Skip to main content

SI.com's Top 100 NBA players of 2015

SI.com is proud to offer our list of the Top 100 Players of 2015, an exhaustive exercise that seeks to define who will be the NBA's best this season. 

SI.com is proud to offer our list of the Top 100 NBA players of 2015, an exhaustive exercise that seeks to define who will be the league's best in the 2014-15 season. 

Given the wide variety of candidates 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, and players who are expected to miss the entire season -- such as Pacers forward Paul George – were excluded. Past performance (postseason included) weighed heavily in our assessment, with a skew toward the recent. First-year players -- including delayed rookies like Sixers center Nerlens Noel -- 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. Salary was not taken into consideration, even in those instances below where a contract is mentioned. 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. For those interested in understanding more about the ranking process and the limitations of this exercise in general, make a quick detour here.

Please feel free to take a look back to SI.com’s Top 100 Players of 2014 list here. This year’s list includes each player’s ranking from last year for comparison purposes.

100-51 | 50-31 | 30-21 | 20-11 | 10-1

Image placeholder title

100. Boris Diaw, Spurs

Forward | Age: 32
6-8, 250 pounds
Last year: Unranked

2013-14 statistics • 9.1 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 2.8 APG, 52.1 FG%, 40.2 3P% • Advanced: 14.1 PER, 4.9 Win Shares, 0.6 RAPMDiaw may not have taken home Finals MVP, but the versatile, pass-happy stretch forward did prove to be one of the most influential postseason X-factors in recent memory during the Spurs' 2014 title run. READ MORE After fellow Frenchman Tony Parker went down with an ankle injury, it was Diaw who stepped up and rode shotgun to Tim Duncan in a series-clinching OT thriller against the Thunder in the West finals. And, after a dominant performance by LeBron James in Game 2 of the Finals, it was Diaw’s insertion into the starting lineup that opened up San Antonio’s beautiful offense and led to three consecutive blowout victories over Miami. Diaw has often been a mystery to his coaches during his 11-year career -- he defied a clear positional fit, he liked to pass too much, he enjoyed food too much -- but in San Antonio he found a like-minded, unselfish culture and elevated his game to new heights. -- Ben Golliver

Image placeholder title

99. Kevin Martin, Wolves

Guard | Age: 31
6-7, 195 pounds
Last year: No. 73

2013-14 statistics • 14.9 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 1.4 APG, 43.8 FG%, 39.5 3P% • 12.8 PER, 1.8 Win Shares, 1.0 RAPMIf held against the standard of the league's best players, Martin's deficits are painfully apparent. READ MORE The shooting guard is a frequent defensive target for eager scorers because he doesn’t have the body type to offer much resistance or the instincts to maneuver well in space. He's no playmaker, either, having assisted lightly throughout his 10-year career. But Martin's excellence as a source of offense preserves his place on this list. His production and efficiency both hold well in a complementary role. In his last two seasons, Martin has hit 42.6 percent of his three-pointers in support of two superstars in Oklahoma City and approached 20 points per game in a larger role for Minnesota. Martin’s still got it, provided his limitations can be accounted for. -- Rob Mahoney

Image placeholder title

98. Jimmy Butler, BULLS

Guard | Age: 24
6-7, 220 pounds
Last year: No. 90

2013-14 statistics •13.1 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 2.4 APG, 39.7 FG%, 28.3 3P% •13.6 PER, 7.1 Win Shares, 0.8 RAPMButler, who is entering his fourth season, has already established himself as one of the NBA’s best lockdown defenders. READ MORE He held shooting guards to a Player Efficency Rating of 11.0 and small forwards to a PER of 10.1 last season, according to 82games.com. Hitting those marks requires unbelievable endurance. Not only does Butler consistently face active, top scorers, but last season he also ranked second in minutes per game and averaged a ridiculous 41.1 after Chicago traded another wing iron man, Luol Deng, in January. Butler's brand of offense is equally energetic if less finely tuned, with last season’s shooting numbers dipping sharply. Still, he's responsible enough in his shot selection and approach to maximize his overall value. -- R.M.

Image placeholder title

97. Anderson Varejao, Cavs

Center | Age: 31
6-11, 267 pounds
Last year: No. 66

2013-14 statistics •8.4 PPG, 9.7 RPG, 2.2 APG, 0.6 BPG, 49.5 FG% 17.1 PER, 5.4 Win Shares, 2.3 RAPM LeBron James has singled out Varejao as one of his favorite teammates for obvious reasons: a high-energy, blue-collar big man with impressive rebounding rates and a commitment to defense. READ MORE Not to mention a professionalism that was on display as the Brazilian big man endured four years of losing, injuries, trade rumors and coaching and front-office changes in Cleveland after James bolted for Miami. Even on a 33-49 team last season, Varejao made his mark in 65 games, his most since 2009-10: Cleveland was significantly better on both sides of the ball when he was on the court (103.5 offensive rating, 102.4 defensive rating) compared to when he was off (99.6 offensive rating, 106.7 defensive rating). The early-season stories will emphasize the importance of James, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving establishing chemistry, but the Cavaliers’ title hopes hinge just as much on Varejao’s ability to stay on the court. -- B.G.

Image placeholder title

96. Danny Green, Spurs

Guard | Age: 27
6-6, 215 pounds
Last year: No. 96

2013-14 statistics• 9.1 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 1.5 APG, 43.2 FG%, 41.5 3P%  • 13.9 PER, 4.2 Win Shares, 1.3 RAPMGreen could play with any teammates in any system and offer clear value. Such is the benefit of the unassuming role player who excels at what he's asked to do. READ MORE There are only a handful of spot-up shooters better than Green, and even fewer among them who can also shoot so accurately after coming off a screen (49 percent, according to Synergy Sports). He could be parked in the corner or moved around to counterbalance strong-side action, all without compromising his efficiency. If his shooting and cutting weren't enough to make Green a worthwhile piece, consider that he defends the 1, 2 and 3 capably. -- R.M.

Image placeholder title

95. J.R. Smith, Knicks

Guard | Age: 28
6-6, 220 pounds 
Last year: No. 83

2013-14 statistics• 14.5 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 3.0 APG, 41.5 FG%, 39.4 3P%• 14.0 PER, 3.7 Win Shares, 1.7 RAPMEven an acid-tripping Ken Kesey couldn’t have dreamed up all of the horrible, damaging and embarrassing twists and turns to Smith’s 2013-14 season, which just so happened to occur immediately after he signed a three-year, $19.5 million deal. READ MORE Surprise knee surgery. Drug suspension. Shoelace stunts. Twitter threats. Those were the major headlines; his individual numbers weren’t any prettier for a 37-45 team. Smith regressed as a scorer, rebounder and foul-drawer. His PER and Win Shares both took noticeable hits too. Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports famously jabbed Smith as a “soft, spoiled, suburban jump-shooter,” a claim that was at least somewhat substantiated by shot-chart data: more than 81 percent of Smith’s attempts came from outside the painted area, a 10 percent increase from the previous season. -- B.G.

Image placeholder title

94. Kemba Walker, Hornets

Guard | Age: 24
6-1, 184 pounds
Last year: Unranked

2013-14 statistics• 17.7 PPG, 6.1 APG, 4.2 RPG, 39.3 FG%, 33.3 3P%• 16.8 PER, 5.1 Win Shares, 0.8 RAPMWalker's game oozes moxie. From every slick crossover to smooth fadeaway, the intrepid ball handler has the air of a player in complete control. READ MORE The only problem is that Walker doesn't perform in a way that would validate his confident approach yet. Everything he does is predicated on tough shot-making and dribble probing, both stylistically suited for a starring, ball-dominant role. For as many impressive plays as Walker makes with the ball, though, he isn't the kind of point guard who can really distinguish himself from his counterparts. Walker shot only 39.3 percent and finished with so-so assist marks last season on a Charlotte team that ranked 24th in offensive efficiency. His high scoring average isn’t enough to make him a standout, but the ninth pick in 2011 still has room to grow. -- R.M.

Image placeholder title

93. J.J. Redick, Clippers

Guard | Age: 30
6-4, 190 pounds
Last year: No. 82

2013-14 statistics• 15.2 PPG, 2.2 APG, 2.1 RPG, 45.5 FG%, 39.5 3P%• 16.6 PER, 3 Win Shares, -0.1 RAPMThe Clippers’ thinking in parting with Eric Bledsoe to acquire Redick in July 2013 was clear as day: the addition of a dependable three-point shooter could turn a devastating offensive attack into a virtually unstoppable one by keeping the court as open as possible for Chris Paul’s pick-and-roll and giving Blake Griffin another kick-out option when defenses loaded up on him. READ MORE That’s pretty much exactly how it played out, at least when Redick was healthy. He posted a team-high 113.1 offensive rating and the Clippers reeled off 13 double-digits wins and a 24-11 record with him in the lineup. L.A.’s well-balanced projected starting lineup of Paul, Redick, Matt Barnes, Griffin and DeAndre Jordan had a strong plus-9.6 net rating in limited time together last season, suggesting that the Clippers can be as potent as ever, even as they deal with roster turnover on the perimeter. The biggest issue for Redick last season was a series of injuries that limited him to 35 games. The Clippers need a healthy Redick to contend for a championship. -- B.G.

