Welcome back to our second installation of the Top 100 NBA Players! Click here for a link to 100-76. As always, be sure to send us any questions, comments, thoughts, and of course feedback! We’d love to hear what you think of the Top 100 project and Premium Hoops.
Do you agree with our rankings and justifications? Let us know!
Disclaimer: This does not reflect or project the worth of a player. Each player has great indiviudal attributes, abilities, and qualities. We treat this more as a front office exercise and a collective thought experiment.
75. Blake Griffin
The 31 year old Griffin finds himself this low strictly due to injuries derailing his 2019-2020 campaign. Griffin appeared in just 18 games this past season and struggled, scoring just 15.5 points per game in only 28 minutes with a horrid 47.6 TS%.
The last time we saw a healthy Blake Griffin he was an All-NBA 3rd team selection and shot 36% on seven three attempts per game. He also continued to impress with his passing and scored at a career high per-possession rate. We’re all hoping to see him healthy again. – Nate G.
74. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
SGA had a wonderful sophomore campaign after being moved from LAC to OKC as part of the Paul George trade. Playing with Chris Paul helped jump start the young guards career, as the veteran took SGA under his wing. Gilgeous-Alexander actualized some of the potential he flashed as a rookie, putting up 19/6/3 on slightly above average efficiency.
SGA is one of the most fun-to-watch guards in the league. He can score at all three levels and especially loves the floater area. He has nice touch around the rim and excelled at drawing fouls for a second-year guard. SGA showed signs of the potential to be a good passer as well and also is very comfortable taking mid range shots on the move.
However, he does have plenty of areas where he could grow. His three-point shot is very unorthodox and the results are a mixed bag. He shot 35% on low volume, compared to 37% last season. He has the tools to be a good defender with his length and size for his position, but struggles with footwork on the perimeter and isn’t particularly athletic, nor strong.
Natural player growth could very well vault him higher up this list. SGA is a smart player and knows where he needs to improve. If that three point shot improves this upcoming season and his playmaking reads continue to improve, we’re talking about a sub All-Star here. – Nate G.
73. Jaren Jackson Jr.
Triple J had arguably the biggest shooting leap of any player in the NBA this season outside of Brandon Ingram. Jackson shot nearly 40% from deep on 6.5 attempts a game, regularly flying off of screens and pindowns — and that’s coming from a 6’11 big man. Outside of his shooting prowess, Jackson showed the ability to face up and beat slower footed bigs off the dribble with his functional handle.
The real potential now lies in his defense. Coming out of college Jaren had All-Defense level potential with his 7’4 wingspan and ability to play both front court positions. In his rookie season he showed glimpses of it, but this season the development really halted. Jaren was a leap frog, regularly getting into foul trouble. This not only hurt his minutes, but affected the way he could have played defense down the stretch of these games. If Jaren can continue to show off that shooting ability but also grow as a defender next season, he could jump up this list fairly quickly. – Nate G.
72. Joe Ingles
Joe Ingles reclaimed his starting spot when Mike Conley hurt his hamstring in early December. The Jazz were 12-9 and falling short of expectations in this young season. Ingles re-insertion in the starting five changed this. Once he started, Utah went 29-14 until the shutdown. They posted a 116.8 offensive rating, trailing only the Mavericks during this period.
Yes, Mitchell took a leap, but not to a degree that suggested he could be the main driver of a league-leading offense. Ingles spearheaded the Jazz’ identity of quick player and ball movement. If one player had a mere good shot, they’d whip it to the next shooter for a great shot. When Utah is firing on all cylinders, their offense looks pseudo-Spursian.
Ingles demands hard closeouts as one of the league’s elite catch-and-shoot guys. Once he forces these closeouts, he attacks the defense with his old-man-at-the-Y dribble game, forces help, and finds the opening. He also alleviates some of Mitchell’s creation duty by running pick and rolls with Gobert. There are times in which he seems like the most important player within the Jazz offense. – Scott L.
