The Washington 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. See how they stack up.
1. LeBron James
Small Forward, Cleveland Cavaliers
Entering his 15th NBA season, James remains the game’s undisputed top player. With Kyrie Irving now in Boston, Isaiah Thomas out until at least January and both James Harden and Russell Westbrook getting star sidekicks this summer, everything has lined up perfectly for him to be the favorite to land his fifth most valuable player award. If he chooses to pursue it, that is.
2. Kevin Durant
Small Forward, Golden State Warriors
Durant proved all his doubters wrong last year, as he made good on his move to Golden State by leading the Warriors to a championship and winning Finals MVP. Now he’ll look to do both again, and build on what looks like it could be the NBA’s next dynasty.
3. Kawhi Leonard
Small Forward, San Antonio Spurs
Looking at San Antonio’s roster, it’s natural to wonder if this is the year things will finally begin to slip for the Spurs. If they don’t, it will be Leonard – even more than Coach Gregg Popovich – that keeps them among the NBA’s elite.
4. Stephen Curry
Point Guard, Golden State Warriors
At times last season, people wondered what was “wrong” with Curry as he adjusted to his new superstar teammate. Truth is, nothing was wrong – he had basically the same season he did two years ago, when he won his first MVP award. He remains an offensive force.
5. Russell Westbrook
Point Guard, Oklahoma City Thunder
The Thunder didn’t make a deep playoff run last year, but Westbrook’s successful chase for a season-long triple-double was the story of the season. Winning the league’s MVP award was just icing. Now, with Paul George and Carmelo Anthony at his side, he won’t need to go it alone. But he still remains one of the league’s most explosive guards.
6. James Harden
Shooting Guard, Houston Rockets
The combination of Harden and Coach Mike D’Antoni worked wonders in Houston last year, lifting the Rockets back into the upper echelon of the Western Conference and keeping Harden in the thick of the MVP conversation. The arrival of Chris Paul could hamper his stats, as could the rule changes to limit three-shot fouls, but he still will be an offensive juggernaut in D’Antoni’s system.
7. Giannis Antetokounmpo
Small Forward, Milwaukee Bucks
The Greek Freak continues to evolve, and officially leaped into superstar status last season with an electric year – including a dominant showing in the All-Star Game in his first appearance. Now, with another year under his belt, Antetokounmpo has a chance to be in the MVP conversation if he can lift the Bucks into the top half of the weak Eastern Conference.
8. Anthony Davis
Power Forward, New Orleans Pelicans
Davis continues to be outstanding while toiling in the near-obscurity that comes with playing in New Orleans. If he and DeMarcus Cousins can’t combine to lift the Pelicans into the playoffs, it’s hard to see how Davis will be in the Big Easy for the long haul.
9. Jimmy Butler
Small Forward, Minnesota Timberwolves
Butler was the first big domino to fall of the offseason, getting traded to Minnesota to reunite with Tom Thibodeau and lead the Timberwolves to the playoffs for the first time in over a decade.
10. Karl-Anthony Towns
Center, Minnesota Timberwolves
Towns is only entering his third season, but already has the tools to be considered the league’s most well-rounded center. If he can wield those tools consistently, the Timberwolves will take a big leap and he will move even higher up this list next season.
11. Draymond Green
Power Forward, Golden State Warriors
The ultimate glue guy, Green manages to make a massive impact on any game even while rarely scoring more than 10 or 12 points. He should remain one of the league’s elite defensive players for the foreseeable future.
12. Chris Paul
Point Guard, Houston Rockets
After spending his prime with the Clippers – and failing to advance past the second round of the playoffs – Paul engineered a trade to Houston to pair with James Harden and hopefully advance deeper this year. His fit with Coach Mike D’Antoni could prove complicated, but he and Harden should be a devastating pairing once they figure it out.
13. John Wall
Point Guard, Washington Wizards
There were doubts about Wall entering last season after he underwent surgery on both knees the previous summer. All he did was make his first all-NBA team and lead the Wizards to the second round for the third time in four years. Washington should get at least that far, if not farther, this season.
14. Klay Thompson
Shooting Guard, Golden State Warriors
On a team with Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry and Draymond Green, it’s easy to lose track of Thompson and his understated presence and game. But having the second-best shooter in the league – who also is an excellent defender – makes him the ultimate fit next to Curry in Golden State’s backcourt.