Image placeholder title

92. Jeff Teague, Hawks

Guard | Age: 26
6-2, 181 pounds
Last year: No. 78

2013-14 statistics• 16.5 PPG, 6.7 APG, 2.6 RPG, 43.8 FG%, 32.9 3P%• 17.2 PER, 5.2 Win Shares, -0.7 RAPMTeague showed real improvement in using his quickness to maneuver from the perimeter to the rim with the ball in his first season with coach Mike Budenholzer. READ MORE Where Teague struggles is in deciding when to drive into the help (to draw contact) and when to steer around it, a split difference leading to both an underwhelming performance on attempts in the restricted area and a free-throw rate that’s lower than it could be. Teague's jumper is in a similar middle ground, as his good balance and follow-through haven’t translated to consistent accuracy. But the foundation is in place, both with Teague’s skill set and the combination of teammates and system, for continued progress. It's now on Teague to take those next steps. -- R.M.

Image placeholder title

91. Ersan Ilyasova, Bucks

Forward | Age: 27
6-10, 235 pounds
Last year: 61

2013-14 statistics• 11.2 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 1.3 APG, 40.9 FG%, 28.2 3P%• 13.9 PER, 1.6 Win Shares, -1.7 RAPM An ankle injury limited Ilyasova to 55 games and bothered him all last season, one of the worst of his six-year career. READ MORE It was evident that he never quite got his feet under him; he lacked spring as a rebounder and saw his three-point shooting drop to 28.2 percent from 44.8 percent over the previous two seasons. The hobbled Ilyasova was just another unremarkable component of a horrible Bucks team. There’s reason to give Ilyasova the benefit of the doubt, though. Before last season, Ilyasova had emerged as a top floor-spacing power forward and a commendable rebounder (10.3 boards per 36 minutes from 2011-13). He and Kevin Love are the only two players to shoot 40 percent or better from beyond the arc and grab 10 or more rebounds per 36 minutes in a season over the last five years. Ilyasova also has the height and length to at least be a bothersome defender at times, if only to the point of being passable. If the 2013-14 version of Ilyasova is a true representation of his value, he has no place on his list. If Ilyasova again stretches the floor, moves without the ball and competes for rebounds at a high level, however, he could deserve a ranking much higher. -- R.M.

Image placeholder title

90. Isaiah Thomas, Suns

Guard | Age: 25
5-9, 185 pounds
Last year: Unranked

2013-14 statistics• 20.3 PPG, 6.3 APG, 2.9 RPG, 45.3 FG%, 34.9 3P%• 20.5 PER, 7.7 Win Shares, 0.9 RAPM In his third season, Thomas put up career-best numbers that rivaled those of just about everyone at his position. READ MORE The last pick in the 2011 draft ranked fourth among point guards and No. 24 overall with a 20.5 PER, joining perennial All-Stars LeBron James, Stephen Curry, James Harden, Kyrie Irving and Russell Westbrook as the only players to average 20 points and six assists. The rub, of course, is that all of those points and all of those assists didn’t translate to many victories for the hapless Kings. His production didn’t even translate to a new contract with Sacramento, which sent Thomas packing to Phoenix in a sign-and-trade deal. The Kings finished well below average on both sides of the ball last season, and the undersized Thomas hasn’t yet shown that he can consistently run a high-performing offense or make do defensively. His fit with the Suns looks excellent, though. Coach Jeff Hornacek will welcome Thomas’ attacking mind-set and pick-and-roll skill to an explosive perimeter rotation. -- B.G.

Image placeholder title

89. Nikola Vucevic, Magic

Center | Age: 23
7-0, 250 pounds
Last year: 100

2013-14 statistics• 14.2 PPG, 11.0 RPG, 1.8 RPG, 0.8 BPG, 50.7 FG%• 18.8 PER, 4.4 Win Shares, 0.1 RAPMVucevic doesn't deal in the spectacular. He goes about his business quietly for a drab team plodding through a long-term rebuild. READ MORE Even among Magic players, Vucevic was less effective last season than fringe All-Star Arron Afflalo and less intriguing than rookie guard Victor Oladipo, casting him further into the background on the NBA scene. None of this is fair to a fine young player with a better all-around game than he's given credit. The lanky center was one of the 15 best rebounders by percentage on both sides of the ball last season, and ranked seventh overall. Rebounders of that quality tend to be either stars (Dwight Howard) or specialists (Reggie Evans). Vucevic is somewhere in between: He is a decent offensive player who scores efficiently despite his team's sloppy execution, and a respectable defender even without blocking shots. -- R.M.

Image placeholder title

88. Jose Calderon, Knicks

Guard | Age: 32
6-3, 211 pounds
Last year: No. 70

2013-14 statistics• 11.4 PPG, 4.7 APG, 2.4 RPG, 45.6 FG%, 44.9 3P%• 15.2 PER, 6.3 Win Shares, -3.0 RAPMThe Spanish point guard is a poor defender, but not for lack of effort. Calderon works to stay in front of quicker players, sliding around on every juke and scrambling when he loses a step on his man. READ MORE The 32-year-old just doesn't have the lateral quickness to hang in those situations, demanding that his team instead stash him on some corner shooter and hope for the best. Calderon justifies the trouble with sharp offensive play. The new Knick ranks as one of the best all-around shooters in the game, as potent from three-point range last season when spotting up (47.5 percent) as when working the pick-and-roll (46.6 percent). He is a consummate floor spacer who, if the defense recovers to contest his shot, will move the ball to the next best option without fail. Calderon is the rare playmaker who doesn't need to dominate the ball to create. -- R.M.

Image placeholder title

87. Ricky Rubio, Wolves

Guard | Age: 23
6-4, 185 pounds
Last year: No. 93

2013-14 statistics• 9.5 PPG, 8.6 APG, 4.2 RPG, 38.1 FG%, 33.1 3P%• 15.4 PER, 5.9 Win Shares, 2.0 RAPMRubio doesn't shoot well and is at times reluctant to try, but he shines in almost every other phase of the game. READ MORE Those contributions begin with the Spaniard’s remarkable playmaking. The point guard has a keen eye for teammates in position to take easy looks -- there may be no better passer alive at setting up a big man lurking around the baseline -- offsetting the fact that he has trouble converting such shots himself and helping him have a positive offensive influence overall. He finished fourth in assists per game last season and ranked first in passes leading to free-throw attempts (per SportVU). Rubio sees through the clutter and speed of the game like few can. He also rates among the best defenders at point guard by using his size and length to disrupt offenses at the point of attack. Not only did Rubio lead the NBA in steal percentage, but he also registered the biggest impact in turning opponents over on a team level, according to data from Jeremias Engelmann. That clout is a convergence of attributes: Rubio's ability to control his opponents off the dribble, instinct-driven jumps into the passing lane and subtle edging to deflect feeds and force passers into more difficult angles. Rubio, no matter his joyful affectations, is a genuine defensive terror. -- R.M.

Image placeholder title

86. Jamal Crawford, Clippers

Guard | Age: 34
6-5, 200 pounds
Last year: No. 76

2013-14 statistics• 18.6 PPG, 3.2 APG, 2.3 RPG, 41.6 FG%, 36.1 3P%• 17.4 PER, 5.3 Win Shares, -0.5 RAPMWhen Crawford joined the Clippers in 2012, he faced plenty of questions after a disappointing one-year stint with the Blazers. Could he resuscitate his shooting numbers? Had he entered age-related decline? He’s responded by enjoying a late-career resurgence and becoming one of the Clippers’ most reliable players. READ MORE His bread-and-butter skills – mesmerizing ball-handling, shot creation and a scorer’s mentality – haven’t changed, but last season’s scoring average was his highest since 2008-09 and helped him earn his second Sixth Man Award. He also ranked fourth in fourth-quarter points with an average of 6.8, trailing Kevin Durant, James Harden and Stephen Curry. Crawford’s warts – over-dribbling and lack of defensive impact – have similarly remained unchanged, but the Clippers now find themselves coveting any and all consistency on the perimeter: Darren Collison, Willie Green and Jared Dudley are all gone, J.J. Redick is looking to move past an injury-plagued season and Jordan Farmar is ready to enter the mix. Amid all of that coming and going, coach Doc Rivers knows that he can count on Crawford as a second-unit anchor and a late-game threat. -- B.G.

Image placeholder title

85. Andrei Kirilenko, Nets

Forward | Age: 33
6-9, 235 pounds
Last year: No. 49

2013-14 statistics• 5.0 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 1.6 APG, 51.3 FG%• 12.5 PER, 1.3 Win Shares, 1.2 RAPMHas Kirilenko aged out of high-level use? The fact that his drop-off last season was so sharp and timed so closely with his nagging injuries suggests otherwise. READ MORE Kirilenko played like a hobbled, displaced veteran. He contributed as he could for a team that, having found its identity in his absence, didn't quite know what to do with him (19.0 MPG). That version of Kirilenko was fine and useful. When Kirilenko is in better health and incorporated more, though, he's a kinetic force: cutting, slashing, hounding opposing scorers, swooping in with help defense and rebounding outside of his immediate zone. He does so many things well that it's easy to forgive his limitations as a perimeter shooter and off-the-dribble creator. A player who can cover this many gaps on both ends of the floor can strengthen any team. -- R.M.

Image placeholder title

84. Tyreke Evans, Pelicans

Forward | Age: 24
6-6, 220 pounds
Last year: No. 65

2013-14 statistics• 14.5 PPG, 5.0 APG, 3.7 RPG, 43.6 FG%, 22.1 3P%• 18.4 PER, 3.1 Win Shares, -2.7 RAPMFinding the best use for Evans takes a delicate hand. Give him too much control and risk running your offense aground with bullheaded driving. Push him into a role without much creative opportunity and risk denying his potential. READ MORE Evans' usage requires a specific plan and the right blend of teammates, and even then there is no clear consensus as to what either of those factors entails. That said, Evans has put up some outstanding numbers in his five seasons, including averages of 18.5 points, 6.4 assists and 6.1 rebounds per 36 minutes in his first year with New Orleans. If the Pelicans can fully unlock his game, they will have a prodigious talent on their hands. -- R.M.  

