in the NBA, which is why his outside stroke became so important. The era of lumbering centers without range is coming to an end, so instead of fighting the change, Lopez pushed his consistent mid-range shot out past the arc. When the game slows down, the Lakers will be able to go to Lopez for consistent buckets.
71. Pau Gasol (C, San Antonio Spurs)
2016-2017 Stats: 12.4 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 53.8% 3PT
As of now, Gasol is the most skilled Spanish player to be in the NBA. It seems like he continues to find ways to prolong his career, last year coming with a greater dependence on the corner three. The supreme length and touch will remain a big part of San Antonio’s interior power.
70. Serge Ibaka (PF, Toronto Raptors)
2016-2017 Stats: 14.8 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 39.1% 3PT
A lot of times I miss the old Ibaka that threw multiple shots away and lived off lobs. Then you look at the numbers and realize he was years ahead of the game with expanding his jumper. Now he is the third option on a top five team in the East that is still a feared shot blocker and three-point shooter.
69. Lou Williams (SG, Los Angeles Clippers)
2016-2017 Stats: 17.5 ppg, 3.0 apg, 2.5 rpg
One of the premier bench scorers in the league, Williams is headed to the Clippers to bring that punch for longer periods. In his time in LA a year ago, he was averaging a career-high 18.6 points a game. The hope is that the move back to the city will bring out that same weapon.
68. Otto Porter Jr. (SF, Washington Wizards)
2016-2017 Stats: 13.4 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 43.4% 3PT
Porter was a revelation last year, putting together all of the tools that made him a top pick. He’s now a max contract player that could complete the best perimeter trio in the East. Even with the deal, I’d argue that Porter is worth more if he sustains his lethal shooting, defensive polish, and finishing ability.
67. Dion Waiters (SG, Miami Heat)
2016-2017 Stats: 15.8 ppg, 4.3 apg, 39.5% 3PT
Waiters has never lacked in confidence, in fact, it pushes arrogance at times. In his first action with offensive freedom, he took off. For the first time, he justified his high volume of shots with results, encouraging the Heat to bring him back in a similar role. The talent has been there, but it’s nice to see the performance match the personal hype.
66. Victor Oladipo (SG, Indiana Pacers)
2016-2017 Stats: 15.9 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 2.6 apg
The former number two pick was the key piece of the Paul George deal for a reason. Known as an uber-athletic two-guard, the inconsistent season with the Thunder actually highlighted a developed jump shot. At only 25, Oladipo is going to be a big part of the growth in Indiana.
65. Gary Harris (SG, Denver Nuggets)
2016-2017 Stats: 14.9 ppg, 2.9 apg, 42% 3PT
Harris has gradually become a terrific two-way player. It took some G-League time to bring out the best in the Michigan State product. His feel for the game meshes well with the deep shooting range that stretches defenses for driving lanes. Another big step should be expected for Harris this season.
64. Dennis Smith Jr. (PG, Dallas Mavericks)
2016-2017 Stats (at NC State): 18.1 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 6.2 apg
It’s not often that a franchise point guard falls into your lap at the ninth pick. Smith did just that, showing in the Summer League that he is ready for the show. He possesses top-tier athleticism to go along with a consistent game off the bounce. The Mavericks belong to Dennis Smith Jr. and he will make sure they are in good hands.
63. Danilo Gallinari (SF, Los Angeles Clippers)
2016-2017 Stats: 18.2 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 38.9% 3PT
Coming off one of the stronger seasons of his career, Gallinari is going to be the second scoring option on the Clippers. Though he can be a bit of a ball stopper, he can make plays off the bounce and use his 6-foot-10 size to shoot over defenders. If he stays on the court and can embrace being more of a floor space than a creator, Gallinari’s value in LA will be substantial.
62. Jayson Tatum (SF, Boston Celtics)
2016-2017 Stats (at Duke): 16.8 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 2.1 apg
The ease which Tatum scores with is remarkable for someone so young. Above all else, his footwork and balance really stand out. Had he been picked by any other team in the top 10, he’d be a lock for 15-plus points a night. Being on a team with a plethora of wings should only accelerate his development through competition. Don’t be surprised if Tatum is finishing playoff games alongside Gordon Hayward and IT.