15. Paul George
Small Forward, Oklahoma City Thunder
George has long been one of the NBA’s best two-way players as the leading man in Indiana. Now that he’s teamed up with Russell Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony, will he continue to be the same level of offensive dynamo, or will he take a slight step back – for the betterment of the team – to ramp up his defense even further?
16. DeMarcus Cousins
Center, New Orleans Pelicans
After years of toiling in Sacramento on a dysfunctional team that never won, Cousins now finds himself with another dysfunctional franchise in New Orleans. The difference: he’s playing alongside a top-10 player in Anthony Davis. He will also spend the season with speculation about his future – he’ll be an unrestricted free agent next summer.
17. Gordon Hayward
Small Forward, Boston Celtics
Hayward blossomed into an all-star last season in Utah, helping lead the Jazz to the second round of the playoffs. He then left in the offseason as a free agent to reunite with his college coach, Brad Stevens, on the Celtics. How he adjusts to the dramatically different spotlight on him in Boston will be interesting.
18. Rudy Gobert
Center, Utah Jazz
Gobert is in the mix with Kawhi Leonard and Draymond Green for best defensive player in the league. The Stifle Tower will need to at least replicate his performance from last year – if not exceed it – if the Jazz are going to make up for the loss of Gordon Hayward and remain a playoff team this season.
19. Marc Gasol
Center, Memphis Grizzlies
At the peak of the “Grit ‘N’ Grind” era in Memphis, Gasol was a bruising, skilled big and defensive anchor. Now, under Coach David Fizdale, he’s toned his body and stretched his jump shot beyond the three-point arc. If he remains healthy, his game should continue to age extremely well because of his well-rounded skillset and extremely high basketball IQ.
20. Kyle Lowry
Point Guard, Toronto Raptors
Lowry went into last season expecting to receive a five-year max contract worth around $200 million. Instead, he got a three-year deal worth half that amount. As he moves into his 30s, can he remain one of the NBA’s elite point guards, or will his game begin to decline?
21. Paul Millsap
Power Forward, Denver Nuggets
The Nuggets signed Millsap to one of the best contracts of the summer, getting him on a three-year deal for $90 million with a team option for the third year. In doing so, they filled their power forward spot next to Nikola Jokic with the perfect player to pair with their exciting young center.
22. Blake Griffin
Power Forward, Los Angeles Clippers
Heading into the preseason, there were questions about how limited Griffin would be due to offseason toe surgery. But he’s shown no limitations so far, and the Clippers will need him to be healthy and productive all season long – something he hasn’t done in three years – for the Clippers to remain among the West’s elite.
23. Mike Conley
Point Guard, Memphis Grizzlies
Conley just continues to improve, even as he moves into his second decade in the NBA. If he and Marc Gasol can stay healthy, the Grizzlies may be able to defy the odds and make the playoffs once again, even in the stacked Western Conference. But arguably no two players in the league have a heavier burden on their shoulders than those two.
24. Damian Lillard
Point Guard, Portland Trail Blazers
Lillard is constantly underappreciated and overlooked, thanks to playing in Portland for a Trail Blazers team that’s been on the fringes of contention since he got there. They’ve never actually achieved it, though. Given how stacked with stars the Western Conference is, he could once again find himself on the outside looking in when the all-star teams are announced.
25. DeAndre Jordan
Center, Los Angeles Clippers
Jordan’s defense may not be quite as good as the general consensus about him, but his offense is better than the general consensus about him, making this ranking just about right. The curious thing will be how Jordan is able to stay effective as an offensive player with his favorite lob partner and fellow insurance pitch man, Chris Paul, now plying his trade in Houston.
26. Nikola Jokic
Center, Denver Nuggets
Jokic enters this season – probably for the last time – as the most enjoyable player to watch that casual fans probably don’t know. A wonderful offensive player in every way (including one of the very best passers in the entire league, despite being a center), the question now is whether Jokic can become decent enough defensively to become a true star.
27. Kyrie Irving
Point Guard, Boston Celtics
By demanding a trade this summer to leave LeBron James, Irving declared to the world that he wants to be the man for a team. And, by trading for him, the Celtics have stated he can be that guy for them. There is no player with more pressure on him entering this season, and it will be fascinating to see if Irving embraces that, or instead is swallowed up by it.