Image placeholder title

83. Trevor Ariza, Rockets

Forward | Age: 29
6-8, 220 pounds
Last year: Unranked

2013-14 statistics• 14.4 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 2.5 APG, 45.6 FG%, 40.7 3P%• 15.9 PER, 8.0 Win Shares, 0.4 RAPMThough Ariza put together the most complete season of his 10-year career, the cap-conscious Wizards concluded that he was their most expendable starter. That decision -- which shouldn’t be read as a slight to Ariza, given the importance of Washington's other core players -- led the small forward to sign a four-year, $32 million contract with the Rockets. READ MORE When Ariza arrived for his first stint with Houston in 2009, he had attempted 234 three-pointers in the previous five years and had never shot better than 33.3 percent. This time around, Ariza is coming off a career-best year from deep, hitting 40.7 percent of his 442 attempts (15th most in the NBA). That steep growth in his outside shooting, along with better health, made him an ideal three-and-D wing last season. The Rockets will ask him to play the same role as a replacement for Chandler Parsons. Ariza’s playoff experience, two-way contributions and ability to serve as an auxiliary threat without needing touches should make him an immediate asset in Houston. -- B.G.

Image placeholder title

82. Robin Lopez, Blazers

Center | Age: 26
7-0, 255 pounds
Last year: Unranked

2013-14 statistics• 11.1 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 1.7 BPG, 53.1 FG%• 17.7 PER, 9.5 Win Shares, 1.5 RAPMLopez answered a number of critics’ questions in his first season with the Blazers. READ MORE Could he be a full-time starting center on a playoff team? (Yes, he averaged more than 30 minutes for the first time in his six-year career and Portland won 54 games.) Could he play passable defense despite his lack of mobility? (Yes, he proved to be a massive upgrade over J.J. Hickson and a good complement to LaMarcus Aldridge, even if Lopez isn’t the most athletic rim protector.) Could he avoid being his team's postseason Achilles heel in a conference that includes the likes of Tim Duncan, Dwight Howard and DeAndre Jordan? (Yes, Lopez was overpowered by Howard, but he filled his supporting role well enough that Portland defeated Houston to win a playoff series for the first time in 14 years.) And, most importantly, could he stay healthy under the strain of big minutes? (Yes, Lopez played all 82 games for the second straight season, a crucial achievement considering Portland’s lack of interior depth.)  Now, Lopez has to do it all again to ensure that he makes the most of his free agency next July. -- B.G.

Image placeholder title

81. Arron Afflalo, Nuggets

Guard | Age: 28
6-5, 215 pounds
Last year: Unranked

2013-14 statistics• 18.2 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 3.4 APG, 45.9 FG%, 42.7 3P%• 16.1 PER, 5.3 Win Shares, -2.5 RAPMAfflalo was coming off a career year when the Nuggets traded him to the Magic in the Dwight Howard deal two years ago. Rather than serving as a key complementary piece on a perennial playoff team in Denver, Afflalo suddenly was one of the few proven veterans on a rebuilding squad in Orlando. READ MORE Two last-place seasons and countless trade rumors later, Afflalo is back with the Nuggets and looking to make up for lost time. Afflalo may have flirted with an All-Star appearance last season thanks to a torrid shooting start, but he would seem to be a better fit as one of many capable players on a balanced Nuggets roster. Afflalo’s experience and steady three-and-D profile will please Brian Shaw, who was grasping for answers as a rookie coach during Denver’s rocky, injury-marred 2013-14 season. -- B.G.

Image placeholder title

80. Jonas Valanciunas, Raptors

Center | Age: 22
6-11, 231 pounds
Last year: Unranked

2013-14 statistics• 11.3 PPG, 8.8 RPG, 0.9 BPG, 53.1 FG%• 16.1 PER, 6.7 Win Shares, -3.0 RAPMValanciunas isn’t always mentioned in the discussion of the NBA’s most promising young big men, but the fact that he was a full-time starter for a playoff team last season was unique among his up-and-coming colleagues. READ MORE Indeed, the Lithuanian – who ramped up his per-minute production in his second season -- was the only player under 24 to average at least 10 points and eight rebounds for playoff team last season. Anthony Davis, Andre Drummond, DeMarcus Couins, Greg Monroe, Derrick Favors and others all watched from home as Valanciunas and the Raptors came within one win of the conference semifinals. The presence of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan will place a cap on Valanciunas’ offensive role in the short term, and there’s plenty of room for him to grow as a rim protector and paint presence. Even so, Valanciunas is further ahead of the curve than just about everyone in his age class, and his old-school pump fakes and low-post moves only add to the enjoyment of watching him develop. -- B.G. 

Image placeholder title

79. Derrick Favors, Jazz 

Forward | Age: 23
6-10, 268 pounds
Last year: No. 87

2013-14 statistics• 13.3 PPG, 8.7 RPG, 1.5 BPG, 52.2 FG%• 19.0 PER, 5.1 Win Shares, -1.6 RAPMA big, explosive defender still learning the trade. The core attributes are all there for the No. 3 pick in 2010. Favors has the quickness to become a top defensive player, the bounce to swat shots at a high level and the length to contain quicker opponents. READ MORE He simply hasn't put it all together yet. There's an elegance to the way elite defensive players guide from one action to the next that Favors hasn't mastered yet, a function of age and experience as much as anything. He’s also a work in progress on the other end, but he finishes well in the pick-and-roll, has grown more comfortable with the ball and is a presence on the offensive glass. Favors likely won’t ever develop into a premier scorer, but even with gradual improvement he could cultivate a powerful two-way influence. -- R.M.

Image placeholder title

78. Larry Sanders, Bucks

Center | Age: 25
6-11, 235 pounds
Last year: No. 43

2013-14 statistics •7.7 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 1.7 BPG, 46.9 FG% •14.0 PER, 0.7 Win Shares, 0.9 RAPMSanders’ 2013-14 season was a travesty. After signing a four-year, $44 million extension, Sanders was caught in the middle when his old agent sued his new agent; feuded with his new coach, Larry Drew; missed six weeks after injuring his thumb in a nightclub flight; beefed with former teammate Gary Neal, who questioned his professionalism; was cited twice for mistreatment of his dogs; was ejected for throwing a flagrant elbow at Oklahoma City’s Steven Adams; missed nearly two months after fracturing his eye socket from an errant elbow; drew a five-game drug suspension; and publicly advocated for the medical benefits of marijuana while suspended for smoking marijuana. READ MORE Despite all of his missteps, which came after he pledged to be a team leader, Sanders’ elite shot-blocking ability and Defensive Player of the Year-caliber impact make him impossible to write off yet. He’s still only 25 and has shown -- if only for one season, in 2012-13 -- that he can be a game-changing back-line anchor for a playoff team. If Sanders can get back on track, it would go a long toward fixing the Bucks, who ranked No. 29 in defensive efficiency last season and finished a league-worst 15-67. -- B.G.

Image placeholder title

77. Kenneth Faried, Nuggets

Forward | Age: 24
6-8, 228 pounds
Last year: No. 75

2013-14 statistics• 13.7 PPG, 8.6 RPG, 0.9 BPG, 54.5 FG%• 19.9 PER, 6.5 Win Shares, -1.3 RAPMFaried's spirited style belies very real limitations. It's easy to admire what he brings, from tangible stat-stuffing (Faried averaged 18.1 points and 11.3 rebounds per 36 minutes last season) to more abstract injections of energy. READ MORE Faried, though, is fundamentally a non-shooting, shaky-defending power forward with narrow creative ability. Creating the conditions to maximize his game isn’t easy. As a complementary offensive player, Faried needs others to manufacture the bulk of his team's scoring and alert playmakers to enable his cuts. As a four without shooting range or much defensive ability, he all but requires that his frontcourt counterpart be a stretch center with All-Defense credentials. As a player with limited ball skills, he isn't suited to a read-and-react offense that would force him to make quick decisions or passes. It’s also uncertain how well Faried would function on a team that doesn't push the pace -- a matter of some importance given how explosive he is in transition. Part of the reason Faried thrived in the FIBA World Cup was that Team USA checked all of the aforementioned boxes. Put him on an up-tempo squad alongside Anthony Davis, Stephen Curry, James Harden and Kyrie Irving and Faried will self-actualize. Anything less gets complicated. -- R.M.

Image placeholder title

76. Bradley Beal, Wizards

Guard | Age: 21
6-5, 207 pounds
Last year: Unranked

2013-14 statistics• 17.1 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 3.3 APG, 41.9 FG%, 40.2 3P%• 14.3 PER, 4.0 Win Shares, -2.8 RAPMIt’s time that Beal starts getting included in the discussion of the NBA’s most promising prodigies. READ MORE The No. 3 pick in 2012 is making the most of an excellent backcourt pairing with John Wall, using a beautiful and reliable shooting stroke to complement the All-Star point guard’s vicious off-the-dribble game. Beal isn’t merely a “good” shooter: In 2013-14, he joined Mike Miller as the only under-21 players in NBA history to hit at least 40 percent of their threes while attempting more than 300. Even more exciting for Wizards fans? Beal raised his game in the playoffs, joining Magic Johnson as the only under-21 players since 1964 to score 25 or more points in three postseason games.   Beal is still developing as a shot creator, attacker and playmaker. There’s also plenty of room for improvement in efficiency, as he’s not yet a favorite of any of the major advanced stats. Few players this young are, though. Thanks in part to the East’s weak guard crop, Beal could contend for an All-Star berth as early as this year, especially if the Wizards build on their most successful season in nearly a decade. -- B.G.

