Top 100 players of 2014: Nos. 100-51
61. Ersan Ilyasova, Milwaukee Bucks (F, 26)
2012-13 stats: 27.6 MPG, 13.2 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 1.6 APG, 46.2 FG%, 44.4 3FG%
2012-13 advanced stats: 18.3 PER, 6.7 Win Shares, +2.5 RAPM
Not much about Milwaukee’s season made sense, and Ilyasova’s zany peaks (19.2 points and 9.9 rebounds in March) and valleys (6.7 points and 4.8 rebounds in November) can be added to the list of questions that might never be fully answered. Once he dug out of a months-long slow start, the Turkish stretch-four finished among the Bucks’ leaders in scoring and PER. Ilyasova, who boasts inside-out versatility and legitimate shooting range, seems poised to enjoy a larger role after the departures of scorers Brandon Jennings, Monta Ellis and J.J. Redick. — B.G.
60. Andrew Bynum, Cleveland Cavaliers (C, 25)
2012-13 stats: N/A
2012-13 advanced stats: N/A
Note: Bynum missed last season because of knee injuries
There is no correct placement for Bynum, given the uncertainity involved after he missed the 2012-13 season, but this was the most reasonable we could muster. Obviously, he would be ranked far higher if he were healthy, but a year spent racking up knee procedures with not even so much as a target return date has given little reason for optimism. Beyond that, it’s not as if Bynum were an unimpeachable star; he had one terrific season as the third-best player on a very good Lakers team, but still has no experience outside of that particular system, hasn’t been tested as a higher-priority offensive piece and doesn’t exactly measure up as an impact defender. Bynum was supposed to begin addressing those concerns last season in Philadelphia, but with that opportunity lost, Cleveland will have the pleasure and frustration of waiting on a tantalizing and risky young center to come around. — R.M.
59. Joe Johnson, Brooklyn Nets (G, 32)
2012-13 stats: 36.7 MPG, 16.3 PPG, 3.5 APG, 3.0 RPG, 42.3 FG%, 37.5 3FG%
2012-13 advanced stats: 14.1 PER, 5.1 Win Shares, +1.1 RAPM
Separating Joe Johnson the player from Joe Johnson the salary has been difficult since 2010, when he signed a six-year, $123.7 million contract with Atlanta, and his forgettable first year in Brooklyn only heightened the basketball world’s collective awareness of his production-per-dollar mediocrity. Last season marked the first time since 2006 that Johnson was not selected to the All-Star team, and this was no snub: He averaged his fewest points and posted his worst shooting percentage in a decade. Johnson excelled in late-game situations, making multiple buzzer-beating game-winners. Unfortunately, the Nets’ first-round exit, and his quiet series that included a six-point, 2-of-14 performance in the decisive Game 7 home loss to Chicago, undercut his clutch narrative. It’s a safe bet that Johnson’s production will continue to decline as he puts more distance between himself and age 30, but he should still be helpful as a floor spacer and solid defender for at least the next two years. — B.G.
58. Nene, Washington Wizards (F/C, 30)
2012-13 stats: 27.2 MPG, 12.6 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 2.9 APG, 27.2 MPG, 48.0 FG%
2012-13 advanced stats: 17.0 PER, 4.0 Win Shares, +3.7 RAPM
With Nene on the floor last season, Washington defended at a top-three level (98.3 points allowed per 100 possessions) — a remarkable accomplishment even within the context of the team’s already surprising defensive success. His lateral speed and ability to challenge quicker players provided one of the pillars of the Wizards’ coverage. That he brings that caliber of defense along with a bevy of offensive skills makes him quite valuable — noticeably more so than his basic counting stats suggest. Last year was a down season for Nene due to his gradual recovery from a previous foot injury, but when healthy his touch and quickness allow him to thrive in a variety of functions. The lack of a singular strength sometimes leads him to float around the court rather than attack, but his skills can be channeled in so many different ways as to stem some of the impact of that drifting. Nene can play high and low, as scorer or facilitator. That’s enough to make him one of the more complete big men in the league, and worthy choice at this stage in our ranking. — R.M.
57. Ryan Anderson, New Orleans Pelicans (F, 25)
2012-13 stats: 30.9 MPG, 16.2 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 42.3 FG%, 38.2 3FG%
2012-13 advanced stats: 18.1 PER, 6.5 Win Shares, +0.4 RAPM
What Anderson supplies is unique even in a league keen on stretchy bigs, as his shooting range has now been tested against volume (only Stephen Curry attempted more three-pointers than Anderson last season) and context (having moved out from Dwight Howard’s shadow in Orlando to a much stranger offense in New Orleans). He’s a singularly prolific and accurate shooter for his position, a distinction which holds corresponding benefit. The threat of Anderson’s shooting draws an opposing big man out of the lane, clearing room for drives or post-up sequences. Such a matchup advantage isn’t without its remedies (many opponents have assigned smaller defenders to Anderson to good effect), but his very presence on the floor forces compromise in the game plan and rotation of the Pelicans’ opponents. — R.M.