28. Isaiah Thomas
Point Guard, Cleveland Cavaliers
After one of the great offensive seasons in league history – let alone from someone well under 6-feet tall – Thomas will now miss the first couple months, at least, recovering from a hip injury. How he plays when he comes back will not only have an impact on Cleveland’s title chances, but also will determine what his market is in unrestricted free agency next summer.
29. Al Horford
Center, Boston Celtics
Horford may not be the kind of player that moves the needle for fans, but his ability to be above average at every facet of the game makes him an extremely valuable player – particularly at center, a place where teams are struggling to find adequate two-way players. His decision to go to Boston also set up the moves the Celtics have made over the past 18 months.
30. Bradley Beal
Shooting Guard, Washington Wizards
When the Wizards chose to sign Beal to a five-year contract extension last summer, many questioned whether the deal would work out for them. It only took one season for those doubters to be proven wrong. Now, the goal for Beal is to make the all-star team in the East – and, as it stands now, that’s a goal he should attain if he stays healthy.
31. DeMar DeRozan
Shooting Guard, Toronto Raptors
It’s remarkable how DeRozan went from a player once deemed as unworthy of a four-year, $40 million contract extension a few years ago to one that’s made multiple all-star teams and was an all-NBA selection last season. The one thing he’s never been able to do, though, is add a three-point shot. If he somehow finds range this year, he could take yet another jump up this list.
32. Kevin Love
Power Forward, Cleveland Cavaliers
Love has settled into a complementary role next to LeBron James, and now should be the team’s second scoring option with Kyrie Irving in Boston – that is, until Isaiah Thomas gets healthy. Playing Love at center, as Cleveland seems to be leaning toward doing full-time, could cause defensive issues, but should turn Love into an offensive juggernaut.
33. C.J. McCollum
Shooting Guard, Portland Trail Blazers
The partnership between Damian Lillard and McCollum has given Portland one of the NBA’s best backcourts. But for as good as they are together offensively, their combined defensive issues leave the Trail Blazers with an intriguing question if the team doesn’t take a step forward this season: Can this tandem work long-term? In the short-term, though, it’ll be awfully fun to watch them continue to tear up opposing defenses.
34. Andre Drummond
Center, Detroit Pistons
The Pistons looked like a team on the rise 18 months ago, with their talented young center as the hub. But after a disappointing season for both the team and Drummond, this year could determine the future for both parties.
35. Carmelo Anthony
Power Forward, Oklahoma City Thunder
No, Anthony isn’t the same superstar-level player he once was. But at 33, he remains an elite scoring option, and now playing alongside Russell Westbrook and Paul George in Oklahoma City, he has the chance to be far more efficient this year than he was when forced to be a first option.
36. Kristaps Porzingis
Power Forward, New York Knicks
With Carmelo Anthony now in Oklahoma City, Porzingis is the face of the Knicks. There’s little doubt the Knicks will do everything they can to try to put what was a rough few months for them and their young star behind them, but how will he receive that? And, more importantly, how will he handle all of the attention that’s coming to him now that Anthony is gone?
37. LaMarcus Aldridge
Center, San Antonio Spurs
Aldridge and the Spurs are now entering the third season of what’s become an uneasy partnership between the talented scoring big man and the league’s most buttoned-up franchise. Guys like Aldridge are basically players from another era in today’s NBA, and how he adjusts to playing center full-time is the latest possible flashpoint here.
38. Kemba Walker
Point Guard, Charlotte Hornets
Since arriving in the NBA, Walker has kept improving, overcoming his lack of size to become the leader of the Hornets. But despite a terrific season a year ago, and his first all-star appearance, Charlotte missed the playoffs. Now he’ll try to both match that performance from last season and turn the Hornets back into something like the 48-win team they were two seasons ago.
39. Eric Bledsoe
Point Guard, Phoenix Suns
It seemed like the Suns might trade Bledsoe when they shut him down for the final few weeks of last season. Instead, Bledsoe is once again back in Phoenix, and with a young team that’s seemingly going nowhere soon, he’ll remain one of the most speculated players about a potential trade throughout this season.
