Top 100 players of 2014: Nos. 100-51
The Point Forward is proud to offer our list of the top 100 players in the NBA, an exhaustive exercise that seeks to define who will be the best players in the 2013-14 season.
Given the wide variety of players involved and the deep analytical resources available, no single, definitive criterion was used to form this list. Instead, rankings were assigned based on a fluid combination of subjective assessment and objective data. This is an earnest attempt to evaluate each player in a vacuum. As a result, future prospects beyond this season did not play a part in the ranking process, while the influence of team context was minimized to whatever extent was possible. Our sole concern was how players are likely to perform this season alone.
Injuries and injury risks are thus an inevitable component of that judgment. Past performance (postseason included) weighed heavily in our assessment, with a skew toward the recent. Rookies were not included for that reason, among others. A predictive quality also came into play with the anticipated improvement of certain younger players, as well as the possible decline of aging veterans. Otherwise, players were ordered based on their complete games — offense and defense both, along with everything in between.
Naturally, rounding out the top 100 included some tough calls. The list of notable omissions is dotted with players both well regarded and largely deserving, though lines ultimately had to be drawn somewhere — in many cases based on extremely minor differences. With those exclusions squared away, dive into our list here with Nos. 100-51, followed by Nos. 50-31 on Tuesday, Nos. 30-21 on Wednesday, Nos. 20-11 on Thursday and Nos. 10-1 on Friday. For those interested in understanding more about the ranking process and the limitations of this exercise in general, make a quick detour here.
A quick introduction for those not familiar with some of the “advanced” statistical measures used below:
PER (Player Efficiency Rating) – PER is a per-minute summary of a player’s efficiency and performance, weighted so that a league-average player registers a 15. It generally skews in favor of big men and does not account for defensive contributions that don’t show up in the box score.
Win Shares – A metric that uses box score data to estimate the total number of wins a given player contributes. Last season, Win Shares ran on a scale of -1.5 (Michael Beasley) to 19.3 (LeBron James), but only 10 players finished with more than 10.
RAPM (Regularized adjusted plus-minus) — A variation of plus-minus that compares the on-court impact of every NBA player to a league-average standard (0). The adjustment helps account for much of the statistical noise that exists in raw plus-minus measures.
100. Nikola Vucevic, Orlando Magic (C, 22)
2012-13 stats: 33.2 MPG, 13.1 PPG, 11.9 RPG, 1.0 BPG, 51.9 FG%
2012-13 advanced stats: 17.8 PER, 5.7 Win Shares, -0.4 RAPM
Vucevic is far from a complete player, but he’s shown room for growth and already rebounds in bulk. He was the youngest player to average a double-double last season and bolstered his credentials by ranking fourth in total rebounding percentage. That’s a great starting point for a quality big man, and with that foundation (along with legitimate mid-range-shooting chops), Vucevic has earned the playing time and opportunity needed to work on the rest of his game. He has the basic tools to address some of his weaknesses — the ambidexterity to improve his shooting percentage at the rim, the mobility to become a better defender — and is likely to improve in his second season of regular rotation minutes. — Rob Mahoney
99. Jarrett Jack, Cleveland Cavaliers (G, 29)
2012-13 stats: 29.7 MPG, 12.9 PPG, 5.6 APG, 3.1 RPG, 45.2 FG%, 40.4 3FG%
2012-13 advanced stats: 15.9 PER, 5.6 Win Shares, -0.7 RAPM
Wanted: one steady veteran point guard capable of advising elite up-and-comer. Cleveland didn’t need to post an ad on Craigslist for everyone to see its mental wheels turning: If Jack can work well playing both with and behind Stephen Curry in Golden State, as he did in 2012-13, why can’t he do the same with Kyrie Irving? Indeed, Jack seems like just the man for the job, as he possesses the size, strength and quickness to play either backcourt position. Jack finished third in the Sixth Man Award voting last season, and though he’s never quite cut it as a full-time starter, he’s ideally suited to be a third guard. Jack oozes with moxie and tends to look for his own offense more often than not. That mentality might be problematic for some teams, but the Cavaliers, who ranked No. 23 in points per possession last season, can use a little potency and swagger off the bench as they chase their first playoff appearance of the post-LeBron James era. — Ben Golliver
98. Kyle Korver, Atlanta Hawks (G/F, 32)
2012-13 stats: 30.5 MPG, 10.9 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 2.0 APG, 45.7 3FG%
2012-13 advanced stats: 13.9 PER, 6.4 Win Shares, +0.7 RAPM
It’s easy to write off Korver as merely a shooter, but he moves so well off the ball and is so exceptionally accurate with his shot that he bends defenses with his every cut and curl. Korver also doesn’t overstep his role; he passes out of unfavorable situations and understands his own limitations. What he does well legitimately makes his team better and what he does poorly (one-on-one defense, lack of shot creation) can be managed. That makes Korver a catch in the role-player set. — R.M.
