There is never a question of whether he’s game to compete, ready for the moment, or adequately prepared. The 26-year-old wing blossomed from a second-unit defensive specialist to a starting two-way wing during four seasons with the Miami Heat, earning plaudits from League Pass aficionados for his motor and commitment. His move from Memphis to Utah gives Conley a far better roster to work with, which should translate to a lighter load and, hopefully, improved durability. In the West finals, Capela’s unique combination of length, agility and activity made him surprisingly resilient against the Warriors. When you’re already one of the best defenders, passers, and rebounders at your position, a smaller step forward can feel like a stride. He has a knack for turning up around any loose ball. Stephen Curry and James Harden are the only players in NBA history with seasons in which they've matched or exceeded D'Angelo Russell's 2019-20 … All the ball movement was cute, but 20 seconds of good intentions often ended in Aldridge bailing his teammates out. Last year was different. We’ve seen that Brown can sustain his play in starters’ minutes. There are some things you can never take away from a seven-footer when he’s wholly committed to playing his game. Opponents, now wise to this, are tempted to overreact. Any predictive ranking must account for that, particularly with Conley now in his early 30s. The player would need to be intensely competitive, but it’s best if they’re also unassuming. The rankings, compiled by national NBA writer Ben Golliver, are meant to assess each player's relative value without regard to his specific role or teammates. The 23-year-old guard is an incredibly skilled scorer and an improved playmaker for his teammates, but major holes continue to abound. One can be a specialist and still have a highly transferable skill set. The biggest complaint was that he went too hard with the Wizards limping into the lottery. Nothing in Horford’s style or skill set would make him a target in a playoff series. It just can’t be guaranteed—not after Hayward was immobilized, reduced to shooting from a chair, and categorically ruled out even as the Celtics played late into May. The 29-year-old guard topped 20 points per game for the first time in his career while also earning all-defensive second-team honors last season. He missed 20-plus games for the third straight season and posted career lows in both player efficiency rating and win shares. It’s no surprise that he’s caught the eye of so many teams around the league, all of which would be thrilled to have a stake in Brown’s future. Although he is not especially physical on the ball, his deep range demands defensive attention and his willingness to step up in clutch situations is commendable. George’s greatest talent—among many—may be how easily he covers up the seams. Even though he plays alongside another great passer in James Harden, only 15% of Paul’s field goals last season were assisted. Barnes (18.9 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 2.0 APG) is not a first-option scorer, as he’s been cast in Dallas, or a fifth option, as he was in Golden State. Unlike many guards who struggle from beyond the arc, he hasn’t yet perfected a compensatory weapon like a step-in mid-range jumper or an in-between floater. Indiana gave George the opportunity to lead a team of his own, which only led him to relish a day he didn’t have to. Enjoy! — RM. © 2021 ABG-SI LLC. The usual limitations regarding point guards don’t really apply; he’s tall (a listed 6’4”), he’s long (his wingspan, at the time of his drafting, was measured at 6’7”), and he’s too strong to be pushed around. Walker created about as many unassisted threes last season as anyone not named James Harden. Life next to James Harden isn't for everyone, but it is for Gordon. In addition to his lighthearted personality and quick wit, the Australian forward has given Jazz fans plenty to cheer about over the past five seasons. The Pacers have a decent chance to win their first playoff series since 2014, but their hopes rely on Oladipo lifting an offense that ranked 18th last season. 2 scoring option and a plus defender. Remarkably, Jonas Valanciunas and Jakob Poeltl both defended more shots within six feet and allowed a lower percentage on those shots than did Ibaka, whose three straight All-Defensive First Team selections already seem like a distant memory. The energetic and passionate Harrell teamed with Lou Williams to lead an electric Clippers bench last year, and he should be a part of L.A.’s version of a small-ball “death lineup” in late-game situations this year. All that progress didn’t help him avoid being torched by Anthony Davis in the playoffs, but it did earn him a four-year, $48 million extension this summer. You may tire out, but he never seems to—even as his usage on offense steadily increases. His game has drawn endless comparisons to Dwyane Wade and his marketability is straight from the Damian Lillard playbook, but the recent star that Mitchell (20.5 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 3.7 APG) most embodied down the stretch was a young Derrick Rose. Another year of rehabilitation time should do him well, and he should have more room to work with Kyrie Irving off to Brooklyn. 