Rob Mahoney and Ben Golliver of Sports Illustrated’s The Crossover are back it with their annual ‘Top 100 NBA Players’ column. Part one—rankings 100-51—was released yesterday and Nuggets fans saw two of their projected starters, Will Barton and Jamal Murray, listed in the bottom fifty. On Tuesday, part two—rankings 50-31—dropped, and two more Nuggets made an appearance.
Harris’ ranking won’t surprise the folks in Denver, though the casual fan might be surprised to see him listed at 44—one spot ahead of Miami’s Goran Dragic (45), and one spot behind Dallas’ DeAndre Jordan (43).
Gary may not be the flashiest player in Denver but he’s made a strong case for himself as the most consistent player on the Nuggets’ roster. With strong defensive instincts, superb spot up shooting, and a near elite ability to get open off the ball, Harris has emerged as one of the more complete two guards in the league. What makes him so difficult to guard, as Ben Golliver notes in his breakdown, is his ability to keep the defense honest off-ball.
Ben points out that most players with his spot up ability are limited in their directionality when it comes to cutting and play design. But Harris is just as dangerous when finishing around the rim as he is from beyond the arc. When that cutting and shooting ability are paired with the passing savant Nikola Jokic, there’s not much a defender can do to prevent Harris from finding an open spot on the floor.
Millsap, as stoic as he is talented, came in at 37—one spot ahead of OKC’s Steven Adams (38), and one spot behind Memphis’ Mike Conley (36).
There’s a profound appropriateness to Millsap’s ranking. At 37, he’s well within the top 50, but he’s also nestled between Conley and Adams—two of the more understated, yet ultra-productive players in the entire league. Despite experiencing a serious injury for the first time in his career, Millsap’s first season in Denver might encapsulate the type of player that he is as well as any. He put up his worst individual numbers in a near decade, and yet, as Ben Golliver points out in his breakdown:
“Denver posted a +4.1 net rating with Millsap on the court—equivalent to the league’s No. 6 ranking—and he made the Nuggets more efficient on both sides. Perhaps most importantly, Millsap and Nikola Jokic posted a strong +8 net rating in nearly 900 minutes together.”
Despite his age and his lengthy recovery from that wrist injury, all the evidence suggests that a healthy Millsap makes this Nuggets team significantly better on both sides of the ball. The silent assassin hopes to return to full form this season, a prospect that should have Nuggets fans salivating.
With 30 spots remaining in SI’s rankings, the Nuggets have just one starter who hasn’t yet been listed. It’s their best player, Nikola Jokic. With the safe assumption that the Serbian Sensation will appear somewhere in the top 30, the Nuggets are one of just five teams to have all of their projected starters ranked in SI’s top-70. They’re joined by Golden State, Philadelphia, Boston, and Utah. Strong company.