40. Khris Middleton
Shooting Guard, Milwaukee Bucks
Entering last season, Middleton seemed like he’d miss the entire year after a bad hamstring injury suffered during the preseason. Instead, he came back around the all-star break and became a big piece of Milwaukee’s push to the playoffs and competitive first round series with Toronto. With a full summer of good health and work on his game, can he take another step forward this season?
41. Avery Bradley
Shooting Guard, Detroit Pistons
Bradley was traded by Boston as part of some salary cap maneuvering to sign Gordon Hayward this summer. Detroit brought him in to replace Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who the team let walk after not offering him a long-term contract. Now Bradley, who will be an unrestricted free agent next summer, will get a chance to both earn himself a big check and try to reset a Pistons team that desperately needs it.
42. Dwight Howard
Center, Charlotte Hornets
The issues with Howard are well documented. But those personality issues have overshadowed the fact that he remains an effective player – particularly for a Charlotte team that can pair him with Cody Zeller for 48 minutes of quality center play. The lack of that after Zeller’s injury prevented Charlotte from making the playoffs.
43. Jrue Holiday
Point Guard, New Orleans Pelicans
After needing to miss part of the regular season last year because of a medical issue involving his wife, Holiday came back and played quite well, eventually earning himself a large contract to re-sign with New Orleans. Now he, Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins will try to change the narrative around the Pelicans and get them back into the playoffs.
44. Brook Lopez
Center, Los Angeles Lakers
Lopez has toiled in relative obscurity during his career in Brooklyn, but that will no longer be the case after being dealt to the Los Angeles Lakers this offseason. Now a year from free agency, Lopez will need to stay healthy in order to try to land another big contract when he hits the open market.
45. Andre Iguodala
Small Forward, Golden State Warriors
Despite some hard bargaining on his part, Iguodala is back with Golden State on a three-year, $48 million deal that he signed on the opening day of free agency this summer. And while he isn’t a player that logs high minutes anymore, he showed in the playoffs that he’s still capable of being hugely effective when it matters most.
46. Harrison Barnes
Power Forward, Dallas Mavericks
Barnes came to Dallas last season needing to prove to people he was more than a bit part of Golden State’s run to dominance the prior two years. And, to his credit, he did that, largely living up to the max contract he was given by the Mavericks and showing improvement in many facets of his game. As the Mavericks continue to rebuild, however, they’ll be hoping he can keep growing.
47. Otto Porter
Small Forward, Washington Wizards
By deciding to re-sign Porter after he received a max contract in free agency, Washington committed to paying the luxury tax for the first time under owner Ted Leonsis. Porter needs to return the favor by continuing to improve upon the career year he had last season, when he shot over 43 percent from three-point range.
48. Goran Dragic
Point Guard, Miami Heat
With the “your turn, my turn” era leaving with Dwyane Wade last year, Dragic again began to look more like the player he was in Phoenix. Now, as the Heat have committed to the core of the team that went 31-10 in the second half of last season, Miami will be hoping he can perform at an all-star level this season.
49. Eric Gordon
Shooting Guard, Houston Rockets
Gordon’s signing last summer was questioned after his myriad injuries in New Orleans. But he found a new lease on life in Houston, returning to the kind of explosive scoring option he was earlier in his career and making the four-year, $52 million deal he signed look like a bargain. He’ll be in a similar role this season, as he slots in behind James Harden and Chris Paul in Houston’s high-octane offense under Mike D’Antoni.
50. Danilo Gallinari
Small Forward, Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers decided to remake their team after trading Chris Paul just before free agency by signing Gallinari to play next to Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan in their frontcourt. There are questions here – specifically the fit next to Griffin, given both are better as power forwards, and their respective injury issues – but there’s no questioning Gallinari’s ability to be an impact player when he’s available.
51. Nicolas Batum
Shooting Guard, Charlotte Hornets
The Hornets took a hit this preseason when it was announced Batum would miss 8-12 weeks after tearing a ligament in his elbow. When he returns, Charlotte will be hoping he can help ease the burden on Kemba Walker to be the hub of Charlotte’s entire offensive output.
52. Danny Green
Shooting Guard, San Antonio Spurs
Green is one of the elite “3-and-D” players in the league, and with Kawhi Leonard limited in camp and Tony Parker still rehabbing from offseason surgery, the Spurs will certainly need his shooting to be ready to go right from the start of the season.
