The Washington Post's Top 100 of 2020 list projects the premier NBA talents over the course of the in-progress 2019-20 season. 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.

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Among the factors considered: last year's performance (as judged by traditional per-game statistics and advanced metrics), current health, injury history, age, consistency, contributions to winning, ability to make teammates better, postseason performance and offensive and defensive impact. Salary, expected earning power and projected growth or decline beyond the 2019-20 season were not considered. All rookies, most notably Zion Williamson, were excluded. So, too, were veterans with severe ongoing injuries expected to cost them all of 2019-20, such as Kevin Durant and John Wall.

Stats shown are from the 2018-19 season. Rankings were set on Oct. 21.

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#1

Kawhi Leonard

Small forward, Los Angeles Clippers

  • AGE

    28

  • PPG

    26.6

  • RPG

    7.3

  • APG

    3.3

Leonard’s case as the top player in basketball is far from bulletproof.

He missed 95 games combined over the past two full seasons, his load management program kept him out of the top five in all of the major advanced stats last year, and his low-profile off-court persona stands in stark contrast to fellow A-listers. Nevertheless, the new face of the Clippers is six years younger than LeBron James and outdueled Giannis Antetokounmpo and Stephen Curry in the playoffs, reestablishing himself as the NBA’s premier two-way wing while leading the Toronto Raptors on a surprising title run.Leonard’s isolation scoring, lockdown defense and intense focus on winning made him this summer’s hottest commodity. He is now set up for a successful next chapter with a championship coach in Doc Rivers, a committed owner in Steve Ballmer and a highly qualified sidekick in Paul George. Can he win his third title and third Finals MVP with a third different team?

#2

Giannis Antetokounmpo

Power forward, Milwaukee Bucks

  • AGE

    24

  • PPG

    27.7

  • RPG

    12.5

  • APG

    5.9

Antetokounmpo, the reigning NBA MVP, was completely unstoppable last season … until he wasn't.

The do-everything Greek forward posted a stat line not seen since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1976 as he led the Bucks to 60 wins, a fourth-ranked offense, a top-ranked defense and the franchise’s first playoff series win since 2001. But a humbling Eastern Conference finals revealed that a shaky outside shot and a sometimes unhealthy reliance on scoring in the basket area still stand between Antetokounmpo and the sport’s throne.Even so, his ultimate ascension feels preordained: Antetokounmpo is perhaps the league’s most diligent worker, and he has made a habit of erasing his weaknesses throughout his six-year career. Still just 24, Antetokounmpo is well on his way to becoming a generational superstar whose dominance is so thorough and long-lasting that he becomes a one-name player, a la Kareem, Michael, Shaq and LeBron.

#3

Stephen Curry

Point guard, Golden State Warriors

  • AGE

    31

  • PPG

    27.3

  • RPG

    5.3

  • APG

    5.2

The Curry truthers almost had their day. Almost.

Over the past five years, as the Warriors guard has claimed two MVPs, won three titles and set plus-minus records, his vocal supporters have argued that he has been underrated compared to LeBron James and Kevin Durant. Curry’s shooting, gravity and his overall impact, they argue, more than make up for his relative lack of size and athleticism. As Golden State suffered injury after injury during the playoffs, Curry carried his team past Houston, led a sweep of Portland and nearly willed his way to yet another championship.Curry’s heroics ultimately fell just short, and his inability to defend the players above him on this list makes it harder to justify placing him any higher. For the time being, he is sidelined by a broken hand.

#4

LeBron James

Small forward, Los Angeles Lakers

  • AGE

    34

  • PPG

    27.4

  • RPG

    8.5

  • APG

    8.3

For the first time in nearly a decade, James lost ownership of the NBA last season.

The four-time MVP was the top-ranked player on the Washington Post’s Top 100 in each of the past three years, but 2018-19 saw him suffer the first major injury of his career and miss the playoffs for the first time since 2005. 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. While no player inspires more fear or garners more attention in a seven-game series than James -- who isn't that far removed from a scintillating individual run through the 2018 playoffs -- the burden still falls on him to restore order after a lost and dysfunctional season.

#5

James Harden

Shooting guard, Houston Rockets

  • AGE

    30

  • PPG

    36.1

  • RPG

    6.6

  • APG

    7.5

As Harden continues to push the limits when it comes to scoring, usage and offensive innovation, he has run into a hard ceiling on lists such as this one.

He hasn't won a title like LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard or Stephen Curry. He doesn't defend like Leonard or Giannis Antetokounmpo. His style of play is less inclusive than James or Curry. Despite three consecutive MVP-caliber seasons, he hasn't gotten past the Warriors in the playoffs – not even last season when Kevin Durant went down and he got his shot at a head-to-head showdown with Curry.In multiple offseason interviews, Harden argued that the media overlooked him in the 2019 MVP race and didn't pay enough attention to his “legendary” statistics and scoring accomplishments. He is correct, but so are his critics who insist that only a signature playoff triumph will alter the narratives that have engulfed him. Two things can be true at the same time: He is an underappreciated genius, and he has yet to prove that he can lead a team to a championship.

#6

Nikola Jokic

Center, Denver Nuggets

  • AGE

    24

  • PPG

    20.1

  • RPG

    10.8

  • APG

    7.3

Jokic checked all sorts of boxes during a breakthrough 2018-19 campaign.

He made his first all-star team, earned all-league honors for the first time, placed in the top five in MVP voting for the first time and won his first playoff series. Along the way, he provided convincing answers to a host of nagging questions. Was he willing to improve his body? Yes. Could he stay on the court defensively against elite guards in the playoffs? Yes. Would he assert himself as a scorer if postseason opponents sought to limit his playmaking opportunities? Oh, yes. When the dust settled, Jokic averaged 25.1 points, 13 rebounds and 8.4 assists per game during the playoffs, numbers matched only by Oscar Robertson in 1963.There isn't much separating Jokic and Joel Embiid in the battle for the “NBA’s best center” title, but Jokic has seen better health throughout his career, and he posted better advanced stats across the board last season.

#7

Joel Embiid

Center, Philadelphia 76ers

  • AGE

    25

  • PPG

    27.5

  • RPG

    13.6

  • APG

    3.7

Embiid is so imposing, forceful and naturally gifted that there are many nights during an 82-game season in which he appears to be the game’s leading talent.

Unfortunately, there are plenty of other nights when he is not available or limited by one ailment or another. His 2019 playoff run was especially confounding: He vacillated between utter domination and questionable impact as he battled knee soreness and an illness.While his sloppiness with the ball and loose shot selection are regular annoyances, Embiid’s ability to captain an elite defense, control the glass and live on the foul line make him an easy centerpiece to build around. For Embiid to leap up in rankings such as these, he will need to improve his conditioning so that he can sustain his impact throughout multiple playoff rounds. Once that happens, the 25-year-old center could find himself waging a two-man battle with Giannis Antetokounmpo as the face of the NBA.

#8

Damian Lillard

Point guard, Portland Trail Blazers

  • AGE

    29

  • PPG

    25.8

  • RPG

    4.6

  • APG

    6.9

Lillard tends to enter the national conversation in brief bursts.

Such as, for instance, when he hit an impossibly deep, buzzer-beating three-pointer to eliminate Oklahoma City from the playoffs in April. Those high points are often met with a collective understanding that Lillard deserves more attention and respect, but then, perhaps because he plays in small-market Portland or because he hasn't gotten over the hump against Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors, he fades into the background.The true Lillard story is one of remarkable consistency, reliable production and steady progress up the point guard ladder. The Blazers guard has averaged at least 25 points and five assists for four straight seasons, and at 29, he has eclipsed the likes of Russell Westbrook and Chris Paul when it comes to carrying a winning team. Newsflash to Paul George and the rest of the world: Lillard’s commitment to expanding his shooting range has made him a defense-shredding threat from 30-plus feet, and that rare weapon helped him lead a mediocre supporting cast to a top-five offense and the Western Conference finals last season.

#9

Anthony Davis

Power forward, Los Angeles Lakers

  • AGE

    26

  • PPG

    25.9

  • RPG

    12

  • APG

    3.9

At this time last year, Davis declared himself “the best player in the league.” He didn't prove it.

Instead, the hyper-talented 6-foot-10 forward demanded a trade and jogged through the final two months of another lottery-bound campaign with the New Orleans Pelicans. All that off-court jockeying led to his long-awaited move to Los Angeles, where he should compete for MVP and defensive player of the year while enjoying the full benefits of playing with LeBron James.Still, the onus remains on Davis to prove that he can supplement his sparkling statistics with the leadership intangibles and consistency required to compete for titles. The basketball world is anxiously waiting.

#10

Paul George

Small forward, Los Angeles Clippers

  • AGE

    29

  • PPG

    28

  • RPG

    8.2

  • APG

    4.1

George’s second, and final, season in Oklahoma City was astonishing.

He set or matched career highs in scoring, rebounding and assists, he led the league in steals and deflections, and he ranked in the top five in real plus-minus, win shares and WARP. Rarely does an established star completely rewrite his ceiling quite like George did at age 29.Yet it is reasonable to project some regression in 2019-20, in part because George so vastly exceeded his typical production last year, in part because he is recovering from two shoulder surgeries and in part because he will be adjusting to a new team, a new coach and a new role after a July trade to the Los Angeles Clippers. George should thrive as an overqualified No. 2 option to Kawhi Leonard, taking on the toughest perimeter defensive assignments and stepping forward to carry the offense in times of need. If the two wings can strike the right balance, George could put a series of painful first-round playoff exits behind him and perhaps reach the Finals for the first time in his 10th season.