97. Matt Barnes, Los Angeles Clippers (F, 33)
2012-13 stats: 25.7 MPG, 10.3 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 1.5 APG, 1.0 SPG, 46.2 FG%, 34.2 3FG%
2012-13 advanced stats: 15.5 PER, 6.3 Win Shares, +0.9 RAPM
How many players come off as detestable as Barnes while also achieving “He can play for my team any day” status? Not a lot. His bad-boy persona and off-court drama might have cost him real money as a free agent in 2012, but he played his way into a nice three-year, $10.2 million payday this summer. The Clippers had some choices to make about who stays and who goes after their first-round exit, and retaining Barnes appears to have been a top priority. One of the league’s most notorious instigators, Barnes is a pesky defender who can contribute offensively without needing the ball. He posted a healthy +6.8 net rating and his 2012-13 PER and Win Shares both represented career highs. Nothing he does is pretty, and not much of what he says is fit to print, but he’s the type of nuisance role player who makes sense for a veteran-dominated team looking to win now. — B.G.
96. Danny Green, San Antonio Spurs (G, 26)
2012-13 stats: 27.5 MPG, 10.5 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 44.8 FG%, 42.9 3FG%
2012-13 advanced stats: 14.1 PER, 5.9 Win Shares, +0.4 RAPM
Green is one of the league’s better three-and-D types, a classification that makes him amenable to most any team or system. The ability to guard multiple positions allows Green to complement his perimeter teammates through defensive cross-matching, while his elite three-point shooting helps the Spurs clear space for a high-functioning offense. Within that system he’s shown a knack for both scripted and unscripted offense, thriving in structure and chaos. Players who perform well under both conditions are rarer than they should be, but Green has an excellent feel for when to follow assigned cutting routes and when to break free for needed improvisation. — R.M.
95. Eric Bledsoe, Phoenix Suns (G, 23)
2012-13 stats: 20.4 MPG, 8.5 PPG, 3.1 APG, 3.0 RPG, 20.4 MPG, 44.5 FG%
2012-13 advanced stats: 17.5 PER, 3.7 Win Shares, +1.7 RAPM
Bledsoe has star potential with his rare package of strength, speed and agility, but at the moment his talents are a bit too solvable to rank any higher than this. His tenacious on-ball defense, quickness off the dribble and furious cutting can be weaponized properly in the right situation, as was the case last season with the Clippers. But without ideal supporting parts (as will be the case this year in Phoenix), Bledsoe’s somewhat limited court vision and inability to shoot off the dribble become more problematic. He’ll surely improve in time, and he’s already made gains as a spot-up shooter. But his shortcomings will be in play in the interim, even as Bledsoe still gets plenty of mileage out of kineticism alone. — R.M.
94. Chandler Parsons, Houston Rockets (F, 24)
2012-13 stats: 36.3 MPG, 15.5 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 3.5 APG, 1.0 SPG, 48.6 FG%, 38.5 3FG%
2012-13 advanced stats: 15.3 PER, 7.0 Win Shares, -0.1 RAPM
Parsons was Houston’s second-leading scorer last season, thanks to drastically improved shooting from Year 1 to Year 2. The former second-round pick has become synonymous with value, as he stands to make less than $1 million this season. That fact is particularly funny, given that Parsons served as chief recruiter in Houston’s pursuit of Dwight Howard. Can’t management cut him off a little finder’s fee? The arrival of Howard means Parsons should slide naturally into a No. 3 scoring role, an occupation that should fit him nicely. Parsons rose to the occasion as his minutes increased in the playoffs (18.2 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 3.7 assists in 39.7 minutes). That’s a positive sign for the future, considering the Rockets’ goals, – B.G.