Image placeholder title

75. Taj Gibson, Bulls

Forward | Age: 29
6-9, 225 pounds
Last year: Unranked

2013-14 statistics• 13.0 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 1.4 BPG, 47.9 FG%• 16.1 PER, 5.7 Win Shares, 3.4 RAPMGibson is a rock for the Bulls, the stout defensive team he elevates to its best performances. READ MORE Joakim Noah won the Defensive Player of the Year award last season, but Gibson -- as corroborated by various plus-minus and on/off metrics -- may be Chicago's best defensive player. He draws less acclaim because he plays fewer minutes, not to mention having a less demonstrative style than his frontcourt teammate. What Noah does for the Bulls is obvious because of the visual pull of his activity. Gibson plays a subtler defensive game, underscored by the fact that he rarely makes a mistake. Such steady, high-level play positions Gibson as one of the few power forwards capable of defensive captaincy. It's on those grounds that he outranks a more emphatic and productive player in Kenneth Faried. Whereas Faried's limitations complicate his fit on a team level, Gibson fills a role that could benefit most any roster. Sometimes the sensible outweighs the spectacular. -- R.M.

Image placeholder title

74. Kyle Korver, Hawks

Forward | Age: 33
6-7, 212 pounds
Last year: No. 98

2013-14 statistics• 12.0 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 2.9 APG, 47.5 FG%, 47.2 3P% • 13.6 PER, 5.9 Win Shares, 1.1 RAPMNo player in history has shot better while launching as many threes as Korver did last season (47.2 percent on 392 attempts). READ MORE That astonishing combination of efficiency and volume perfectly illustrates Korver’s standing as the NBA’s premier shooting specialist. One might rightly assume that Korver has an easier life than say, Stephen Curry, as the Hawks’ swingman is not responsible for running an offense or creating many of his own shots off the dribble. Make no mistake, though: Korver still works hard for his offense, scurrying tirelessly through screens, dealing with defenders who are committed to denying him clean looks, and commanding star-level attention or more when he is off the ball. As Atlanta’s season went sideways because of injuries, it became clear that Korver -- a fine, active all-around player -- wasn’t going to make a sudden, late-career leap from quality niche filler to lead option on a solid offense. But his positive impact on both sides of the ball was indisputable: With Korver on the court, Atlanta’s offensive efficiency rose from 100.3 to 105.4 and its defensive efficiency improved from 106.5 to 102.4. -- B.G.

Image placeholder title

73.

Guard | Age: 24
6-5, 230 pounds
Last year: Unranked

2013-14 statistics• 13.8 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 4.6 APG, 49.1 FG%, 35.2 3P%• 14.7 PER, 7.4 Win Shares, 0.0 RAPMImplicit in these rankings is the degree to which a player can be trusted. That’s how Stephenson, a gutsy, two-way potential star, could be so far down this list. READ MORE Stephenson is a burgeoning creator, having stepped into his largest role yet with the Pacers last season. With that responsibility, however, came a fuller view of his shortcomings. He is volatile in both game and disposition; even if the loose-cannon personality type is set aside for a moment, Stephenson’s dribble-heavy style and bursts of flash over substance tend to cause problems. Stephenson takes even the slightest opening in the defense as an invitation to drive headlong, often losing sight of the help defense and open teammates along the way. It’s no surprise, then, that Stephenson turned the ball over more often than all but four players at his usage level. His wild play also led to a ridiculous turnover rate (22.8 percent) in transition, which is generally a reliable source of hyper-efficient offense.  Last season offered a case study in the implications of Stephenson's play. In only his fourth season, the 2010 second-round pick was a borderline All-Star. He was also front and center in discussions of Indiana's "selfish" style and a key creator for an offense that bottomed out as the season progressed. We can't be too effusive in our praise of a player who played such an active part in an offense that ranked No. 29 after the All-Star break. Stephenson, for all his abilities (including strong, multipositional defense and absurdly productive rebounding), only seemed to perpetuate the Pacers' downward spiral. Teams were right to be somewhat skeptical of him this summer, when comparable (or even lesser) players received far bigger contracts than Stephenson, whose three-year, $27.4 million deal with Charlotte includes a final-year team option. -- R.M.

Image placeholder title

72. Wesley Matthews, Blazers

Guard | Age: 27
6-5, 220 pounds
Last year: Unranked

2013-14 statistics• 16.4 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 2.4 APG, 44.1 FG%, 39.3 3P% • 15.7 PER, 8.2 Win Shares, 1.9 RAPMMatthews should look back on 2013-14 as the season he finally convinced the NBA world to stop overlooking him. READ MORE A four-year college player at Marquette who went undrafted, Matthews has been typecast as an unspectacular, blue-collar grinder for most of his five-year career. A pairing with All-Star point guard Damian Lillard has really helped Matthews maximize his potential: a quality catch-and-shoot player who feasts on the open looks created by Lillard and Terry Stotts’ pass-heavy offense. But viewing Matthews solely as an auxiliary offensive threat is no longer totally accurate. His 16.4 points per game marked a career-high, and he ranked among the league’s most potent outside shooters, as only Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Gerald Green and Lillard attempted more than 500 threes and connected on a better rate than Matthews’ 39.3 percent. A sturdy 6-foot-5, Matthews also found himself in the post more often against smaller defenders, which offered Portland a change-of-pace look and allowed Matthews to expand his game. Even though he doesn’t quite have the athleticism and length to be a truly elite perimeter defender, Matthews’ bulldog mentality was on display during the postseason, as he hounded James Harden into tough shots and turnovers. -- B.G.

Image placeholder title

71. Amir Johnson, Raptors

Forward | Age: 27
6-9, 210 pounds
Last year: No. 84

2013-14 statistics• 10.4 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 1.1 BPG, 56.2 FG% • 15.4 PER, 6.3 Win Shares, 4.2 RAPMJohnson is a darling of most every plus-minus-based evaluation system out there, which is really a way of saying that much of what he offers doesn't translate particularly well to the standard box score. READ MORE He understands his role and value, committing to those areas of the game in which he can make the biggest difference. Some of those are subtle, like Johnson's screens that spring teammates. Others are critical but merely underappreciated, like Johnson's expert defense of the pick-and-roll. The bottom line is that Johnson is -- and I say this as a ringing endorsement -- something of a supercharged Nick Collison.  What sets Johnson (and Collison) apart is a spectacular sense of place. He navigates the floor on both ends intelligently. Johnson maximizes his scoring efficiency (he ranked fifth in field goal percentage last season) by lingering in the right spaces, and he helps his team by clearing quickly from areas he might clutter. On defense, his economic movement and notable athleticism allow Johnson to consistently beat his opponents to a spot. He may not be an exceptionally skilled player in the traditional sense, but Johnson gets the most out of every possession by playing smart, controlled basketball. -- R.M.

Image placeholder title

70. Tiago Splitter, Spurs

Center | Age: 29
6-11, 245 pounds
Last year: No. 74

2013-14 statistics• 8.2 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 1.5 APG, 52.3 FG% • 16.6 PER, 4.3 Win Shares, 2.0 RAPMPlayers must sacrifice for the Spurs to be greater than the sum of their parts. Splitter, a worthy defensive anchor who played a mere 21.5 minutes a game last season, tends to sacrifice more than most. READ MORE The Brazilian big man can only produce so much with that playing time, but over 36 minutes he averaged 14 points and 10 rebounds, while guarding the paint effectively. If the situation called for it, Splitter could also do slightly more on offense at the cost of some efficiency. His post game is stable enough to handle more opportunity on the block. The pick-and-roll could be a more consistent scoring avenue too; with good hands and touch, Splitter scored on 64.1 percent of his pick-and-roll possessions, according Synergy Sports. Between those skills, solid passing ability and underrated work creating second chances on the glass, Splitter has the offensive utility to round out his defensive appeal. -- R.M.

Image placeholder title

69. Thaddeus Young, Wolves

Forward | Age: 26
6-8, 230 pounds
Last year: No. 62

2013-14 statistics• 17.9 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 2.1 SPG, 45.4 FG%, 30.8 3P% • 16.6 PER, 3.5 Win Shares, 0.2 RAPMYoung is in the right place at the right time so consistently that it should be appreciated as a genuine talent. READ MORE He engages in some kind of basketball alchemy, in that he finds golden opportunity in the junkiest of possessions. He's not much of an isolation option or a bail-out shooter. But when Young ends up with the ball at the tail end of the shot clock, just as all hope for a score seems lost, he maneuvers through the defense to toss in the perfect little runner or hook. These plays can’t be scouted or schematically stopped, as Young attacks opponents at a time and angle they least expect. The low-maintenance Young -- who is also an elite cutter and pesky defender -- is one of the rare players who offers clear value without need for touches or tailor-made roles. -- R.M.

Image placeholder title

68. Greg Monroe, Pistons

Forward | Age: 24
6-11, 250 pounds
Last year: No. 52

2013-14 statistics• 15.2 PPG, 9.3 RPG, 2.1 APG, 49.7 FG% • 18.1 PER, 5.9 Win Shares, 0.9 RAPMWhat’s worse? Entering restricted free agency hoping to be rewarded with a max-type second contract, only to walk away with a $5.5 million qualifying offer, or drawing a two-game suspension for a DUI, only to have national media outlets pick up on the fact that the arrest report mentioned self-urination? READ MORE Sadly, that’s a question that Monroe has probably had to contemplate during an offseason that certainly didn’t go according to plan. Monroe’s virtues are clear: the 6-foot-11 big man has missed just three games in four seasons, he has managed to post double-double type numbers in three consecutive seasons despite a rotating coaching carousel and weird positional fits with his teammates, and he is skilled and strong enough to consistently work his way into the basket area for high-percentage looks. His limitations are equally self-evident: he isn’t wired as a rim-protector so he can’t really function as a full-time center, he doesn’t have the range to stretch the floor as a power forward offensively, he isn’t agile enough to handle stretch forwards defensively, and he doesn’t quite finish his high-percentage looks at a truly desirable, high-percentage rate. Put all of that together, and Monroe is a very talented four/five tweener worth pursuing, but not necessarily a franchise guy worth overpaying. After NBA GMs showed an unusual amount of restraint over the offseason, Monroe must now wait until July, when the prospect of unrestricted free agency should help him find the type of offer that never materialized. -- B.G.

