Top 100 of 2017, 61-70: Have some faith in Ben McLemore

Mike Stobe

Rookie Ben McLemore, high-school point guard Tyus Jones and European star Nikola Mirotic are the outliers in a group that mostly includes established NBA players.

Solid NBA pros predominately make up the next 10 spots in our Top 100 NBA Players of 2017 countdown, but there are a few curveballs. Most notably, Sacramento Kings rookie Ben McLemore and high-school point guard Tyus Jones make appearances, as does Real Madrid star (and Bulls international) Nikola Mirotic.

To get to know the panelists and read about what this whole list is about, see the Top 100 of 2017 index page.


70.  Kenneth Faried

Faried's value is directly related to how hard he plays, which is balls out all the time. Guys like that don't tend to age well, but he's a freak physically and maybe he'll pull together a more well-rounded game by this point. I'll gamble on guys that play hard every night. -FLANNERY

KACZMAREK: I have a hard time believing he's anything more than a spark-plug off the bench until he shows some ability to guard other bigs. Faried/J.J. Hickson/JaVale McGee could be a historically bad defensive front court.

TJARKS: I worry when the first thing people say about a guy is that he "plays hard." No one says LeBron plays hard. They just say he's really good. I have to agree with Conrad. If Manimal can't figure out a way to shoot or defend, this is going to be too high.


69.  Nikola Vučević

Vučević took a huge step forward last season, averaging 13 points and 12 rebounds a game as the starting center in Orlando. His presence in the middle will give the Magic a huge leg up going forward, since finding a center is always one of the most difficult parts of a rebuilding process. He's 22 years old now, so he should be entering his prime in 2017. A big man as productive as Vučević is on the glass will have a long and very well-compensated career in the NBA. -TJARKS

PRADA: It seems like he's just good enough to make you a mediocre team. He's a great rebounder, but he's average everywhere else. I'm not convinced centers who aren't great post-up players or help defenders are that valuable in today's NBA.


68.  Tyus Jones

Chances are, there will be one very young point guard that will be rough around the edges, but will have flashed enough potential to show that he'll eventually be much higher once he matures. Today, that list includes John Wall, Ricky Rubio and even, to some extent, Damian Lillard.

My thinking is that Jones will be that guy in five years. He's likely going to go to the same school as Jahlil Okafor, and if that place is Duke as rumored, he's going to receive great on-the-job training from a coach that prefers a pick-and-roll-heavy system with the floor spaced. -PRADA

ZILLER: If Jones goes to Duke and is good enough to make this list by 2017, he'll be Coach K's second successful NBA point guard in 35 years in Durham. What a conversion rate!

FLANNERY: Are we counting Chris Duhon?

TJARKS: Are we going to hold Bobby Hurley and Jay Williams against him? Duke's got a Final Destination thing going on with their guards.


67.  Ryan Anderson

Here's a guy that averages 18.8 points and 7.5 rebounds per 36 minutes, with a PER of over 18. He's launching eight threes per 36 minutes and making over 38 percent of them. Put him next to a good rim protector (like say, Dwight Howard) and you have the makings of a devastating frontcourt. He's still just 25 years old and I don't think he's completely inept defensively.

A big man that can rebound decently well and hit threes as well as Anderson can is super valuable. He's a poor man's Kevin Love, and that's still pretty darn good. -KACZMAREK

ZILLER: I think this is a solid pick. I do wonder if he'll mesh well with Anthony Davis long-term. He could make for a devastating combo with Tyreke Evans this season. I'm really excited by the Pelicans!

FLANNERY: This is why I'm not totally buying the Pelicans. I like Anderson a lot and I love Anthony Davis, but I'm not sold on how they fit together.

PRADA: Way too high. Why is he at 67 and Ersan Ilyasova is not on this list? Turk Nowitzki is only one year older and shot significantly better on threes in each of the last two years.


66.  Thaddeus Young

Thaddeus Young is the biggest loser of the Sixers' strip-it-down rebuild plan. He's entering the prime of his career, and unlike Jrue Holiday, his value on the wider market is probably lower than what Sixers GM Sam Hinkie believes it to be. (Thad is an advanced stats superstar.) So I think Young might end up riding out the 19-win seasons, which certainly won't make him look good going forward.

But hey, I like Thad, and maybe it will all work out! -ZILLER

O'DONNELL: Ziller's last sentence is the official tagline of this exercise.

PRADA: He'll get traded to a good team before all that happens.

FLANNERY: Poor Thad. Good player, tough situation, will need a change of scenery so people can appreciate his game.