93. Ricky Rubio, Minnesota Timberwolves (G, 22)
2012-13 stats: 29.7 MPG, 10.7 PPG, 7.3 APG, 4.0 RPG, 2.4 SPG, 36.0 FG%, 29.3 3FG%
2012-13 advanced stats: 16.2 PER, 3.0 Win Shares, +3.2 RAPM
Bag on Rubio’s shooting if you will, but few see the floor as fully as he does and fewer still combine that level of playmaking with impact defense. Even at this early stage in his development, he’s a transformational player. His presence on the floor translates to smoother offense (despite not projecting as much of a scorer) and more stifling defense, all of which makes him a worthy building block for Minnesota despite his obvious flaws. Even mediocre shooting numbers would go a long way in propelling Rubio up this list, but in his current form he’s still a skilled, helpful two-way player. — R.M.
92. Shawn Marion, Dallas Mavericks (SF, 35)
2012-13 stats: 30.0 MPG, 12.1 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 2.4 APG, 1.1 SPG, 51.4 FG%
2012-13 advanced stats: 18.0 PER, 5.3 Win Shares, -0.7 RAPM
Marion has long been a master of subtlety, and he quietly persists as one of the NBA’s most versatile defenders. He draws an opponent’s top wing threat by default but often shifts over to defend big men or slides up to corral speedy point guards. Length and savvy allow him such freedom, as Marion, who is tough to lure out of sound defensive position, remains one of the best at contesting shots without overcommitting. He’s also a solid rebounder for his position and still a capable scorer, though most of his points come through impromptu post-ups or periodic floaters. Neither is an especially consistent weapon (he’s best served as a fourth or fifth option because of his problems creating offense), but Marion’s slippery moves toward the basket make him difficult to fully lock down. — R.M.
91. Brandon Jennings, Detroit Pistons (G, 23)
2012-13 stats: 36.2 MPG, 17.5 PPG, 6.5 APG, 3.1 RPG, 1.6 SPG, 39.9 FG%, 37.5 3FG%
2012-13 advanced stats: 16.1 PER, 5.8 Win Shares, -2.5 RAPM
This summer should have been a humbling experience for Jennings, but something tells me he won’t see it that way. It’s not often that an organization decides to part with its former top-10 pick who started for four years and twice guided his team to the playoffs, especially when the market set his worth at a relatively modest $24 million over three years. That’s what happened to Jennings, who was dumped in a sign-and-trade to Detroit so that Milwaukee, which deemed him not good enough to be worth the hassle, could start fresh. Jennings is a flashy playmaker with shot-selection issues and an almost delusional level of self-confidence. His reputation will get a boost if he finds a way to make the Pistons’ unusual puzzle pieces fit on offense. — B.G.
90. Jimmy Butler, Chicago Bulls (G, 23)
2012-13 stats: 26.0 MPG, 8.6 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 1.4 APG, 1.0 SPG, 46.7 FG%, 38.1 3FG%
2012-13 advanced stats: 15.2 PER, 7.0 Win Shares, +1.0 RAPM
Butler’s claim to a spot on this list is a thin one: He barely played during his rookie year before enjoying a breakout sophomore season in which both his traditional stats and advanced numbers still looked fairly pedestrian. His performance on the eyeball test was another matter entirely, particularly during the playoffs, when he played tenacious defense, accepted every challenge and upped his scoring as his minutes increased. His play against the Nets and Heat produced a chorus appreciation from impartial observers and envy from fans of other teams. That chorus swelled to a shrieking mob when he went off for 21 points and 14 rebounds and played all 48 minutes in Chicago’s Game 1 win over Miami in the second round. Butler’s NBA existence is headed for another shake of the Magic 8 Ball in Year 3 thanks to Derrick Rose’s return, but his hungry, team-first approach should ease that transition. — B.G.