71. Jonathan Isaac
Jonathan Isaac’s ranking most certainly has nothing to do with his offensive abilities; it is a credit to his absurd defensive abilities. If not for an injury that caused him to miss two months of action before the hiatus, Isaac would have received plenty of All-Defense consideration. Isaac is a special player on the defensive end, that is, when he can stay on the court.
When the season resumed in late July, Isaac unfortunately suffered a torn ACL and meniscus, which will keep him out of all of the 2020-21 season. Isaac’s injury history is starting to rack up and it may really stunt the development of his offense. On that end, Isaac is trying to find his role and rhythm. He has a decent handle and creation ability, is great in transition, and finds open spots on the floor to cut into. We’re still waiting on his three-point shot to come along. He hasn’t been able to top his rookie season mark of 34.8% yet. Let’s hope Isaac can stay healthy when he returns, because he truly is a one-of-a-kind defensive talent. – Nate G.
70. Mike Conley
This is a safe space, so let’s be honest: Conley’s regular season was bad. Not counting his injury-ridden 2018 season, Conley averaged some of the worst numbers of his career since he first emerged on the scene in 2013. Most shocking was that this was the first time since 2009 that his team performed better with him on the bench. In our playoff preview podcast, we discussed reasons for this slump, and part of it may have to do with the spacing Marc Gasol provides versus a rim-roller like Rudy Gobert.
Nevertheless, Conley flipped the script and joined his teammate Donovan MItchell in a blustering offensive display in the playoffs. He averaged just shy of 20 points per game while shooting a ridiculous 53% on 6.8 threes a game. He also involved himself in one of the sneakiest what-ifs in recent NBA history: how do the playoffs change if he hits that game-winner in Game 7 against the Nuggets? – Cody H.
69. Myles Turner
Turner is a good rim protector who can hit open threes. This simple combination of skills drives his value. If Indiana heeds his alleged wish to be traded, the offers will line up at the door. There are but a handful of players who both shoot and protect the rim at a high level. Next to Turner, a team can incubate a non-rim protector who also cannot space to three. This is a key reason why Domantas Sabonis had an All-Star level season next to him.
Outside of shooting and swatting, he’s made slow but steady improvements when defending in space and started to add a pump-and-go game near the end of last year. He still needs to add strength, as he looked helpless against Bam Adebayo at times this past playoffs. Turner is still only 24, though, which is difficult to believe since he’s been relevant in the league for a while. A hard worker who has improved every year, Turner’s prime could just be starting. – Scott L.
68. D’Angelo Russell
There are questions about Russell’s value on his contract, in his role, and his ability to drive a winning offense. I didn’t mention defense because there isn’t a question about it. D’Angelo Russell is a lock to allow an onslaught of drives to the rim and fall asleep off-ball for the majority of a game.
Seemingly everyday, an argument erupts across NBA Twitter about D’Angelo Russell, often resulting in two counter-arguments: “Buckets!!!!” vs. “But, efficiency!!!!” It’s the gift that keeps on giving.
D’Angelo Russell is a damned good offensive basketball player. He’s not remarkably efficient and he likely will never draw fouls at a high rate, as he lives 15 feet and out. I don’t care. I don’t love Russell’s game, but it’s reductive to view every player as having to play a certain way. D’Lo can score at an above average rate, hit pull-up threes at a solid clip (34.5%), gun threes above league average (9.6 pg at ~37%), create in isolation, and is a good to sometimes very good playmaker. He scores a 12.2 in Ben Taylor‘s box creation metric, one of the top marks in the NBA.
In just under 400 possessions, the Timberwolves were +9.9pp/100 with Russell on court, by far his best on/off swing of his career. We’ll see if that can continue in his first full season alongside Karl-Anthony Towns. – Mark S.
67. DeMar DeRozan
In year 11, DeMar DeRozan put together the most efficient season of his career, averaging 23.4 point per 36 minutes on 60.3% True Shooting. Perhaps the largest boon to DeRozan’s efficency came from LaMarcus Aldridge’s spacing revelation, opening up the lane for DeRozan to shoot a ridiculous 67.2% adjusted FG% at the rim per B-Ball Index.