#11

Rudy Gobert

Center, Utah Jazz

  • AGE

    27

  • PPG

    15.9

  • RPG

    12.9

  • APG

    2

Gobert has become an easy and popular target for nitpickers.

His offensive game is almost entirely reliant upon his teammates, elite perimeter playmakers can neutralize his defensive impact by pulling him away from his comfort zone around the basket, and he hasn't yet achieved a postseason breakthrough. 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. His absurd length and strong defensive rebounding are complemented by an ultra-efficient offensive game. While Gobert is a paint-bound scoring threat, he applies constant vertical pressure to opposing defenses with his pick-and-roll finishing and high-volume dunking. It remains to be seen whether Gobert can ever lead a team past the likes of Stephen Curry or James Harden in the playoffs, but he is capable of being the backbone of a 50-win team for years to come.

#12

Kyrie Irving

Point guard, Brooklyn Nets

  • AGE

    27

  • PPG

    23.8

  • RPG

    5

  • APG

    6.9

Building around Irving requires grave compromises.

In exchange for his elite shot creation and ballhandling, a team must brace for his mood swings and wave-making public comments. In exchange for his dynamic scoring ability and late-game confidence, a team must be willing to live or die with his unpredictable decision-making and wavering personal investment. In exchange for his marketability and charisma, a team must rationalize his lengthy injury history and subpar defensive impact.For most organizations, Irving’s prodigious talent still justifies the bargains. Nevertheless, his ill-fated run with the Boston Celtics last season was a reminder that his personality and presence can cause actual harm to a developing team with championship aspirations. The very best basketball players can make the best out of any situation and any group of teammates. That simply isn't true with the mercurial Irving, who has faltered when asked to assume leadership duties and blanched when asked to adjust his game to the personnel around him.

#13

Draymond Green

Power forward, Golden State Warriors

  • AGE

    29

  • PPG

    7.4

  • RPG

    7.3

  • APG

    6.9

In an era in which triple-doubles have become commonplace, Green was the only high-profile star to average a triple-single last season -- not hitting at least 10 points, rebounds or assists per game.

That slippage in individual production was evidence of a laissez-faire approach across 82 games, but it misrepresents his overall value. During his fifth straight run to the Finals, an in-shape Green proved once again that he is among the NBA’s most versatile and disruptive defenders while also serving as a central playmaker with his passing. His peak performance came in the Western Conference finals, when he bullied and intimidated the Portland Trail Blazers and led multiple second-half comebacks with his instinctive ability to manipulate the pace of the game.Golden State wasted little time re-signing Green to a four-year, $100 million contract in August, thereby validating his status as an elite defensive anchor who can be trusted to perform in the biggest moments against the league’s top offensive talents.

#14

Jimmy Butler

Small forward, Miami Heat

  • AGE

    30

  • PPG

    18.7

  • RPG

    5.3

  • APG

    4

Butler’s whirlwind 2018-19 campaign illuminated both his strengths and flaws.

The 6-foot-7 wing is competitive to a fault, impatient and more adaptable on the court than most analysts realize. He also remains talented and confident enough to believe that he is best utilized as a centerpiece. That combination of traits explains why he couldn't make it work with the Minnesota Timberwolves, who were too young and unfinished to match his intensity. It also explains why he wasn't satisfied as just one piece of a winning puzzle in Philadelphia, where he played brilliant basketball for the 76ers in the playoffs yet opted to leave for a larger role and more acclaim in Miami.A Butler-led team is hard-capped as a non-contender: He is a very good offensive player but not a great one, and he picks his spots from an intensity standpoint more often now than he did earlier in his career. For those hoping to see how Butler would fare on the highest level, it’s a shame the Sixers had one too many mouths to feed.

#15

Karl-Anthony Towns

Center, Minnesota Timberwolves

  • AGE

    23

  • PPG

    24.4

  • RPG

    12.4

  • APG

    3.4

New Timberwolves president Gersson Rosas smartly opened his tenure by hyping Towns as a “top-10 player.” That assessment feels a touch rosy.

The 23-year-old center has marginal defensive impact and a nonexistent track record of postseason success. While he made strides defensively last season when it came to awareness, positioning and effort, Towns is not the most imposing vertical leaper and Minnesota’s defensive efficiency ranked in the bottom 10. His burden has been heavy since the day he was drafted, but the Timberwolves’ playoff hopes rest primarily on his ability to continue his defensive progress.Even so, Towns is a full-fledged megastar hiding in plain sight for the low-profile Timberwolves, who have struggled to craft a lasting framework around him. He deserves a seat alongside Anthony Davis in the “most talented offensive big man” conversation thanks to his three-point range, comfort handling the basketball, soft shooting touch and suite of low-post moves. Towns also boasts a rare reliability for a big man, posting 20-point, 10-rebound efforts like clockwork and missing just five games total across the first four seasons of his career. Care to daydream? Imagine how Towns’s reputation might differ if he had the luxury of playing with Ben Simmons, Josh Richardson, Tobias Harris and Al Horford.

#16

Russell Westbrook

Point guard, Houston Rockets

  • AGE

    31

  • PPG

    22.9

  • RPG

    11.1

  • APG

    10.7

Westbrook’s game and personality have always been about ferocity over grace.

It should come as no surprise, then, that his statistical decline from his 2017 MVP campaign has been anything but graceful. Despite averaging a triple-double for the third straight year, Westbrook lived down to the harshest criticisms of his game in 2018-19: He shot poorly, struggled with his shot selection and decision-making in the playoffs and occasionally seemed confused by his own physical limitations. At age 31 and with numerous knee surgeries behind him, Westbrook has entered a new stage of his career. He is still remarkably explosive, but not quite as explosive as he once was.He is still a reliable source of energy and aggression, but not quite like he was a few years ago. He doesn't get to the foul line at will like he once did, and his trusty midrange jumper has largely abandoned him. Westbrook is best cast now as a secondary option. This adjustment will continue to produce tension, because his single-minded nature and ball-dominant habits are real, and growing, hurdles.

#17

Blake Griffin

Power forward, Detroit Pistons

  • AGE

    30

  • PPG

    24.5

  • RPG

    7.5

  • APG

    5.4

Griffin’s career seemed headed down a dark alley because of recurring injuries before last season.

Then, he played his most games since 2013-14 and earned his first all-star nod since 2015. Now 30, the former high-flyer has displayed an impressive mental commitment to evolving and expanding his overall offensive game. With the three-point shot now firmly in his command and years of playmaking for teammates under his belt, Griffin can attract attention and punish defenses from virtually anywhere in the half court. There is always a catch with Griffin, though, and that’s his health.For the third time in four years, he was unable to fully compete in his team’s postseason run because of various medical issues, and the Pistons were swept by the Milwaukee Bucks. Although his 2018 trade from the Los Angeles Clippers to the Pistons blindsided Griffin and cut deeply into his general visibility, moving to the weaker Eastern Conference could wind up being the best thing to happen to him. He is in line to make the all-star team again this year, and his path to finally getting another taste of postseason success is considerably easier.

#18

LaMarcus Aldridge

Power forward, San Antonio Spurs

  • AGE

    34

  • PPG

    21.3

  • RPG

    9.2

  • APG

    2.4

Aldridge deserved the all-NBA spot that ultimately went to LeBron James last season.

Yes, he continued to toil in silence for the chronically under-discussed Spurs. 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. Throughout his career, Aldridge’s no-nonsense personality and fundamental-heavy offensive game have left him overshadowed by zestier personalities and more athletic big men. It’s a shame, but the seven-time all-star seems used to it by now. Just as Aldridge’s sensibility doesn't appeal to every fan, his game doesn't fit every system.Plans to add a three-point shot to his arsenal have largely been abandoned, leaving him to snipe from his midrange hot spots and rock defenders to sleep on the block. Without Kawhi Leonard, Aldridge has turned in uneven results as the lead dog in the playoffs; it’s fair to conclude that his best days as an alpha scorer in the clutch are behind him.

#19

Bradley Beal

Shooting guard, Washington Wizards

  • AGE

    26

  • PPG

    25.6

  • RPG

    5

  • APG

    5.5

Beal put on a clinic on how to handle a star teammate’s injury in 2018-19.

He responded to John Wall’s absence by posting career highs in points, rebounds, assists and minutes while playing all 82 games. The biggest complaint was that he went too hard with the Wizards limping into the lottery. The right play was to cut Beal’s mileage and play for the future, but the lure of supermax eligibility kept him chugging along.His game is adaptable to the talent around him. The two-time all-star can serve as a lead playmaker or a secondary attacker on offense, and he can defend multiple perimeter positions during a playoff series. Importantly, his hard-won improvements to his shot selection have remained even though he was asked to take on a heavier burden in Wall’s absence. 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.

#20

Ben Simmons

Point guard, Philadelphia 76ers

  • AGE

    23

  • PPG

    16.9

  • RPG

    8.8

  • APG

    7.7

Basketball Twitter is a funhouse mirror for Simmons.

His many virtues are squished and squeezed out of the way to make room for grotesque depictions of his biggest flaw, his nonexistent outside shooting. 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. He can't shoot -- actually, he is often quite clearly afraid to shoot -- so therefore he is worthy of mocking and not praise.A less distorted view would hail Simmons as a certified all-star talent, one who has made some major compromises to share the spotlight with Joel Embiid. It is easy to envision Simmons, 23, thriving as the engine of a run-and-gun team or as a Giannis Antetokounmpo-like slasher in a five-out attack. Those dreams will have to wait given Philadelphia’s current direction, but his physical tools and basketball intellect are such that they won’t be repressed forever.

