Sports Illustrated released its Top 100 NBA players for the 2021-2022 season this week. Three former Virginia Cavaliers men’s basketball players cracked the list.
Joe Harris was ranked No. 72, up 14 spots from No. 86 in SI’s rankings from last season. Harris enters his eighth season in the NBA and fifth season with the Brooklyn Nets. The 2019 Three-Point Contest champion looks to reprise his role as one of the league’s best sharpshooters alongside a loaded Nets roster, led by Kevin Durant, James Harden, and Kyrie Irving. If the Nets can stay healthy, they will be the sure-fire favorite to win the Eastern Conference and advance to the NBA Finals.
Sports Illustrated’s Ben Pickman had this to say about Harris in SI’s rankings story:
“One of the game’s premier long-range shooters, Harris led the NBA in three-point percentage for the second time in three seasons in 2021, converting on 47.5% of his attempts. Much of his success, though, was overshadowed by his struggles against the Bucks in the Eastern Conference semifinals, which saw him shoot just 24.2% from three in the series’ final five games. That cold streak aside, Harris is a marksman and poised for another stellar season alongside the Nets’ Big Three.”
De’Andre Hunter made the biggest leap of the three, moving up to No. 56 after not being ranked in last season’s rankings. Hunter enters year three in the NBA as one of the league’s top young two-way players for the Atlanta Hawks and many experts have Hunter tabbed for a breakout year in the 2021-2022 NBA season. Hunter missed significant time with an injury last season, including most of the playoffs in which the Hawks advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals, before losing to the eventual NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks. This season, Hunter and Trae Young look to lead the Hawks to another deep playoff run.
Sports Illustrated writer Jeremy Woo wrote this about De’Andre Hunter:
“Living up to his billing as a high-floor draft pick, the 23-year-old Hunter has rapidly emerged as a valuable supporting piece in Atlanta, capable of defending all over the perimeter and knocking down jumpers on the other end. He appeared in just 23 games last year due to a nagging knee issue, but looked like the Hawks’ second-best player pre-injury, showing off vastly improved shot-creation skills. A proper, full-season jump in production could be on the table.”
Finally, Malcolm Brogdon moved up seven spots from No. 54 to No. 47 in this year’s rankings. Brogdon begins his sixth NBA season and third season with the Indiana Pacers. After becoming just the eighth player in NBA history to record a 50-40-90 season in 2019 with the Milwaukee Bucks, Brogdon signed a contract to join the Pacers and has been Indiana’s starting point guard for the last two seasons. After missing the playoffs in 2021, the Pacers hired former Dallas Mavericks head coach (and UVA men’s basketball alum) Rick Carlisle as head coach. Brogdon and Carlisle will look to put the Pacers in position to make a run at the franchise’s first ever NBA championship this season.
Sports Illustrated’s Chris Herring wrote the following about Brogdon:
“Brogdon would make just about any team better. He’s someone who shouldn’t be your best player, necessarily. But he can create his own shot if needed, set the table for others and knock down an open look. He can play either guard spot and is a solid defender. Not quite as good as Jrue Holiday, who’s a more natural floor general and a superior hound on defense. Yet Brogdon is a taller, better-shooting, diet version of him. Who wouldn’t want that?"
As Tony Bennett continues to send UVA basketball players to the NBA, we look forward to seeing more Wahoos on this list in the near future.
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