The NBA season is fast approaching and we’re itching to see who takes the next step in their production next season! Moving forward with our Top 50, we’ll look at what lands each player in our Top 100 by looking at the Positive aspects for the upcoming season, as well as the Negative aspects that keep them from climbing higher on the list.
For more on our introduction, including honorable mentions, click the 100-81 link!
40) Kawhi Leonard | 6-7 – F – Los Angeles Clippers
Positive | Kawhi Leonard is a Top 10, arguably Top 5 player in the league. He’s been consistently dominant on both sides of the ball for nearly a decade now when healthy. This projection is assuming he comes back around January and returns to the top-10 player he’s capable of being for roughly half a season, especially if continues to improve on his back-to-back career-high APG seasons with LAC.
Negative | Kawhi is recovering from a partially torn ACL, and a definite timetable on his return has to be announced. This makes him a difficult player to rank. If he comes back before Christmas, he could still be a top 20 player, but if he doesn’t come back at all, he doesn’t belong anywhere on this list. Even if he does come back, we’ll likely see him limited and load-managing while Paul George takes the reigns.
39) DeMar DeRozan | 6-6 – F – Chicago Bulls
Positive | During his first nine seasons with the Raptors, four of which resulted in All-Star appearances, he averaged 19.7 PPG and 3.1 APG. Over the last three seasons with the Spurs, DeRozan is putting up 21.6 PPG and a whopping 6.2 APG. That’s double his career average in Toronto. The newly found playmaker will have some newly found teammates to work with in Chicago this season, opening up the possibility for him to return to All-Star form in his 13th season.
Negative | This will be the 32-year-old’s 13th season and his first as a member of the Chicago Bulls. Though he has shown his growth as a playmaker, the Bulls may not lean on him as much from a production standpoint as they do an experienced, level-headed leader standpoint. I expect him to thrive in Chicago, but the stat-sheet may not reflect his total impact.
38) Brandon Ingram | 6-8 – F – New Orleans Pelicans
Positive | Ingram put up almost identical numbers in 2020-21 as he did during his 2019-20 All-Star campaign. He averaged the exact same PPG, more APG, a higher FG and FT percentage, and a marginally worse 3P percentage. This isn’t a campaign to get Ingram back in the All-Star game, but rather bring to light that it was no fluke season, and the presence of Zion Williamson does not diminish Ingram’s production. Now with Lonzo Ball headed to Chicago, Ingram may have an even larger playmaking role to fill.
Negative | Ball’s departure opens up the opportunity for Ingram to excel as a playmaker, but it also takes away the leader in assists for the Pelicans. This could potentially take away several of Ingram’s spot-up or slashing opportunities to score.
37) Malcolm Brogdon | 6-5 – G – Indiana Pacers
Positive | The former Rookie of the Year averages 4.7 APG on his career and 6.5 APG over the last two seasons. Not to mention he put up a career-high 21.2 points per game last season. Brogdon is one of the most efficient shooters in the league, even joining the 50-40-90 club back in 2019.
Negative | There’s not a lot to talk about here other than Indiana’s growing roster. The likes of Domantas Sabonis, Caris LeVert, Myles Turner, and TJ Warren being healthy could take away scoring opportunities for Brogdon, but they also open up the court for assist opportunities. LeVert’s presence could also take the ball out of Brogdon’s hands more often this season than it did last season.
36) LaMelo Ball | 6-6 – G – Charlotte Hornets
Positive | The reigning Rookie of the Year won the award despite missing 21 games due to injury. He averaged 15.7 points, 6.1 assists, and 5.9 rebounds per game in year one, including 35% shooting from distance. One of the biggest knocks on Ball’s game coming into the league was his inefficient shooting, but he’s already proven his ability to shoot from distance in year one.
Negative | The biggest thing holding Ball back right now is inexperience. He has a young Hornets roster around him and all the potential in the world, but sometimes it takes time to develop into that potential. I expect Ball to take a big leap this year but not quite to All-Star level production.
35) De’Aaron Fox | 6-3 – G – Sacramento Kings
Positive | This 24-year-old guard is one of the best young playmakers in the NBA. He put up a career-high in PPG (25.2) last season to go along with 7.2 APG and 1.5 SPG. His speed is unmatched by any player currently in the league, and his vision and scoring give him the chance to be something special.
Negative | Fox is often forgotten about in point guard debates because of where he plays. The Kings have been a mid-to-lower tier team for several seasons now, not allowing their players to receive the full spotlight they deserve. Fox also lacks consistent 3-point shooting and free-throw shooting, sometimes limiting what he can do on the offensive end.
34) Nikola Vucevic | 6-11 – C – Chicago Bulls
Positive | From a talent standpoint, Vucevic is undeniably great. In 10 seasons, Vucevic has averaged a double-double seven times. He’s also averaged 18+ PPG seven different times. He’s an elite big man that can shoot from distance and hold his own when playing in the paint on both sides of the ball.
Negative | Vucevic has a legitimate argument for the most underrated player in the NBA, and this ranking may have you thinking we’re part of the problem. Hear me out. Vucevic’s PPG dropped from 24.5 down to 21.5 after he was traded from Orlando to Chicago last season, and this comes before the additions of Lonzo Ball or DeMar DeRozan to the roster. Talent isn’t the issue, opportunity on a reconstructed roster leaves the waters a bit murky.
33) Deandre Ayton | 6-11 – C – Phoenix Suns
Positive | Coming off his first Finals appearance at age 22, Ayton is poised to prove he’s a contender for top five centers in the NBA this season. He’s an elite two-way center with the ability to defend the paint, finish around the rim, and shoot from outside. He averaged 15.8 PPG, 11.8 RPG, and 1.1 BPG against the Milwaukee Bucks in the 2021 NBA Finals.
Negative | Much like LaMelo Ball earlier on this list, the biggest thing standing in Ayton’s way to greatness is time. He’s still 23 years old with a ton of potential. The 7-foot big man also needs to learn to assert his dominance in the paint even more than he already does. This will open up opportunities for his above-average mid-range game as well.
32) Ben Simmons | 6-11 – G/F – Philadelphia 76ers
Positive | Simmons is still an elite playmaker in the NBA. He’s averaged 7.5 APG on his career, including 8.8 APG last season. He’s not usually leaned on to score, but he also averages nearly 16 PPG in his career. Regardless of the offseason slander and likely playing for a new team this season, Simmons is still an All-Star caliber point guard.
Negative | I do think Simmons’ numbers see some regression this year due to the pressure being put on him to shoot the ball. If he comes out hoisting up triples, we could see less PPG, less APG, and a worse FG% until the 25-year-old point guard figures things out. Not to mention the free throw shooting isn’t likely to be magically fixed in one offseason. And last but not least, we’re not even sure what team Simmons will be a part of this season, making his future murky and hard to predict.
31) Rudy Gobert | 7-1 – C – Utah Jazz
Positive | Gobert has been ridiculously consistent over the last five seasons. He averages anywhere from 14-15 points per game, 10-13 rebounds per game, and just over two blocks per game basically every season. He’s the best defensive center in the NBA and arguably the best defender regardless of position.
Negative | Consistency isn’t as much fun as breakout potential, but it wins games. Gobert is a safe bet to be a Defensive Player of the Year candidate yet again, but he doesn’t have a ton of upside to improve other aspects of his game at this point in his career. He’ll get rebounds, block shots, and finish plays around the rim, but it’s unlikely that he suddenly climbs lists like this one.
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