Continuing the NBA Top 100 list from yesterday, it’s time to rank the remaining NBA players from 50 to 1.
As a reminder, the first half of the Top 100 list included an explanation of the criteria used, the honorable mentions, and players ranked between 100 and 51. That list can be found below, as well as more statistically driven player rankings by position.
Top 50 players of 2017-18 by position
Players missing from the top 50 will most likely be discussed in the articles above, so check them out.
Now, on to the borderline All-Stars, elite role players, and legitimate superstars in today’s NBA.
50. Lou Williams - Los Angeles Clippers
Williams was a great scorer last season in a reserve role. His defense left much to be desired which pushed him down the list.
49. Goran Dragic - Miami Heat
Dragic was better as the season went along but his numbers are unremarkable. Expect him to trend down this list as he plays into his thirties.
48. Andre Drummond - Detroit Pistons
Drummond’s negative affect on team impact is important but so is his premier rebounding and versatility.
47. Jayson Tatum - Boston Celtics
Tatum will probably be in the All-Star conversation next season, but for now, it’s hard to rank him over more established players. Still, his potential is through the roof.
46. CJ McCollum - Portland Trail Blazers
McCollum’s efficiency dropped off a lot last year. The defense was average. The scoring was good, but for all the credit he gets as a former point guard, he’s not an above average passer for his position.
45. Gary Harris - Denver Nuggets
Harris clocks in here after making improvements to his defense and self-creation. As he continues to expand his game as a passer and better defender, he may jump into the top 30 within the next two seasons.
44. Marc Gasol - Memphis Grizzlies
Gasol’s defense and efficiency dropped last year without Mike Conley to help set him up. Conley is back now so we will see whether he still has something left.
43. Clint Capela - Houston Rockets
Capela’s efficiency and productivity benefited from having Chris Paul and James Harden on his team. Still, he proved his worth all the way though the Western Conference Finals.
42. Devin Booker - Phoenix Suns
He’s Approaching elite scorer status but playing zero defense invokes a penalty. 42nd is the right spot for him: not quite an All-Star but above a lot of solid starters.
41. Robert Covington - Philadelphia 76ers
Covington over Booker was intentional and hilarious.
40. Paul Millsap - Denver Nuggets
He regressed last season offensively but the defense was still there, coming in at 26th in my defensive impact score. If he focuses on complementing Denver’s other scorers, he may see a slight bump next season.
39. Mike Conley - Memphis Grizzlies
It’s unfortunate but a must that Conley be penalized for injury issues. The Grizzlies’ glimmering playoff hopes hinge on how close he can return to his former standing as a playmaker and solid defender.
38. Donovan Mitchell - Utah Jazz
He’s not quite as good as Ben Simmons but he has passed CJ McCollum, Devin Booker, Gary Harris, and other quality shooting guards, at least temporarily. Further improvements will elevate him to All-Star level in the near future.
37. Blake Griffin - Detroit Pistons
Just 21.1% of Griffin’s shots came at the rim during his games in Detroit, while he averaged closer to 40% during the first five years of his career. He must regain an attacking mindset.
36. Kristaps Porzingis - New York Knicks
Porzingis is a talented two-way player who’s not quite All-Star level, but his scoring and rim protection were great. His 3.7 blocks per 100 possessions were the highest among players to play 1,000 minutes.
35. Steven Adams - Oklahoma City Thunder
The ultra-solid behemoth in the middle elevates Oklahoma City’s defense to elite levels. While Andre Roberson and Paul George garner most of the credit, Adams is the anchor. He had a top five defensive score in my metric.
34. Otto Porter - Washington Wizards
Porter is close to All-Star status by being the best role player in the NBA. He’s not quite a star, but his production, shooting efficiency, and team impact scores in his role are absurdly good.
33. Kevin Love - Cleveland Cavaliers
Love has some work to do to regain his status as a true All-Star. Nikola Jokic’s reputation on defense is what Kevin Love actually is: a zero. Cleveland’s defense improved by 3.0 points per 100 with him off the floor. That may improve if he moves back to power forward.