89. Klay Thompson, Golden State Warriors (G, 23)
2012-13 stats: 35.8 MPG, 16.6 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 2.2 APG, 1.0 SPG, 42.2 FG%, 40.1 3FG%
2012-13 advanced stats: 12.7 PER, 4.3 Win Shares, -0.6 RAPM
The lesser-known Splash Brother didn’t ascend to stardom like Stephen Curry, but he did succeed in putting himself on the NBA map during his second season. Leave Thompson at your own risk: He shot a healthy 40.1 percent from three-point range despite averaging more than six attempts per game. The only other player who accomplished that feat last year? You guessed it: Curry. What stood out about his role in Golden State’s playoff run was his fearlessness. His offensive contributions ebbed and flowed, but he had some incredible high-water marks (21 points and five threes in Game 2 against the Nuggets in the first round; 34 points and eight threes in Game 2 against the Spurs in the second round). He has the size and desire to be a plus-defender as he develops, too. There could be a transition period as Golden State figures out how to integrate Andre Iguodala, but a knockdown, quick-trigger shooter such as Thompson will be helpful under almost any circumstances. — B.G.
88. Goran Dragic, Phoenix Suns (G, 27)
2012-13 stats: 33.5 MPG, 14.7 PPG, 7.4 APG, 44.3 FG%, 31.9 3FG%
2012-13 advanced stats: 17.5 PER, 5.7 Win Shares, +2.0 RAPM
Though not quick or skilled enough to be a spectacular player, Dragic has the off-the-dribble resources to act as a solid lead guard. His game is grounded in peculiarity; Dragic surprises both opponents and teammates with his offbeat moves off the dribble. But it’s through that unique timing that Dragic is able to stutter and squirm his way to the basket — the area of the floor that most defines his value. Once Dragic gets deep enough into the paint, every deke and fake becomes especially effective, allowing him open passing lanes, clean looks inside and an opportunity to draw fouls. That skill enables him to make up for some iffy shooting off the bounce and generally slow-footed defense, though not to a degree that would justify a higher ranking than this. — R.M.
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.
74. Tiago Splitter, San Antonio Spurs (C, 28)
2012-13 stats: 24.7 MPG, 10.3 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 24.7 MPG, 56.0 FG%
2012-13 advanced stats: 18.7 PER, 8.2 Win Shares, +3.7 RAPM
Far too many consider Splitter to be a mere sidekick for Tim Duncan or a prop for a LeBron James highlight, but the Spurs’ center is one of the few big men capable of both high-level team defense and highly efficient pick-and-roll play. That combination makes him more or less ideal for the modern NBA, where the ability to navigate the space in the lane on both offense and defense is paramount. When looking to score, Splitter does a terrific job of hesitating on his rolls to the rim — a simple delay that allows him to capitalize on the gaps in the opponent’s coverage. The result? An impressive 66.3 percent shooting in pick-and-roll scenarios, with a healthy dose of drawn fouls to boot. Splitter also brings that same understanding of space and timing to wall off opponents from the paint, where he’s just quick enough to help against opposing guards before then recovering to his assigned man on-point. That he strikes that balance so consistently makes him quite a catch, no matter his limitations. — R.M.
73. Kevin Martin, Minnesota Timberwolves (G, 30)
2012-13 stats: 27.7 MPG, 14.0 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 1.4 APG, 45.0 FG%, 42.6 3FG%
2012-13 advanced stats: 16.0 PER, 7.0 Win Shares, +0.3 RAPM
Martin isn’t particularly strong, he isn’t a natural distributor, he definitely isn’t someone you can rely for rebounding and he most definitely isn’t an impact defender. What does that leave? At this stage of his career, an efficient complementary scorer with great range and, until injuries hit in 2011-2012 and his role narrowed in 2012-13, the ability to get to the free-throw line early and often. Last season, after being acquired from Houston in the James Harden trade, Martin was the sixth man and No. 3 scoring option on a Thunder team that ranked No. 2 in offensive efficiency. Oklahoma City posted a better offensive rating and a better net rating with Martin than at any point during the Harden era. There’s no question that Oklahoma City missed Harden’s playmaking ability when Russell Westbrook went down with a season-ending knee injury in the playoffs, as Martin failed to step up into a secondary scoring role behind Kevin Durant. That turn of events shouldn’t erase the Thunder’s top-notch body of work in the regular season, and Martin’s role in it. Minnesota made Martin a very generous offer this summer, and he will reunite with Rick Adelman, who oversaw some of Martin’s best work in Houston. – B.G.
