The creation of The Washington Post’s rankings of the Top 100 players in the NBA begs an obvious question: Who could potentially make the list next season?
This year saw a handful of players jump into the list, such as Otto Porter (No. 47), Eric Gordon (49) and Clint Capela (61). Here are the 10 players, in alphabetical order, who are unranked this year but could potentially make a jump onto next year’s list:
Lonzo Ball, PG, Los Angeles Lakers
There are clear issues with Ball’s game. He needs to add strength, improve his scoring and prove he can defend at the NBA level. But it doesn’t take long watching him to see that his style of play is infectious, drawing many comparisons to future Hall of Famer Jason Kidd. The Lakers will be hoping he can develop into that kind of player.
Jaylen Brown, SF, Boston Celtics
With the departures of Avery Bradley and Jae Crowder in trades this summer, the Celtics are likely going to start Brown at shooting guard between Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward. On a team with plenty of questions about shooting and defense, the second-year Cal product will be counted on to provide both. Whether he does could determine if Boston can live up to its preseason hype.
Markelle Fultz, PG, Philadelphia 76ers
The top overall pick in the 2017 NBA draft, Fultz displayed the exact kind of skill set in college at Washington that the Sixers need to pair with Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. While Simmons is likely the de facto “point guard,” Fultz should play a role from Day 1 and have the ball in his hands a lot. He will be given every opportunity to prove he was worth trading up to acquire on draft night.
Aaron Gordon, PF, Orlando Magic
This is counting on Gordon playing the position listed above — power forward — after he’s proven to be ineffective at the small forward spot. Gordon is an athletic freak and showed why people have thought power forward might be his best position by playing well after a full-time switch there last season.
Brandon Ingram, SF, Los Angeles Lakers
Ingram was arguably one of the worst players in the league for much of last season, struggling to make an impact at either end. But he saw an uptick in his numbers toward the end of the season and has come into training camp with a boost in confidence and strong public votes of confidence from team leadership — including Magic Johnson. Now he’ll get the chance to prove that the confidence in him was warranted, as he enters the season as the clear starter at small forward.
Stanley Johnson, SF, Detroit Pistons
After bursting onto the scene by publicly challenging LeBron James during Detroit’s loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the first round of the 2015 playoffs, Johnson — like seemingly the rest of the Pistons — took a step back in Year 2. Now that Marcus Morris is gone, Johnson will almost certainly begin the season as a starter, and Detroit is hoping he can begin to turn some of his immense physical gifts into consistent production.
Skal Labissiere, PF, Sacramento Kings
Two years ago, Labissiere entered his freshman season at Kentucky as a projected top-five pick — only to struggle with the Wildcats and almost fall out of the first round. He showed that potential down the stretch for Sacramento as a rookie, averaging 10.8 points and six rebounds in 25 games after the all-star break, as well as shooting 54 percent from the field and 37.5 percent from three-point range. With a new era beginning with the Kings, he should get every opportunity to prove himself as a long-term core piece for the Kings this season.
Thon Maker, C, Milwaukee Bucks
For much of last season, Maker was a token starter, playing a few minutes to begin each half but nothing else. That wasn’t the case in the playoffs, though, as he wound up playing bigger minutes and making a real impact in a first-round loss to the Toronto Raptors. Now entering his second season, Maker should get more minutes and the chance to grow into a regular contributor.
Norman Powell, SF, Toronto Raptors
Powell agreed to a four-year, $42 million extension earlier this month, and will either be a starter or a sixth man this season. Coach Dwane Casey could choose to start C.J. Miles instead, but regardless of Powell’s role, he should approach 30 minutes per game. That should give him the opportunity to prove that what he’s shown in smaller samples holds up under heavier minutes and scrutiny.
D’Angelo Russell, PG, Brooklyn Nets
Few players have needed a change of scenery more than Russell did after two very rocky seasons with the Lakers. Now he finds himself with the Nets — about the opposite, in terms of pressure and attention, from playing with the Lakers — and with a coach in Kenny Atkinson who runs a system perfectly suited to Russell’s game. If he’s unable to live up to the expectations that came with being the No. 2 overall pick in 2015, it will be hard to place the blame for that anywhere but on him.
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