53. Andrew Wiggins
Shooting Guard, Minnesota Timberwolves
There are few players in the NBA more divisive than Wiggins. For some, he’s a budding star, a 20-point scorer with loads of athleticism and room to grow. For others, he’s an empty calories player, one who puts up hollow stats that don’t contribute to winning teams. With the addition of Jimmy Butler to the core of Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns, this is the time – as he moves toward signing a contract extension – for Wiggins to show which side of that argument is right.
54. Jae Crowder
Small Forward, Cleveland Cavaliers
Crowder should be a very nice fit in Cleveland, slotting next to LeBron James to provide another solid shooter and defender who can take on an opposing wing player instead of The King. His presence will do something that the Cavaliers couldn’t do last year – allow James to not have to defend someone like Kevin Durant for 48 minutes in a playoff series. It may not be enough to swing that series Cleveland’s way, but it is an important role that the Cavaliers have now managed to fill.
55. George Hill
Point Guard, Sacramento Kings
Hill has long been one of the more underrated guards in the league, thanks to his understated game and his ability to both play on and off the ball, shoot well from distance and defend either spot. Now he’s been brought to Sacramento to mentor De’Aaron Fox – which could potentially make him a trade candidate later this season if Fox begins to look like he’s ready to take over the team.
56. Serge Ibaka
Power Forward, Toronto Raptors
Ibaka re-signed for three years in Toronto, joining up with Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan to try to keep the best era in Raptors history going for a couple more years. The interesting question to ponder is whether Ibaka will play primarily as a center, or if he’ll line up more often than not next to Jonas Valanciunas.
57. Ricky Rubio
Point Guard, Utah Jazz
Utah decided to replace George Hill with Rubio, a move that will likely mean the Jazz are a very different team this season. Unlike Hill, Rubio is an iffy shooter who thrives with the ball in his hands, which should require some changes in Coach Quin Snyder’s preferred system. But Rubio is a gifted passer, and he’s also a much better defender than many give him credit for.
58. Steven Adams
Center, Oklahoma City Thunder
Adams looked like a budding star with the way he pushed around both the San Antonio Spurs and Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference playoffs in 2016, but he took a step back last season. Now with Paul George and Carmelo Anthony on the roster, will he continue to stay in the background, or return to the brute form he showed in the postseason two years ago?
59. Jeff Teague
Point Guard, Minnesota Timberwolves
Tom Thibodeau seemed set on replacing Ricky Rubio for most of last season, and quickly did so at the start of free agency by trading Rubio to Utah and then signing Teague. With Jimmy Butler and Andrew Wiggins on the roster it’s unclear how often Teague will have the ball in his hands, but as Thibodeau’s hand-picked point guard, he should play plenty of minutes and have a big role.
60. Hassan Whiteside
Center, Miami Heat
Whiteside still remains a controversial player within the NBA. He puts up big numbers, and did so again last season, but questions remain about if he can be a reliable long-term fit for a team trying to win. If he can prove it this year in a weakened East, perhaps the all-star bid he’s previously sought will be within his grasp.
61. Clint Capela
Center, Houston Rockets
A perfect fit for the modern NBA, Capela is the defensive anchor of a Houston team that desperately needs one. Now paired with Chris Paul and James Harden, Capela should be the recipient of plenty of lobs at the rim for easy dunks, and if he can improve his free throw shooting even slightly, he’ll quickly turn himself into a really valuable player.
62. Trevor Ariza
Small Forward, Houston Rockets
Even as he hits his mid-30s, Ariza remains the model “3-and-D” guy in the NBA. It will be interesting to see if he can hold up once again under the strain of having to make up for the defensive lapses of those around him on the perimeter in Houston.
63. Derrick Favors
Power Forward, Utah Jazz
Favors dropped a long way from last season not because of anything to do with his game, but due to a seemingly never-ending series of injuries. If Favors can stay on the court for a full season, he’ll both set himself up for a fat contract next summer as a free agent and potentially bounce back up the list again.
64. Myles Turner
Center, Indiana Pacers
With Paul George now in Oklahoma City, the Pacers are officially Turner’s team. As the definition of a stretch-five in the modern NBA, Turner has a chance to become an elite player at both ends of the court. How quickly that happens – if it does at all – will likely determine how long Indiana’s rebuild takes.