#21

Chris Paul

Point guard, Oklahoma City Thunder

  • AGE

    34

  • PPG

    15.6

  • RPG

    4.6

  • APG

    8.2

Last season must be viewed as a tipping point for Paul.

He missed 20-plus games for the third straight season and posted career lows in both player efficiency rating and win shares. The eye test revealed slippage too: The 34-year-old remains a brilliant floor general, but he no longer turns the corner or creates quality shots off the dribble as easily as he did during his prime. Playing alongside James Harden in Houston helped mask some of those aging effects, and their two-year partnership was far more successful than many observers are willing to admit. A summer trade to Oklahoma City will return Paul to a familiar role as his team’s leading personality and tone-setter.While he consistently won 50-plus games as the Los Angeles Clippers’ main guy, expectations for the Thunder are rightfully modest given that it is ill-equipped to withstand a Paul injury absence. 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.

#22

Pascal Siakam

Small forward, Toronto Raptors

  • AGE

    25

  • PPG

    16.9

  • RPG

    6.9

  • APG

    3.1

Siakam’s rise from “just another guy” to most improved player was one of the most important developments for the 2018-19 Raptors.

The Cameroonian forward broke through in unexpected ways, building a credible three-point shot, showing greater comfort attacking the basket off the bounce and blossoming as a complementary scorer who could fill in the gaps. Going into his age-24 season, Siakam seemed like a plus defender with a relatively low ceiling because of his raw offensive game. In his age-25 season, Siakam projects as an all-star whose numbers should get another sizable boost with Kawhi Leonard gone. That leap led the Raptors to sign him to a four-year max contract extension in October.There might come a time in the future when Toronto asks Siakam to be its franchise player, and it remains to be seen whether he can develop the handle and shot-creation skills to fill that role efficiently. To be clear, though, his progress to date is a bigger deal than what could come next. Siakam is a huge reason the Raptors won their first title, and he is the biggest reason they won't be decimated by Leonard’s departure.

#23

Jrue Holiday

Point guard, New Orleans Pelicans

  • AGE

    29

  • PPG

    21.2

  • RPG

    5

  • APG

    7.7

“What if” questions swirl around Holiday.

What if he were an all-league offensive performer and a very good defensive performer rather than the reverse? What if he hadn't been traded into the Western Conference’s deep point guard pool in 2013? What if New Orleans had enjoyed more success building a supporting cast around his partnership with Anthony Davis? Wouldn't he have more than one all-star nod by now? Wouldn't he be significantly more famous and well-regarded?Holiday probably leads the league when it comes to deserving more buzz than he gets. 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. Capable of playing and defending either backcourt position, Holiday has the leadership intangibles, physical strength, ballhandling ability and IQ to function effectively alongside the vast majority of the NBA’s guards. Those characteristics also make him ideally suited to guide the transition from the Davis era to the Zion Williamson era in New Orleans.

#24

Al Horford

Power forward, Philadelphia 76ers

  • AGE

    33

  • PPG

    13.6

  • RPG

    6.7

  • APG

    4.2

It’s fair to wonder whether Horford’s value will be more clear this season from his contributions to the Sixers or his absence from the Boston Celtics.

At 33, he remains one of the smartest big men in the game on both ends: Horford’s mobility and organizational skills served as the backbone of Boston’s defenses for the past three seasons, while his team-first approach and floor-spacing on offense would make him a fit with virtually any roster in the league.In Philadelphia, he forms an imposing Twin Towers duo with Joel Embiid and should help stabilize the Sixers’ defensive efficiency numbers when the all-star center is off the court. After 12 seasons and five all-star selections, Horford’s proactive move to leave Boston has set him up for his best shot yet to make the Finals. Still looming is Giannis Antetokounmpo, who got the best of Horford in a fascinating second-round matchup this past May.

#25

Kemba Walker

Point guard, Boston Celtics

  • AGE

    29

  • PPG

    25.6

  • RPG

    4.4

  • APG

    5.9

The FIBA World Cup was a useful barometer for measuring Walker.

The short version: He is very good but not great. A skilled pick-and-roll practitioner with deep range and a well-honed ability to create space off the bounce, Walker saw his overall offensive impact lessened by his lack of size on the ball and his difficulty finding high-quality looks around the basket. Team USA needed him to step forward as a superhero on the ball, and he came up short where peers such as Damian Lillard and Kyrie Irving almost certainly would have enjoyed greater success.Walker should benefit from his move to Boston, because he will be surrounded by quality perimeter defenders and have more offensive talents to work with than he did in Charlotte. Still, the 29-year-old remains in prove-it mode given that he won just three playoff games during his first eight years in the Eastern Conference.

#26

Khris Middleton

Small forward, Milwaukee Bucks

  • AGE

    28

  • PPG

    18.3

  • RPG

    6

  • APG

    4.3

Last year saw a series of milestones for Middleton.

Among them were his first all-star selection, his first playoff series victory and his first monumental payday after seven seasons in the league. Unfortunately, that five-year, $177.5 million contract might wind up distorting the narratives around one of the NBA’s most underrated players.The 28-year-old Middleton’s chief strength is his lack of weaknesses: He is a good scorer, a good playmaker, a good defender and a good teammate. He is not, however, overwhelmingly athletic or well-suited to life as an alpha scorer. Unfortunately, Middleton’s hard ceiling and ballooning contract will make him an easy scapegoat if the Bucks struggle to take the next step this season.It’s best to think of Middleton as a tendon rather than a muscle. Anyone expecting him to be a traditional second superstar alongside Giannis Antetokounmpo is fundamentally misunderstanding what Middleton brings to the game.

#27

CJ McCollum

Shooting guard, Portland Trail Blazers

  • AGE

    28

  • PPG

    21

  • RPG

    4

  • APG

    3

Any doubt that McCollum could carry a quality offensive attack should have been erased by his strong showing in the 2019 postseason.

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. His total scoring package -- outside shooting, midrange sniping, creating off the dribble in each direction -- makes him a nightmare cover in isolation. McCollum’s defensive impact has steadily progressed since early in his career, but his lack of size and physicality puts him at a disadvantage in certain matchups. Even so, his game would be incredibly transferable across different team contexts, because his ability to shift between life as the primary and secondary option is rare among players of his caliber.While he could stand to get to the free throw line more often and be a more disruptive defensive presence, McCollum has missed just 17 combined games over the past four full seasons. Few duos, then, can match Damian Lillard and McCollum when it comes to reliability.

#28

Luka Doncic

Shooting guard, Dallas Mavericks

  • AGE

    20

  • PPG

    21.2

  • RPG

    7.8

  • APG

    6

Although Doncic’s physique and scoring efficiency left something to be desired during his rookie of the year campaign, expect substantial progress on both fronts in year two.

The Mavericks have upgraded the talent around him -- most notably with the addition of Kristaps Porzingis -- and Doncic has gotten serious about his body by dropping more than 20 pounds this summer. Few players possess his natural instincts and flair for the moment, and it’s conceivable that the Slovenian Wonderboy could sneak onto the all-star team even though he is still just 20 years old.

#29

Kyle Lowry

Point guard, Toronto Raptors

  • AGE

    33

  • PPG

    14.2

  • RPG

    4.8

  • APG

    8.7

How much of Lowry's statistical slippage was a product of new talents around him, and how much was natural regression?

The 33-year-old point guard missed 17 games last season while posting his lowest scoring average since 2012-13 and his worst true shooting percentage since 2014-15. He did, however, ratchet up his distribution, earn his fifth straight all-star nod and play a pivotal role throughout a memorable title run. Even after weighing both sides, it seems unlikely Lowry is ready to return to life as an all-league-quality playmaker.Although he just signed a one-year, $31 million extension and likely has one more payday coming after that, a lower bar seems to be in order. The 6-foot guard has battled nagging injuries and run up heavy miles during his seven years in Toronto, and Kawhi Leonard’s departure will require him to face greater defensive attention.

#30

Mike Conley

Point guard, Utah Jazz

  • AGE

    32

  • PPG

    21.1

  • RPG

    3.4

  • APG

    6.4

Utah’s acquisition of Conley might have been the most underrated move of the summer.

In his 13th season, Conley remains an adept pick-and-roll point guard, a reliable off-ball shooter, a committed defender and an excellent leader and teammate. His playoff experience should help a Jazz team that desperately wants to get over the hump, and his ability to contribute without hijacking the offense should make for a smooth pairing with Donovan Mitchell. The only catch is his health, because the undersized Conley has missed at least 12 games in five consecutive seasons. 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.

#31

Nikola Vucevic

Center, Orlando Magic

  • AGE

    29

  • PPG

    20.8

  • RPG

    12

  • APG

    3.8

Vucevic toiled in relative anonymity in small-market Orlando for many seasons before enjoying a contract year for the ages.

Remarkably, the 6-foot-11 center ranked in the top 10 in the league in player efficiency rating, win shares and real plus-minus to earn the first all-star nod of his career. A skilled scorer with a soft touch and a double-double machine, Vucevic earned a four-year, $100 million contract this summer by posting career highs in scoring, rebounds and assists.His first extended taste of postseason action took some of the wind out of his sails. Vucevic was held in check throughout a five-game first-round series loss to the Toronto Raptors, raising questions about his ability to step forward and dominate against top competition. The Magic should remain pleased with his development, though, because he played a leading role on a top-10 defense for the first time in his seven years in Orlando.