DeMar has continued to evolve into a quality passer in San Antonio, posting his best assist to usage ratio to date. However, much like D’Angelo Russell, DeRozan has his flaws as a player, notably on the defensive end. It’s so difficult to measure his value to winning basketball. I have no idea how the remainder of his career will play out, but if the bubble was any indication, we may see some small ball four in DeRozan’s future. Regardless, scoring is just about the most important thing in the NBA, and DeMar DeRozan can still score with the best of the league, which lands him on this list. – Mark S.
66. Paul Millsap
Don’t let the playoffs jade you, Paul Millsap had a sneakily good season for the Nuggets. He shot a career high from three at 43.5% on a shade over 2 attempts per game. Even in his mid-30’s, Millsap bolsters defenses with his timely rotations, great positioning, and backline reads. Prior to his first sustained injury in December, Denver had a top 10 defense, certainly due in part to Paul.
In the playoffs, Paul’s declining athleticism came home to roost. He really lost a step and struggled getting out to the corners and when faced up on the perimeter. While he was decent against Anthony Davis in the post, the Lakers big routinely took Millsap off the dribble from 16+ feet out. Paul’s time as a starter outside of occasional spot-starting is likely up.
That being said, Millsap is still a winning player and will seamlessly slide into a bench rotation. The Nuggets were nearly 11 points per 100 possessions better with Millsap on court; there’s little that leads me to believe he’ll be anything less than a productive and positive player until he retires. – Mark S.
65. PJ Tucker
PJ Tucker has made a career out of being a role player that is perfect to play alongside your team’s heliocentric creator. Tucker is an incredible complement to James Harden and Russell Westbrook: a player who does the dirty work on the glass, defends tough assignments with rare versatility, and hits corner threes. Although there are questions about how his game might translate in a different context, PJ Tucker plays for the James Harden Houston Rockets and should be judged as such. Spoiler alert: he’s very good!
The best part of Tucker’s game is his defensive versatility. He boasts a unique frame, stocky but long armed with a strong lower body. This allows him to defend anywhere from 1-5, and more importantly, to serve as the Rockets’ version of a center on both ends. James Harden is the F1 driver that drives the beautiful machine, but PJ Tucker is the key that allows the engine to start. Evan Z.
64. DeAndre Ayton
Ayton has impressed so far in his two years in the league, rebounding and defending at a high level and showing scoring prowess from the post and on lobs. He’s a physical force with an impressive combination of length, strength, and fluidity. While the shot hasn’t fully come around yet, Ayton has proven to be a franchise center with room to grow.
Unfortunately, Deandre Ayton’s season was cut short by a 25-game suspension due to a drug test that showed use of a masking agent. That said, he was very good this season for the Suns and capped off his admirable second season on a powerful note, featuring prominently in the Suns undefeated run in the bubble’s play in games. If he can start hitting shots consistently and improve his defensive versatility next season, Deandre will be capable of producing as a star level player on Suns team that is quickly approaching the playoff stratosphere. – Evan Z.
63. Tobias Harris
Okay, everyone. Take a deep breath because this one’s a weird one. Let’s recap Tobias Harris’ last two years in the NBA.
Harris broke out on the Clippers as a 20-point-per-game scorer. The Sixers traded for him in February 2019, hoping he’d the player to put them over the top. He struggled to acclimate to an off-ball role on the fly, especially against the defensive juggernaut 2019 Toronto Raptors. The Sixers transitioned him to a more on-ball role this past year. While he created efficient looks for himself, he had trouble navigating the Sixers’ slapdash offense as a creator for others.
I have spent more time analyzing Harris than pretty much any other player in the league over the past year. He is an immensely talented scorer with a compact shooting form that looks like he’s going to splash it every time. Yet there is something strangely robotic about his game. He has trouble adjusting to new situations. Every decision looks scripted and rarely is there a backup plan when the script is taken away. When the Sixers seemed to change up their identity every week this past season, this did not bode well for Harris.
I am unsure what Harris’ future holds on the Sixers, but he will thrive if they create a more defined and consistent role for him. This role should allow him to showcase his shotmaking while not overtaxing him as a distributor. – Scott L.