8 in defensive rating, he dramatically increased his FG% around the basket, he cut his turnover rate, and he learned to swallow his pride when pulled for match-up purposes in late-game situations. Would he assert himself as a scorer if postseason opponents sought to limit his playmaking opportunities? Bogdanovic stepped up admirably in Victor Oladipo’s absence, but he was always a bit underqualified for life as a leading scorer. Teague (14.2 PPG, 7.0 APG) is good. A top-25 player if healthy, Thompson is expected to miss most or all of the season with an ACL tear. Opponents are terrified of him, which buys Embiid time; players take such a wide berth around him and use so many pump fakes that Embiid has a longer window than most to get where he needs to go. Thanks to his willingness to chase loose balls, make the extra pass and defend multiple positions, the former lottery pick has settled into life as a fan favorite in Boston. Jason Preston. It’s not easy for a team to build off of that kind of situational awareness, but we saw in the postseason just how fruitful it can be. Batum’s shot looks nice, but he’s made just 34% of his threes over the past three years. While Ingles has had trouble consistently exerting himself as an offensive threat during the playoffs, Utah’s major summer roster upgrades should allow him to settle comfortably into a smaller and more manageable role. Once viewed as a potential All-Star, the Lithuanian center became a case study for natural selection on the hardwood: What chance did a lumbering 7-footer have of staying on the court during the playoffs? Leonard is a perennial MVP candidate, he’s the best player in Raptors history even though he hasn’t played a game yet, and he would be the best teammate LeBron James has ever had if he joins the Lakers next summer. For a team projected to be the NBA’s seventh-worst according to Westgate’s 2019-20 win totals, the Oklahoma City Thunder have an outstanding amount of talent on their roster. A predictive element also came into play with the anticipated improvement of certain younger players, as well as the possible decline of aging veterans. Indeed, the relative ease of Durant’s two Finals victories over James has only hardened the resentment. Throughout a brilliant 16-game winning streak, Irving proved that he could thrive as an alpha rather than as a sidekick, that he could balance his scoring and distributing without rubbing his co-stars the wrong way, that he could be the major personality on a winning team despite his quirks, and that he could play big minutes on an elite defense. Branded a snake and a bandwagoner for leaving Oklahoma City to join Golden State in 2016, Durant has struggled to shake those labels despite winning two titles, making two iconic three-pointers in the Finals, and claiming two Finals MVPs. — BG. Yes, 2017-18 was a junk season for the Grizzlies, and for Gasol, accordingly. The euphoric embrace from his home crowd. He played all 82 games, led the league in minutes, and carried Cleveland to 50 wins despite two roster overhauls and multiple long-term injuries to his fellow starters. A classic glue guy whose length and activity regularly disrupts opposing offenses, Covington is an ideal perimeter complement to franchise center Karl-Anthony Towns. But he played 81 games, averaged 21.3 points and 9.2 rebounds, posted the best shooting efficiency of his career and led an injury-depleted roster into the playoffs. Nearly everything else in Nowitzki’s game has faded with time. Despite an up-and-down postseason run, Green had some memorable moments -- including six three-pointers in a Game 3 win in the Finals. A broken hand will keep him out for about six weeks. Foul trouble was a persistent problem last season, and he must prove his discipline can match his physical tools and motor. Lamb doesn’t possess too much untapped potential, but his well-rounded game and perimeter versatility make him a clean lineup fit in the NBA’s modern style. His signature is to go a step too far; no guard seems to find themselves double- and triple-teamed in the lane quite so often, and none, surely, has been so successful at improbably digging his way out. Not average. Or, do their Twin Towers push the Warriors even harder in the playoffs? You could set him up for rolls to the rim or rely on his cuts to complement other offense. Butler’s whirlwind 2018-19 campaign illuminated both his strengths and flaws. The 28-year-old shooting guard had more than his share of standout moments during Portland’s first run to the conference finals since 2000, highlighted by a 37-point showing in a Game 7 victory in Denver. He allowed just 54.4% on those shots, a postseason rim-protection rate that’s comparable to long-armed shot-blockers like Davis and Clint Capela. But turning over a franchise to Butler is a bargain with strings attached. His offensive game, however, is still limited and a work in progress.Turner has shown that he can step out and hit the three-pointer, but he lacks much in the way of creativity and relies heavily on his teammates to generate his scoring opportunities. Simmons’s shot distribution chart looks like it belongs to an elite center, as he hit 74.4% of his shots in the basket area and took nearly half of his attempts from within three feet. The second element of Rozier’s success was easy to miss amid the swagger and hoopla: He played with exceptional control, posting a 5:1 assist-to-turnover ratio in the postseason. But as he prepares to lead a new team of prospects and misfits in a fame-obsessed metropolis, it’s clear that time hasn’t yet come. He’s too smart not to. Lauri Markkanen Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images. Cousins (25.2 PPG, 12.9 RPG, 1.6 BPG) should be regarded as the NBA’s biggest “What if” of 2018. Conley is as resilient as athletes come, but his resilience is