61. Myles Turner (C, Indiana Pacers)
2016-2017 Stats: 14.5 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 2.1 bpg
With the departure of Paul George, Turner is the featured player in the Pacer offense. I’ve always been a fan of his rim protecting, but the rapid growth of his face-up skills at the NBA level has warranted a lot of respect. Indiana’s new front office will look to build on their inside-out post.
60. George Hill (PG, Sacramento Kings)
2016-2017 Stats: 16.9 ppg, 4.2 apg, 40.3% 3PT
Hill has been one of the most overlooked point guards throughout his NBA career. In his contract year, he was in peak form, displaying the exceptional pick-and-roll play and leadership that the Kings sought after. He’ll be a mentor to De’Aaron Fox but also be the key playmaker in their offense.
59. Jeff Teague (PG, Minnesota Timberwolves)
2016-2017 Stats: 15.3 ppg, 7.8 apg, 4.0 rpg
Teague isn’t a part of the new so-called “Big 3” in Minnesota, but he’s not a point guard to take lightly. One of the faster guards with the ball, the former Demon Deacon is a terror in transition and has become a reliable shooter. He’s an unselfish ball-handler that will be more than happy to feed the rest of the weapons on the Wolves.
58. Brandon Ingram (SF, Los Angeles Lakers)
2016-2017 Stats: 9.4 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 2.1 apg
Ingram is my early favorite for Most Improved Player. He really struggled to adjust to the physicality and consistency required. The good news is that he took big steps late in the year that he carried through the offseason. He will be the Lakers leading scorer using his ridiculous length and touch to show why he was the #2 pick.
57. Zach LaVine (SG, Chicago Bulls)
2016-2017 Stats: 18.9 ppg, 3.0 apg, 38.7% 3PT
Coming off an ACL, it’s hard to guarantee that we’ll see the same athletic freak we’re accustomed to. However, videos of his offseason workouts show just as much explosiveness with a much stronger upper body. Will he become Chicago’s franchise player? There’s a chance, but what is true is that a healthy LaVine will be a 20-point scorer with his roster.
56. Harrison Barnes (SF, Dallas Mavericks)
2016-2017 Stats: 19.2 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 46.8% FG
Barnes would never have had a chance to do what he did a year ago had he stayed in Golden State. The Mavericks paid him like a superstar, something he probably will never become. Still, he consistently led Dallas in scoring because his skillset allows him to score on all three levels. Having a more up-pace point guard should open up more looks for Barnes.
55. Lonzo Ball (PG, Los Angeles Lakers)
2016-2017 Stats (at UCLA): 14.6 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 7.6 apg
It is officially the Ball Show in LA. Lonzo is one of the best passers in the league, not just in his class. Scoring is going to be a bit of a struggle until he learns how to shoot off the bounce or excel in spot-ups, but that vision and unselfishness would make any team. He is such a gravitating talent that even his obnoxious father couldn’t keep fans from appreciating him.
54. Eric Gordon (SG, Houston Rockets)
2016-2017 Stats: 16.2 ppg, 2.5 apg, 37.2% 3PT
Gordon has been a threat to drop 30 a night since he was a rookie. What was missing was consistency and a system that gave him the freedom to fire at will. The Rockets let Gordon go like a Ferrari on the Autobahn, leading to his Sixth Man of the Year victory. He could shoot 10 threes a game with another top 10 playmaker in Chris Paul.
53. Markelle Fultz (PG, Philadelphia 76ers)
2016-2017 Stats (at Washington): 23.2 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 5.9 apg
It’s always hard to put so much of an expectation on a rookie, but Fultz is the truth. He understands angles and spacing like a veteran. In terms of offensive skills, he is the full package. The defense could use some level of engagement, but the chase down blocks show natural instincts and athleticism that could be molded into something. There is no reason why Fultz wouldn’t be one of the top scorers and assist makers among rookies.