32. John Wall - Washington Wizards
The metric data ranked Wall 76th in the NBA and his efficiency placed him below average, despite adjusting for his usage. He has much to prove this year following an injury-plagued season.
31. Khris Middleton - Milwaukee Bucks
Middleton is on the border of stardom. He was second in the NBA in minutes but only 50th in point production. Given his abilities as a creator and passer, adding to his scoring would cement him as an All-Star.
30. DeMar DeRozan - San Antonio Spurs
DeRozan may make this ranking look stupid playing for Gregg Popovich but given his playoff struggles, Toronto’s consistent improvement while he sits, and his defensive concerns, I’m in “wait and see” mode for him in San Antonio.
29. Bradley Beal - Washington Wizards
Beal has been in the 25-30 range among NBA players the last few seasons. I’d like to see him improve his 84th best assist score before ranking him higher.
28. Kemba Walker - Charlotte Hornets
Kemba has been shackled by a bad roster for years. He’s in the last year of his deal in Charlotte so the Hornets better become serious about building around him soon.
27. Kyle Lowry - Toronto Raptors
Lowry was the best player on the Raptors last year. It wasn’t DeRozan’s scoring that kept the Raptors afloat. It was Lowry’s two-way play and decision-making. The only reason Lowry isn’t higher is because of how the team performed even better with Fred VanVleet.
26. Gordon Hayward - Boston Celtics
Ranking Hayward is unfair. The top 25 is reserved for stars though so until he proves he’s healthy, I can’t justify him in that range.
25. Ben Simmons - Philadelphia 76ers
The first legitimate star of the list is a controversial one, but Ben Simmons has earned it despite not making a single three-pointer. His slashing, passing, defense, and team impact justify it.
24. Jrue Holiday - New Orleans Pelicans
Holiday played the 5th most minutes in the NBA last season. The Pelicans’ guard showed off his versatility in the playoffs by locking up Damian Lillard and scoring at will against the Blazers.
23. LaMarcus Aldridge - San Antonio Spurs
Aldridge carried the Spurs last year, posting the 41st best efficiency and 31st best defensive score in the NBA to go along with the 10th best point score and 20th best metric score.
22. DeMarcus Cousins - Golden State Warriors
His team impact was suspect but Cousins contributed top 20 marks in points, production and efficiency to help quell those concerns. Let’s see how he bounces back from injury.
21. Klay Thompson - Golden State Warriors
Thompson’s situation allows him to operate as a super role player. On a normal team, he’d likely be the first or second option offensively but his efficiency (13th best in the NBA) would likely drop as well, a big part of what makes his volume scoring so valuable.
20. Kyrie Irving - Boston Celtics
Irving’s injury concerns and defense push him down the list, but he’s undeniable as a scorer. With the 3rd best point production and 5th best scoring efficiency, his value comes in hitting the shots in pressure situations.
19. Al Horford - Boston Celtics
Horford’s value comes in elevating a team’s floor through high passing, defense, and impact numbers. The scoring wasn’t a part of his game but that’s not what makes him a star.
18. Karl-Anthony Towns - Minnesota Timberwolves
A claim for best offensive center in the NBA next to Denver’s star, Towns’ scoring production was cannibalized by Wiggins. Still, he had the sixth best efficiency score among players on this list, behind Curry, LeBron, Durant, Irving, and Harden. Insane company for the 22-year-old.
17. Draymond Green - Golden State Warriors
Much like Thompson, Green may not be best utilized on a lesser team if asked to score more. He’s not efficient, but he maximizes his gifts through a 2nd ranked defensive score, 12th ranked passing score, and 21st ranked metrics score. That was enough to put him here.
16. Nikola Jokic - Denver Nuggets
Finally, Denver’s young star. Ranking 5th overall in the metrics and 3rd in production because of his versatility, Jokic brings so much to the table offensively. Right now, the weakest part of his offensive game is punishing teams with 1-on-1 scoring but he has the gift of making any team he’s part of a top 5 offense. That’s a big deal.