62. Ricky Rubio
In a 2019 executive survey conducted by ESPN’s Tim Bontemps, Ricky Rubio’s contract tied for first with the Knicks’ offseason for the worst move of that summer. While this seems ridiculous now, it is easy to understand why some thought Phoenix giving $51 million to Rubio was a bad idea. The Jazz had no interest in continuing the Donovan Mitchell/Rubio pairing. Why should the Suns be interested in a Devin Booker/Rubio pairing?
Rubio creates a weird fit wherever he lands. Usually he makes those weird fits work. Despite going into last season shooting 32% from three, he proved to be a great backcourt complement to Booker. Rubio’s shooting is always going to come and go, but he has found multiple ways to compensate for it. He is one of the premier point of attack defenders in the league, finishing 28th in Defensive Player Impact Plus-Minus. He is a savant-level passer who righted the ship for a sinking Phoenix offense. When the three-point shot did fall, Phoenix looked like a playoff team.
Sure, criticize Phoenix for trading T.J. Warren and De’Anthony Melton to create space for Rubio. Just know that Rubio was their second most consistent contributor this season and a major reason for the team’s breakout year. – Scott L.
61. John Collins
Atlanta Hawks big man John Collins is one of the best play finishers in the league, and is becoming a solid outside shooter. Collins shot 40% from deep on 3.6 attempts a night. Over the last 20 games of the season Collins was scorching hot averaging nearly 25 PPG, on 63% FG and 46.2% from deep.
Although he made some improvements this season, the concern with Collins is still his defense. Collins is your prototypical tweener, splitting time between the 4 and 5. He has concerns defensively at both of these positions. At the 4 he doesn’t have the cleanest footwork and can get caught on the perimeter. At the 5 his slight frame can be exposed. Collins made better reads this season but is still a bit late on rotations a lot of the time. However, he can make up for this with his athleticism and is definitely trending in the right direction. If Collins can continue to shoot it at the level he was, and continue to improve defensively, he could creep into that sub All-Star range. – Nate G.
60. Caris LeVert
From a team-building aspect, I don’t know what to make of LeVert. On one hand, he plays like a typical first option on offense. He often has the ball in his hands, and his 6.9 passer rating points to a player that adds value as a playmaker from the forward position. On the other hand, his true shooting percentage was nearly 5 points below league average, he shoots a shade under 5 free throws a game, and he shot 31.6% on catch-and-shoot threes.
It doesn’t seem like he has the necessary skill set to mesh next to the likes of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, but I also don’t know what the ceiling of a LeVert led team is. Clearly, he’s a very talented player who might find a home somewhere, but that talent is definitely capped. – Cody H.
59. T.J. Warren
T.J. Warren put together easily the best season of his career, even excluding the bubble. Warren played quality defense under Nate McMillan’s scheme and under Dan Burke’s tutelage.
What’s most intriguing to note with T.J. is that he’s not the dominant on-ball threat that one might initially think. While he can isolate, he thrives as an off-ball engine, curling off screens, through zipper actions, and intuitively cutting. Once he hits those spots, T.J. gets to work.
I say this without exaggeration, T.J. Warren is one of the top ten scorers in the NBA from 12 feet and in. He shot 73% at the rim this season as a wing, a mark above some bigs who excel in the paint. Warren is expert at using his body to get his exact shot, often using just the slightest shifts in his body and nudges of the defender to create space for himself. His floater is just an absurdly gorgeous shot.
What really opened up his game is the continued expansion of his 3-point shot making. For him to continue to climb up this list, his three is key, as is the improvement of his handle and passing. If he can operate more pick and roll and create for his teammates using his ever growing scoring gravity, T.J. Warren could be an All-Star. – Mark S.
58. Bojan Bogdanovic
It can be difficult to parse between Ingles, Bogdanovic, and Conley to determine who, among the three, is most helpful to the Jazz offense. Looking at the entirety of last season, it was probably Bogdanovic. He averaged 20.2 points per game, shooting 41% from three on a career high 7.9 attempts per 36 minutes. Bojan drained threes on the move and off the dribble. He warped defenders towards him, and, if they sold out on the contest, blew by them for easy twos. The Jazz started some possessions with a simple pick and pop between the ballhandler and Bojan just to scramble the defense before going into a different set.