52. Dwight Howard (C, Charlotte Hornets)
2016-2017 Stats: 13.5 ppg, 12.7 rpg, 63.3% FG
Unlike Shaq, Howard showed to be much weaker emotionally once he left Orlando for LA. Sometimes I wonder if Dwight even likes to play basketball. Still, he has averaged a double-double every year in his career. At this point in his career, he is an elite rebounder and lob finisher. I’m confused why he is focusing on shooting threes when he can barely make 50% of his free throws, but you never know.
51. Dwyane Wade (SG, Chicago Bulls)
2016-2017 Stats: 18.3 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 3.8 apg
Yes, he’s a watered down version of The Flash. No, that doesn’t mean he isn’t still one of the best shooting guards in the league. Wade’s moves are more precise and methodical to make up for less athleticism. I’m expecting a buyout before the season allowing Wade to be a contributor for a contender until he retires.
50. Avery Bradley (SG, Detroit Pistons)
2016-2017 Stats: 16.3 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 39.0% 3PT
If there was a basketball dictionary, Bradley would be the picture for the term “lock-up”. On top of that tenacious defense, Bradley emerged as one of the elite rebounding guards in the league while showing off a little bit of his scoring promise. Stan Van Gundy has been looking for a player like Bradley to bring that Bad Boy mentality back to Detroit.
49. Goran Dragic (PG, Miami Heat)
2016-2017 Stats: 20.3 ppg, 5.8 apg, 40.5% 3PT
Dragic always seemed to be playing through some type of injury. That speaks to the toughness of the veteran floor general that led the Heat in scoring and assists last year. Dragic can slither through defenses and capitalize on any mistakes. You can be sure that Miami will receive a wide range of calls about the availability of their scoring lefty.
48. Khris Middleton (SF, Milwaukee Bucks)
2016-2017 Stats: 14.7 ppg, 3.4 apg, 43.3% 3PT
Middleton is one of those players that goes about his business in such a quiet, effective way that he never comes up in discussions. The term 3-and-D gets thrown around a lot, but the Texas A&M product is the prototype. He is 6-foot-8, terrific from three, and guards both wing spots every game. If you haven’t focused on Middleton during a Bucks game, you’re missing out.
47. Dennis Schroder (PG, Atlanta Hawks)
2016-2017 Stats: 17.9 ppg, 6.3 apg, 3.1 rpg
It seems like everyone else from the Hawks left in the offseason. Atlanta was willing to let Jeff Teague go so Schroder could man the point guard spot. With a lightning quick first step, the German native can get to the rim whenever he pleases. His passing options might be limited this year, but Schroder is a guy that will look to shine with a sky-high usage rate.
46. Ben Simmons (SF, Philadelphia 76ers)
2015-2016 Stats (at LSU): 19.2 ppg, 11.8 rpg, 4.8 apg
The 2017 draftees got a lot of deserved attention. Simmons is going to be the best rookie though. After missing last year, he grew a little bit and now stands at about 7 feet. That’s even more important for a point forward that already possessed some of the best vision of any small forward in the league. His game is LeBron-ish, not to say he’s even in that zip code right now. His improved shooting will prove to be the difference in allowing Simmons to be unstoppable in the pick-and-roll.
45. Andrew Wiggins (SF, Minnesota Timberwolves)
2016-2017 Stats: 23.6 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 2.3 apg
On the verge of signing a huge extension, Minnesota is looking for Wiggins to become a star. Scoring is like a second language for the former #1 pick thanks to supreme athleticism and ability off the dribble. For a bouncy 6-foot-8 wing, his rebounding is subpar and his defense is historically poor. However, if he learns from Jimmy Butler, he could translate those gifts into becoming an impactful wing defender. Wiggins has already made great strides as a shooter allowing for him to be proficient bucket getter.