65. Patrick Beverley
Point Guard, Los Angeles Clippers
While any team would be happy to land Chris Paul, losing Beverley is a blow for the Rockets, who benefitted greatly from both his cheap contract and his ability to be a perfect fit next to James Harden as a guy who could guard the opposition’s best perimeter player while also spacing the floor. It will be interesting to see what his role becomes with a Clippers team that has several varied options in the backcourt, as well as a star in Blake Griffin who likely will pick up some of the facilitating role Paul vacated when he left for Houston.
66. Gary Harris
Shooting Guard, Denver Nuggets
An up-and-coming young player that is still gathering attention, Harris is both a good defensive player and capable of shooting 40 percent from three-point range at shooting guard, making him highly valuable. The Nuggets look like a team primed to break back into the playoffs for the first time in five years, and Harris is a big reason why. Hence his new four-year contract.
67. Devin Booker
Shooting Guard, Phoenix Suns
Booker burst onto the scene in a big way last year by scoring 70 points in a loss to the Boston Celtics, and remains one of the most intriguing young talents in the league – especially when he enters his third season at 20 (he turns 21 on Oct. 30). Booker has become the face of the franchise in Phoenix, but now the Suns have to figure out the pieces to properly build around him.
68. Joel Embiid
Center, Philadlelphia 76ers
There is no more polarizing pick on this list than Embiid. When he’s healthy, he’s clearly a guy who should be at least 30-40 spots higher. But he’s only played 31 games over his three NBA seasons – all last year. He enters this season as one of the most compelling players in the league, both to see if he can stay healthy and if he can play up to the massive contract extension he was just handed.
69. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
Shooting Guard, Los Angeles Lakers
Caldwell-Pope’s departure from Detroit this summer came as a surprise, but he found a nice landing spot in Los Angeles. The Lakers could use a defensive presence next to rookie Lonzo Ball, and if Caldwell-Pope can turn his pretty-looking jump shot into proven production this season, he should cash in next summer as a free agent.
70. Taj Gibson
Power Forward, Minnesota Timberwolves
Like Jimmy Butler, Gibson was brought in by his former coach in Chicago, Tom Thibodeau, to teach the young players on the Timberwolves – most notably Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins – the right way to do things. But Gibson is still a quality player, and should help shore up what was a surprisingly bad defense under Thibodeau last season.
71. Tristan Thompson
Center, Cleveland Cavaliers
A stalwart in Cleveland the past several years, Thompson appears headed for a bench role this season. That being said, he’s still going to be a very important part of what the Cavaliers do, considering he’s one of the few players on the team who is actually capable of being a factor defensively.
72. Dirk Nowitzki
Center, Dallas Mavericks
Even entering his 20th NBA season, Nowitzki remains one of the most effective floor spacers in the league. Now playing most of his minutes at center, he remains a big defensive liability. But that ability to space the floor is a big reason why the Mavericks have remained a quality offensive team even as they’ve struggled to be a mediocre one overall in Nowitzki’s twilight years.
73. Cody Zeller
Center, Charlotte Hornets
One of the more stunning statistics from last season was Charlotte’s success with Zeller (33-29) and lack of it without him (3-17). The addition of Dwight Howard will relegate him to a sixth man role this season, but that should make him one of the league’s elite bench bigs.
74. Lou Williams
Shooting Guard, Los Angeles Clippers
Williams has become the prototypical offensive dynamo off the bench over the past few seasons, including winning a sixth man of the year award. It looks like he’ll fill a similar role now that he’s landed with the Los Angeles Clippers, and it’ll be a critical one for a team that will need someone to give it a boost off the bench.
75. Jusuf Nurkic
Center, Portland Trail Blazers
After trading for Nurkic late last season, Portland looked like world-beaters down the stretch. If he can remain that kind of impact player for a full 82-game season, he’ll be paid handsomely next summer. Portland may have found a way to move itself into a new level of contender status in the West. That, however, remains a very big question mark.
76. Robert Covington
Small Forward, Philadlelphia 76ers
Covington is one of the lasting success stories from Sam Hinkie’s era in Philadelphia, and has developed into an elite role player on the wing. He should play big minutes this season for the 76ers, and should remain part of the plan in Philadelphia for years to come.
77. Wilson Chandler
Small Forward, Denver Nuggets
On a roster full of young players, Chandler – along with Paul Millsap – is going to be leaned on by Coach Mike Malone to help provide veteran leadership and a steadying influence. Chandler has every reason to buy into that plan, too, as unrestricted free agency beckons next summer.