The Jazz seemed to be fine on offense without Bogdanovic in the bubble. I attribute this to the improved play of Mitchell and Conley. If the two guards can pick up where they left off, this team could challenge the Mavericks as the best offense in the league when Bojan returns. No, really. – Scott L.
57. Spencer Dinwiddie
Spencer Dinwiddie has been one of the revelations of the Brooklyn Nets rebuild. After grinding in the G League for a few years, including some time with my beloved Chicago Bulls (thanks again, GarPax!), Dinwiddie landed in Brooklyn playing under Head Coach Kenny Atkinson. Dinwiddie made his chances count, admirably improving year over year and eventually taking the reins of the offense after D’Angelo Russell was traded. That tenure was short lived however, as the Nets landed both Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant in free agency, setting the stage for a championship run lead by two ball dominant stars.
Spencer has developed into an excellent passer who rarely makes mistakes (6.8 assists to 2.7 turnovers per game, per Basketball Reference). He doesn’t just set up his teammates though; he’s a plus iso scorer and attacks the rim with consistency. While a solid steward of the offense himself, Dinwiddie is no superstar (especially from downtown, where his shot is inconsistent) and will likely find his next fit on a different team as part of a Nets trade to acquire a third star or starters that fit better alongside KD and Kyrie. – Evan Z.
56. Goran Dragic
Dragic emptied the tank last playoffs and even tried to play on a torn plantar fascia in Game 6 of The Finals. This came as no surprise from the guy who left a game in 2016 to get stitches on his mouth and later returned to said game. The 34-year-old Slovenian point guard is a free agent and I have no idea what the level of interest will be from other teams. He was an All-Star caliber player this past playoffs but is he likely to reach that level again?
I don’t know, but who cares? Dragic was awesome, especially during the Celtics series in which he outdueled (that’s right) Kemba Walker. The Heat’s rise seemed inexplicable at first, but perhaps the easiest explanation is that Dragic rested up over the hiatus and became their elusive third star next to Jimmy and Bam. After shooting a measly 36% from short mid-range (described by Cleaning The Glass as between 4-14 feet from the hoop), Dragic made 49% from this area in the playoffs. I could not keep track of how many crafty floaters he sunk to bail the Heat out of bad possessions.
Shots from this intermediate area were a staple of his game circa 2018, when he last made the All-Star team. It is the surest indicator of whether or not Dragic is on his A-game. His three-point stroke and passing never went anywhere, but for much of last season and his 2018-2019 campaign, Dragic lacked the mid-range scoring punch necessary to warp the defense and open up passing lanes. We’re in limbo now with Dragic, unsure if the playoffs were the last hurrah or a sign that he is back to being an All-Star. For that reason, he shouldn’t crack the top 40 but also should rank no lower than 60. – Scott L.
55. Eric Bledsoe
Bledsoe is on the short list of best perimeter defenders in the league. Okay, I’ll get to why you’re really here. He is not a great fit within the Milwaukee offense, to put it lightly. His creation cannot buoy their halfcourt offense and he creates spacing concerns off-ball. Giannis and Bledsoe work like a dream defensively. However, based on the Bucks last two playoff exits, it seems as though one might have to go for the Bucks to reach their ceiling, and it certainly isn’t Giannis.
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk more about what Bledsoe is excellent at: defense. He is an elite point of attack defender and screen navigator, who can guard up multiple positions. Off-ball, he flies around deploying his high-level instincts and ridiculous wingspan.
Bledsoe couples this with capable ball handling and finishing on the other end. I think he could be a modest plus on offense in the playoffs if surrounded by four shooters, yet Milwaukee cannot provide this offensive environment. It will be interesting to see if they try to make it work despite this or trade him as Giannis enters the last year of his contract. – Scott L.