65.  Ben McLemore

Because of his ideal size, elite athleticism and sweet shooting stroke, I thought McLemore was the best prospect in the 2013 draft. The worry is whether he'll have emotional maturity to survive the NBA's shark-infested waters. That's not as much of a diss as it might seem; McLemore grew up in poverty and didn't have the advantages many of his peers did. It might take him time to get accustomed to the rigors of the pro lifestyle, but everything should be settled by 2017. The total package is too good to pass up. -O'DONNELL

ZILLER: It appears the Kings will give him both time to grow into the role and opportunity with minutes; there's a veteran two-guard (Marcus Thornton) in place, but few other options. That's perfect for his development.

PRADA: Does the "total package" include dribbling?

KACZMAREK: Yeah, I'd really love McLemore a lot more if he could dribble.

FLANNERY: My lasting impression from summer league: wow, this guy is young.

PRADA: And yet, he's eight months older than Bradley Beal.

TJARKS: They played on the same AAU team in high school, which is crazy.

McLemore is one of those players who looks like a future All-Star on some days and a non-factor on others. He'll need to figure out a way to impact the game when his outside shot isn't falling. When it is, though, it's as pretty a shot as you'll ever see.


64.  Danilo Gallinari

I'm concerned about the knee injury of course, but Gallo can shoot and that will keep him employed and productive for a long, long time. By this point, I could see him moving from town to town, burying jumpers and winning hearts. -FLANNERY

KACZMAREK: We get caught up in all the potential of newly-drafted players and guys that are still in high school (!!), but then forget that guys like Gallo still have some potential too. He's only 25 years old and it still feels like he hasn't put it all together in one season. I still believe in The Rooster.

PRADA: I too am a little worried about the knee, but this seems like a fair ranking.


63.  Nikola Mirotic

I was really high on him before the 2011 draft. I haven't watched him much since, but he's apparently turned himself into one of the best players of Europe. He was the MVP of the ACB in Spain this season, which is considered the second-best league in the world. He's a 6'10, 210-pound forward who can shoot the ball and put it on the floor; his ceiling is probably a Spanish Rashard Lewis.

Chicago is going to need to pay him a lot more than the rookie salary scale to bring him over. That should be interesting. -TJARKS

PRADA: I did not realize Mirotic is only 22 now. I like this pick much more than I did before I realized that.

ZILLER: So we're including players whose NBA team definitely won't shell out the buyout bucks, or are we anticipating that Jerry Reinsdorf is going to release his death grip on the checkbook?

FLANNERY: #FreeNikola

O'DONNELL: I can't believe I got scooped on this one. Buying into Mirotic as Future Toni Kukoc keeps me sane.


62.  Joakim Noah

While I have some concerns about Noah's durability, he should continue to be an impact player four years from now. He's going to be in his 30s, but he should be free to play fewer minutes once Nikola Mirotic or Star Player The Bulls Get For Nikola Mirotic arrives. He needs his athleticism to succeed to some extent, but he's also a smart player that will learn some tricks over time that'll keep him as a high-impact defender. He was probably a top-30 player when healthy this season, so this is a safe spot to put him. -PRADA

ZILLER: "He should be free to play fewer minutes in the future." Tom Thibodeau is laughing maniacally somewhere.

O'DONNELL: Noah will be a free agent the summer before this. It'll be interesting to see if the Bulls run him into the ground over the next few years during his prime or try to preserve his career and eventually sign him to another contract. Thibs' minutes management terrifies me, but I hope he learned some hard lessons after last season.

FLANNERY: That's my question with all the Bulls' guys. They may have a great run in them, but I question how long they can hold up.


61.  Nicolas Batum

He needs to become more efficient, and he needs to finally put those defensive tools to use and become that lockdown guy on the perimeter. But if he can do those things -- and I don't think either is out of the question -- he'll be a really nice player for a long time. He's not yet 25, and for whatever reason, I think he still has a lot of potential. He's never going to be an all star, but if his defensive ability catches up to his physical tools, he'll be pretty good. -KACZMAREK

PRADA: Waiting For Nicolas Batum: the story of Basketball Twitter.

FLANNERY: Leader in the clubhouse for Ziller's Why We Can't Have Nice Things feature during the 2017 lockout. Decent player though.

INTRO | TOP 99 OF 2015 REVIEW | 100-91 | 81-90 | 71-80 | 51-60 | 41-50 | 31-40 | 21-30 | 11-20 | 1-10

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