78. Malcolm Brogdon
Point Guard, Milwaukee Bucks
One of the biggest surprises in the NBA last season was Brogdon developing from a second round pick into the rookie of the year. For an encore, he’ll be hoping to continue to grow into a core around Giannis Antetokounmpo and lift the Bucks to another level in the Eastern Conference hierarchy.
79. Tobias Harris
Power Forward, Detroit Pistons
A combo forward with the ability to create his own shot and knock down threes, Harris is a useful player. But he’s also, at this point, flattened out as that kind of player despite taking strides forward in his early 20s. Now that he’s 25 years old, it seems like if there’s a breakout season in Harris’s future, it will have to come soon – or not at all.
80. J.J. Redick
Shooting Guard, Philadlelphia 76ers
The Sixers made a point of bringing in Redick on a bloated one-year contract this summer – a move that made sense for both sides. Redick provides the kind of floor spacing the Sixers need around players such as Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, and for a roster full of young talent he’s exactly the kind of veteran mentor this group could use.
81. Dwyane Wade
Shooting Guard, Cleveland Cavaliers
Wade has reunited with longtime friend LeBron James in Cleveland, but how well the second time around goes will likely determine on Wade’s willingness to accept his limitations. He’s still an effective player in several facets of the game, but his lack of shooting and defensive issues should make him a role player coming off the bench. Instead, he will start ahead of J.R. Smith.
82. Markieff Morris
Power Forward, Washington Wizards
With an assault trial now behind both he and his twin brother, Marcus, Markieff now must recover from sports hernia surgery that will knock him out for the first several weeks of the season. One of the biggest parts of Washington’s success last year was the stability of its starting lineup, so the Wizards will be hoping he can come back quickly and without incident.
83. Marcus Morris
Power Forward, Boston Celtics
With an assault trial now behind both he and his twin brother, Markieff, Marcus can settle into his starting power forward job with the Boston Celtics after arriving in a trade from Detroit this summer. On a team lacking in size, Morris will play a big role in Boston, and the Celtics will be hoping he can continue the form he showed in Detroit the past two seasons.
84. Dennis Schroder
Point Guard, Atlanta Hawks
The Hawks have entered a full rebuild, leaving Schroder as the best player on the roster after Paul Millsap and Dwight Howard departed via free agency and trade, respectively. Schroder should put up big numbers this season by default, but it’s hard to see how that will translate into more wins when there is such a paucity of talent around him.
85. Reggie Jackson
Point Guard, Detroit Pistons
Two years ago, Jackson was a borderline all-star point guard and the Pistons looked like a team on the rise. Then last year, Jackson underwent preseason knee surgery and never looked right after coming back as the Pistons performed well under expectations. Now, similar to teammate Andre Drummond, he finds himself at a crossroads and entering a pivotal season to determine whether his time in Detroit will continue as the team’s starting point guard.
86. Rodney Hood
Shooting Guard, Utah Jazz
If the Jazz are going to survive the loss of Gordon Hayward, it’s going to be because Hood takes a step forward to become the wing scorer they now lack. His talent has never been in question, but his availability has been – he’s missed more than 20 games in two of his three seasons so far. That needs to change this season for him to climb up this list, and for the Jazz to remain a playoff team in the West.
87. Dion Waiters
Shooting Guard, Miami Heat
Waiters appeared to find a home in Miami after landing there on a small contract once his qualifying offer was pulled by the Oklahoma City Thunder the prior summer. After getting a four-year, $47 million deal to remain in South Florida as a free agent, he needs to prove his improved play last season wasn’t a fluke, and that he can be a key piece in Miami for the next few seasons.
88 Marcin Gortat
Center, Washington Wizards
Gortat has become a ruthlessly efficient partner to John Wall in the pick-and-roll in Washington while also being incredibly durable – he’s missed only eight games combined over the past four seasons. Even with Ian Mahinmi seemingly healthy after an injury-plagued first season with the Wizards, Gortat will still be relied upon.