44. Eric Bledsoe (PG, Phoenix Suns)
2016-2017 Stats: 21.1 ppg, 6.3 apg, 4.8 rpg
Bledsoe is right up there with Russell Westbrook and John Wall when it comes to uber-athletic point guards. He is a nightly pest on defense and a constant threat to tear up defenses in transition. While his shooting is streaky, he makes enough to at least demand some respect. There has been a lot of Kyrie-for-Bledsoe talk, but I would guess that he stays in Phoenix until at least early 2018.
43. Al Horford (C, Boston Celtics)
2016-2017 Stats: 14.0 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 5.0 apg
Horford won’t put up numbers to warrant the gigantic deal he signed a year ago. He is still incredibly valuable as one of the best passing big men in the world. Every year he continues to stretch his shooting range, adding to an offensive game that was already strong from 18 feet and in. Although he lacks great rim protection or rebounding, Horford’s feel for the game adds a lot to the motion of the Celtics.
42. LaMarcus Aldridge (PF, San Antonio Spurs)
2016-2017 Stats: 17.3 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 41.1% 3PT
Let’s be honest. Aldridge is one of those players that shines when the pressure is low. That’s a shame considering that he has one of the best mid-range games around. At his worst, he will still put up 16-20 points a game on a bunch of shots, though those games come when he’s needed most. Aldridge has undeniable talent with footwork and touch that is rare for a big. If anyone will bring the killer instinct out a player, it’s Pop. Expect another strong regular season for Aldridge.
41. Nicolas Batum (SF, Charlotte Hornets)
2016-2017 Stats: 15.1 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 5.9 apg
One of the lost foreign treasures in the NBA, Batum can play three positions on both ends of the court. At times he can float, but generally, the Frenchman is a serious triple-double threat that defends the other team’s best player. That versatility won’t go unnoticed in All-Star voting this year.
40. Andre Drummond (C, Detroit Pistons)
2016-2017 Stats: 13.6 ppg, 13.8 rpg, 1.5 spg
Drummond is and will always be a beast. Aside from being one of the top 5 rebounders in the league, he has really made an effort to work on his face up game. That’s good news considering his post-up game won’t ever be that refined. Nothing new for Drummond, just more displays of superior athleticism and strength around the rim.
39. Jabari Parker (SF, Milwaukee Bucks)
2016-2017 Stats: 20.1 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 2.8 apg
Another torn ACL is definitely going to be an obstacle for the former Duke star. You hate to see a player go through that. When he comes back, which I fully expect him to do, Parker will reassert his status as one of the up-and-coming players in the NBA. The young Melo comparisons aren’t far off with a similar unguardable disposition once in the triple threat.
38. Devin Booker (SG, Phoenix Suns)
2016-2017 Stats: 22.1 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 3.4 apg
Booker is the still just a kid. A kid that went for 70 in an NBA game. His scoring ability has accelerated so quickly that teams are going to have to consider doubling him this year to make someone else beat them. At 6’6, he is now physically stronger and more capable of absorbing body contact. Add in a much-improved handle in isolation situations and it’s easy to understand the hype.
37. Kristaps Porzingis (PF, New York Knicks)
2016-2017 Stats: 18.1 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 2.0 bpg
I’ve been gassing Porzingis up almost to a fault since he was drafted. Now he’s taken the biggest market in sports by storm as a 7’3 big that can do everything a wing can. The fluidity he moves with is remarkable and his skills, strength, and speed are only going to improve. Look for him to push 40% from deep while leading the Knicks and scoring and rebounding. Barring an injury, Porzingis will be one of the top PF’s in the league.
36. Paul Millsap (PF, Denver Nuggets)
2016-2017 Stats: 18.1 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 3.7 apg
Millsap is the leader that every coach wants. He plays like every loose ball is worth a fortune. Denver let him cash in with a big deal that he has more than earned throughout his career. As an undersized four, he relies on sheer strength and instincts to impact the game. I actually expect his numbers to take a big hit with more shot-takers around him, but don’t think for a second that Millsap won’t be one of the best +/- guys.
