Top 100 players of 2014: Nos. 100-51
87. Derrick Favors, Utah Jazz (F, 22)
2012-13 stats: 23.2 MPG, 9.4 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 1.7 BPG, 23.2 MPG, 48.2 FG%
2012-13 advanced stats: 17.5 PER, 4.4 Win Shares, +1.9 RAPM
This placement is somewhat conservative for a player with such dizzying potential, but last we saw Favors he was too tentative offensively and too haphazard defensively to justify a higher ranking. He’ll vault up the list as he better grasps the nuances of team defensive coverage, though in the meantime he’s a bit too unreliable on that end to offer all that much consistent value. Plus, to say that Favors is a reluctant offensive player would be putting it kindly. He’s a hyper-athletic near-7-footer with physical advantages over most any opponent, but he still struggles to score unless the conditions are just right. Favors is acutely aware of this, to the point of occasionally being too timid with the ball — a side effect that will hopefully dissipate as he gets more comfortable in scoring positions. Regardless, athleticism and strong rebounding have gotten Favors this far and provide a stable backbone to his contributions as he continues in his development. — R.M.
86. Vince Carter, Dallas Mavericks (G/F, 36)
2012-13 stats: 25.8 MPG, 13.4 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 2.4 APG, 25.8 MPG, 43.5 FG%, 40.6 3FG%
2012-13 advanced stats: 17.8 PER, 6.0 Win Shares, +3.5 RAPM
Carter may well be the model for aging stars, as his wide array of skills makes him one of the most versatile supporting pieces in the league. Even in lesser form, Carter ranked as a top-15 scorer last season in both isolation and pick-and-roll situations, according to Synergy Sports. He defers to better offensive players without disappearing completely, shooting 39.8 percent on spot-up three-pointers for the Mavs and working surprisingly well off the ball. Carter also provides a post-up option and can leverage his strength advantage down low to set up open teammates on the perimeter. He’s no longer suited to be a full-time initiator of an offense or a first-option scorer, but Carter’s balanced game makes him ideal for his current utility role. — R.M.
85. Amar’e Stoudemire, New York Knicks (F, 30)
2012-13 stats: 23.5 MPG, 14.2 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 57.7 FG%
2012-13 advanced stats: 22.1 PER, 2.7 Win Shares, -1.0 RAPM
Note: Stoudemire played only 29 games because of knee injuries
One school of thought, influenced by Stoudemire’s repeated knee problems over the last two years, might assert that he doesn’t belong on this list. Another viewpoint might hold that his per-36 numbers last year (21.8 points, 7.7 rebounds) despite the injuries weren’t all that different from his averages during his big 2010-11 season (25.3 points and 8.2 rebounds), when he was still regarded as a top-20 talent. Is Stoudemire doomed to an endless cycle of knee surgeries, or is he the same guy he always was as long as you close your eyes and cross your fingers? Those questions will rage until his contract ends in 2015, but the Knicks proved last season that they can enjoy a very successful season (mostly) without him. There’s no way to accurately guess what this season will hold for Stoudemire, but here’s hoping it’s something other than another round of the “worst contract in the league” discussion. — B.G.
84. Amir Johnson, Toronto Raptors (F/C, 26)
2012-13 stats: 28.7 MPG, 10.0 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 1.0 SPG, 1.4 BPG, 55.4 FG%
2012-13 advanced stats: 17.3 PER, 7.3 Win Shares, +4.7 RAPM
Johnson often goes overlooked because of the role he plays and the team that employs him, but he deserves credit for making the Raptors decisively better whenever he was on the floor last season. That’s no fluke; Johnson’s ability to defend both power forwards and centers at a well-above-average level gives him game-changing potential, particularly in conjunction with solid rebounding and finishing ability. Johnson still isn’t the smoothest pick-and-roll player, but he’s grown more comfortable with adjusting after the catch — an important development that makes him that much more potent on the move. He’s noticeably quicker than most big men his size and leverages that speed with frequent movement and consistent effort. That partially explains why Johnson does so well in claiming out-of-position rebounds. By being the first to the ball on such a frequent basis, Johnson rated as an elite offensive rebounder and one of the best at converting those offensive boards into points, according to Synergy. Those contributions might seem marginal on first glance, but Johnson’s dirty-work efforts pay off big for Toronto. — R.M.