72. Danny Granger, Indiana Pacers (F, 30)
2012-13 stats: 14.8 MPG, 5.4 PPG, 1.8 RPG, 28.6 FG%, 20.0 3FG%
2012-13 advanced stats: 4.0 PER, -0.1 Win Shares, +1.0 RAPM
Note: Granger played only five games because of a knee injury
Danny who? If you happened to blink in February and March, you missed Granger’s brief and unsuccessful comeback from left-knee problems. And if you didn’t check in with the Pacers until the postseason, when Paul George was already certified as an All-Star and regarded as one of the game’s top up-and-comers, you could be forgiven for not even noticing Granger’s absence. Could the stage be set for an out-of-nowhere comeback to quality play? Granger is only 30, and he missed just seven games combined the previous two seasons. His PER was well above average every season from 2009-12, and he’s shot consistently well from three-point range. With George’s emergence and some added depth this summer, Indiana is in a position to ease Granger into whatever role he can handle. Hanging over his return are the financial realities: This could very well be his swan song in Indiana because his $14 million contract expires after the season and George will be due for a max extension. — B.G.
71. Carlos Boozer, Chicago Bulls (F, 31)
2012-13 stats: 32.2 MPG, 16.2 PPG, 9.8 RPG, 2.3 APG, 47.7 FG%
2012-13 advanced stats: 17.1 PER, 5.7 Win Shares, -1.1 RAPM
Boozer is far from an ideal first-option scorer, but players (like him) who can successfully act as an offensive funnel are of greater value than their raw numbers suggest. Chicago’s offense was problematic when leaning too heavily on Boozer, but there’s something to be said about his possession usage, flexibility and passing as a means for avoiding disaster. He’s good in a pinch and even better when paired with a top shot creator (such as Derrick Rose, for example). Regardless, he is a consistent source of both points and rebounds, which helps counter the fact that his defense remains a total mess. Boozer doesn’t move well laterally, and even after a few years under Tom Thibodeau, he still winds up conceding space and points on pretty basic play actions. That he’s too short to contest shooters and too slow to keep his man in front of him tends to create some pretty glaring problems, though a defense as good as Chicago’s can still account for both while sustaining elite marks. — R.M.
70. Jose Calderon, Dallas Mavericks (G, 31)
2012-13 stats: 29.6 MPG, 11.3 PPG, 7.1 APG, 47.0 FG%, 46.1 3FG%
2012-13 advanced stats: 18.8 PER, 7.4 Win Shares, -0.4 RAPM
Speaking of defensive liabilities, Calderon offers all the resistance of a turnstile on his better days. How much that matters depends very much on the team for which he plays. A sound system and the right teammates can mitigate the defensive damage a player like Calderon creates. But Toronto never quite had the back-line defenders to compensate for his blow-bys, while Dallas might be asking too much of new center Samuel Dalembert to make up for the concessions of both Calderon and backcourt mate Monta Ellis. Still, his defensive weaknesses aren’t so disastrous as to upend all the good that he does on offense, where Calderon is a wonderful, low-risk facilitator. Not many players can shoot or pass like Calderon, and with that combination of elite-level skills comes a unique capacity to enable his teammates. — R.M.