also tested more often than most. — BG. by pl605 Plays Quiz not verified by Sporcle . The integrity of Indiana’s entire system hinges on Young’s ability to cover ground. Dave Green. While Murray is generally unselfish and a willing passer, he’s not adept enough in the two-man game to function as a lead distributor. Or, if you’re the Jazz, you can roll out Favors and Gobert in tandem to stomp opponents down by 7.3 points per 100 possessions in the regular season and 10.9 points in the playoffs. Although Simmons (15.8 PPG, 8.1 RPG, 8.2 APG) is only 22 years old, he has already provided convincing answers to most of the pre-draft questions that surfaced in 2016. Unlike Griffin, he’s an easy piece to fit. The former No. The pushback is largely a matter of respecting accomplishment. James, thanks to a magnificent postseason run, just did everything he needed to do to hold Durant at bay one more time. Despite being the No. He wasn’t just eating up minutes: Nurkic helped Portland improve from No. Think of Gasol as a means for problem solving—not only to get the ball where it needs to go, but to keep the best players on the floor and arrange them in the most productive ways. Development is rarely linear. Tucker may have been the point of differentiation from big lineups to small ones, but Ariza was the constant between them. Instead, rankings were assigned based on a fluid combination of subjective assessment and objective data. Both rebound well, space the floor, and score at similar rates. After he suffered a season-ending ACL tear in early February, though, New York was pitiful, ranking No. Rate 5 stars Rate 4 stars Rate 3 stars Rate 2 stars Rate 1 star . And for the first time in the list's history, there's a new No. His presence provides a sense of order, a way of life. He has the body and athletic tools to be a premier defender, but his awareness lags and he’s often passive. At the same time, Paul still has enough game to improve the fortunes of any Eastern Conference contender willing to swallow the remaining three years of his max contract in a midseason trade. The only catch is his health, because the undersized Conley has missed at least 12 games in five consecutive seasons. With better health, Carroll has largely returned to the form he displayed for the 2015 Hawks. At 34, the rugged power forward has settled into life as a complementary piece: Last season, his scoring and usage reached their lowest rates since 2009-10. Not many spot-up shooters would look just as comfortable working in isolation, or curling around a screen, or posting up a mismatch. The 26-year-old wing embodies the 3-and-D mold: He won't hijack the offense, he takes care of the ball, he is better than a 40 percent three-point shooter for his career, and he is equipped to guard wings of all sizes. The good news is that he projects as such a potent offensive weapon that he only needs to become a passable defender to emerge as the face of Chicago’s youth movement. With a little more structural help and a little less one-on-one, the understated Middleton might finally achieve the recognition and postseason success that has long eluded him. The Thunder didn’t have it; after drafting Sabonis in 2017, Oklahoma City parked him out on the perimeter and grew frustrated when he struggled. Adams can hold his own on the perimeter to the point that he isn’t easily exploited. The cost comes in mobility—both in a literal sense and a tactical one. The bet here is that Antetokounmpo’s sharp ascent will continue with a 2019 postseason breakthrough, turning what is now a tight debate between him and Westbrook into a much easier call by next September. You make do. Butler, like Russell Westbrook, predicates his game on force of will. If there is any slight against Davis, it’s that his position makes it hard for him to touch as many possessions as a player like Curry or Harden. “He’s impossible to guard,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said during the playoffs, with evident admiration and a shake of his head. Love can make that work (he rated as one of the most efficient spot-up shooters in the league last season, per Synergy Sports), but not only that. He stuck to his game—a dynamic mix of cutting, shooting, and playmaking—and found room to contribute across the board. 3 seed, going 37-22 (a 51-win clip). If a team were composed entirely of players with Porter’s disposition, the offense might seesaw into eternity one non-committal pick-and-roll at a time. — RM. — RM. Injury might provide more of a qualifier if not for the larger trends involved. Nothing is wasted with Porter, even when he assumes a background role. The 6-foot-7 wing is competitive to a fault, impatient and more adaptable on the court than most analysts realize. A career spent accumulating good karma paid off handsomely for Gasol in 2019. What might he accomplish for a franchise more invested in his progress? It’s only going to get worse for Stevens and his fellow coaches. Given that he will be most useful as a center, his ceiling will be determined by how quickly he develops from a sieve into a credible defender. New conference, new organization, new teammates, same Butler (22.2 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 4.9 APG). Even so, he remains a foundational player.The 7-foot-1 Frenchman has captained a top-three defense in each of the past three seasons, winning a pair of defensive player of the year awards along the way. He is a creative playmaker with the pass, a deadeye outside shooter and an incredibly reliable presence, having played all 82 