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Today's NBA: The stars align

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In the NBA's galaxy of stars, you'd better have an asterism if you want to play.

Emmanuel Mudiay and Darrell Arthur's jerseys both know how many "top 50" Nuggets are on many pundit's lists...
Emmanuel Mudiay and Darrell Arthur's jerseys both know how many "top 50" Nuggets are on many pundit's lists...
Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The feeding frenzy of this year's NBA free agency continues apace, with many of the most-coveted players already off the board, including Dwayne Wade's decision yesterday to skip a trip to play for the Denver Nuggets, and instead join his hometown Chicago Bulls. The NBA's biggest stars continue to gravitate to places that other star power exists. I'd talk about Kevin Durant turning Golden State into the NBA's version of the 1992 USA Olympic Dream Team, but that was already beautifully illustrated by the Big Stiff himself, Andrew Feinstein, in this year's lament over Kevin Durant's choice to join the already-loaded Golden State Warriors.

Andy wisely reminded us of recent super team collisions and decisions, and the successes and failures of the same. His thoughts left me wondering how many of the NBA's stars do tend to aggregate together, as so few stay with the team that drafted them throughout their careers. I tried to think of a way to illustrate the haves and have-nots of today's NBA. Some of you are not going to love my methodology, but here goes...

In looking to somewhat delineate the top 50 players in the NBA, I stumbled across Sports Illustrated's "Top 100 NBA players" column that kicks off every season. While a few of the players were not as successful as SI projected, it was still a very solid representation of the league's elite, so I shaved the list in half and took the top 50. To offset anyone I might have missed, I went back to basketball-reference.com and picked up a few players off their "NBA Leaders" lists, and added four who were prominent and not on the list, including by PER. (I know, I know)

That sweep only added another four players to the list, as you'll see below:

SI.com

Danny Green

Spurs

Zach Randolph

Grizzlies

Greg Monroe

Bucks

Al Jefferson

Hornets

Kyle Korver

Hawks

Khris Middleton

Bucks

Andre Iguoudala

Warriors

Joakim Noah

Knicks

Goran Dragic

Heat

Jeff Teague

Pacers

Pau Gasol

Spurs

Rudy Gobert

Jazz

Brooke Lopez

Nets

Derrick Favors

Jazz

Tyson Chandler

Suns

Andre Drummond

Pistons

Kyle Lowry

Raptors

Eric Bledsoe

Suns

Paul Millsap

Hawks

Gordon Hayward

Jazz

Dwayne Wade

Bulls

Deandre Jordan

Clippers

Dirk Nowitzki

Mavericks

Mike Conley

Grizzlies

Klay Thompson

Warriors

Serge Ibaka

Magic

Damian Lillard

Trail Blazers

Kyrie Irving

Cavaliers

Chris Bosh

Heat

Al Horford

Celtics

Paul George

Pacers

Dwight Howard

Hawks

Jimmy Butler

Bulls

Kevin Love

Cavaliers

Draymond Green

Warriors

Carmelo Anthony

Knicks

DeMarcus Cousins

Kings

John Wall

Wizards

LaMarcus Aldridge

Spurs

Tim Duncan

Spurs

Kawhi Leonard

Spurs

Marc Gasol

Grizzlies

Blake Griffin

Clippers

Russell Westbrook

Thunder

Chris Paul

Clippers

James Harden

Rockets

Stephen Curry

Warriors

Anthony Davis

Pelicans

Kevin Durant

Warriors

LeBron James

Cavaliers

Basketball-Reference.com

Karl-Anthony Towns

Timberwolves

Jonas Valanciunas

Raptors

Enes Kanter

Thunder

Hassan Whiteside

Heat

When you start to break that list out by team, with everyone hopefully correctly attributed to their new squads, here's what you start to see, with the league rather neatly broken in half... halves... haves?

The "Haves"

Five players on the list -€” two teams

  • Golden State Warriors

  • San Antonio Spurs

Three players on the list -€” six teams

  • Memphis Grizzlies

  • Atlanta Hawks

  • Utah Jazz

  • Los Angeles Clippers

  • Cleveland Cavaliers

  • Miami Heat

Two players on the list -€” seven teams

  • Milwaukee Bucks

  • New York Knicks

  • Indiana Pacers

  • Phoenix Suns

  • Toronto Raptors

  • Oklahoma City Thunder

  • Chicago Bulls

The Have NOTS

One player on the list -€” twelve teams

  • Charlotte Hornets

  • Brooklyn Nets

  • Detroit Pistons

  • Dallas Mavericks

  • Minnesota Timberwolves

  • Orlando Magic

  • Portland Trail Blazers

  • Boston Celtics

  • Sacramento Kings

  • Washington Wizards

  • Houston Rockets

  • New Orleans Pelicans

No players on the list -€” three teams

Now, obviously the number of "top players" on a team are not the be-all, end-all, as the Blazers certainly had a better season than the Suns or Jazz, but for the most part the tiers stand up against the standings of last season, especially in the Eastern Conference.

Sadly, the disparity is broad between the haves and have-nots in this upcoming season's NBA. The list's top two teams have almost as many players (10) as the bottom fifteen (12). It doesn't help to add in the remaining teams above the "have nots" line, as you see that half of the league's teams employ 78% of the best players.

The stars are yet again aligning, Nuggets Nation, and no constellations appear to be forming over Denver, Colorado. Though there are promising players up and coming on the team, how far will Denver ever climb if they don't have two or three or four or even FIVE top 50 players on their team?