15. Rudy Gobert - Utah Jazz
Just as Jokic can make any offense elite, Gobert can make any defense elite. Gobert gets the benefit of the doubt as the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, and if he maintains where he’s at offensively, he will be a mainstay in the top 15.
14. Paul George - Oklahoma City Thunder
George struggled at times next to Russell Westbrook but his two-way impact is undeniable. With Roberson healthy, I expect George’s defensive numbers to spike. With Carmelo Anthony gone, I expect his points and assists to improve.
13. Victor Oladipo - Indiana Pacers
Victor Oladipo was a revelation last year. Not only did he average 24 points per game, but he did so while providing elite defense at the point of attack. The next thing he must work on his playmaking for others.
12. Damian Lillard - Portland Trail Blazers
Lillard earned this standing by heroically carrying the Blazers to a three-seed. He was the most valuable point guard in the NBA last year on total volume.
11. Joel Embiid - Philadelphia 76ers
He was nearly the Defensive Player of the Year to go with top 10 point production. A specific part of Embiid’s defense was exposed by Al Horford and his spacing, but not everyone can do what Horford does. Still, Embiid’s total impact is undeniable.
10. Kawhi Leonard - Toronto Raptors
It’s prove-it time for Leonard. I find it difficult to place him any higher given the uncertainty of his health and willingness to play. On paper, he’s an MVP candidate.
9. Jimmy Butler - Minnesota Timberwolves
Jimmy Butler wants a trade so his future placement on this list is uncertain. He’s clearly a top 10 player right now though, but he will have work to do to secure his spot.
8. Russell Westbrook - Oklahoma City Thunder
Westbrook was top 20 in every category graded outside of efficiency and defense. Those are important categories, but they aren’t everything. If his knee injury is real, this may be the season he slides.
7. Chris Paul - Houston Rockets
Paul’s injury issues have hurt his teams and his absence caused the Houston Rockets to miss the Finals last year. If he’s healthy, he’s a borderline MVP caliber player. Of note: his defense is starting to slip.
6. Giannis Antetokounmpo - Milwaukee Bucks
Giannis is nicknamed Greek Freak for a reason. He was top 12 in six of the eight categories, save for passing and team impact. He won’t crack the top 5 until he improves either of those categories but with Mike Budenholzer as his coach now, I think it’s coming.
5. Anthony Davis - New Orleans Pelicans
A reincarnation of Kevin Garnett, Davis has similar issues in that he can’t pass the ball to himself. He’d be higher on the list if he wasn’t so much of a finisher rather than a creator. Cousins served that role last year, so Davis may be in line for a jump as a creator this year.
4. James Harden - Houston Rockets
Arguing the top four is like choosing between children. Harden was the MVP and deservedly so. He ranked first overall in my cumulative rankings. Despite that, he’s penalized for losing to Golden State after being up 3-2.
3. Kevin Durant - Golden State Warriors
Durant’s numbers in these categories are lower than they should be, but he showed once again in the playoffs that he’s an absolute bucket. The defense is overrated but he can score from anywhere in any situation.
2. Stephen Curry - Golden State Warriors
The Curry vs Durant debate is far more interesting than the Durant vs LeBron debate. I give the edge to Curry, because despite what Durant can do with the basketball, the Warriors are a fiery supernova with Curry, and his highest overall team impact score reflects that.
1. LeBron James - Los Angeles Lakers
The team on this ranking stings a little bit. The number one spot will remain LeBron’s until someone takes it from him. He hasn’t been the MVP in awhile, but it’s clear he’s still the best player.
Whew. That was a lot. Thanks for reading and sticking with me. Comment below with thoughts and questions on the list, or find me on Twitter (@NBABlackburn) to continue the banter. Did you agree with my Nuggets takes? What does your top 10 look like?
Because I’m almost certain it’s different from mine.
Which Denver Nuggets player MOST deserves to be ranked higher?
This poll is closed
Trey Lyles - H.M.
Will Barton - 72
Jamal Murray - 54
Gary Harris - 45
Paul Millsap - 40
Nikola Jokic - 16
Other - N.R.