Image placeholder title

67. Rudy Gay, Kings

Forward | Age: 28
6-8, 230 pounds
Last year: No. 64

2013-14 statistics• 20.0 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 2.9 APG, 45.5 FG%, 33.0 3P% • 18.3 PER, 4.8 Win Shares, 0.3 RAPMUSA Basketball’s FIBA World Cup roster selection process perfectly illustrated Gay’s standing in the NBA: If LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Paul George are all unavailable, there are worse eventualities than settling for the Kings’ talented but polarizing forward. READ MORE A smooth, steady-scoring wing who has long been viewed as overpaid and overvalued, Gay’s shot selection and overall shooting efficiency improved after a midseason trade to the Kings last season. He posted a career-high in scoring, but his three-point shooting and rebounding numbers both regressed; the Kings’ offensive efficiency improved noticeably with him on the court, but the team’s defense also took a step back. By picking up a $19.3 million option to remain in Sacramento for 2014-15, Gay put himself in position to further test his fit and find his role. A core group headlined by DeMarcus Cousins and Gay certainly isn’t scaring anyone in the West any time soon, but Sacramento has nevertheless appeared highly motivated to retain Gay, a proven B-lister, given its otherwise talent-deficient, mish-mashed and/or young roster parts. If ever there was a time and place for Gay to be handsomely rewarded for having a career year, this would be it. It remains to be seen whether such a performance – and the long-term money it would invariably command – would be a good thing for Kings fans in the long-term.  -- B.G.

Image placeholder title

66. Monta Ellis, Mavericks

Guard | Age: 28
6-3, 185 pounds

2013-14 statistics• 19.0 PPG, 5.7 APG, 3.6 RPG, 45.1 FG%, 33.0 3P% • 16.8 PER, 4.9 Win Shares, 1.9 RAPMEllis hasn't changed much in the last year, but a chance to play for a first-rate coach alongside a superstar scorer has clarified his optimal role. READ MORE We now have empirical evidence that a team with Ellis as a central part can gun for the best offense in the league. Dallas was just that potent last season with Ellis as one of its creative leads, a remarkable turnaround after years of inefficiency with the Bucks and Warriors. Ellis deserves credit for buying in and giving the Mavs the off-the-dribble force needed, in the process generating more points via drives for his team than any player in the league (per SportVU). Some slight discount is in order, though, given that Dallas is so far from ordinary. In another context Ellis' shot selection might still be more of an issue. He also might not have the offensive success overall to make up for his loose defensive coverage -- a problem in Dallas forgiven for all else that Ellis provided. -- R.M.

Image placeholder title

65. Andrew Bogut, Warriors

Center | Age: 29
7-0, 260 pounds
Last year: Unranked

2013-14 statistics• 7.3 PPG, 10.0 RPG, 1.8 BPG, 62.7 FG% • 17.1 PER, 6.5 Win Shares, 0.5 RAPMSteve Kerr has plenty to mull over as he begins his coaching career, but one of his top concerns must be constructing a plan that maximizes the likelihood that the perpetually injured Bogut is on the court come playoff time. READ MORE Regarded for years as one of the NBA’s best paint-protecting centers when healthy, Bogut helped Golden State post the West’s No. 1 ranked defense last season, and the team’s efficiency splits were absolutely fantastic when he was on the court (107.8 on offense, 98.8 on defense). Without Bogut, though, the Warriors slipped from overpowering to pretty good (103.3 on offense, 100.8 on defense), losing to the L.A. Clippers in seven games as their Aussie center missed the entire first-round playoff series with a scary rib injury. Given the three-year, $36 million extension Bogut signed last fall and the no-name assortment of bigs on the depth chart behind him, Golden State is fully committed to and totally dependent upon their 7-footer, a troubling scenario given that he’s appeared in only 111 games over the last three seasons combined. Should Kerr further reduce Bogut’s regular-season minutes (26.4 MPG last season)? Should he rest Bogut on back-to-backs? Should he rely more heavily on small ball? Whatever the conclusion, Bogut needs to be there when it matters if Golden State wants to vault up out of the West’s second tier.  -- B.G.

Image placeholder title

64. Omer Asik, Pelicans

Center | Age: 28
7-0, 255 pounds
Last year: No. 69

2013-14 statistics• 5.8 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 0.8 BPG, 53.2 FG% • 14.0 PER, 2.4 Win Shares, 1.8 RAPMBlessed with a young power forward in Anthony Davis who can just about do it all, New Orleans found itself in need of a center that could provide a little protection for its franchise player while also holding down the middle on defense. READ MORE Asik should fit those bills nicely, even though his 2013-14 season was mostly spent grumpily watching from the sidelines (20.2 MPG) as Dwight Howard stole his starting job in Houston. It wasn’t so long ago that Asik averaged a double-double and played all 82 games for the Rockets in 2012-13, and his length should make for an excellent rim-protecting pairing with the comically long Davis. Expecting significant offensive contributions from Asik would be a mistake – and misguided, considering the Pelicans’ many other scoring weapons -- but the Turkish 7-footer can get it done as a scrounger, with 93 percent of his field goal attempts coming in the basket area last season. He will be looking to make the most of his opportunity with the Pelicans and should improve its No. 25 ranking on defense. -- B.G.

Image placeholder title

63. Nene, Wizards

Forward | Age: 31
6-11, 250 pounds
Last year: No. 58

2013-14 statistics• 14.2 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 2.9 APG, 1.2 SPG, 50.3 FG% • 16.6 PER, 3.2 Win Shares, 1.1 RAPMNene has missed at least 18 games in seven of 12 seasons, but he’s a terrific, well-balanced player when healthy. READ MORE Consider his role on the Wizards: Nene overpowers opponents in the post, competes on the glass (while not an especially productive rebounder, Washington rebounded at a better rate with Nene on the floor, according to NBA.com) and makes cuts without prompting. He sets knockout screens, draws from great ball skills for a big man and finds open teammates while on the move. A quality mid-range game also allows Nene to float between inside and out in perfect complement of the lineup around him. Nene has the breadth of skill and talent to be whatever his team needs from one moment to the next. -- R.M.

Image placeholder title

62. Danilo Gallinari, Nuggets

Forward | Age: 26
6-10, 225 pounds
Last year: No. 45

2012-13 statistics (Did not play last season)• 16.2 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 2.5 APG, 41.8 FG%, 37.3 3P% • 16.7 PER, 7.2 Win Shares, 3.8 RAPMThe last time Gallinari stepped foot on an NBA court, Denver had a different GM, a different coach and real expectations (remember the old “Can a star-less team win a title?” debate they sparked). READ MORE This year, the Nuggets are likely to be written off after falling back into the lottery in Gallinari’s absence, even though a number of his former teammates -- Ty Lawson, Kenneth Faried, Arron Afflalo, Wilson Chandler, and Timofey Mozgov – remain in the fold. Do those conditions set the table for the 6-foot-10 Italian forward to surprise some people and reclaim his standing as one of the best wings in the West? Time flies, but Gallinari was one of only eight small forwards in the league to average 16 points, five rebounds, and two assists per game in 2012-13. Plus, Gallinari hadn’t totally broken out yet: his shooting percentages were never as pretty as his shooting motion, his defensive work was more than passable but not yet elite, and he wasn’t really a back-breaking scorer even though he and Lawson were clearly Denver’s lead options. At 26 and still on the upswing, Gallinari should be able to take his game to new heights once he returns to form and finds his footing under new coach Brian Shaw. -- B.G.

Image placeholder title

61. DeMar DeRozan, Raptors

Forward | Age: 25
6-7, 216 pounds
Last year: Unranked

2013-14 statistics• 22.7 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 4.0 APG, 42.9 FG%, 30.5 3P% • 18.4 PER, 8.8 Win Shares, -0.1 RAPMIn his most demanding role yet, DeRozan swelled to surpass expectations. His All-Star season was a product of incremental gains in most every phase of the game. READ MORE DeRozan wasn’t just more prolific but also sharper in his execution on both ends. Never before had DeRozan played so confidently off the dribble (leading to a huge leap in free-throw rate), worked so patiently in posting up smaller guards or seen the floor so clearly. All of those improvements were put to good, relatively efficient use, making DeRozan a trustworthy option through which to funnel possessions. The rub, to the extent that it can be called such, is that DeRozan is sub-elite in even his strongest suits. He's a fine scorer and decent defender who falls short of superstar standards. -- R.M.

Image placeholder title

60.

Forward | Age: 31
6-9, 240 pounds
Last year: No. 46

2013-14 statistics• 18.2 PPG, 9.3 RPG, 2.1 APG, 52.3 FG% • 19.2 PER, 7.6 Win Shares, 0.2 RAPMLee is a player most often framed by his weaknesses, but let’s consider all that he offers. He's been a steady source of offense for years, having averaged 18.7 points on 52 percent shooting over his last five seasons. READ MORE Lee also reaches that mark without demanding the ball as few players are so consistently productive off cuts and duck-ins, angles that he works constantly. That activity can go a long way for teams that drift into stagnation. The two-time All-Star is also a quality post-up option for moderate usage and a flexible target on the pick-and-roll. After making his catch on the move, Lee has all kinds of options: ambidexterity that allows him to go both directions, the footwork to maneuver around defenders, a safe enough handle to put the ball on the floor and the vision to spot a cutter or shooter. His lack of shooting range and nonexistent defense put the Warriors in a tough spot at times, but overall Lee is a quality contributor who keeps his team's options open during a possession. -- R.M.

