Friendly Fire: 25 Petty Critiques of the SI Top 100

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Top 100 NBA Players of 2018: Should Harden Be Ranked Above Westbrook?
Friday September 15th, 2017

Earlier this summer my colleagues Ben Golliver and Rob Mahoney spent a shocking amount of time sorting through every player in the NBA. The process involved several hours-long phone calls, spreadsheets, advanced stats, and dozens of tweaks and revisions over the course of the past three weeks. The finished product is here, their annual list of the 100 best basketball players in the world. Annotated versions of the list are here: 100-51, 50-31, 30-11 and 10-1.

Now, in the interest of balance, I've been asked by our editors to explain what they got wrong. 

Here are 25 petty complaints about the The Crossover's Top 100.

25. D'Angelo Russell at 100. Either D'Angelo Russell will look much better in Brooklyn this year—in which case this is 15-20 spots too low—or his bad defense and streaky shooting will continue to handicap him, and this is too high. Either way, he won't be the 100th best player in the league. 

24. No Dion Waiters. Ben and Rob left Waiters off despite multiple e-mailed complaints from at least one SI staffer. And look, that wasn't me. I'm not here to lead a Waiters crusade. But Kentavious Caldwell-Pope made it. Elfrid Payton made it. If we're going to lower the bar for some disappointing lottery picks, we might as well pick the most the entertaining one.

23. No Joe Ingles, no Andre Roberson. No Malcolm Brogdon, no Jabari Parker.  

22. Marvin Williams at 88. All four of the guys above were better basketball players than Marvin Williams last year. Sure Jabari is hurt, but explain the other three. And if we're just rewarding Williams for being versatile enough to give you lineup flexibility—read: "6'8 and kinda athletic"—then where is Marcus Morris on this list?

21. Jonas Valanciunas (80) and Tobias Harris (81) above Robert Covington (82) and Eric Gordon (83). This is the right range for these guys. We just need to put them in the exact opposite order of what Ben and Rob had, and then we'll be set.

Rocky Widner/Getty Images

20. Reggie Jackson at 78. Reggie Jackson's teammates even think this is about 15 spots too high. 
 
19. Dwight Howard (73) below Cody Zeller (70). I'm pretty sure this was an experiment designed to see whether anyone cares enough to try defending Dwight Howard in 2017.

18. Jusuf Nurkic (69) and Myles Turner (68) below Derrick Favors (67). Favors hasn't played 65 games in either of the past two seasons. At the very least, he needs to be two spots lower. I told you these were going to be petty. 

17. The Devin Booker reality check. He should get better this year, and he's spent the past two seasons handicapped by dreadful Phoenix rosters. But explosive scoring aside, it's true: Booker has struggled on defense, his shooting's been streaky, and he hasn't won anything. 64 feels... right? Maybe? 

16. Trevor Ariza at 62. No, if Ariza is 62, then Booker at 64 is just wrong. Last year Trevor Ariza averaged 11 points playing 35 minutes per game in a Mike D'Antoni offense. He shot 34% from three, a career low. Don't let the idea of 2011-2014 Ariza distract you from what 2017 Ariza is actually doing. Don't let Ben and Rob tell you Trevor Ariza is more valuable than Devin Booker. 

15. Gary Harris at 57. Great spot for him. Not too low, not too high, and slightly better than Redick at 59, which feels right at this point in their careers. Another person who Devin Booker is probably better than, but still, this is a good ranking. 

14. Avery Bradley at 54. This feels like it's 10 spots too low.

13. Jae Crowder at 44. Arguably 20 spots too high. 

12. The bottom half of the 40s vs. the top half of the 50s. Flip Andrew Wiggins (50) and Otto Porter (53) with Brook Lopez (45) and 20 minutes-a-game Iguodala (46). This feels like Smart Basketball blasphemy, but just trust me. This is about next year, not the last five years. 

11. Danillo Gallinari at 42. Can't even be mad at this one. Who among us has never talked themselves into a huge Gallinari year that probably won't come together? 

Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

10. DeRozan (36) vs. Middleton (35). After L'Affaire 46 last year, they came so close to getting DeRozan right. Slightly better scorer than present-day Carmelo (37), not as versatile or valuable as Hassan Whiteside (34) or a healthy Kristaps Porzingis (33), not as efficient or well-rounded as the star guards in the tier above him (Harden, Butler, George, Curry, Klay). 35 is perfect. But then, DeRozan isn't 35. Because Ben and Rob just couldn't resist trying to tell people that Khris Middleton (an A– role player, not a first or second option on a good team) is better than DeMar DeRozan (B+ All-Star, not a first option on a title team). And for the second year in a row, DeRozan has a point. 

9. Flip Paul Millsap (27) and Kevin Love (26). Think about how much better off the Nuggets will be with Millsap's defense than they would have been with Love's defense. And think about how many teams that would be true for around the league.

8. Beal (32) is about 4 spots too low. There's always a Wizards snub. Just saying.

7. But Jokic (25) is just right. There's a certain segment of the internet that has been arguing about Nikola Jokic's value for five straight months. I don't really get it. But 25 is a responsible hedge.

6. DeMarcus Cousins (23) above Marc Gasol (24)? Ehhhh. Siding with Cousins in that matchup is almost definitely the wrong call, but in fairness, you could throw Boogie anywhere from 10-55, and there's a credible case to be made. 

5. Klay Thompson (20) is better than Kyle Lowry (19). I love Lowry, but look, the "Kyle Lowry is SO underrated" crowd is ignoring a lot of injuries and playoff no-shows. We don't have to move Lowry to Kemba and Dragic territory, but Ben and Rob can't go off claiming he's better than Klay Thompson.

4. Kyrie Irving (21) is probably not better than Damian Lillard (17), but he's better than Mike Conley (18). [nervously re-enters the Kyrie argument for the next four sentences]. Conley is steady on offense with great defense. He's one of the most beloved unsung heroes we have in the NBA. But—[re-watches every 70-point half in the Finals]—Kyrie's skills are more valuable at the highest levels of the sport. Elite offense is more valuable than elite defense. That's why Lillard's higher than Conley, right? And Lillard's more consistent than Kyrie, so he should get that edge for now.

3. Gordon Hayward (16) is getting a lot of love here. Probably too much. But he's about to have the best year of his career and I'm sure he'll look like a God in the East, so, whatever. Rankings don't matter. 

2. No Kobe on this list. No Austin Rivers, either. Did not go unnoticed. 

1. The top 15 is basically perfect. Seriously. I'm obligated to harass them, but Ben and Rob did a great job across the board. Especially at the top. Now it's time for the next eight months of the NBA to turn it upside down.

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