69. Omer Asik, Houston Rockets (C, 27)
2012-13 stats: 30.0 MPG, 10.1 PPG, 11.7 RPG, 1.1 BPG, 54.1 FG%
2012-13 advanced stats: 14.9 PER, 5.5 Win Shares, +4.5 RAPM
The Rockets have floated the idea of testing out how Asik and Dwight Howard, two traditional centers, work together. The conventional response to the concept seems to be skepticism, but it’s clear where Houston is coming from: Asik boasted a +5.9 net rating last season, tops among Rockets starters, and his +4.5 RAPM ranked in the top 20 league-wide. That’s real impact, and returning him to the reserve role he played in Chicago for two seasons would seem to be a major waste. No matter how the lineup combinations pan out, a hardworking 7-footer who puts up rebounding numbers on both sides of the court is of great use to a high-octane, three-happy Rockets offense that won’t need his scoring much, if at all, this season. — B.G.
68. Monta Ellis, Dallas Mavericks (G, 27)
2012-13 stats: 37.5 MPG, 19.2 PPG, 6.0 APG, 3.9 RPG, 2.1 SPG, 41.6 FG%, 28.7 3FG%
2012-13 advanced stats: 16.2 PER, 4.6 Win Shares, +1.1 RAPM
No one benefited more from Brandon Jennings’ idiotic “Bucks in 6″ prediction for a first-round playoff series against the Heat than Ellis, who finally got a reprieve from “Monta Ellis have it all” wisecracks. His unfortunate self-comparison to Dwyane Wade came during his worst shooting season since his rookie year of 2005-06, and Miami’s four-game sweep of Milwaukee (plus the Heat’s run to a second straight title) confirmed yet again how much distance there is between Ellis and the truly elite players at his position. Even so, moving to Dallas should serve him well, and his multifaceted offensive game should be put to good use in an organization known for its use of analytics. If the Mavericks’ number-crunchers can persuade Ellis to think before he chucks, perhaps he can add a meaningful second chapter to a career that’s stalled over the last two years. — B.G.
67. Gordon Hayward, Utah Jazz (G/F, 23)
2012-13 stats: 29.2 MPG, 14.1 PPG, 3.0 APG, 3.1 RPG, 43.5 FG%, 41.5 3FG%
2012-13 advanced stats: 16.8 PER, 5.4 Win Shares, +1.7 RAPM
Hayward is already quite versatile — a quality scorer, a defensive irritant, a capable passer — and needs only the time and opportunity to further develop his skills with the ball. He’s athletic and controlled enough to do some nice things as is, and as soon as this season Hayward could grow to be far more comfortable generating offense. If that development takes a bit more time, Hayward still offers a baseline of strong all-around play with few gaps. He’s a hard cutter and sweet shooter (41.6 percent on three-pointers, including 46.7 percent on spot-up threes). He does well defending either wing position, rebounds enough to get by and brought his scoring up to 17.4 points per 36 minutes this past season. That kind of balance gives the Jazz a lot to work with, and solidifies Hayward’s standing as one of the better up-and-coming wings in the league. — R.M.
66. Anderson Varejao, Cleveland Cavaliers (C, 30)
2012-13 stats: 36.0 MPG, 14.1 PPG, 14.4 RPG, 3.3 APG, 1.5 SPG, 47.8 FG%
2012-13 advanced stats: 21.7 PER, 3.3 Win Shares, +4.1 RAPM
Note: Varejao played only 25 games because of assorted injuries, including leg surgery
Let’s take a moment to pour one out for Varejao’s aborted 2013 All-Star candidacy. Before injuries wreaked havoc for the third year in a row, the Brazilian center jumped out to a phenomenal start by placing among the league leaders in rebounding and doing what he could to hold together a pathetic Cavaliers team defense. Known as an energy guy, Varejao was Cleveland’s leading interior scorer and he posted an eye-popping 15.4 assist percentage. He’s reached — and arguably exceeded — Andrew Bogut-esque levels of health concerns and, given his age and the fact that Cleveland took the Andrew Bynum plunge, it’s reasonable to wonder whether he will ever be able to maintain the durability needed to aid in the Cavaliers’ ascent. — B.G.