Image placeholder title

59. Ryan Anderson, Pelicans

Forward | Age: 26
6-10, 240 pounds
Last year: No. 57

2013-14 statistics• 19.8 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 43.8 FG%, 40.9 3P% • 18.9 PER, 2.3 Win Shares, 0.4 RAPMFortunately, Anderson seems to have recovered well and has been cleared for contact after sustaining a horrifying neck injury that ended his season in January. READ MORE Assuming all goes according to plan as he works himself back into playing shape, Anderson should be a compelling contributor again for New Orleans. Since the three-point line was introduced in 1979, only 20 players have averaged more than seven long-range attempts per game. Only three of those players (Stephen Curry, Ray Allen and Dennis Scott) outshot Anderson by percentage in his abbreviated season with the Pelicans. That kind of range is special for a power forward and catalyzing to an offense. By pulling opposing big men out of the paint and drilling jumpers, Anderson creates the space that leads to high efficiency. -- R.M.

Image placeholder title

58. Marcin Gortat, Wizards

Center | Age: 30
6-11, 240 pounds
Last year: Unranked

2013-14 statistics• 13.2 PPG, 9.5 RPG, 1.5 BPG, 54.2 FG% • 17.6 PER, 8.1 Win Shares, 2.9 RAPMWashington’s 2013 trade for Gortat set up the possibility of some major second-guessing. READ MORE After all, the Wizards had missed the playoffs for five straight seasons and were attempting to fill a major roster (and part with a highly-coveted first-round pick) for a good but not great veteran who was in the final year of his contract. Instead of backfiring, that trade played out about as well as the Wizards could have imagined. Gortat – a traditional, take-no-prisoners bruiser -- put up solid numbers across the board including a team-best +4.8 net rating. He helped Washington post a top-10 defense and was a key reason the Wizards reached the conference semifinals for just the second time since 1979. After playing like one of the best centers in the league last season, Gortat was paid like one this summer, returning on a five-year, $60 million deal. As a postscript, the first-round pick the Wizards sent to the Suns for Gortat wound up being used to select Tyler Ennis at No. 18. Phoenix therefore turned its 2013-2014 starting center into the fourth-best point guard (behind Goran Dragic, Eric Bledsoe and Isaiah Thomas) on its projected 2014-15 roster. That sound you hear is Wizards GM Ernie Grunfeld patting himself on the back. -- B.G.

Image placeholder title

57. Gordon Hayward, Jazz

Forward | Age: 24
6-8, 220 pounds
Last year: No. 67

2013-14 statistics• 16.2 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 5.2 APG, 41.3 FG%, 30.4 3P% • 16.2 PER, 3.6 Win Shares, 0.5 RAPMHayward's 2013-14 season was a headlong sprint into the high-usage learning curve. In the previous three seasons, he had been an accessory to Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap. READ MORE With the exit of both players, however, Hayward was thrown into the fire to create for himself and his teammates more than ever before. That kind of experience is healthy, and Hayward was able to build up his reps in the pick-and-roll and isolation. It also made abundantly clear -- through plummeting efficiency, among other indicators -- that Hayward was miscast as a team's first option. Hayward isn't the type to steer an offense or pile up shot attempts. When given the chance to work alongside even decent NBA talent, though, he's shown the ability to be a dynamite supporting part. Hayward flanked Jefferson and Millsap as a knockdown spot-up shooter. He worked his way into openings off weak-side screens, from which he's capable of attacking the defense off the dribble. He melds the reserved sensibilities of a role player with the skill set of a supporting star. That's an intriguing combination for a player still in development, particularly one with a game suited for any playing style. -- R.M.

Image placeholder title

56. Chandler Parsons, Mavericks

Forward | Age: 25
6-9, 227 pounds
Last year: No. 94

2013-14 statistics • 16.6 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 4.0 APG, 47.2 FG%, 37 3P% • 15.9 PER, 7.6 Win Shares, 0.4 RAPM ​ By prying Parsons away from the Rockets, the Mavericks landed one of the league’s very best complementary players. Make no mistake: all “No. 3 guys” are not created equal. READ MORE Parsons stands as a desirable addition, even at that inflated price, because he brings so many different positive attributes to the table: he has logged heavy, heavy minutes in each of the last two seasons; he is a proven high-volume, solid-efficiency three-point shooter; he can create for himself and others in spot situations; he has ideal size for a wing defender and plays with discipline on that end; and he fills up all aspects of a box score through high-energy, selfless and fearless play. To help underscore that last point, Parsons joined LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Gordon Hayward and Michael Carter-Williams as the only players to average at least 16 points, five rebounds, four assists and a steal last season. The 2011 second-round pick, who has spent much of his three-year career ranking among the league’s most underpaid players, should find a solid fit in Dallas, where he will play off Dirk Nowitzki and Monta Ellis. Look for Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle to make full use of Parsons’ floor-spacing ability, his comfort in transition, and his knack for creating dunks and lay-ups with his timely off-the-ball cuts. -- B.G.

Image placeholder title

55. Luol Deng, Heat

Forward | Age: 29
6-9, 220 pounds
Last year: No. 55

2013-14 statistics• 16.0 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 2.9 APG, 43.1 FG%, 30.2 FG% • 15.2 PER, 4.5 Win Shares, 0.5 RAPMIt was just a few weeks ago that Deng’s biggest concern was how to tackle the unenviable task of filling LeBron James’ mammoth shoes in Miami. READ MORE Then, the hapless Hawks flapped their way into Deng’s life, leaking a racist and reputation-damaging background report they had compiled on the 6-foot-9 small forward. But the two-time All-Star and 10-year veteran handled the situation with dignity and grace, opting to stand up for himself without kicking Hawks management while it was on its knees begging for forgiveness. That approach further solidified Deng’s status as a class act – he has won the 2007 Sportsmanship Award and the 2014 J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award – and should serve him well as he attempts to turn the page and get acclimated in Miami. His combination of high basketball IQ, competitive spirit, and length makes Deng one of the league’s premier perimeter defenders, and he will likely play huge minutes for Miami coach Erik Spoelstra, just as he famously did for Tom Thibodeau in Chicago. Although his two-year, $20 million contract with the Heat did come with the excruciating and unbearable burden of taking the reins from James, it also gives him the opportunity to play on a veteran-dominated roster once again and for a driven, well-organized franchise that has won three titles since 2006. -- B.G.

Image placeholder title

54. Klay Thompson, Warriors

Guard | Age: 24
6-7, 205 pounds
Last year: No. 89

2013-14 statistics• 18.4 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 2.2 APG, 44.4 FG%, 41.7 3P% • 14.3. PER, 6.7 Win Shares, 1.5 RAPM Thompson emerged as a key player for USA Basketball at the World Cup shortly after he was a central player in rumors concerning a possible trade for Kevin Love. READ MORE Even Thompson’s ardent Bay Area backers must have been salivating at the thought of pairing Love with Stephen Curry, Andre Iguodala and Andrew Bogut in what sure looked like a championship-contending core. But any regrets about Golden State’s reported reluctance to include Thompson in a deal were at least partially erased in Spain, where the 2011 first-round pick won a gold medal and looked like USA’s best two-way perimeter player along the way. Thompson’s demonstrated deep commitment to working on the defensive end has raised his ceiling past “lethal three-point shooter.” His size, frame and footwork all lend themselves well to on-ball defense, and he’s made real progress during his three-year career. Of course, the shooting is and always will be his bread-and-butter skill: Thompson joined Stephen Curry as the only two players in the league to shoot at least 41 percent from deep while launching at least 500 attempts last season. -- B.G.

Image placeholder title

53. Josh Smith, Pistons

Forward | Age: 28
6-9, 225 pounds
Last year: No. 34

2013-14 statistics• 16.4 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 3.3 APG, 1.4 SPG, 1.4 BPG, 41.9 FG% • 14.1 PER, 1.1 Win Shares, 2.1 RAPMSmith's play with the Pistons last season wouldn't warrant a ranking this optimistic, but this exercise doesn't punish him for 1) the size of his contract, 2) the failings of his since-fired coach, or 3) the decision to sign him as a solution at small forward. READ MORE More broadly, Smith is still the enticing (and maddening) two-way dynamo we saw during those last years in Atlanta. He's every bit the defensive difference-maker he was then, so long as he's allowed to hang around the paint to best influence shots. It's not as if his finishing ability or sharp passing hasve somehow left him either. What plagues Smith most is circumstance; if cast into a role that constantly tests his worst instincts as a player -- instincts, it must be said, that Smith never had perfect control over in the first place -- all is essentially lost. He can do better, and were he on a team with a more coherent internal structure, he would. -- R.M.