83. J.R. Smith, New York Knicks (G, 28)
2012-13 stats: 33.5 MPG, 18.1 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 2.7 APG, 1.3 SPG, 42.2 FG%, 35.6 3FG%
2012-13 advanced stats: 17.6 PER, 6.7 Win Shares, +0.7 RAPM
If someone developed a Trouble-making Efficiency Rating, there’s little doubt that Smith, the 2013 Sixth Man Award winner, would be at or near the top of the list. The marvelous (or obnoxious) aspect of Smith’s hijinx is his sheer variety. He’s been busted for smoking marijuana, posting an inappropriate photo to Twitter, throwing a flagrant elbow and flopping. And that’s just the (recent) half of it. His game is as polarizing as his off-court image. Some appreciate his fearless approach and shot-creation skills; others bemoan his pedestrian shooting and passing numbers. Smith hit the boards hard in 2012-13, pulling down a career-high 5.3 rebounds, and New York played some of its best basketball down the stretch, when he really caught fire in March and April. His critics will interject right here, screaming, “Contract year!!!!!!” at the top of their lungs. (Smith signed a three-year, $18 million deal with New York in July.) For many teams and league observers, Smith wouldn’t be worth the hassle. The Knicks aren’t like “many teams,” though, and Smith seems to fit like a glove. — B.G.
82. J.J. Redick, Los Angeles Clippers (G, 29)
2012-13 stats: 30.5 MPG, 14.1 PPG, 3.8 APG, 2.2 RPG, 43.4 FG%, 36.6 3FG%
2012-13 advanced stats: 14.7 PER, 4.5 Win Shares, -1.3 RAPM
Redick’s midseason trade from Orlando to Milwaukee turned out to be a disappointing mess. His numbers dropped across the board with the Bucks and he even admitted to reporters during the playoffs that he wasn’t really on speaking terms with interim coach Jim Boylan. What kind of playoff team trades for a veteran shooter who does all the little things but then decides to bury him in the rotation? Redick was on the first thing smoking out of Wisconsin; he looks like a great fit with the Clippers, even if their perimeter ranks are fairly crowded. A career 39 percent three-point shooter, Redick will enjoy all the open looks created when Chris Paul and Blake Griffin strain defenses. In L.A., Redick should get the chance to buff up a playoff résumé that is decidedly lacking (6.8 points, 39.5 percent shooting and 33.6 percent three-point shooting in 48 games). — B.G.
81. Kyle Lowry, Toronto Raptors (G, 27)
2012-13 stats: 29.7 MPG, 11.6 PPG, 6.4 APG, 4.7 RPG, 1.4 SPG, 40.1 FG%, 36.2 3FG%
2012-13 advanced stats: 17.5 PER, 5.6 Win Shares, +3.7 RAPM
Lowry can be a bit frustrating in that he’s a first-rate defender who doesn’t always commit, but he creates enough offensively to make up for some of his wilder streaks. He is a lot to handle when in control of an offense. Lowry is physical enough to overwhelm many point guards and quick enough to dart past bigger opponents, a combination that makes him a solid dribble-drive initiator. His passing in those situations, though, is merely functional. He misses open teammates and botches certain reads, if only because Lowry can lose track of his options when in motion. Still, he does a generally fine job of both scoring in the lane and setting up quality shots, albeit not at a high enough level to push him further up these rankings. — R.M.
80. Lou Williams, Atlanta Hawks (G, 26)
2012-13 stats: 28.7 MPG, 14.1 PPG, 3.6 APG, 28.7 MPG, 42.2 FG%, 36.7 3FG%
2012-13 advanced stats: 15.9 PER, 2.4 Win Shares, -0.4 RAPM
Note: Williams played only 39 games last season because of an ACL tear
Williams is one of the league’s most idiosyncratic scorers: Given how little he gets into the paint, he does a surprising amount of damage. Last season, a mere 26.5 percent of Williams’ points came from shots in the lane*, though such a strong perimeter orientation didn’t stop him from averaging 17.7 points per 36 minutes on decent shooting percentages. The trick? Williams does remarkable work off the ball, particularly in the Kevin Martin-like craft of using hand-offs and cuts to draw fouls. He does an impeccable job of baiting overeager defenders by changing speeds, and as a result, Williams has averaged an impressive 6.1 free-throw attempts per 36 minutes over his last three seasons. That ability, along with above-average shooting from beyond the arc, helps buoy his efficiency, while Williams’ fairly underrated passing helps prevent his style from becoming too erratic or intrusive. — R.M.
*By comparison, fellow Hawks guard Jeff Teague scored 49 percent of his points on shots in the paint.