35. Kevin Love (PF, Cleveland Cavaliers)
2016-2017 Stats: 19.0 ppg, 11.1 rpg, 1.9 apg
I don’t remember the last time a player as effective as Love received so little love from the league. People need to take some time to respect a guy that consistently grabs 10+ boards, scores 16+ points and is good for multiple pinpoint passes. Love could become the #2 option if Kyrie is traded, and I actually have confidence that he would thrive in that role.
34. Marc Gasol (C, Memphis Grizzlies)
2016-2017 Stats: 19.5 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 4.6 apg
Nobody made a bigger jump in three-point shooting than Gasol. That set shot is cash at this point. With an IQ that’s through the roof and top of the line passing ability, Gasol should remain as a focal point in the Memphis offense. Defensively, he will be that defensive anchor for a team full of pit bulls.
33. Joel Embiid (C, Philadelphia 76ers)
2016-2017 Stats: 20.2 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 2.5 bpg
In the limited time he played, Embiid was clearly the best rookie. He is a hybrid of the throwback and modern centers. There’s a little bit of Hakeem in his game, complementing a three-point stroke that looks way too natural for a 7-footer. Obviously, health is the elephant in the room, but Embiid is the piece that will make or break the Process.
32. DeAndre Jordan (C, Los Angeles Clippers)
2016-2017 Stats: 12.7 ppg, 13.8 rpg, 71.1% FG
If DeAndre would shoot free throws underhand, I might be tempted to put him a little higher on this list. While his skill set isn’t diverse, he is terrific at what his job calls for: rebounding, defending, and finishing. Anyone who knocks him for lacking superstar ability is missing out on what all that he brings, even if his offense will be limited without Chris Paul.
31. Rudy Gobert (C, Utah Jazz)
2016-2017 Stats: 14.0 ppg, 12.8 rpg, 2.6 bpg
A few years ago I cringed every time someone passed Gobert the ball because he’d either fumble the pass or miss a bunny. While his hands aren’t great yet, he is finishing at a much higher rate. Obviously, the real reason for this ranking is because the Stifle Tower blocks shots like his 2K player. He turns back any penetrators for the best defense in the NBA.
30. Bradley Beal (SG, Washington Wizards)
2016-2017 Stats: 23.1 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 3.5 apg
Beal’s game has continued to expand his game to form the best backcourt in the East. His shot was never a question, but he’s taking guys off the bounce and making plays for his teammates when help comes. An All-Star bid is almost a guarantee for Beal while he stays with Washington and the talent-deprived East.
29. Kemba Walker (PG, Charlotte Hornets)
2016-2017 Stats: 23.2 ppg, 5.5 apg, 39.9% 3PT
Kemba is one of the best ankle breakers in the league. That shiftiness has always made creating space easy for him. After showing more confidence shooting from outside, there are a lot of reasons for Eastern Conference point guards to fear the matchup. Kemba needs to make a little better with his high usage to avoid missing the playoffs again.
28. Carmelo Anthony (SF, New York Knicks)
2016-2017 Stats: 22.4 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 2.9 apg
Usually, teams don’t want to rid themselves of a player as good as Melo. A past of failing to take his team anywhere far has justifiably received some criticism. Still, he can roll out of bed and put on a scoring clinic. If he gets traded to Houston, we might see a Team-USA type Melo that would warrant a top-20 rank.
27. Hassan Whiteside (C, Miami Heat)
2016-2017 Stats: 17.0 ppg, 14.1 rpg, 2.1 bpg
Whiteside was a big snub in last year’s All-Star game. I still feel like a lot of people doubt his legitimacy as Miami’s top player. I’ve seen enough to know he’s as real as it gets when it comes to NBA centers. Every rebound belongs to him and no one gets a clean look in the lane without seeing Whiteside’s hand. The rapid ascension of Whiteside is going to continue.
26. Blake Griffin (PF, Los Angeles Clippers)
2016-2017 Stats: 21.6 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 4.9 apg
Blake continues to put up some of the easiest 20-10-5 stat lines I’ve seen. He always leaves a little to be desired with his effort and health issues though. Maybe being forced into being the only star will force him into maturing. If not, he’s still going to put up crazy numbers with a bunch of highlight plays.