#32

Clint Capela

Center, Houston Rockets

  • AGE

    25

  • PPG

    16.6

  • RPG

    12.7

  • APG

    1.4

Capela is an excellent case study for the power of player development.

The Rockets center has steadily increased his scoring and rebounding for five straight seasons, building himself from a raw and untested rookie into an impact-making two-way force. A long-armed shot blocker who excels at finishing lobs around the basket, Capela cashed in on his strong fit with James Harden to the tune of a five-year, $90 million contract in 2018. Although he has been exploited at times by the Golden State Warriors’ small-ball lineups, Capela covers ground better than most traditional centers and has held up well in a variety of postseason matchups.

#33

Donovan Mitchell

Shooting guard, Utah Jazz

  • AGE

    23

  • PPG

    23.8

  • RPG

    4.1

  • APG

    4.2

Mitchell’s young career has swung back and forth on the expectations pendulum.

He overachieved as a rookie, slightly disappointed in his sophomore campaign and then failed to emerge as USA Basketball’s savior during the FIBA World Cup. The Jazz’s busy summer sets up the charismatic scoring guard for success in year three. A shifty downhill attacker who can also step back to shoot the three, Mitchell should emerge as a more efficient threat in an offense with better spacing. Only 23, there is still plenty of time for Mitchell to grow into the rosy projections and stabilize his reputation as a future star.

#34

DeMar DeRozan

Small forward, San Antonio Spurs

  • AGE

    30

  • PPG

    21.2

  • RPG

    6

  • APG

    6.2

A change in scenery from Toronto to San Antonio revealed that DeRozan had significant untapped potential as a playmaker.

In his 10th season, DeRozan averaged a career-high 6.2 assists while orchestrating for a Spurs organization that was still coping with Kawhi Leonard’s departure. DeRozan’s move to the tougher Western Conference presented complications, too: He failed to both make the all-star team and advance in the playoffs for the first time since 2015, and Leonard immediately led the Raptors to a title. In that sense, the trade helped confirm that DeRozan should be regarded as a cut below the best players at his position, in part because of his nonexistent outside shooting and tendency to regress in the playoffs.

#35

Andre Drummond

Center, Detroit Pistons

  • AGE

    26

  • PPG

    17.3

  • RPG

    15.6

  • APG

    1.4

Drummond has been dogged by accusations that his gaudy stats are emptier than they appear.

But the Pistons center ranked in the top 30 by player efficiency rating, win shares and WARP last season while serving as the back line of an above-average defense. The NBA’s rebounding leader in three of the past four full seasons, Drummond remains a bit confounding because his attempts to diversify his scoring game have largely failed. Drummond’s flirtations with shooting three-pointers have gone nowhere, and he isn't a reliable shooter from anywhere outside three feet. Still, Drummond will likely enter next summer as one of the top free agent targets because he has established himself as a dependable producer who has enjoyed near-perfect health throughout his seven-plus-year career.

#36

De'Aaron Fox

Point guard, Sacramento Kings

  • AGE

    21

  • PPG

    17.3

  • RPG

    3.8

  • APG

    7.3

While many of his fellow 2017 draft picks have been enigmas and busts, Fox has established himself as a star in the making.

The electric end-to-end athlete made big strides in his second season, proving he could be a reliable three-point shooter, the lead playmaker on a league-average offense and a long and pesky on-ball defender. His sheer speed will always be his calling card, but Fox has shown enough layers to his game that the Kings can confidently construct an offensive scheme around him. Fox, 21, was a finalist for 2019 most improved player, and it’s conceivable he wins the 2020 award and vies for his first career all-star selection.

#37

Kristaps Porzingis

Power forward, Dallas Mavericks

  • AGE

    24

  • PPG

    n/a

  • RPG

    n/a

  • APG

    n/a

Remember when he was the toast of New York and regarded as a surefire franchise player?

During a 20-month absence, the Latvian sensation dealt with multiple off-court incidents, was traded by the Knicks to the Mavericks in a polarizing blockbuster and became something of a forgotten man.Porzingis’s knee injury should not meaningfully alter his “Unicorn” game, because his scoring, outside shooting and shot-blocking skills aren't heavily reliant upon maximizing his athleticism. Indeed, the biggest change he will see this season comes in the form of Luka Doncic, easily the best backcourt playmaker he has been paired with during his NBA career.

#38

Victor Oladipo

Shooting guard, Indiana Pacers

  • AGE

    27

  • PPG

    18.8

  • RPG

    5.6

  • APG

    5.2

A top-25 player if healthy, Oladipo is expected to be sidelined for more than a month to start the 2019-20 season.

The two-time all-star has ridden the rollercoaster since his 2017 arrival in Indiana, emerging as one of the East’s premier two-way backcourt talents two seasons ago before injuries caught up to him.Once he returns, Oladipo’s explosiveness and shot making should form a nice fire-and-ice partnership with Malcolm Brogdon’s controlled, complementary style. 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.

#39

Devin Booker

Shooting guard, Phoenix Suns

  • AGE

    23

  • PPG

    26.6

  • RPG

    4.1

  • APG

    6.8

Booker’s shouty acolytes have insisted that he is a certified star in Phoenix. Not yet.

The 23-year-old guard is an incredibly skilled scorer and an improved playmaker for his teammates, but major holes continue to abound. Booker is an overwhelmingly minus defender, he has missed 46 games combined over the past two full seasons, and he has yet to emerge as a true leadership presence during his four-plus seasons with the reeling Suns.While the arrival of new coach Monty Williams and some veteran stabilizers should help his cause, Booker must make strides when it comes to his defensive commitment, his consistency and his role as an alpha personality for an organization that desperately needs him to be its savior.

#40

Kevin Love

Power forward, Cleveland Cavaliers

  • AGE

    31

  • PPG

    17

  • RPG

    10.9

  • APG

    2.2

Love's career is at a crossroads.

The five-time all-star has missed at least 22 games in three consecutive seasons, and he logged fewer than 600 minutes in 2018-19 because of toe surgery. If healthy, the 31-year-old power forward should be looking to reassert himself as a lead scoring option and a franchise cornerstone, a la Blake Griffin in Detroit.Unfortunately, it’s not clear whether Love will be able to remain healthy or able to replicate the type of production he managed in Minnesota early in his career. A skilled shooter and advanced passer, Love will be at the mercy of Cleveland’s extremely young guard corps. His best bet might be to hope for a trade to a contender, where he could settle into life as a quality third option.

#41

Danilo Gallinari

Power forward, Oklahoma City Thunder

  • AGE

    31

  • PPG

    19.8

  • RPG

    6.1

  • APG

    2.6

Just when it seemed safe to count out Gallinari as a reliable core contributor, the Italian forward put long-standing injury issues behind him during a career year.

While the Los Angeles Clippers' potent bench got a lot of the credit for the team's surprising 2018-19 season, Gallinari played at a near all-star form and ranked in the top 40 in player efficiency rating, win shares, real plus minus and WARP. A natural scorer with a smooth three-point stroke, Gallinari’s arrival in Oklahoma City has the potential to make the revamped Thunder better than many analysts might assume. At 31, though, the burden of proof is on him to show he can remain healthy. His $22.6 million expiring contract should make him a coveted trade deadline target.

#42

Jamal Murray

Point guard, Denver Nuggets

  • AGE

    22

  • PPG

    18.2

  • RPG

    4.2

  • APG

    4.8

There is a “beauty is in the eye of beholder” vibe to Murray.

He inspires his fair share of criticism because of his streaky shooting and his status as a minus defender. Given that he is only 22 and played with real moxie during his first playoff run, odds are the Canadian point guard will be winning over converts during his fourth season.Relieved of some playmaking duties thanks to the presence of Nikola Jokic, Murray excelled as a secondary scorer and shot creator for a top-10 Nuggets offense. 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. Don't overlook the value of Murray’s health, either. He played an average of 79 games over his first three seasons, and he took on heavy minutes during Denver’s 2019 playoff run. While star duos are all the rage this season, the Jokic/Murray combination might win more games with less fanfare than any of them.

#43

Tobias Harris

Power forward, Philadelphia 76ers

  • AGE

    27

  • PPG

    20

  • RPG

    7.9

  • APG

    2.8

A midseason trade and an underwhelming postseason didn't stop Harris from cashing in this summer.

The 6-foot-8 combo forward found himself an ideal landing spot in Philadelphia, which badly needed his diverse scoring game and was equipped to cover for his mediocre defense. Harris, 27, fits more naturally at power forward than small forward, but he should be well-suited to playing a spacing role in the Sixers’ jumbo lineups. His new five-year, $180 million contract was a product of timing and good circumstances, and it overstates his pure value. Harris faded in the 2019 playoffs, and his ability to remain an engaged and efficient scorer will be a major X-factor for the Sixers’ 2020 title hopes.

#44

Myles Turner

Center, Indiana Pacers

  • AGE

    23

  • PPG

    13.3

  • RPG

    7.2

  • APG

    1.6

Turner’s value on the defensive end is unquestioned.

The NBA’s leading shot blocker in 2019 ranked in the top 10 across the board in the major catch-all defensive statistics. A long and agile interior defender blessed with good timing, the 23-year-old center has filled out physically during his rookie contract, made progress when it comes to foul discipline and captained a Pacers defense that finished in the top three last season. 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. Given that he has only shown the ability to truly impact games on one end, it’s fair to ask whether Turner will top out at “reliable and useful” rather than “great.”