79. George Hill, Indiana Pacers (G, 27)
2012-13 stats: 34.5 MPG, 14.2 PPG, 4.7 APG, 3.7 RPG, 1.1 SPG, 44.3 FG%, 36.8 3FG%
2012-13 advanced stats: 16.6 PER, 9.7 Win Shares, +2.3 RAPM
Hill may not be as dynamic as many of his point guard contemporaries, but he gets a lot of mileage out of sturdy all-around play. He’s never a liability; Hill’s biggest limitation might be his lack of high-level shot creation, but he has the self-awareness to know what he can and cannot do and styles his game accordingly. His approach to passing is thus conservative but viable — not ideal for a role as a primary creator, but effective enough to make positive playmaking contributions. Because he doesn’t need consistent control of the ball to be effective, Hill pairs wonderfully with star-caliber teammates. He shoots well, can stymie opponents at both guard positions and understands how to move to create space and free himself for scoring opportunities. With that complementary skill set, Hill has become a versatile, reliable asset for the Pacers. — R.M.
78. Jeff Teague, Atlanta Hawks (G, 25)
2012-13 stats: 32.9 MPG, 14.6 PPG, 7.2 APG, 2.3 RPG, 1.5 SPG, 45.1 FG%, 35.9 3FG%
2012-13 advanced stats: 16.8 PER, 6.1 Win Shares, -0.1 RAPM
It doesn’t look like Teague will ever achieve greatness, but his steady improvement in four seasons more than warranted his new four-year, $32 million contract. His game is predicated on his quickness and his lack of glaring weaknesses, and while he’s no standout when it comes to plus-minus, he deserves credit for keeping the Hawks in the playoffs despite a major roster dismantling in 2012. That Milwaukee chose to pursue Teague in restricted free agency rather than retain Brandon Jennings was telling, and it speaks well of his chances to assume a larger leadership role as he progresses through his 20s. With Josh Smith now gone, Teague will likely need to surpass the career-high 14.6 points he put up last season. Finding a way to get to the free-throw line more regularly would help. — B.G.
77. O.J. Mayo, Milwaukee Bucks (G, 25)
2012-13 stats: 35.5 MPG, 15.3 PPG, 4.4 APG, 3.5 RPG, 44.9 FG%, 40.7 3FG%
2012-13 advanced stats: 13.9 PER, 4.2 Win Shares, -0.5 RAPM
Mayo went underused in Memphis under Lionel Hollins and overused last season on a Dallas team in desperate need of ball handlers, but he settles in as a quality scorer with some nice peripheral skills. At this point, it’s clear that Mayo isn’t threatening enough off the dribble to be relied on as a creator; he’s merely a shooter who can pass, as evidenced by his solid assist averages. If given the kind of support system that could prevent him from overstepping his bounds (which seems unlikely in Milwaukee), Mayo could be a lethal supporting scorer and catch-and-shoot option. He’ll be fine, otherwise, just a bit overstretched if asked to create too often. – R.M.
76. Jamal Crawford, Los Angeles Clippers (G, 33)
2012-13 stats: 29.3 MPG, 16.5 PPG, 2.5 APG, 1.0 SPG, 43.8 FG%, 37.6 3FG%
2012-13 advanced: 16.8 PER, 5.4 Win Shares, -0.9 RAPM
Nobody breaks ankles, nutmegs opponents and dominates the summer pro-am circuit quite like Crawford, a natural showman who hails from a simpler time when it was OK to miss frequently as long as you looked incredibly awesome while doing it. After a dreadful 2011-12 season in Portland, Crawford re-emerged as a Sixth Man Award candidate during his first year with Lob City. His net rating was among the Clippers’ best last season, but his unconscientious defense and the arrivals of J.J. Redick and Jared Dudley raise questions about the size and scope of his role under new coach Doc Rivers. It’s worth keeping a careful eye on how L.A.’s perimeter rotation shakes out — and how Crawford handles things if his minutes or shots are cut. — B.G.
75. Kenneth Faried, Denver Nuggets (F, 23)
2012-13 stats: 28.1 MPG, 11.5 PPG, 9.2 RPG, 1.0 BPG, 1.0 SPG, 55.2 FG%
2012-13 advanced stats: 18.5 PER, 7.8 Win Shares, +1.7 RAPM
The Internet loves Faried, and what’s not to love? Boundless energy, intoxicating athleticism, huge rebounding rates and copious amounts of alley-oop finishes and highlight-reel defensive plays. His fearless campaigning for equal rights is just the cherry on top. One of the most productive members of the 2011 class, Faried is close to the stage of his career where it’s getting easy to forget that he spent four years in college and therefore will soon be approaching his peak production. That’s not a terrible thing, as Faried’s numbers scaled nicely as his minutes increased during his second season, but the burden of proof is still on him to expand his offensive game and show marked improvement as a disciplined defender. — B.G.