25. Draymond Green (PF, Golden State Warriors)
2016-2017 Stats: 10.2 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 7.0 apg
Depending on who you talk to, Green is either incredibly overrated or underrated. While his defensive value heavily relies on an ability to get away with body contact, you can’t undersell the importance of his role as an anchor. He communicates well, rebounds much bigger than his size, and is one of the premier playmakers as a receiver in the high pick and roll. Love him or hate him, he’s the heart of Golden State.
24. Isaiah Thomas (PG, Boston Celtics)
2016-2017 Stats: 28.9 ppg, 5.9 apg, 37.9% 3PT
IT was sensational last season. He was unguardable at times, creating separation whenever he wanted to. I’m expected a drop off this season, not just because Gordon Hayward is in town, but because I think that hip injury will catch up to him. Still, there aren’t many players as exciting and dynamic with the ball than IT.
23. Nikola Jokic (C, Denver Nuggets)
2016-2017 Stats: 16.7 ppg, 9.8 rpg, 4.9 apg
Talk about a breakout season, Jokic went from a rising post player to an NBA stud. I don’t remember the last time I’ve seen a player his size with the vision and passing creativity that he possesses. It’s really something special. I would imagine he would up his three-point attempts given his consistency from that range. With Danilo Gallinari gone, there is no reason why Jokic shouldn’t lead the Nuggets in scoring, rebounding, and assists.
22. Mike Conley (PG, Memphis Grizzlies)
2016-2017 Stats: 20.5 ppg, 6.3 apg, 40.8% 3PT
When you become the NBA’s highest-paid player, you kind of are expected to produce. Conley didn’t disappoint, putting together his best season yet. He is the leader on and off the court that everyone should admire. In a league full of superstar point guards, Conley is often left out of the discussion. But he can run a team with the best of them. Conley is also a terrific on-ball defender that can get up into ball-handlers.
21. Gordon Hayward (SF, Boston Celtics)
2016-2017 Stats: 21.9 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 3.5 apg
Boston was really the perfect marriage for Hayward. The Celtics clearly lacked a strong wing scorer. At 6-8, he can come off screens, spot-up, or go to work in isolation situations. He has really molded himself into a consistent two-way player that is a legitimate #1 option. Hayward will be an All-Star and the difference maker if Boston is to seriously challenge Cleveland.
20. Kyle Lowry (PG, Toronto Raptors)
2016-2017 Stats: 22.4 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 7.0 apg
Pitbull. Lowry is the human embodiment. He gets downhill with physicality and displays toughness in every aspect of the game. Staying in Toronto was a good decision, as he is able to maintain the high usage that is required for his relentless play style. If that three-point shooting can stay up, Lowry will be able to challenge for that starting PG spot on the All-Star team.
19. Klay Thompson (SG, Golden State Warriors)
2016-2017 Stats: 22.3 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 41.4% 3PT
Klay kind of got lost in the star power of the Warriors last year. More than any player, Kevin Durant’s arrival seemed to take Klay out of his game. Still, there aren’t many 6-foot-6 wings who can lock down defending point guards and there is only one player on the planet that can shoot it better than him. If Klay leaves after next season like I expect him to consider, he would be a 25+ scorer.
18. CJ McCollum (SG, Portland Trailblazers)
2016-2017 Stats: 23.0 ppg, 3.6 apg, 42.1% 3PT
I don’t know if it’s because he’s the second best player on his team or because he went to Lehigh or something else. But McCollum is THE most slept on star in the NBA. He is a master at creating his mid-range shot, with a smooth handle and precision. He’s a true marksman already but he’s become just as good at getting into the lane and being creative around the basket. It’s definitely worth staying up late to watch C.J. put on a show.