#45

Steven Adams

Center, Oklahoma City Thunder

  • AGE

    26

  • PPG

    13.9

  • RPG

    9.5

  • APG

    1.6

There are no secrets to Adams’s game.

The Big Kiwi is a quality interior defender, one of the NBA’s best offensive rebounders and a night-in, night-out worker who thrives on contact. But while the Thunder’s postseason shortcomings have usually been pinned on Russell Westbrook, Adams hasn't always been part of the solution. His stiffness on defense can lead to matchup issues, his poor free throw shooting is a clear liability, and his limited ability to create offense for himself makes him relatively easy to neutralize.Oklahoma City will need more from Adams this season, and Chris Paul’s setup skills should spike his efficiency. After years of steady development from the 26-year-old, though, it feels like he has reached his peak.

#46

Jayson Tatum

Small forward, Boston Celtics

  • AGE

    21

  • PPG

    15.7

  • RPG

    6

  • APG

    2.1

The reality of Tatum hasn't quite caught up to the idea of Tatum.

After an impressive rookie campaign, the 21-year-old wing didn't make major strides toward stardom in his second season. Annoyances abounded, including his low free throw rate, his heavy reliance on contested midrange shots and his limited ability as a playmaker off the dribble. Yet Tatum still has all the tools -- a smooth shooting stroke, a good frame and a two-way mentality -- to become a top-shelf wing. Now, with Kyrie Irving’s departure, he should enjoy a greater opportunity to step forward as a scoring linchpin.

#47

Buddy Hield

Shooting guard, Sacramento Kings

  • AGE

    26

  • PPG

    20.7

  • RPG

    5

  • APG

    2.5

Hield blossomed into a starter whose high-volume sharpshooting made him Sacramento’s leading scorer last season.

Even though he is only entering the final season of his rookie deal, Hield is already 26 and is therefore at or near his prime. Expecting stardom is too much given his low-impact approach on the defensive end, but he is an elite threat as a transition shooter and can create for himself off the bounce. Only one player attempted more three-pointers per game and connected at a higher percentage than Hield in 2018-19: Stephen Curry.

#48

Otto Porter Jr.

Small forward, Chicago Bulls

  • AGE

    26

  • PPG

    13.9

  • RPG

    5.6

  • APG

    2.1

Porter is poised for a bounceback campaign after his 2018-19 season was derailed by injuries and a midseason trade.

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. Even though Chicago has been putrid in recent years, the personnel fits Porter quite well. He won't be asked to do too much offensively, and he will be one of multiple veteran cogs who are central to Coach Jim Boylen’s plans for improving the defense.

#49

Montrezl Harrell

Power forward, Los Angeles Clippers

  • AGE

    25

  • PPG

    16.6

  • RPG

    6.5

  • APG

    2

If Harrell were a Laker, he would be a household name by now.

As it stands, the Clippers’ raised profile might help him get there this season. A tireless and versatile big man who is known mainly for his thunderous dunks, Harrell gradually expanded his comfort zone on offense during his first four full seasons. Defensively, he is quick, strong and versatile, capable of defending traditional centers and stepping out on switches. 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.

#50

Paul Millsap

Power forward, Denver Nuggets

  • AGE

    34

  • PPG

    12.6

  • RPG

    7.2

  • APG

    2

Millsap’s all-star days are long gone, but he remains one of the most important pieces to Denver’s winning formula.

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. Still, his outside/inside comfort on offense helps create space and scoring chances for Nikola Jokic’s playmaking, and his defensive versatility helped him post the best net rating of any Denver rotation player. With an eye on reaching the conference finals and beyond, the Nuggets picked up Millsap’s $30 million option this summer. That was an easy decision, because it’s hard to see how the franchise would reach its lofty short-term goals without him.

#51

John Collins

Power forward, Atlanta Hawks

  • AGE

    22

  • PPG

    19.5

  • RPG

    9.8

  • APG

    2

Collins won the lottery when the Hawks drafted Trae Young in 2018.

The 6-foot-9 power forward is best known for his dunking ability, but he is far more than just a dunker. An agile athlete who covers ground in transition and has a good nose for finding space in the half court, the 22-year-old is primed for greater attention as Young’s pick-and-roll partner in crime. Collins's body control in traffic pairs well with his desire to put constant pressure on the rim, and his shooting touch and mechanics suggest he will develop into a three-point threat as he continues to mature. He will miss 25 games because of a suspension for a banned substance.

#52

Lou Williams

Shooting guard, Los Angeles Clippers

  • AGE

    32

  • PPG

    20

  • RPG

    3

  • APG

    5.4

Williams has lived in a bucket-getter’s nirvana for the past two seasons with the Clippers.

Facing minimal expectations and given the greenest of lights by Doc Rivers, the silky scoring guard has claimed back-to-back sixth man of the year awards by leading one of the NBA’s best benches. While his inattention on defense is so well-established that his teammates openly joked about it at media day, Williams, 33, has made up for it with his isolation scoring and pick-and-roll orchestration skills. It’s possible that L.A.’s influx of talent and its refocusing on a defensive identity will diminish his role somewhat, but Williams’s ability to drop into a game and reel off a scoring burst at any moment will be helpful as the new pieces come together.

#53

Eric Bledsoe

Point guard, Milwaukee Bucks

  • AGE

    29

  • PPG

    15.9

  • RPG

    4.6

  • APG

    5.5

Unfortunately, Bledsoe now resides in the vortex of playoff disappointments.

The 29-year-old guard is a top-shelf perimeter defender and a quality complementary scorer who flirted with an all-star nod last year and earned a four-year, $70 million extension in March. But those contributions, on the league’s winningest team no less, went by the wayside with another perplexing postseason showing. Bledsoe has admitted to suffering from anxiety, and his shaky three-point shooting becomes a more glaring issue in May. Until he proves trustworthy in high-pressure moments, Bledsoe’s standing relative to his backcourt peers should suffer.

#54

D'Angelo Russell

Shooting guard, Golden State Warriors

  • AGE

    23

  • PPG

    21.1

  • RPG

    3.9

  • APG

    7

Russell’s resurrection in Brooklyn was impressive, but the narrative pendulum has swung too far back in his direction.

The 23-year-old guard is a skilled midrange shooter with good vision and a renewed focus after two lost seasons with the Lakers. That profile shouldn’t equate to an all-star selection or a max contract when he is also a minus defender who struggles to get to the rim and the foul line. An offseason move to Golden State presents fit and style-of-play complications for Russell, whose primary value derives from having the ball in his hands in pick-and-roll situations.

#55

Brook Lopez

Center, Milwaukee Bucks

  • AGE

    31

  • PPG

    12.5

  • RPG

    4.9

  • APG

    1.2

Lopez deserves as much credit as anyone for helping Giannis Antetokounmpo claim his first MVP.

The 31-year-old center has evolved into a prototypical stretch five, setting up well behind the three-point line on offense while functioning as a traditional interior tentpole on defense. Antetokounmpo benefited from the space created by Lopez’s deep range and commitment to the defensive glass. The impact stats bear out Lopez’s importance to the Bucks’ 60-win season; he ranked above the likes of Karl-Anthony Towns and LaMarcus Aldridge by real plus-minus. Milwaukee re-signed Lopez to a four-year, $52 million contract this summer and then signed his twin brother, Robin, in free agency, banking that the two Stanford 7-footers can hold their own in an inevitable showdown with Philadelphia's Joel Embiid.

#56

Marc Gasol

Center, Toronto Raptors

  • AGE

    34

  • PPG

    13.6

  • RPG

    7.9

  • APG

    4.4

A career spent accumulating good karma paid off handsomely for Gasol in 2019.

The longtime Memphis Grizzlies center rode a midseason trade to the Raptors to the first title of his career and then won a FIBA World Cup gold with Spain. Gasol is no longer a star at age 34, but his defensive presence and intelligence were critical factors in pushing Toronto over the finish line. A somewhat reluctant offensive threat at this stage of his career, Gasol’s three-point marksmanship and passing gifts should be helpful for a Raptors attack that must be recalibrated following Kawhi Leonard’s departure. After such an extended, late-career joyride, though, one wonders if a hangover is in the offing.

#57

Domantas Sabonis

Power forward, Indiana Pacers

  • AGE

    23

  • PPG

    14.1

  • RPG

    9.3

  • APG

    2.9

Sometimes it feels like Sabonis goes weeks without missing a basket.

That’s only slightly hyperbolic, because the Pacers big man has evolved into one of the league’s most efficient bench scorers. Although he doesn’t shoot the three ball like his legendary father, Arvydas, Sabonis relies on good footwork and a soft touch to cash in around the basket. To compensate for his tweener frame, Sabonis plays with an unusually high energy level that makes him a productive rebounder and a regular presence at the foul line.After reaching terms on a rookie extension, the 23-year-old Sabonis might be approaching a crossroads: Can he form a functional long-term pairing with Myles Turner if neither player can shoot from outside, or will a split be in order?

#58

Trae Young

Point guard, Atlanta Hawks

  • AGE

    21

  • PPG

    19.1

  • RPG

    3.7

  • APG

    8.1

It takes real effort to pump the brakes on the Young hype train.

The 2019 rookie of the year runner-up proved to be an extraordinarily skilled playmaker and a creative scoring threat last season, posting all-star-level stats for the final three months of the season. For all the sizzle and flash to his game, though, Young graded out as the league’s worst player by defensive real plus-minus.The undersized point guard spent the summer adding weight and working on navigating screens, while the Hawks smartly targeted long, physical wings to help protect their budding franchise player. Within the next year or two, the hope is that Young can make enough progress defensively that viewers are free to ogle his long-range bombs and thread-the-needle passes without pangs of guilt.