games in each of the past three seasons. — RM. He’s made some progress in terms of awareness on that end, though, and his growth as an off-the-dribble threat helps offset his defensive deficiencies. He won’t be able to bully his way to the hoop against NBA-caliber defenders like he did in college and high school? Philadelphia’s second-round series loss to Boston proved that Simmons can’t always work around his Achilles heel. BOSTON — With the unprecedented amount of NBA big names changing teams in the offseason, the time was right to rank... 02 25. Although his sizeable contract makes it difficult to construct viable trade scenarios, it’s easy to envision him thriving in an Eric Gordon-like role for a playoff team that needs instant offense off the bench. Concern, instead, is reserved for the opponent. He promptly delivered on the playoff mandate, earning his fourth All-Star selection in addition to All-NBA Third Team and All-Defensive Second Team honors. To be honest with you the bunch of players that are active would be easily ranked in top 100 in history, guys like Curry, Durant, Paul or Wade are some of the best in history and guaranteed hall of famers. While critics are right to point out that he hasn't quite been dynamic enough to single-handedly carry a team to a winning record, Beal deserves credit for building himself into a franchise player during his first seven seasons with the Wizards. What if he hadn't been traded into the Western Conference’s deep point guard pool in 2013? The 6-foot-8 forward earned a three-year, $62.1 million contract this summer largely by putting up good numbers on bad teams. As James (27.5 PPG, 8.6 RPG, 9.1 APG) has waded into political and social justice issues, expanded his philanthropic endeavors, launched a budding entertainment empire, and positioned himself as one of the country’s most visible fathers, he’s taken to wearing and sharing a new motto: “More than an athlete.” The 14-time All-Star and aspiring billionaire knows the financial and emotional power of catchy slogans and hashtags— from “Just do it” to “Strive for Greatness” to “Kid from Akron”—and this latest entry will serve him well as he prepares to shift out of his prime and grow his net worth in L.A. Make no mistake: James is more than an athlete, but he’s still the NBA’s most outstanding, most valuable and most awe-inspiring athlete. What might he be capable of in Year Three? Post national NBA writer Tim Bontemps surveyed the NBA and ranked his top 100 players according to their overall talent level heading into the new season. Clearly, there’s a major “but…” coming now. Suddenly, one of the greatest basketball talents ever looked human at age 34.It would be foolish to count out James as an MVP candidate or to exclude his Lakers from the title conversation, but it is reasonable to expect him to pace himself on defense and to defer at times to new sidekick Anthony Davis. Never mind that Simmons is a plus defender, one of the league’s most skilled passers, a very effective finisher, a monster in transition and a foul-drawing magnet. The 23-year-old guard is a skilled midrange shooter with good vision and a renewed focus after two lost seasons with the Lakers. He could cut off a screen or reject it, move toward the ball or away from it, fake hard in any one direction before reversing course for the other, and take any angle he likes after finally receiving the ball. By virtually every defensive metric, the second-year guard is phenomenal. Whether he was merely a victim of Phoenix’s poor circumstances remains to be seen. A change in scenery from Toronto to San Antonio revealed that DeRozan had significant untapped potential as a playmaker. The same moves that worked for DeRozan throughout the regular season become tougher to pull off against carefully tailored defenses. His utility hinges a bit on his three-point accuracy, but his clean mechanics suggest that his career 33 percent three-point percentage should improve as he enters his prime and plays alongside better players. -40. The 29-year-old guard, who went undrafted in 2012, arrived on the scene with the Warriors just before Stephen Curry and Co. rocketed to dynasty mode. In fact, the combo forward’s inclusion in a midseason trade for Blake Griffin provided an excellent opportunity to appreciate his potent and flexible offensive game. Porter (14.7 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 2.0 APG) isn’t one to amaze—only to steady his team with quiet capability. Lopez deserves as much credit as anyone for helping Giannis Antetokounmpo claim his first MVP. Support Sporcle. Then again, Green’s postseason prowess and leadership during big moments are major reasons why Golden State can get away with coasting in the first place. This was a stretch season for Beal (22.6 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 4.5 APG), who not only played all 82 games for the first time in his career but went half that time without John Wall. While his defensive impact was muted given his propensity for risk-taking and brain farts, Bledsoe’s presence kept the Bucks’ season from being derailed by Malcolm Brogdon’s long-term injury. — RM. Plenty of knowledgeable basketball folks have already given up on Wiggins. Just last season, Nowitzki rated as one of the better spot-up shooters in the league, per Synergy Sports—more efficient, shot for shot, than even Klay Thompson and J.J. Redick. They don’t necessitate playing any certain way, but they make it easier to adapt—particularly when, like Hayward, they can guard well across three positions.