17. DeMar DeRozan (SG, Toronto Raptors)
2016-2017 Stats: 27.3 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 3.9 apg
DeRozan is 1A and Lowry is 1B. DeRozan started last year on a fierce pace, getting to the line at a ridiculous rate and scoring over 30 points a game. He cooled off a bit as the year went on, but he still showed one of the most dangerous mid-range games in the NBA. Like Lowry, the recipe for DeRozan’s success is a high dose of shots. That shouldn’t be an issue for a team bringing back much of the same.
16. DeMarcus Cousins (C, New Orleans Pelicans)
2016-2017 Stats: 27.0 ppg, 11.0 rpg, 4.6 apg
Plenty has been said about Cousins’ attitude, but not enough is said about his dominance. You absolutely have to double-team him if you don’t want to give up a minimum of 30 points. He’s just that good on the offensive end with his combination of power, perimeter skills, and footwork. We’ll have to wait and see if his numbers lead to wins in a full season with Anthony Davis.
15. Damian Lillard (PG, Portland Trail Blazers)
2016-2017 Stats: 27.0 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 5.9 apg
I understand Portland isn’t a big market but the lack of respect for Lillard when it comes to league recognition is unbelievable. Dame continues to find ways to put up points in a more efficient matter while remaining as one of the best closers in the league. Even in a loaded conference, I would find it hard for Lillard to be left off the All-Star team again.
14. Karl-Anthony Towns (C, Minnesota Timberwolves)
2016-2017 Stats: 25.1 ppg, 12.3 rpg, 2.7 apg
You can’t watch KAT play and not appreciate how gifted he is. He should be a senior in college and puts up 20 and 10 in a league of grown men. His hands are magnetic on both backboards, his jumper comes easy from deep, and there isn’t a player who can guard him from 15-feet and in. My big issue is his putrid defense. As an agile 7-footer, there is no reason why he should be such a liability. Thibs and a defensive-minded star like Jimmy Butler should improve that aspect for the best college-age NBA player.
13. John Wall (PG, Washington Wizards)
2016-2017 Stats: 23.1 ppg, 10.7 apg, 2.0 spg
In a full-court race with the ball, nobody will beat Wall. He is now at a point in his career where he has mastered the change of pace so when he does go, defenders have no chance. One of the top assist men in the league, Wall is also a freak finisher around the basket. Occasionally his defense will lag, but he can be a problem using his length and speed to disrupt offenses. He sounds committed to the Wizards long-term, meaning Washington has their franchise player to build around.
12. Giannis Antetokounmpo (SF, Milwaukee Bucks)
2016-2017 Stats: 22.9 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 5.4 apg
The Greek Freak is now on the fast track to becoming a superstar in this league. He is still got a ways to go on being feared with his jump shot, though he seems to make up for it by being able to take one dribble from half-court and dunk all over a defense. Giannis has refined his handle and natural playmaking ability to play a quasi-LeBron role for Milwaukee. He’s going to blow up on the global level, assuming fans from around the world can spell his name right.
11. Kyrie Irving (PG, Cleveland Cavaliers)
2016-2017 Stats: 25.2 ppg, 5.8 apg, 40.1% 3PT
Whether Kyrie stays in Cleveland or not, his value can be seen by how much the Cavs are asking in return. He’s still young, the top ball-handler in the world, and is a killer with the ball in his hands. Kyrie definitely needed LeBron to win a title, but let’s not act like he didn’t carry a huge load in his own right. As Kyrie matures, he will be able to do even more without as much ball-stopping. Don’t let a trade demand blind you from Kyrie’s rare talent.
10. Chris Paul (PG, Houston Rockets)
2016-2017 Stats: 18.1 ppg, 9.2 apg, 41.1% 3PT
CP3 is the only last true, traditional superstar point guard right now. At a generous 6-feet tall, Paul is a savvy floor general that has a historically high IQ. Everyone knows he is a master in pick-and-rolls, but his defense and rebounding as a guard are excellent. He’s also a 40% 3-point shooter. I’m interested to see if he can break into the conference finals for the first time playing with the Beard.
