Basketball

2022 Preseason Top 100 NBA Players: 30-21

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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!

Rankings

100-81 | 80-61 | 60-51 | 50-41 | 40-31 | 20-11 | 10-1

30) Chris Paul | 6-0 – G – Phoenix Suns

Positive | At age 35, Paul led a young Suns team to the NBA Finals while averaging nearly nine assists per game and over one steal per game. With an elite scorer in Devin Booker, a rising big man in Ayton, and a well-rounded roster, Paul isn’t relied on to scorer every night, though he proved he’s still capable in last year’s playoffs.

Negative | The veteran point guard turns 36 this season, and Father Time is undefeated. While I still expect elite numbers, I don’t expect the same pace or overall production as 2020-21 from the Point God. Booker is capable of running the offense at times, and Phoenix brought back Cam Payne as one of the better backup point guards in the league. In other words, Paul will likely see increased time off this season, whether it be in reduced minutes or full games off.

29) Jaylen Brown | 6-6 – G/F – Boston Celtics

Positive | Brown is a player that’s often overlooked, mostly because of the attention his teammate Jayson Tatum warrants. Last season he set a career-high with 24.7 PPG to go along with 6.0 RPG, 3.4 APG, and 1.2 SPG while shooting 48.4% from the field and 39.7% from deep. Oh, and let’s not forget the first time All-Star will only be 25 years old next season.

Negative | Though last season was a clear career season for Brown, he still struggles with overall consistency from game to game. This combined with the sheer offensive attention that Tatum demands will likely cause Brown’s production to be limited. He very well might enter his prime this season and far surpass this ranking, but that’s not a guarantee.

28) Julius Randle | 6-8 – F/C – New York Knicks

Positive | Randle had a breakout season in 2020-21, earning himself Most Improved Player honors. He averaged 24.1 PPG, 10.2 RPG, and 6.0 APG while shooting over 41% from beyond the arc. The Knicks are a young team in search of a leader, and while that could turn out to be new point guard Kemba Walker, Randle looks to be the true team leader after his career year last season.

Negative | The issue with sustaining this level of production comes in his league-leading 37.6 minutes per contest last season. Though not impossible, I don’t see Randle playing that many minutes again next season. Also, don’t forget that the Knicks added a score-first guard in Walker, who will likely take some of the offensive load off of Randle’s shoulders.

27) Devin Booker | 6-5 – G – Phoenix Suns

Positive | Booker is one of the best young scorers in today’s league. Traces of the late great Kobe Bryant can be found all over Booker’s game, most prominently in his midrange and post-up game, but lost arts in the modern game. The 25-year-old guard is coming off of back-to-back All-Star appearances and three consecutive years of scoring 25+ PPG.

Negative | Before Chris Paul came to town, Booker saw averages of 26+ PPG and 6+ APG for two consecutive seasons. With Paul running the offense and a good amount of talent surrounding him, his numbers dropped to 25.6 PPG and 4.3 APG, neither bad marks for a shooting guard but a clear drop in production. Not to mention the breakout potential of his young center, Deandre Ayton.

26) Khris Middleton | 6-7 – F/G – Milwaukee Bucks

Positive | Middleton was the number one option down the stretch of several close games for the reigning NBA Champions. He makes clutch shots, defends at a high level, and provides a much-needed outside scorer to the Giannis-led Bucks. He’s averaged over 20 PPG and 6 RPG in each of the last two seasons, as well as a career-high 5.4 APG last season.

Negative | Milwaukee is a well-rounded, championship team. They continually add shooters and defenders to complement Antetokounmpo’s game. While Middleton will likely still find his own production, it’s not impossible that he loses a few touches and opportunities moving forward into next season.

25) Karl-Anthony Towns | 6-11 – C – Minnesota Timberwolves

Positive | Towns is the epitome of putting up numbers without seeing the ensuing success. In his six years in the NBA, he’s led the league in games played three times, averaged higher than 24 PPG four times, and averaged higher than one block per game and double-digit rebounds in all six seasons. He shoots 39.4% from distance on his career and 52.7% from the field.

Negative | Towns has played in one playoff series in his career. With D’Angelo Russell and Anthony Edwards both returning next season, Towns is likely to see a decrease in his usage if both stay healthy. He’s still an elite center, but he’s also a shut-down candidate should the Wolves’ season go off the rails again.

24) Ja Morant | 6-3 – G – Memphis Grizzlies

Positive | Morant is one of the most exciting players in the NBA today. He looks to take the next step in his development this season with Memphis after averaging 18.4 PPG and 7.3 APG over the course of his first two seasons. He’s also arguably the most explosive player in the NBA, holding the potential to turn any play into a highlight.

Negative | The young guard has only shot 31.7% from deep in his career including 30.3% from deep last season. If Morant can improve his average shooting percentages, he can easily be a Top 5 point guard in the NBA by the end of this season. Morant has the IQ, athleticism, and drive to be great. Now he just needs the tangible results to match.

23) Bam Adebayo | 6-9 – F/C – Miami Heat

Positive | The former All-Star in 2019-20 saw nearly all of his averages go up the next season despite not earning another All-Star nod. He put up career highs in points, assists, and steals per game with 18.7, 5.4, and 1.2 respectively. More impressively, however, is Adebayo’s continued improvement to his shooting percentages. He shot a career-high from all three levels last season: 57% FG, 25% 3P, and 80% FT shooting.

Negative | One of the things that makes Bam such a valuable player is his playmaking ability from the center position. Those opportunities are now in jeopardy with the addition of Kyle Lowry to the Heat’s roster. Adebayo’s scoring opportunities may increase with a pass-first point guard beside him, but those things are hard to judge without seeing the team in action first.

22) Shai Gilgeous-Alexander | 6-6 – G – Oklahoma City Thunder

Positive | Gilgeous-Alexander (SGA) was having one of the most efficient seasons in the NBA last year before injuries derailed his season. He averaged a career-high in PPG (23.7) and APG (5.9) while shooting nearly 42% from 3-point range and 51% from the field. This level of efficiency and production is elite, especially from a 22-year-old guard.

Negative | The only negative thing I have to say about SGA’s game is his age. He’s still incredibly young and playing for a team focused on the future. He’s the clear leader, but I expect growing pains from him and those around him. So long as he doesn’t have lingering injury issues, there’s not much preventing Shai from being a top tier, maybe even Top 20, player in the league.

21) Kyrie Irving | 6-2 – G – Brooklyn Nets

Positive | The 7-time All-Star averaged nearly 27 PPG last season to go along with six assists, five rebounds, and over one assist per game. Irving has arguably the best dribbling skills in NBA history to go along with elite 3-level scoring. Regardless of roster makeup, Irving will find a way to score the basketball.

Negative | Don’t hear what I’m not saying. I don’t think Kyrie Irving is the 21st best player in basketball. I do, however, think he is the 3rd option on his team, an average defender, and holds the distinct possibility of missing every single home game this season. Meaning his production can quickly and easily fall out of the Top 20. However, he will still contribute tremendously to arguably the best team in the NBA and compete for a championship.

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