#59

Jaylen Brown

Shooting guard, Boston Celtics

  • AGE

    23

  • PPG

    13

  • RPG

    4.2

  • APG

    1.4

Will Brown’s breakthrough as a two-way force on the wing ever come?

Taken third overall in 2016, Brown had the requisite size, length and intensity to project as a Jimmy Butler clone. Yet Boston’s tumultuous 2018-19 season raised some doubts: Brown was marginalized a bit on offense, his three-point shooting wavered, and he didn't display any major progress as a creator or playmaker. On a USA Basketball team that needed scoring pop from the wing, Brown similarly faded from view often.None of this necessarily disqualifies him from being a long-term starter -- given that his defensive versatility is crucial to postseason success -- but stardom will require him to add multiple layers to his offensive game. And soon.

#60

Klay Thompson

Shooting guard, Golden State Warriors

  • AGE

    29

  • PPG

    21.5

  • RPG

    3.8

  • APG

    2.4

A top-25 player if healthy, Thompson is expected to miss most or all of the season with an ACL tear.

The 29-year-old shooting guard received a five-year maximum contract this summer despite his traumatic injury in the Finals, thereby locking him in as one of the Warriors’ foundational pieces for the post-Kevin Durant era. Eight years in, Thompson remains one of the most reliable and deadly outside shooters in NBA history. His competitiveness as an on-ball defender and his deep well of postseason experience could boost Golden State back into the West’s group of contenders if he can make a midseason return.

#61

Lauri Markkanen

Power forward, Chicago Bulls

  • AGE

    22

  • PPG

    18.7

  • RPG

    9

  • APG

    1.4

Markkanen’s combination of size, pure shooting stroke and comfort creating shots off the dribble is intoxicating.

While the Finnish forward missed 30 games because of injury last season, he made a convincing case that he will soon be a bona fide lead scoring option. Everything else remains an open question. He is hardly a disruptive defender, he registered more turnovers than assists, and the Bulls suddenly have a fairly crowded frontcourt. Yet the 22-year-old Markkanen should benefit greatly from playing with competent teammates for the first time in his three-year career, and Chicago’s complementary veteran additions should help him play to his strengths.

#62

Serge Ibaka

Power forward, Toronto Raptors

  • AGE

    30

  • PPG

    15

  • RPG

    8.1

  • APG

    1.3

At this time last year, Ibaka seemed doomed to charges that he was overpaid.

His individual production was slipping, he hadn't been a major difference-maker in the 2018 playoffs, and he no longer protected the rim like he did during his younger and springier days in Oklahoma City. But Ibaka proved his flexibility by shifting to a backup role throughout Toronto’s title run. With fewer responsibilities and more favorable matchups, Ibaka was no longer set up for criticism as the Raptors’ X-factor. Although he is no longer a spectacular athlete, the 30-year-old center can still organize the defense, clean the glass and step out to hit the occasional three-pointer. No one was complaining about his salary at the championship parade.

#63

Bojan Bogdanovic

Small forward, Utah Jazz

  • AGE

    30

  • PPG

    18

  • RPG

    4.1

  • APG

    2

Bogdanovic stepped up admirably in Victor Oladipo’s absence, but he was always a bit underqualified for life as a leading scorer.

The sturdy 6-foot-8 forward posted career highs in scoring, rebounds, assists and player efficiency rating last year, keeping Indiana in the playoff hunt all season long. Once in the postseason, though, the Pacers' attack ground down and Bogdanovic’s shooting numbers plummeted in the face of stiff attention from the Boston Celtics.A summer move to Utah will return Bogdanovic to a more appropriate supporting role, and his floor-spacing ability should be a boon for a Jazz offense that has found itself in cramped quarters for years.

#64

Josh Richardson

Shooting guard, Philadelphia 76ers

  • AGE

    26

  • PPG

    16.6

  • RPG

    3.6

  • APG

    4.1

Richardson has slowly built himself into a player who is ready to step into the spotlight in Philadelphia.

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. Dealt to the Sixers in the Jimmy Butler sign-and-trade, Richardson will be asked to do his best Butler impersonation for a team with title aspirations. While he isn’t as physically imposing or as proven of a playmaker, Richardson can be trusted to space the court and handle multiple positions on the defensive end.

#65

Eric Gordon

Shooting guard, Houston Rockets

  • AGE

    30

  • PPG

    16.2

  • RPG

    2.2

  • APG

    1.9

Life next to James Harden isn't for everyone, but it is for Gordon.

The 6-foot-3 scoring guard inked a four-year, $75.6 million extension with the Rockets this offseason after another productive campaign alongside the perennial MVP candidate. Gordon’s extreme three-point range -- he often sets up well outside the arc -- and off-the-dribble creativity make him a natural Harden sidekick. Those skills should also make life easier for ball-dominant newcomer Russell Westbrook. While the Rockets have searched for reliable postseason performers in recent years, Gordon largely proved up to the task in 2019.

#66

Malcolm Brogdon

Point guard, Indiana Pacers

  • AGE

    26

  • PPG

    15.6

  • RPG

    4.5

  • APG

    3.2

Brogdon was born to join these Pacers: solid but unspectacular player meets solid but unspectacular franchise.

The 26-year-old guard put together a career year in Milwaukee last season despite bothersome foot problems that sidelined him for nearly 20 games. A 50/40/90 shooter and capable defender who intuitively understands what he should and shouldn't do on the court, Brogdon’s value is maximized when playing alongside a premier talent such as Giannis Antetokounmpo. On the Pacers, he will likely be asked to stray more often from his comfort zones. Still, Brogdon should be able to function well as a quality spot-shooter and secondary creator once Victor Oladipo returns from injury.

#67

Derrick Favors

Power forward, New Orleans Pelicans

  • AGE

    28

  • PPG

    11.8

  • RPG

    7.4

  • APG

    1.2

Favors’s relocation to New Orleans didn't get many headlines, but it was welcome news.

Things had simply run their course for the 28-year-old big man in Utah, where Rudy Gobert had solidified himself as the franchise center and Favors was stuck trying to fit in around the edges. On the Pelicans, he plugs in at center -- which is now his more natural position -- and enjoys greater opportunities to showcase his well-honed scoring, rim protection and productive rebounding abilities. A no-nonsense team player, Favors also fits as a culture piece for the budding Zion Williamson era.

#68

Gordon Hayward

Small forward, Boston Celtics

  • AGE

    29

  • PPG

    11.5

  • RPG

    4.5

  • APG

    3.4

Hopes for a swift return to form for Hayward did not materialize last season.

A gruesome leg injury, suffered in the 2017-18 season opener, left Hayward a shell of himself as a scoring threat and athlete. While Boston had once targeted him in free agency as a star-caliber wing, he was reduced to life as a maddeningly inconsistent reserve. Be careful of writing him off completely. Another year of rehabilitation time should do him well, and he should have more room to work with Kyrie Irving off to Brooklyn. Optimists and pessimists should be able to agree: It’s possible to envision Hayward returning to life as a top-50 player, or falling off lists like these entirely. A broken hand will keep him out for about six weeks.

#69

Julius Randle

Power forward, New York Knicks

  • AGE

    24

  • PPG

    21.4

  • RPG

    8.7

  • APG

    3.1

Playing at Madison Square Garden could set Randle up for large doses of both pity and scorn.

The 6-foot-8 forward earned a three-year, $62.1 million contract this summer largely by putting up good numbers on bad teams. In New Orleans last season, he filled out his signature bully ball style by adding a three-point shot and getting to the line with greater regularity. Those developments didn't really translate to the impact stats or New Orleans’s win total, which left him looking like either a talented player stuck in a bad situation or a central part of the problem. To take the next step, Randle needs to prove he has a position defensively and exude the same furious commitment on that end of the court as he does with the ball in his hands.

#70

Robert Covington

Power forward, Minnesota Timberwolves

  • AGE

    28

  • PPG

    13.3

  • RPG

    5.5

  • APG

    1.3

Covington’s return to good health is Minnesota’s biggest cause for optimism.

While the 3-and-D wing missed nearly 50 games because of a bone bruise in his knee, the 36-win Timberwolves posted a winning record with him in the lineup and a positive net rating with him on the court. A classic glue guy whose length and activity regularly disrupts opposing offenses, Covington is an ideal perimeter complement to franchise center Karl-Anthony Towns. He won't dominate the ball or crowd the court on offense, and he is a reliable weakside helper with enough physicality to help clear the defensive glass.

#71

Gary Harris

Shooting guard, Denver Nuggets

  • AGE

    25

  • PPG

    12.9

  • RPG

    2.8

  • APG

    2.2

A return to form from Harris could catapult the Nuggets to the top of the Western Conference.

The 25-year-old shooting guard was limited by injuries to 57 games last season, and his scoring, playing time and player efficiency rating all took sizable hits. His durability is a long-standing concern: Harris has a relatively slight frame and has missed at least 15 games in four of his five full NBA seasons. Even so, he remains an ideal complement to Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray because he moves well off the ball, spaces the court with a smooth jumper and holds his own as a trustworthy perimeter defender.

#72

Zach LaVine

Shooting guard, Chicago Bulls

  • AGE

    24

  • PPG

    23.7

  • RPG

    4.7

  • APG

    4.5

The conditions are ripe for LaVine to emerge as one of the NBA’s most overrated players.