9. Jimmy Butler (SG, Minnesota Timberwolves)
2016-2017 Stats: 23.9 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 5.5 apg
From the 30th pick, Butler molded himself into a superstar. Not a starter, not a star, but a true franchise player. He had to carry a huge load in Chicago, being the top scorer and playmaker, all while guarding the best player. In Minnesota, he will have much more help. Butler is going to bring that two-way presence to the Western Conference this year.
8. Paul George (SF, Oklahoma City Thunder)
2016-2017 Stats: 23.7 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 3.3 apg
Playing on an average team, I think some people lost sight of George. Playing with Russell Westbrook will be an interesting dynamic considering George has been the go-to guy for a while. He has plenty to offer to make the relationship work, though, including a comfort moving off the ball to find open looks. He is nearly 6-foot-10, incredibly athletic, and equally versatile on both ends.
7. James Harden (SG, Houston Rockets)
2016-2017 Stats: 29.1 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 11.2 apg
Some may say Harden was fine as the point guard, but I see the CP3 addition as the move to make him even better. Though he was terrific overall, he turned the ball over at an alarming rate because he had the ball all game. His elite craftiness and playmaking will be even harder to gameplan for when there is a similar playmaking threat in the backcourt with him. Assists may be down, but Harden is going to be the same triple-double threat.
6. Stephen Curry (PG, Golden State Warriors)
2016-2017 Stats: 25.3 ppg, 6.6 apg, 41.1% 3PT
Curry’s defense and his attitude can be frustrating at times. But to not recognize him as a top player in this league is shortsighted. There has never been a player that can shoot off the dribble like Curry. I know, you’ve heard this plenty of times. What people seem to miss is the depth of his skills. He has phenomenal footwork, a shifty handle, ridiculous touch around the rim, and is one of the top rebounding point guards in the world. He’s not unanimous MVP good, but still a great player.
5. Anthony Davis (PF, New Orleans Pelicans)
2016-2017 Stats: 28.0 ppg, 11.8 rpg, 2.2 bpg
Imagine how much attention AD would get if he was in a Chicago or a New York. There really is nothing to knock him on. Throughout his time in the league, he has proven to be plus in every area of the game. Defensively he’s still one of the best shot blockers in the league. He can score from three levels now too. AD will probably be the only top 10 player to not make the playoffs, but it won’t be because of lack of effort.
4. Russell Westbrook (PG, Oklahoma City Thunder)
2016-2017 Stats: 31.6 ppg, 10.7 rpg, 10.4 apg
I couldn’t have been happier to see someone win MVP. After his right-hand man left him for Golden State, Russ showed what he can do when he has the keys. There is no way to undervalue how difficult it is to average a triple-double, even if his teammates let him have a couple. Known for his explosiveness, the one thing that is most admirable about Russ is his relentlessness and competitiveness regardless of the situation. There is a good chance he challenges to repeat as MVP.
3. Kawhi Leonard (SF, San Antonio Spurs)
2016-2017 Stats: 25.5 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 1.8 spg
The best two-way player in the world, Kawhi was a Zaza foot away from threatening the Warriors. He is so methodical on offense, wasting no motion before putting up a shot. I have never seen a player who can just rip the ball out of a player’s hands like he can. I can’t imagine how many cookies he’s taken over his career. Going into the year, with the roster San Antonio has, I would vote for Kawhi to win MVP this year.
2. Kevin Durant (SF, Golden State Warriors)
2016-2017 Stats: 25.1 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 4.8 apg
KD showed in the NBA Finals why he is the second best player in the world. I still have questions about the move to Golden State, though that doesn’t take away from the ease he scores with. Even LeBron couldn’t stay in front of him and you can’t blame him. Durant is near 7-feet tall with a nasty handle that allows him to get to his spot at will. He is the best player for one of the best teams in NBA history.
1. LeBron James (SF, Cleveland Cavaliers)
2016-2017 Stats: 26.4 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 8.7 apg
Every time speculation begins that someone has overtaken his crown, LeBron reminds us of his greatness. There isn’t a whole lot to say, from the power to the vision to the rediscovered three-point stroke, LeBron James is going to be the best player in basketball for at least a few more years.