Image placeholder title

52. Roy Hibbert, Pacers

Center | Age: 27
7-2, 290 pounds
Last year: No. 23

2013-14 statistics• 10.8 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 2.2 BPG, 43.9 FG% • 13.5 PER, 5.4 Win Shares, 1.5 RAPMFor a lumbering 7-foot-2 behemoth, Hibbert sure made the transition from “darling of the NBA intelligentsia” to “bane of basketball fans everywhere” in record time. READ MORE Even acknowledging that his postseason performance was atrocious, the vitriol sent Hibbert’s way was excessive; he is still a very good, very valuable player. The Pacers center made his second All-Star team in 2014, has been one of the top candidates for Defensive Player of the Year in each of the last two seasons and was the most important defensive player on the league’s No. 1 defense last year. Although his lack of quickness requires schematic accommodation on both sides of the ball, Hibbert is fundamentally-sound and unafraid when it comes to guarding the paint and protecting the rim, and those skills regularly bear game-changing fruit. It was also easy to miss the fact that Indiana finished with the East’s No. 1 seed and came within two wins of the Finals despite the firestorm that surrounded Hibbert’s struggles. His play wasn’t pretty, to be sure, but it didn’t singlehandedly sabotage his team’s title shot either. Going forward, the trickiest thing to determine is what exactly happened to him down the stretch. Was it fatigue? Was it mental? Was it locker room politics? How is it possible for an All-Star to post zero points and zero rebounds twice in the playoffs? How is it possible that Hibbert went scoreless on six separate occasions in April and May? Why did Hibbert struggle to shoot a career-low 43.9 percent – one of the all-time worst shooting percentages for any player 7-foot-2 or taller? Right now, it’s unclear whether the answers to those questions will ever be known or if the 2014 playoffs will prove to be a blip on his career’s radar. What is clear: Hibbert is being set up for a tough 2014-15 season without Paul George and Lance Stephenson around. -- B.G.

Image placeholder title

51. Joe Johnson, Nets

Guard | Age: 33
6-7, 240 pounds
Last year: No. 59

2013-14 statistics• 15.8 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 2.7 APG, 45.4 FG%, 40.1 3P% • 15.5 PER, 4.9 Win Shares, +2.5 RAPMJohnson is a man for all seasons. He shoots effectively from most zones on the floor and can fill most every function, from bullying guards inside to spotting up on the perimeter. READ MORE He has uncommon size and strength for his position, which is now loaded with undersized combo guards and three-point specialists. Better yet, Johnson understands how to make use of every physical advantage to bump and push and create just enough space for his silky jumper. Savvy comes naturally for Johnson, and it's allowed him to float seamlessly between hunting shots and supporting his teammates depending on what’s needed. That worked out well for Brooklyn last season, but Johnson's game would travel well to any other city and circumstance. -- R.M.

Image placeholder title

50. Jrue Holiday, Pelicans

Guard | Age: 24
6-4, 205 pounds
Last year: No. 48

2013-14 statistics • 14.3 PPG, 7.9 APG, 4.2 RPG, 44.7 FG%, 39.0 3P% • Advanced: 17.2 PER, 1.5 Win Shares, +0.6 RAPMAt 6-4 with a 6-7 wingspan, Holiday is both taller and longer than your average point guard. He uses those advantages to give opponents hell. READ MORE A wide reach makes every effort to close out to an opponent's shot or control his live dribble easier, enabling Holiday to play a suppressive brand of defense. Stylistically speaking, Holiday doesn't attack opposing guards with his defense so much as blanket them; everything from scoring over, driving around and passing away from Holiday becomes a legitimate challenge, introducing doubt into the usual automation of read and react. Such skills and size translate well to defense of either guard spot, a flexibility mirrored in Holiday's offensive game.  Holiday is a dependable, if unspectacular, playmaker. In his injury-abbreviated season with the Pelicans, Holiday set career highs in assists per 36 minutes (8.4) and assist percentage (38.9) for the second year in a row. He's a more slippery scoring threat than he's given credit for and a nice mid- and long-range shooter. For the first three years of his career, Holiday grew into his game alongside a pass-first swingman in Andre Iguodala. That partnership both eased Holiday's learning curve and empowered him to work off the ball in a way that many point guards can't. Having a true, steady jumper helps: Holiday made 46.7 of his spot-up three-pointers last season and 48.1 percent the year before, according to Synergy Sports. Moreover, Holiday floats between roles as an active creator and passive shooter organically. There's virtue in a player who can so comfortably pick his spots. -- R.M.

Image placeholder title

49. Pau Gasol, Bulls

Forward | Age: 34
7-0, 250 pounds
Last year: No. 36

2013-14 statistics• 17.4 PPG, 9.7 RPG, 3.4 APG, 1.5 BPG, 48.0 FG% • 19.3 PER, 3.0 Win Shares, 0.0 RAPMTwo things regarding Gasol have been made clear in the last year. READ MORE First: he will not kill himself, or even much trouble himself, to do the dirty work for a team he doesn't feel deserves it. Gasol's last NBA season, with the last-place Lakers, was underlined by half-hearted defensive effort, which wasn't a good look for an aging big man with waning mobility. The second: When Gasol is committed, as he was for Spain at the FIBA World Cup and as he should be for Chicago, he remains one of the most cerebral and effective post players in the league. After all these years, Gasol is still a standout in both post-up effectiveness and variety. Gasol has also experienced surprisingly little decline in his pick-and-roll game, offering another avenue for teams to get the ball in his hands. Good things tend to happen when possessions flow through him. Whether operating from the high post or making a catch on the move, Gasol sees the full floor and picks out open teammates with on-target passes. That he's such a willing distributor and a high-functioning scorer makes Gasol a drain on an entire defense. Gasol may no longer be able to serve as a team's first option, but precious few bigs share in his knack for facilitation. He makes other talented players better, provided that he's on a team contending for something other than nightly consolation. -- R.M.

Image placeholder title

48. Nikola Pekovic, Wolves

Center | Age: 28
6-11, 285 pounds
Last year: No. 50

2013-14 statistics• 17.5 PPG, 8.7 RPG, 54.1 FG%• 20.1 PER, 5.9 Win Shares, +1.3 RAPMMinnesota got almost exactly what it paid for from Pekovic last season. The center's numbers were nearly identical to those he posted during a breakout 2012-13 season that netted him a five-year, $60 million contract. Those stats reflect some real strengths. READ MORE Pekovic was one of only 14 players to average 17 points and eight rebounds and he ranked seventh among centers in PER. The wide-shouldered, beefy bruiser finished in the top 10 in rebounding percentage for the third straight year. He also attempted 86 percent of his shots in the basket area and earned more than five trips to the foul line per game. Unfortunately for the Timberwolves, Pekovic’s limitations -- a fairly one-dimensional offensive game and a lack of rim protection -- also remained unchanged. In fact, his ground-bound defense hit a new low, as he recorded just 23 blocks (6-1 point guards Raymond Felton and Kemba Walker somehow registered more). Of even greater concern was a continuation of Pekovic’s injury issues: He missed 28 games with bursitis in his right ankle. After Kevin Love's departure, Pekovic -- who has missed 27 percent of Minnesota’s games during his four-year career -- needs to prove that he can stay on the court long enough to handle the burden of being a foundational piece for the new-look Wolves. -- B.G.

Image placeholder title

47. David West, Pacers

Forward | Age: 34
6-9, 240 pounds
Last year: No. 31

2013-14 statistics• 14.0 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 2.8 APG, 48.8 FG% • 17.6 PER, 8.1 Win Shares, 1.2 RAPMPlease forgive West if he feels like the rug was yanked out from underneath him this offseason. READ MORE What do you mean Paul George is out for the year? What do you mean Lance Stephenson walked for nothing? What do you mean Roy Hibbert may or may not rebound from a puzzling decline? What do you mean the big offseason additions were C.J. Miles and Rodney Stuckey? What do you mean everything fell apart for the Pacers at the same time the Heat’s Big Three finally separated? None of this is what West had in mind when he re-signed with the Pacers for three years and $36 million in 2013, but the steady 11-year vet has been around the NBA block long enough to know that it’s his job to roll with the punches. If Indiana’s offense is to operate at anything above a disastrous level this season, it will be because West, a two-time All-Star power forward who can effectively score from both the block and the elbow, steps up as the No. 1 option. That’s asking a lot for a 34-year-old, but there just aren’t any better alternatives. Pacers fans dreading life without George should take heart in West’s tenacity and pride, plus the fact that his pairing with Hibbert will give coach Frank Vogel’s interior defense some valuable continuity. Whether Indiana winds up falling apart or hanging tough, West will almost definitely be the best thing it has going. -- B.G.

Image placeholder title

46. Paul Pierce, Wizards

Forward | Age: 36
6-7, 235 pounds
Last year: No. 32

2013-14 statistics • 13.5 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 2.4 APG, 45.1 FG%• 16.8 PER, 5.2 Win Shares, 2.6 RAPMAs last season progressed, the Nets grew weirder and far more effective. Pierce was a big reason why. READ MORE As challenging a cover as he's been at the three, the current version of Pierce -- older and less explosive -- is particularly tough when matched up at power forward. At that position his first step is best leveraged against unsuspecting foes, with every fake and juke that follows even more productive than usual. Pierce also took to his new defensive responsibilities as if he had juggled them for years. To the extent that Pierce has drawn praise for his defense in the past, it has generally been because of lockdown work against star wing players. Pierce's latest efforts, however, highlighted his value as a team defender at either forward spot. That enabled the Nets to go small without defensive concession -- a strategic move that bucks conventional tradeoff. Pierce has his limits (he averaged just 28 minutes), and continual use against post-pounding bigs is likely to wear him down over a season. Yet it's through the new Wizard's shot creation, off-ball facilitation and broad defensive ability that his team can consider new lineup possibilities. -- R.M.