A high-volume scorer and an atrocious defender, the 24-year-old guard is another year removed from major knee surgery and set up to be Chicago’s lead offensive option. He is also competing in the weaker Eastern Conference, where the pool of backcourt talent is shallower than usual. LaVine is blessed with a deep offensive toolbox, capable of generating good shots off the dribble, getting to the foul line and stepping back to hit the three. But unless he takes a major step forward defensively, any plaudits he receives -- including a possible all-star nod -- should be viewed with skepticism. Last year, he ranked outside the top 175 by real plus-minus and graded out as one of the league’s most damaging backcourt defenders for the third consecutive season.

#73

Brandon Ingram

Small forward, New Orleans Pelicans

  • AGE

    22

  • PPG

    18.3

  • RPG

    5.1

  • APG

    3

Ingram’s 2018-19 season was a mix of titillation, disappointment and terror all rolled into one.

The 22-year-old forward took some steps toward stardom, making better use of his length as a slasher and drawing more contact around the basket. Still, his shooting diet remained too heavy on long twos and too light on threes, and his defensive impact left much to be desired. A blood clot scare abruptly ended his season, but it didn't stand in the way of a summer trade to the Pelicans. Ingram is still young enough and gifted enough to deserve patience, but the clock is ticking on the former No. 2 overall pick.

#74

P.J. Tucker

Power forward, Houston Rockets

  • AGE

    34

  • PPG

    7.3

  • RPG

    5.8

  • APG

    1.2

The Rockets appreciate Tucker so thoroughly that Coach Mike D’Antoni hailed him as “one of the best players in the league” before the 2018-19 season.

That’s laying it on a bit thick for an undersized forward who averages seven points and six rebounds a night, but Tucker has proved to be an indispensable contributor and a perfect fit in Houston. Tucker brings value both ways. He can switch onto virtually any player in the league defensively, leveraging bigs with his low center of gravity and stepping out against guards on switches. Offensively, he keeps things simple by taking and making open threes, moving the ball without committing turnovers and generating second-chance opportunities on the glass.

#75

Thaddeus Young

Power forward, Chicago Bulls

  • AGE

    31

  • PPG

    12.6

  • RPG

    6.5

  • APG

    2.5

Young might be surrounded by young franchise building blocks, but Bulls Coach Jim Boylen won't be able to keep him off the court.

The 31-year-old forward arrives in Chicago with the experience, savvy and effort level that has often been lacking in recent years. A quintessential “good at everything, great at nothing” type, Young can handle multiple positions defensively, make the right pass and contribute to an offense in a lower-usage role. He is also no stranger to rebuilding efforts, having lived through them in Philadelphia, Brooklyn and Indiana. Wendell Carter Jr. and Lauri Markkanen should both benefit from his presence and mentorship.

#76

Aaron Gordon

Power forward, Orlando Magic

  • AGE

    24

  • PPG

    16

  • RPG

    7.4

  • APG

    3.7

The Magic’s perpetual frontcourt logjams have done him few favors, but Gordon has reached the point where he is defined more by his production than his potential.

At 24, the bouncy forward and former top-five pick has established himself as a complementary scorer, a multi-positional defender and an improved distributor. Yet Gordon’s physical gifts -- the same ones that made him the greatest runner-up in Slam Dunk Contest history -- have yet to translate to an imposing impact on either side of the court. While a change of scenery might offer him more freedom and better spacing, it wouldn't necessarily unlock a star in hiding.

#77

JJ Redick

Shooting guard, New Orleans Pelicans

  • AGE

    35

  • PPG

    18.1

  • RPG

    2.4

  • APG

    2.7

Redick is the rare 35-year-old shooting specialist who can still play.

The Duke product averaged a career high in scoring in 2018-19, a testament to his work ethic and attention to detail given that he was in his 13th season. A constant mover off the ball, Redick remains an elite catch-and-shoot weapon and a high-IQ team player. He is subject to the typical postseason concerns: His defensive impact has slipped, and opponents have had success limiting his scoring chances by keying on him within a series. Still, he was a savvy addition for a developing Pelicans squad that needs to space the court around Zion Williamson.

#78

Joe Ingles

Small forward, Utah Jazz

  • AGE

    32

  • PPG

    12.1

  • RPG

    4

  • APG

    5.7

Ingles has earned his reputation as an affable cult hero.

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. 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. 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.

#79

Andrew Wiggins

Small forward, Minnesota Timberwolves

  • AGE

    24

  • PPG

    18.1

  • RPG

    4.8

  • APG

    2.5

Plenty of knowledgeable basketball folks have already given up on Wiggins.

The former No. 1 pick has a bloated contract and more than his fair share of bad habits: He floats in and out of games, he settles for low-percentage shots too often, he has displayed little aptitude when it comes to setting up his teammates, and he doesn't get to the rim or the line nearly often enough for someone with his physical tools. Still, Wiggins’s developmental track in Minnesota hasn’t been ideal. The 24-year-old forward still has a chance to shake off his critics if he can extend his shooting range and display an improved commitment to quality shot selection and defensive engagement.

#80

Dejounte Murray

Point guard, San Antonio Spurs

  • AGE

    23

  • PPG

    n/a

  • RPG

    n/a

  • APG

    n/a

Murray received a $63.8 million extension in October despite not playing a game last season.

It was a sign of the healthy respect that he has already earned in San Antonio. The 23-year-old guard was named to the all-defensive second team in his second season as a pro, utilizing his long arms and ball-hawking skills to deliver one of the best defensive real plus-minus marks in the league. To take the next step, Murray must fill out his offensive game: At present, he is a non-shooter who does most of his offensive damage by attacking downhill.

#81

Spencer Dinwiddie

Point guard, Brooklyn Nets

  • AGE

    26

  • PPG

    16.8

  • RPG

    2.4

  • APG

    4.6

Dinwiddie’s game deserves as much attention as his recruiting skills and financial plans.

The former second-round pick has established himself in Brooklyn, where he has made headlines for pitching Kyrie Irving on the Nets and attempting to turn his new three-year, $34 million contract into a “tokenized security” for fan investment. During a career year last season, the 26-year-old guard proved to be a steady initiator and an underrated scorer for a Brooklyn offense that exceeded expectations. Dinwiddie’s ability to consistently get downhill off the dribble and make good decisions helps make up for his limited outside shooting.

#82

Jaren Jackson Jr.

Power forward, Memphis Grizzlies

  • AGE

    20

  • PPG

    13.8

  • RPG

    4.7

  • APG

    1.1

Jackson is one of the NBA’s most tantalizing young big men.

The fourth pick in the 2018 draft checks every box for a modern frontcourt star: He is long, agile and versatile with the skill level to be a dominant force on both ends. The 20-year-old forward can handle the ball at times and is comfortable shooting the three, but he still has plenty of growing up to do. Foul trouble was a persistent problem last season, and he must prove his discipline can match his physical tools and motor. The arrival of rookie point guard Ja Morant gives Jackson a fearsome pick-and-roll partner and gives the Grizzlies one of the NBA’s most compelling young duos.

#83

Caris LeVert

Shooting guard, Brooklyn Nets

  • AGE

    25

  • PPG

    13.7

  • RPG

    3.8

  • APG

    3.9

It still feels impossible that LeVert returned from a gruesome November 2018 leg injury in just three months.

The 25-year-old wing somehow managed to avoid a lost season in 2018-19, returning in February to contribute to a playoff push and to earn a three-year, $52.5 million contract this summer. Blessed with prototypical size and athletic tools, LeVert is the type of complementary threat who should thrive once Kevin Durant returns to the court. While a more reliable outside jumper would make him an even tougher cover, LeVert has enough shake to his game to create good opportunities at the hoop in isolation.

#84

Jonas Valanciunas

Center, Memphis Grizzlies

  • AGE

    27

  • PPG

    15.6

  • RPG

    8.6

  • APG

    1.4

Valanciunas inspires a healthy dose of pity.

The Lithuanian big man spent years as a reliable tentpole for the Raptors, briefly looking like an all-star in the making before settling in as a sharp-elbowed grinder once the pace-and-space era unfolded. But Toronto traded him to acquire Marc Gasol, leaving him to join DeMar DeRozan on the outside looking in at the 2019 title run. Valanciunas landed on a young Grizzlies team that will prioritize the development of its young talents over a 27-year-old traditional center who still has a nifty toolbox of low-post moves and can still crash the glass.

#85

Deandre Ayton

Center, Phoenix Suns

  • AGE

    21

  • PPG

    16.3

  • RPG

    10.3

  • APG

    1.8

The No. 1 pick in the 2018 draft didn't exactly take the NBA by storm as a rookie.

Whether he was merely a victim of Phoenix’s poor circumstances remains to be seen. Although he averaged a double-double and proved to be a strong finisher around the basket, Ayton failed to transform the Suns’ awful defense and ranked well outside the top 100 in the major impact stats. Patience is surely in order: He is only 21, and he was drafted into perhaps the NBA’s most challenging developmental environment. Ayton’s path to stardom will be partially reliant upon his offensive chemistry with Devin Booker and Ricky Rubio, but his central focus should be improving his defensive awareness, positioning and consistency as a rim protector. He was suspended for 25 games because of a banned substance.

#86

Justise Winslow

Small forward, Miami Heat

  • AGE

    23

  • PPG

    12.6

  • RPG

    5.4

  • APG

    4.3

Winslow is a great reminder not to give up on lottery picks too quickly.