89. Victor Oladipo
Shooting Guard, Indiana Pacers
Oladipo struggled playing next to Russell Westbrook in Oklahoma City, failing to take the kind of step forward some envisioned. Then he was dealt to Indiana as the key piece of the Paul George trade, and will theoretically become the team’s main offensive weapon on the wings. That should give him newfound confidence, but will he be up to the task of producing on that kind of level?
90. Jamal Murray
Point Guard, Denver Nuggets
Murray showed flashes of his potential as a rookie, and now seems to be in the lead for Denver’s starting point guard role this season. If he can hold off Emmanuel Mudiay for the job, Murray’s combination of shooting and playmaking has made him a piece Denver thinks can be an excellent long-term fit next to Nikola Jokic. Together, they could form the next contending Nuggets team.
91. Evan Fournier
Shooting Guard, Orlando Magic
When the Magic signed Fournier to a five-year, $85 million contract last summer, it seemed like a very solid deal. Then, as part of a miserable season on every level in Orlando, he saw his three-point percentage drop from 40 to 35.6 percent, and his game overall seemed to, at best, level off. Orlando will need Fournier to get back to where he was two years ago if the Magic hope to begin to reverse what now are several years of malaise.
92. Mason Plumlee
Center, Denver Nuggets
Plumlee is an interesting player. He’s a center who can handle the ball and pass, and he is athletic as a mobile defender. But he is incapable of shooting anywhere outside the paint, struggles at the free throw line and doesn’t block shots. That makes him an elite backup center because of the presence of Nikola Jokic, but Denver will be hoping to make the combination of Jokic and Plumlee work to allow them to get both of them on the court for more minutes.
93. James Johnson
Power Forward, Miami Heat
Johnson lost a ton of weight in his first season in Miami, and the results showed. The Heat rewarded him with a four-year contract and gave him a real home for the first time in his career. If he can replicate what he did last year, Johnson provides a unique skillset that every team wants in their power forward.
94. Joe Ingles
Small Forward, Utah Jazz
Ingles is a subtle player – the things he excels at don’t dramatically stand out. But what he does do well – move the ball, make the smart play, knock down open three-pointers and play solid defense – make him exceedingly valuable to winning basketball. That’s why Utah hung onto him this summer, and the Jazz will hope he can continue those things as they try to recover from losing Gordon Hayward in free agency.
95. Thaddeus Young
Power Forward, Indiana Pacers
It feels like Young has been around forever, but he’s still only 29 and has become a very solid, dependable option at power forward. If Indiana falls out of the playoff picture, he could be an intriguing trade chip for the Pacers to try to move for some future assets.
96. Julius Randle
Power Forward, Los Angeles Lakers
Randle finds himself in an interesting position. Held up as one of the faces of the Lakers the past couple of seasons, he now seems more likely than not to go elsewhere next summer as a free agent, assuming the team is able to be the kind of player in free agency it hopes to be. But Randle remains a player who has an interesting skillset, particularly as a ball-handler. It remains to be seen if he’s capable of taking the leap from becoming an average player to an above average one.
97. J.R. Smith
Shooting Guard, Cleveland Cavaliers
One of the league’s most enthusiastic gunners, Smith struggled last season after missing a bunch of time due to injury. Cleveland will be hoping he can bounce back this season and provide them some spacing that they’ll need with Kyrie Irving gone, Isaiah Thomas beginning the season on the injured list, and both Derrick Rose and Dwyane Wade sucking up space as below-average shooters.
98. Patrick Patterson
Power Forward, Oklahoma City Thunder
For years now, Patterson has been one of the darlings of the analytics community. His ability to defend and stretch the floor as a big man made him vital to the Toronto Raptors the past few seasons, and he could make a similar impact on the Thunder this season. One area of concern, though: he didn’t look right last season after injuring his knee, and he’s still recovering from offseason knee surgery.
99. Ben Simmons
Power Forward, Philadlelphia 76ers
With last year’s foot injury behind him, Simmons spent the preseason looking like the kind of box score-stuffing player he was expected to be as a rookie. If he can stay healthy, he has so much talent in so many areas. He should work out for Philadelphia just fine in the long run.
100. Dennis Smith
Point Guard, Dallas Mavericks
Smith was expected to compete for the top spot in the draft, but wound up falling to the ninth pick for various reasons. There’s plenty of optimism about him in Dallas, however, and with management clearly trying to hand the team over to him right away, he has the potential to be an impact player even as a rookie.
(The Washington Post)