56. Manu Ginobili, San Antonio Spurs (G, 36)
2012-13 stats: 23.2 MPG, 11.8 PPG, 4.6 APG, 3.4 RPG, 1.3 SPG, 42.5 FG%, 35.3 3FG%
2012-13 advanced stats: 19.0 PER, 4.5 Win Shares, +3.7 RAPM
The end is in sight for San Antonio’s sixth man, and he toyed with the idea of retirement this summer after dealing with injuries and uneven play in the postseason. Ginobili might be a shell of his former self, but he’s still capable of magic, and his PER remains in the top five at his position. After a series of high-turnover, poor-shooting games in the postseason, Ginobili momentarily quieted his critics by delivering 24 points and 10 assists in San Antonio’s Game 5 victory against Miami in the Finals. How many two-guards in the game today are capable of a night like that on a stage like that? (Not many.) Yes, his body can no longer handle a huge workload over an 82-game season. And, yes, Kawhi Leonard has replaced him as San Antonio’s No. 3 guy. But Ginobili will remain one of the game’s most respected guards until he finally decides to hang it up. — B.G.
55. Luol Deng, Chicago Bulls (F, 28)
2012-13 stats: 38.7 MPG, 16.5 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 3.0 APG, 1.1 SPG, 42.6 FG%, 32.2 3FG%
2012-13 advanced stats: 15.1 PER, 6.3 Win Shares, +1.4 RAPM
“Will” is one of those overused, amorphous sports terms, but what else would you call it when a player logs more than 39 minutes per game for the third straight season even though his team is in a down year because the franchise player is out injured? Deng’s toughness and reputation as a gamer are so well established that no one was quite ready to believe that he would miss time during the 2013 playoffs, even when he endured a spinal tap that he called life-threatening. Deng, a tertiary offensive option and stout defender, doesn’t have eye-popping numbers, but his importance to Chicago’s continued success is unquestioned. — B.G.
54. Steve Nash, Los Angeles Lakers (G, 39)
2012-13 stats: 32.5 MPG, 12.7 PPG, 6.7 APG, 49.7 FG%, 43.8 3FG%
2012-13 advanced stats: 16.0 PER, 4.3 Win Shares, +0.7 RAPM
Nash is coming off his worst statistical season since the turn of the millennium, but his struggles seem to be the result of extenuating circumstance rather than the result of age-related decline. Last season’s Lakers provided a miserable working environment for all involved. Rampant injury and poor chemistry prevented that mix of stars from ever finding a groove, and Nash’s own injuries consistently limited what he was able to contribute. Frankly, I find it hard to believe that Nash is that far removed from the playmaker who dragged an ill-equipped Suns team to a .500 record just a season before. He’s still an excellent shooter (for all of his struggles, he essentially dropped another 50-40-90 season) and passer with arguably the best feel for offense in the league. That level of vision — and the corresponding ability to elevate an offense — doesn’t fade overnight. — R.M.
53. DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento Kings (C, 23)
2012-13 stats: 30.5 MPG, 17.1 PPG, 9.9 RPG, 2.7 APG, 46.5 FG%
2012-13 advanced stats: 20.2 PER, 4.4 Win Shares, +1.9 RAPM
Even in subscribing to the notion that Cousins will eventually be a great player, there’s just no evidence to suggest that he’s ready to make that jump this season. He’s planted his flag by putting up some monster scoring and rebounding numbers — averages that set him apart from many other elite prospects and bode well for an extraordinary career. But Cousins is an inefficient offensive player and a sorely lacking defender, a combination that makes him inferior on balance to all of the players yet to be ranked. Demerits for locker-room trouble, league-worst body language and rampant technicals certainly don’t help his case, either. The tools are in place for Cousins to crack the top 25 sooner rather than later, but he has much to get in order before starting to make that steep climb. — R.M.
52. Greg Monroe, Detroit Pistons (F, 23)
2012-13 stats: 33.2 MPG, 16.0 PPG, 9.6 RPG, 3.5 APG, 1.3 SPG, 48.6 FG%
2012-13 advanced stats: 19.5 PER, 5.9 Win Shares, +2.5 RAPM
Monroe’s unconventionality takes a moment to process, and not just because he’s a left-handed big man with unusual vision who also enjoys putting the ball on the floor to create for himself. He lacks the mid-range jumper to truly thrive at power forward and doesn’t possess the presence and overall defensive skill set to excel at center. Either way, he’s a dependable scorer and a determined rebounder. With second-year center Andre Drummond on the come and forward Josh Smith in the fold after signing a four-year, $54 million free-agent contract, the 2013-14 season could decide whether Monroe winds up being one-half of one of the league’s best young Twin Towers combinations, or the odd man out who becomes trade bait. — B.G.
51. Nicolas Batum, Portland Trail Blazers (F, 24)
2012-13 stats: 38.5 MPG, 14.3 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 4.9 APG, 1.2 SPG, 1.1 BPG, 42.3 FG%, 37.2 3FG%
2012-13 advanced stats: 15.7 PER, 5.8 Win Shares, +0.9 RAPM
Batum was pigeonholed as a three-and-D player for most of his first four seasons, but after signing a four-year, $46.1 million contract in 2012, he welcomed the increased offensive role those dollars demanded. New coach Terry Stotts encouraged him to handle the ball and make plays last season. Batum responded by registering more assists than in his first four years combined, but his turnover rate spiked to career-high levels, too. The Frenchman, lauded for his length and athleticism on defense, is a master of the chase-down block. After a strong start last year, he floated his own name as a possible All-Star; to achieve that recognition, Batum, who has battled focused issues on both ends of the floor, will need to find a level of consistency that has eluded him to this point. — B.G.
Tuesday: Nos. 50-31
|Top 100 NBA Players: Nos. 100-51|