Sports Illustrated released their annual list of the NBA’s top 100 players, which means it’s time to argue like crazy here and on social media until the season starts! While Ben Golliver and Rob Mahoney are immensely smart dudes who do great work throughout the year, the fact that they ranked (insert player) at (insert number) is (insert insult)!!!
Just as a note: A lot of these lists will be released in the coming weeks. This is probably the only one we’ll make note of in its own post here, as there’s obvious relevance after DeRozan’s ranking and reaction a year ago.
DeMarre Carroll – Snub – Somewhat surprisingly listed among players who didn’t miss the cut by much (with no sign of Terrence Ross, P.J. Tucker, or Norman Powell in that group).
Patrick Patterson – No. 99 – I’m sure this won’t start any debate on Twitter at all.
Jonas Valanciunas – No. 80 (Last year: 62)
Here’s Golliver pretty much summing up Valanciunas’ Raptors tenure:
There’s an unmistakable sadness to the flatlining of Valanciunas (12 PPG, 9.5 RPG), a huge, crafty and efficient scoring center whose signature skills aren’t truly essential to his team’s guard-dominated attack and whose defensive limitations make him an obvious demotion target in the postseason.
Getting the nod in the top 100 is still a compliment to Valanciunas, and the slide from a year ago is understandable given the lack of a step forward. Remember: Ranking 80th means you would be, on average, the third-best player on a team in a re-draft vacuum, and while some will argue that number should be one or 15 for Valanciunas, the truth remains that he’s efficient and productive in the role he’s asked to play, one that doesn’t seem likely to change in any dramatic way this coming season.
And sorry, Masai Ujiri, but the SI guys ranked Andre Drummond higher (at No. 50).
Serge Ibaka – No. 56 (Last year: 42)
At times, Ibaka looked like he could repeat his ranking from a year ago after joining the Raptors. Those times were mostly when he was at center, and particularly against the Milwaukee Bucks in the playoffs. There were other occasions – most of his time in Orlando and the Cleveland Cavaliers series – where there was a genuine question as to whether he belonged anywhere but the back end here. His final ranking splits the difference and might even represent only a conservative slide from last year – he’s still a productive player and even a good third wheel, all things considered, but this is no longer pre-injury Ibaka.
As Golliver writes:
Ibaka’s three-point shooting range and his ability to play both the four and five helped him pull down a three-year, $64 million contract from the Raptors this summer, but even that payday was a reminder of what could have been. Had the 2014 version of Ibaka hit the market this summer, he would have easily commanded a nine-figure deal.
DeMar DeRozan – No. 36 (Last year: 46 and unhappy)
Look, it’s a 10-spot increase, and the guys took the requisite slack for No. 46 last year in stride. No. 36 is sure to draw more “FOH” from DeRozan and Raptors fans alike, an All-NBA player outside of the top 30 entirely. And sure, there are arguments to be made about DeRozan’s overall value in the modern game when both sides of the ball are factored in (especially with the consistent on-off numbers looking negatively on him), but he’s made three All-Star teams and an All-NBA in the last four years, co-leading a very good team in each of those seasons. I don’t really need to be writing this – we’ve discussed this all for years, DeRozan’s unique place in the NBA value landscape, and it’s not entirely worth rehashing once more (though we all surely will).
As Mahoney explains:
Every year we relitigate the case of DeMar DeRozan, perhaps the league’s most polarizing player. Our verdict comes down to this: DeRozan is a refined, impressive scorer whose limitations create real problems. His best skill—and his only one that is above average—is one we’ve seen repeatedly stifled in a postseason setting, leaving us with lasting concerns about the ceiling DeRozan imposes on his own team.
So, yeah. DeRozan surely won’t be happy about this, and it’s going to fire up some debate as to whether more well-rounded but less singularly talented players like Khris Middleton and Bradley Beal belong ahead of him on this list. If nothing else, the basketball world continues to give DeRozan more #ProveEm fuel to drive his ever-improving game. So, thank you?
UPDATE: And right on cue…
UPDATE II: ESPN had DeRozan at 39.
Kyle Lowry – No. 19 (Last year: 14)
We’ll update this when Lowry’s section of the rankings goes up. Consistently a top-20, sometimes even top-10 player based on advanced metrics, Lowry had a down-ballot MVP-caliber start to his season derailed by injury and never quite returned to full form in the playoffs. He’ll be hit with the same playoff-related criticisms as DeRozan, lose points in the eyes of some for a more cerebral style that doesn’t come with gaudy counting stats, and gain an edge for his efficient scoring, playmaking and ability to make others better, and defense. Lowry and DeRozan are co-stars and co-leaders of this franchise, and while Lowry will once again be ranked ahead on this list, that probably matters little to the established dynamic between the two and the rest of the roster.
UPDATE: Lowry came in at 19th, two spots ahead of Kyrie Irving and one behind Mike Conley.