65. Tyreke Evans, New Orleans Hornets (G/F, 23)
2012-13 stats: 31.0 MPG, 15.2 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 3.5 APG, 1.4 SPG, 47.8 FG%, 33.8 3FG%
2012-13 advanced stats: 18.1 PER, 4.4 Win Shares, -0.2 RAPM
Figuring out how to best use Evans can be a chore, but his instincts and physicality translate to some impressive individual production. In theory, he could fill a variety of roles: an oversized point guard, a slashing wing, a one-man juggernaut off the bench, a supporting ball-handler or even a post-up facilitator. But the Kings never quite figured out how to strike the appropriate balance around Evans. That task now belongs to the Pelicans, who gave him a four-year, $44 million deal in a sign-and-trade with Sacramento. Whether New Orleans can provide the right fit for Evans remains to be seen, but its far more intriguing roster could make better use of the enigmatic guard’s flexibility. Regardless, Evans doesn’t have a great feel for running an offense and has a long way to go as a defender and shooter. He produces despite those limitations, but they do complicate matters when constructing lineups around his rare talents. — R.M.
64. Rudy Gay, Toronto Raptors (F, 27)
2012-13 stats: 35.8 MPG, 18.2 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 2.7 APG, 1.5 SPG, 41.6 FG%, 32.3 3FG%
2012-13 advanced stats: 15.6 PER, 4.0 Win Shares, +0.4 RAPM
The Rudy Gay Experience was an all-around bummer in 2012-13: He put up his worst scoring and shooting numbers since his rookie year of 2006-07, a particularly rough turn of events for a high-volume shooter. It wasn’t just that. In January, Gay was traded from a Memphis team that went on to make the conference finals to a Toronto team that was desperately chasing a playoff spot it couldn’t possibly reach. Many observers panned the Raptors’ move and the executive who acquired him, Bryan Colangelo, was replaced this summer. Even if his shooting numbers recover to some degree, it’s hard to envision Gay’s succeeding in carrying this team to the playoffs, even in a down year for the bottom of the East. Then what? — B.G.
63. Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons (C, 20)
2012-13 stats: 20.7 MPG, 7.9 PPG, 7.6 RPG, 1.6 BPG, 60.8 FG%
2012-13 advanced stats: 21.6 PER, 4.5 Win Shares, +1.9 RAPM
Drummond is far and away one of the most difficult players to place on a list like this. His ridiculous per-minute impact as a teenager — and all the upside it foretells– suggests a player who could conceivably be regarded as a top-15 asset right now. The Pistons would reject straight-up offers for Drummond involving a good 30 players listed above him in this exercise, but the UConn product and iCarly fanboy still has plenty to prove during his sophomore season. Was his midseason back injury a one-time fluky hiccup? (He looked very good during the Orlando Summer League.) Can he handle full-time starter’s minutes for a team with playoff aspirations? Can the 37.1 percent free-throw shooter avoid falling victim to endless Hack-a-Shaqing? Can he team with Greg Monroe and Josh Smith to make the jumbo lineup a functional concept? Can his evident potential as a traditional back-line stopper translate into team-wide improvement for a Detroit squad that ranked No. 23 in points allowed per possession last season? — B.G.
62. Thaddeus Young, Philadelphia 76ers (F, 25)
2012-13 stats: 34.6 MPG, 14.8 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 1.8 SPG, 53.1 FG%
2012-13 advanced stats: 18.2 PER, 7.4 Win Shares, +3.0 RAPM
Young’s game is sublimely understated, in part because he’s always been the second- or third-best player on mediocre Sixers teams, but also because the things that he does best generally go unseen. He’s a skilled, flexible defender who does his work early in possessions to keep opponents from getting into their plays. With that type of prevention, he registers a far greater defensive impact than is immediately visible in the box score. Navigating space and managing switches are no problem for Young, who has the versatility to defend myriad player types, whether in help or by design. His offensive game, meanwhile, has been trimmed of all fat. About 70 percent of Young’s field-goal attempts came within nine feet of the basket last season, thanks to pristine shot selection via cuts, rolls and improvised post-ups. He doesn’t step outside himself or take on responsibility he shouldn’t, admirable qualities that serve as a boon for his game. — R.M.
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|