54. Brook Lopez
Brook Lopez was great again this year, spacing the floor and protecting the rim at a high level for the best regular season team in the NBA. Not many bigs let it fly like he does, and his willingness to shoot gets heavy use in Mike Budenholzer’s offensive scheme. This allows Giannis Antetokounmpo to go to work driving everyone in his path into the core of the earth. Although BroLo’s shooting regressed this year (down from 36.5% on 6.3 attempts per game in 2018-19 to 31.4% on 4.8 attempts per game this season per Basketball Reference), he remains one of the best combinations of floor spacing and rim protection in the modern era.
Rim protection is where he shines brightest. Lopez uses his 7’6” wingspan and savvy positioning to snuff out interior threats in deep drop coverage. He’s incredibly active on this front too, contesting 51% of Rim Shots according to BBall Index. Brook not only showed up in these situations, he showed out with a ridiculous 7.9% block rate according to Basketball Reference, good for third best in the league. As long as Bud is the main man on the bench in Milwaukee and Giannis Antetokounmpo starts alongside him, Brook Lopez will hold incredible value as the co-captain of one of the best defenses of the modern era. – Evan Z.
53. LaMarcus Aldridge
LaMarcus Aldridge saw the light this season, and finally started launching threes at a rate he’d never even approached in his career. He made more threes this season than in his four prior COMBINED in San Antonio.
Aldridge started the year doing much of the same, popping to 18 feet and swishing at a competent rate, but shooting well enough that you question why he isn’t popping just a little further. After missing the first two games of December, something clicked seemingly out of nowhere. I have no idea what occurred, but the unknown come to Jesus moment revitalized LaMarcus’ career. He was shooting around 1.5 threes per game across the first 20 games, but shot 3.8 per game in the remaining 33 games he played, hitting at 39.7%!
His offensive renaissance opened the floor for the rest of the Spurs, and made his sub-par defense more tenable. San Antonio’s offensive rating bumped from 109.5 in the first 20 games to 112.3 the rest of the pre-hiatus regular season.
In the right scenario and scheme, and with his space-oriented mindset, Aldridge is still a valuable player who can do some great things with the ball in his hands. – Mark S.
52. Malcolm Brogdon
Few established players in the league saw the role and volume shift that Malcolm Brogdon did in his transition to become a primary ball-handler.
- 8.9% increase in usage rate
- nearly 20% increase in assist percentage (From the 24th percentile to the 97th percentile)
Many saw the drop in efficency after a 50/40/90 season and chalked it up to poor fit and inability to fit the role given to him. However, it’s important to note the list of injuries he incurred this season as well before deciphering his place in ball dominance hierarchy.
In his first 19 games in Indiana, Brogdon played at a near All-Star level: 19/5/8 on 57.9% True Shooting and the Pacers went 12-7. He dropped starkly in efficiency as he accrued injuries throughout the season. Ailments aside, Brogdon showed that he’s deserving of more touches on-ball, as evidenced by his remarkable two-man game with Domantas Sabonis. However, he’s more of a combo guard than a true point or primary. How Nate Bjorkgren attempts to balance getting Brogdon better off-ball looks and easier spot-ups while still running a hefty amount of PnR will be interesting. It still remians to be seen how well Victor Oladipo and Malcolm Brogdon can mesh as a backcourt. – Mark S.
51. Jusuf Nurkic
Prior to his gruesome injury during the 2018-19 season, the Blazers were riding high with their big man of the future. His defensive flexibility combined with his passing vision lets the Blazers use him in a way similar to how the Miami Heat employ Bam Adebayo. Statistically, he averaged career highs in points, rebounds, free throw attempts, free throw percentage, and field goal percentage en route to having the 8th highest PIPM during that season. As a 26-year-old, he’s on the short list of centers in the NBA whose prime might be defined by having no weaknesses.
However, I want to keep my eye on an interesting statistical outcome from the 2019 season. In total, Nurkic missed 10 games with the Blazers. In those 10 games, the Blazers were nearly 6 points per 100 possessions better on offense and a shade over 1 point better on defense. That’s a very small sample size, but it’s also not something we should ignore about the Blazers’ second best player. – Cody H.