Taken 10th overall in 2015, the 6-foot-6 wing initially looked like he might be headed down the Michael Kidd-Gilchrist route because of his lack of shooting and minimal offensive impact. Yet the physical, tough Winslow has grown as both a shooter and a passer during his four-plus seasons in Miami, establishing himself as both a starter and a regular initiator. Can he follow in the footsteps of new teammate Jimmy Butler and become an even greater offensive threat as he progresses into his prime years?

#87

Joe Harris

Shooting guard, Brooklyn Nets

  • AGE

    28

  • PPG

    13.7

  • RPG

    3.8

  • APG

    2.4

Harris’s charmed 2018-19 season saw him lead the league in three-point shooting percentage and outduel Stephen Curry in the Three-Point Shootout.

It took a few years and a change of scenery for the 2014 second-round pick to make his mark, but Harris is one of many developmental success stories for the Nets. A knockdown shooting specialist who didn't see much time on LeBron James’s Cavaliers, his 2016 move to Brooklyn opened major minutes -- including a starting role last year. The next step for Harris, who was invited to play for USA Basketball at the FIBA World Cup, will be to make his mark in the playoffs. The Sixers succeeded in erasing him during their first-round matchup.

#88

Harrison Barnes

Small forward, Sacramento Kings

  • AGE

    27

  • PPG

    16.4

  • RPG

    4.7

  • APG

    1.5

Eye test devotees might be fooled into thinking that Barnes has been more effective than he actually has been during his eight-year career.

While his size, strength and pure shooting stroke made him a 2012 lottery pick and earned him major contracts from both the Dallas Mavericks and the Kings, Barnes’s consistently middling impact stats suggest his box score stats are largely empty. The 27-year-old forward has been in over his head when asked to be a lead scoring option because of his limited playmaking ability, and he is best cast as a fourth or fifth scoring option who can focus more attention on defense.

#89

Ricky Rubio

Point guard, Phoenix Suns

  • AGE

    29

  • PPG

    12.7

  • RPG

    3.6

  • APG

    6.1

Rubio’s reputation has taken a beating because of unfulfilled pre-NBA hype, a career-altering knee injury and his persistent shooting struggles.

Even so, the 29-year-old point guard is a capable starter blessed with tremendous vision and organizational abilities. The Suns caught too much criticism for signing him to a three-year, $51 million contract this summer, because he possesses both the professionalism and the team-first personality to be a stabilizing presence. Although Rubio did not develop into a star like many talent evaluators predicted a decade ago, he claimed a crowning achievement by winning gold and earning MVP honors with Spain at the 2019 World Cup.

#90

Reggie Jackson

Point guard, Detroit Pistons

  • AGE

    29

  • PPG

    15.4

  • RPG

    2.6

  • APG

    4.2

Jackson has spent much of his time in Detroit as a punching bag because of a bloated contract and regular health concerns.

Last year was different. The 29-year-old point guard remained healthy for all 82 games, helping the Pistons reach the playoffs for the first time since 2016. Blake Griffin’s arrival shifted Jackson into a smaller role, which was good news given the long-standing questions about his decision-making. While Jackson is unlikely to garner another major payday once his five-year, $80 million contract finally runs out this summer, another season of good health could help him reclaim some of his standing. Alas, he is expected to miss most of November with a back injury.

#91

Jusuf Nurkic

Center, Portland Trail Blazers

  • AGE

    25

  • PPG

    15.6

  • RPG

    10.4

  • APG

    3.2

A top-50 player if healthy, Nurkic will miss significant time as he recovers from a broken leg.

That gruesome injury, suffered in March, ended the best all-around season of Nurkic’s career and cost the Blazers any chance of competing with the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference finals. The “Bosnian Beast” has thrived during his two-plus seasons in Portland, becoming a reliable scoring threat and a plus defender by slimming down and committing himself to a secondary role alongside Damian Lillard. Extreme patience is the best course for Nurkic’s rehabilitation given his history of lower-body injuries and the fact that his current contract runs through 2022.

#92

Danny Green

Shooting guard, Los Angeles Lakers

  • AGE

    32

  • PPG

    10.3

  • RPG

    4

  • APG

    1.6

Green proved last season that his 3-and-D game can still operate at a championship level.

The 32-year-old shooting guard’s production slipped during his final years in San Antonio, in part because he attempted to play through injury. A move to Toronto cast him in a tight role that perfectly suited his one-dimensional offensive game, and he delivered by shooting a career-high 45.5 percent from beyond the arc. Despite an up-and-down postseason run, Green had some memorable moments -- including six three-pointers in a Game 3 win in the Finals. He inked a two-year, $30 million contract with the Lakers this summer, instantly becoming the most important floor-spacer in LeBron James’s supporting cast.

#93

Jeremy Lamb

Shooting guard, Indiana Pacers

  • AGE

    27

  • PPG

    15.3

  • RPG

    5.5

  • APG

    2.2

Few good stories have come out of Charlotte lately, but Lamb is one.

While the 27-year-old wing was labeled a lottery bust early in his career, he gradually found his footing during four seasons with the Hornets. Last year, he posted career highs in scoring and rebounding while spending most of the season as a starter. Impressed by that improvement, the Pacers swooped in with a three-year, $31.5 million contract this summer with hopes that Lamb could help replace Bojan Bogdanovic’s scoring and spacing. 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.

#94

Patrick Beverley

Point guard, Los Angeles Clippers

  • AGE

    31

  • PPG

    7.6

  • RPG

    5

  • APG

    3.8

Basketball life has never been better for Beverley.

After making a career for himself by relentlessly doing unglamorous work, the Clippers' 31-year-old point guard was rewarded with a $40 million contract and the arrivals of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George this summer. Beverley remains a pesky perimeter defender, a quality catch-and-shoot threat and a valued locker room leader, even if his highest-impact days are now a few years behind him.

#95

Kyle Kuzma

Power forward, Los Angeles Lakers

  • AGE

    24

  • PPG

    18.7

  • RPG

    5.5

  • APG

    2.5

The 24-year-old stretch forward might never quite get there as a defender, but don't count him out.

He is not the quickest laterally, and he isn't long enough to adequately contest shots in the basket area. But Kuzma is a smooth scorer who can create a shot off the dribble and space off a team’s primary option. 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.

#96

Marcus Smart

Shooting guard, Boston Celtics

  • AGE

    25

  • PPG

    8.9

  • RPG

    2.9

  • APG

    4

Smart is both an admirable grinder and a shameless flopper, making him one of the NBA’s most polarizing players.

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. While his offensive game is severely limited, he has made progress on his three-point marksmanship and plays with a contagious confidence. For the retooling Celtics to have any playoff success this season, Smart will need to make his impact felt as an on-ball defender and a heady hustle player in high-pressure moments.

#97

Rudy Gay

Small forward, San Antonio Spurs

  • AGE

    33

  • PPG

    13.7

  • RPG

    6.8

  • APG

    2.6

Gay’s post-Achilles’ survival has been impressive, but it won't continue forever.

While his days as a lead option are long gone, the veteran forward has made a smooth transition into life as an efficient complementary scorer willing to do a little bit of everything. The Spurs have long excelled at crafting functional roles for veterans, and Gay has both the self-awareness and effort level to make the most of his opportunity. Unfortunately, the bottom could fall out for Gay at any moment, which is a shame because he has yet to win a playoff series during his 13-year career.

#98

Jeff Teague

Point guard, Minnesota Timberwolves

  • AGE

    31

  • PPG

    12.1

  • RPG

    2.5

  • APG

    8.2

Overlooked even on his best days, Teague fell off the map while missing nearly half of the 2018-19 season because of injury.

A solid starting point guard who can modulate his approach to scoring and distributing based on the quality of his teammates, Teague must remain healthy if Minnesota is to make a real run at the playoffs. At 31, he has plenty of motivation: Teague is in a contract year and likely has just one more substantial multiyear contract coming. While relegation to a backup role might be coming for him down the road, Teague's playoff experience and no-nonsense approach should help him play well into his 30s.

#99

Derrick White

Shooting guard, San Antonio Spurs

  • AGE

    25

  • PPG

    9.9

  • RPG

    3.7

  • APG

    3.9

After an interminable G-League journey, White finally broke through in 2018-19 as a fill-in starter.

The unheralded scoring guard did not debut for the Spurs until he was 23, but he proved to be a capable creator and a real plus-minus darling in his second NBA season. Invited by Coach Gregg Popovich to play for USA Basketball at the FIBA World Cup, White didn't quite have enough juice to step forward or take over in critical moments. Nevertheless, he remains an excellent value as he progresses through his budget-friendly rookie contract and would function effectively as either a complementary starter or sixth man.

#100

Marvin Bagley III

Power forward, Sacramento Kings

  • AGE

    20

  • PPG

    14.9

  • RPG

    7.6

  • APG

    1

Bagley’s second season got off to an inauspicious start when he broke his thumb in Sacramento’s season opener.

Still, the 20-year-old forward is one of the NBA’s most potent young frontcourt scorers. A skilled ballhandler for a 6-foot-11 big man, Bagley can beat defenders off the dribble from the perimeter or by pounding the offensive glass with his quick second jump. As he develops, Bagley should live at the free throw line and develop into a regular threat from beyond the arc. 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.

Ben Golliver

Ben Golliver joined The Washington Post as the National NBA Writer in 2018. Previously, he was a senior writer at Sports Illustrated covering the NBA. An Oregon native, he lives and works in Los Angeles.

Brittany Renee Mayes

Brittany Renee Mayes joined The Washington Post as a general assignment graphics reporter in June 2018. She previously worked at NPR on the visuals team as a news applications developer.

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