Image placeholder title

45. Deron Williams, Nets

Guard | Age: 30
6-3, 210 pounds
Last year: No. 24

2013-14 statistics • 14.3 PPG, 6.1 APG, 2.6 RPG, 45 FG%, 36.6 3P%• 17.7 PER, 5.4 Win Shares, 2.0 RAPMDeron Williams will likely never be Deron Williams again. That player -- the one who led the Jazz to the 2007 Western Conference finals and until recently was regarded as a superstar -- has been undercut by ankle injuries. What Williams can be, though, is a perfectly effective point guard. READ MORE Don't mistake his depressed output for a lack of influence. The Nets scored a whopping 8.3 more points per 100 possessions last season with Williams than without, according to NBA.com, despite the presence of an able backup (Shaun Livingston) and strong supporting creators (Paul Pierce and Joe Johnson). At this point, however, Williams' value is very much dependent on his physical state. (He missed 18 games in 2013-14 and had surgery on both ankles in May.) When ailing he tends to drive very little, instead leaning heavily on long jumpers off the dribble that have become the root of his inconsistency. Williams is not an every-possession (or even every-night) performer. He's liable to turn in a single-digit scoring performances even when his team needs more. That's a problem and a demerit for these rankings. It just doesn't erase Williams' wealth of ability or all the good he offered the Nets despite his health woes. -- R.M.

Image placeholder title

44. Ty Lawson, Nuggets

Guard | Age: 26
5-11, 195 pounds
Last year: No. 42

At a position overflowing with talent, Lawson joins Kyle Lowry as the top point guards to never have garnered any formal recognition. READ MORE The 2009 first-round pick has not earned All-Star, All-NBA, All-Defensive or even All-Rookie honors, even though he has been the dependable engine that has powered the Nuggets’ attack for three straight years. Despite an abrupt coaching change, the absence of multiple key teammates and his own injury issues, Lawson still was one of only four players -- along with All-Stars Stephen Curry, Chris Paul and John Wall -- to average 17 points and eight assists last season. He also ranked No. 10 among point guards in PER. Blessed with elite acceleration and a strong handle, Lawson is one of the fastest end-to-end players in the league and he’s incredibly tough to keep out of the paint. On the other end, it would probably take an unprecedented mid-career growth spurt to transform Lawson into a plus defender, but that hardly makes him unique among his positional peers. There really isn’t all that much separating Lawson from players such as Mike Conley (No. 32) and Goran Dragic (No. 35), two off-the-radar point guards who have gotten some award-ballot love in recent years. It would be a mistake to assume that Denver’s speedster will continue to be overlooked as he pushes into his prime. -- B.G.

Image placeholder title

43. Nicolas Batum, Blazers

Forward | Age: 25
6-8, 200 pounds
Last year: No. 51

2013-14 statistics • 13.0 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 5.1 APG, 46.5 FG%, 36.1 3P%• 15.9 PER, 7.9 Win Shares, 0.2 RAPMThe graceful small forward got a little nastier in 2013-14, with his 7.5 rebounding average representing a major improvement over his previous glasswork READ MORE Batum's rebounding numbers spiked as he compensated for power forward LaMarcus Aldridge's late-season absence, but this was also a case of the long-armed wing seeking out new ways to contribute, something he has done throughout his six-year career. Batum is a jack-of-all-trades who seems ideally suited for his complementary role. He is equally capable of hitting catch-and-shoot jumpers, initiating pick-and-roll action, defending all three perimeter positions and executing chase-down blocks in transition. His toolbox was on display during the FIBA World Cup, where Batum made the all-tournament team and led France to a bronze medal. That latter accomplishment deserves praise not only because Tony Parker and Joakim Noah didn't suit up for France but also because Batum was coming off a season in which he played all 82 games and ranked sixth in minutes. Batum has put himself in the conversation for "second-best small forward in the West" behind Kevin Durant. -- B.G.

Image placeholder title

42. Zach Randolph, Grizzlies

Forward | Age: 33
6-9, 253 pounds
Last year: No. 35

2013-14 statistics • 17.4 PPG, 10.1 RPG, 2.5 APG, 46.6 FG%• 18.4 PER, 6.4 Win Shares, 1.1 RAPMBeing undersized and lacking leaping ability hardly deter Randolph from scoring inside consistently. The two-time All-Star powers his way up and through defenders to find some slither of an open angle. His plodding, ground-bound game is largely reliant on manufacturing contested shots from within the teeth of the defense. This is who he is and what he does, and provided that his team understands that, he'll go to work in generating offense and cleaning the glass as often as possible. READ MORE Randolph is productive despite rarely operating in the pick-and-roll. Such plays accounted for a mere four percent of his offensive usage last season, according to Synergy Sports, an unusually low number in a league of increasing pick-and-roll prevalence. That stat provides a small bit of proof that Randolph has sustained success on his own terms. He's gotten better over 13 seasons, particularly as a team defender. For the most part, though, Randolph has gone about business as usual, progressing in skill but never compromising his post-heavy style much. Bless him for it. The NBA is a better place with Randolph's bully game offering flavor. -- R.M.

Image placeholder title

41. Manu Ginobili, Spurs

Guard | Age: 37
6-6, 210 pounds
Last year: No. 56

2013-14 statistics • 12.3 PPG, 4.3 APG, 3 RPG, 46.9 FG%, 34.9 3P%• 20.1 PER, 5.7 Win Shares, 4.7 RAPMAs one of many talented reserves on San Antonio's ridiculously deep bench, Ginobili logged just 1,550 minutes last season (seventh most on the team and an average of 22.8 per game). It'd be an understatement to say he made the most of his time on the court. READ MORE The future Hall of Famer and four-time champion finished third among shooting guards in PER and aced the impact stats, posting a team-high 12.9 net rating (112.4 offense, 99.5 defense) in the regular season, an astronomical 17.3 net rating (116.9 offense, 99.5 defense) in the playoffs and a 4.7 real plus-minus (sixth in the league). It's not just that Ginobili constantly pressures defenses off the dribble. After all these years, he's still delivering in big postseason moments, too. The Spurs' title team had too many heroes to count, but don't lose Ginobili's handiwork in the confetti haze, including his 20 points and six steals in a decisive Game 7 victory over Dallas in the first round, his 19 points and six assists in a pivotal Game 5 win over Oklahoma City in the conference finals and his 16 points and 11 assists in a Game 1 triumph over Miami in the Finals. His playoff run included too many huge three-pointers and nifty layups to count, and it completed a stellar bounce-back season for Ginobili, who hadn't looked quite right in 2012-13. -- B.G.

Image placeholder title

40. Rajon Rondo, Celtics

Guard | Age: 28
6-1, 171 pounds
Last year: No. 26

2013-14 statistics • 11.7 PPG, 9.8 APG, 5.5 RPG, 40.3 FG%, 28.9 3P%• 15.3 PER, 1.1 Win Shares, -0.2 RAPMWe know how good Rondo can be. He's dominated playoff series. He led the NBA in assists in back-to-back seasons. He's sly. He's athletic. He makes jaw-dropping plays through magnetic creativity. Fans revere this Rondo. The complete Rondo, however, can't be contained so neatly in a highlight reel, not when he drifts, mails in games and comes with a mess of baggage. Both extremes, and the complicating factors between them, play a part in his ranking, which is lower than his talent might warrant. READ MORE Rondo is one of the most difficult players in the league to value, much less place on an actual, optimal roster.​ The most basic criticism is that he isn't a shooter; he's made 25.2 percent from three-point range in his eight-year career. This matters and hinders what his team can accomplish with him on the floor. It's also harmful that Rondo regularly ignores the right play for a flashy pass. No point guard hunts assists so overtly, as Rondo will shrug off open layups to find a teammate for a worse shot. Bad judgment diminishes the value of his all-world court vision. Folded into this is Rondo's aversion to shooting, a tendency that allows the defense to ease off him in coverage and apply pressure elsewhere. To make matters worse, Rondo's defensive contributions are hugely overblown based on a dated reputation. Rondo made a name for himself in the NBA by locking down ball handlers and racking up steals, two of the more demonstrative forms of perimeter defense. Since then, however, Rondo has jogged and gambled his way through defensive possessions far too frequently. If this were only a problem within the context of last season's hopeless Celtics, Rondo might have some excuse. But he hasn't been a high-level defender for years, both in terms of applying honest ball pressure and supplying his teammates with good, timely help. Not since the 2009-10 season have the Celtics played better defense (as measured by points allowed per possession) with Rondo on the floor, according to NBA.com. That is not some statistical illusion, but a trend confirmed by more refined plus-minus data, video tracking services like Synergy Sports and even a casual view of Celtics game tape. To add one more complicating layer to all of this, Rondo has established himself as the kind of personality that makes running a team difficult. The exact characterization changes with every report, but at most generous we could call Rondo a bit of an eccentric. More generally we might say that he's moody or uncooperative, neither of which serves Rondo well in a broad evaluation such as this. -- R.M.

Image placeholder title

39. Tyson Chandler, Mavericks

Center | Age: 31
7-1, 235 pounds
Last year: No. 27

2013-14 statistics • 8.7 PPG, 9.6 RPG, 1.1 BPG, 59.3 FG%• 16.5 PER, 4.9 Win Shares, 1.3 RAPMI didn't blame Chandler much for playing with an uncharacteristic level of disengagement at times last season. By the time he returned in mid-December after missing 20 games with a broken leg, the Knicks were already in the midst of a downward spiral. READ MORE Chandler's job of covering for the defensive lapses of Carmelo Anthony, J.R. Smith, Raymond Felton, Andrea Bargnani and Tim Hardaway Jr. in a switch-heavy system would be challenging under any conditions but particularly so on a team that was no longer responding to its coach. With his return to a more stable situation in Dallas, however, Chandler seems due for a return to form. Maybe he'll never play at peak levels again, as would be a reasonable assumption for a 31-year-old, injury-plagued center reliant on athleticism. But Chandler has better play in him than what he showed last season, if only because another working environment might be more conducive to giving a damn. With that bare minimum of organizational direction in years past, Chandler proved to be an outstanding player -- the second best on the Mavericks' 2011 title team and the Defensive Player of the Year the next season for a playoff club in New York. When healthy (which can't be assumed but shouldn't be ruled out yet) and engaged, Chandler can lead a defense with his mobility, vertical explosion and energy