LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 10: Klay Thompson #1 of the Washington State Cougars reacts after the Cougars lost to the Washington Huskies 89-87 in the quarterfinals of the 2011 Pacific Life Pac-10 Men's Basketball Tournament at Staples Center on March 10, 2011 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
SBNation.com's Top 99 NBA Players of 2015 ranking marches on! Klay Thompson's (unbelievably) invited, but so is Mike Conley, Roy Hibbert and a wheelchair-bound Paul Pierce.
SBNation.com's Top 99 NBA Players of 2015 ranking marchs on! And how could you not be tickled to death by Keith Van Horn comparisons, Klay Thompson jokes and very serious considerations of Mike Conley and Roy Hibbert? Dig in with us below, and check out the previous editions if you missed them.
63. Mike Conley
A year ago I might not have picked Mike Conley among the 63 best point guards in the league, but he had such a great season for a Memphis team that, frankly, fits him perfectly. He's a nuisance in the passing lanes (a great boon to the Grizzlies' opportunistic defense), he's a good ballhandler (three assists for every turnovers, about 6.5 assists a game) and he can knock down three-pointers at better than league average. But the real key: he's still 23, he's locked into a starting job and a long-term contract and Lionel Hollins has faith in him. So long as he has scorers to keep the offensive load off, he looks like a really solid piece going forward. He's no Rose or Westbrook, but going forward he's a plus. Which is a helluva lot better than what things looked like a year ago. -- Ziller
PRADA: It's the same thing with Conley as with all these other point guards on this list. In a league where point guards increasingly are doing more, is it enough for Conley to continue to just be solid? If you replaced Conley with Darren Collison or Kyle Lowry (ironic, I know), would you notice much of a difference?
62. Paul Pierce
So he'll be 37 in 2015. Big whoop. Pierce is the kind of player who should age well. He's played a lot of minutes, but he's also extremely durable, having missed just 18 games in the last four years. He continues to reinvent himself as a more efficient scorer, posting the highest true shooting percentage of his career last year. He has the kind of game that ages well, since he relies more on positioning and smarts than quickness.
We think of age as an absolute way too often in the NBA. In general, yes, there aren't many 37-year-olds who are productive. But there also aren't very many 37-year-olds who are Paul Pierce. We've been assuming he would decline for years now, and he still keeps chugging along, becoming more of a spot-up shooter and continuing to make himself useful in so many different areas of the game. By 2015, he'll probably drop off another level, but I see no reason why he can't at least be productive. -Prada
SHARP: Paul Pierce wants to know if you're serious.
PRADA: Wait a minute. Didn't you pick 40-year-old Steve Nash?
ZILLER: Wheelchair Basketball League MVP 2015.
61. Klay Thompson
Ziller has already mocked this pick via e-mail, but I think that's just a coping mechanism. If my favorite team had drafted Jimmer Freddette, I'd trash all the other rookies, too. Anything to make the pain stop, Tom. We're here for you. You wanna mock Kawhi Leonard for 20 minutes? Let me know. -Sharp
ZILLER: If everyone hadn't pulled out, Klay might have gone 61st in the 2011 draft.
PRADA: Sorry everyone. Ziller and I used our best jokes about this pick in emails, so we're all joked out.
ZILLER: I'd like to point out that Sharp spent his entire blurb attempting to distract everyone from the fact he picked Klay Thompson as the 61st best player in the NBA in the year 2015.
60. Andre Iguodala
Putting a value on Iguodala is so tricky now; figuring out what he'll be at age 31 is another matter altogether. He's among the very best wing defenders in the game; he might actually be the No. 1 in that realm overall. (He's competing with LeBron James, Luol Deng, Tony Allen and Shane Battier, by my eyes.) But his offense is still underwhelming and incomplete, and it's clear by now that it's unlikely to get much better. Iguodala's usage rate actually sunk under 20 percent last year, unheard of for star players. The hope is that either Jrue Holiday starts putting Iguodala in position for easy scorers, or the wing is traded to a team with heavy scorers and is allowed to be the defensive monster without needing to focus on offense beyond finishing. (Think Josh Smith.) -- Ziller
PRADA: I'm praying for a trade. The 76ers have had plenty of time to appreciate Iguodala and haven't done well enough.
SHARP: Yeah, Iggy needs a new team. But in 2015, after his gargantuan deal runs out (in 2014), couldn't you see him taking less money to go and be the stopper on a contender? He won't be dominant in 2015 (he already seems like he's declining) but as Ziller said, if all he has to do is make open jumpers and play D on a contender, he could be quietly deadly if he ends up playing, say, between Carmelo and Deron Williams on the Knicks, or maybe next to KD in Oklahoma City. In a weird way, he could be more valuable in 2015 than he is now.
The Carmelo Anthony trade finally allowed Nene to show what he could do offensively, and the results were fantastic. Even with more usage, Nene was the league leader in effective field goal percentage last season, anchoring a Nuggets team that went on a surprising late-season run. He'll be 32 in 2015, but because of all the injuries he had early in his career, he won't have the wear and tear of a typical 32-year-old. I expect him to continue to be underrated throughout this four-year span, to the point where he probably makes way more than the 59th-most impact on a game. -- Prada
SHARP: Do you ever wonder how much money has Nene made Denver orthopedists over the course of his career? Gotta be mid-six figures, right?
ZILLER: As with all big men who rely on their athleticism to be effective, it's something like a dice roll above age 30. How effective will Nene be if injuries or wear keep his power dunks to a minimum? That said, he's a fine defender who gets steals in addition to blocks, so he should still make a decent impact either way.
58. Roy Hibbert
I've got a fever and the only cure is MORE PACERS!!!!!!!!! -- Sharp
PRADA: Hibbert's OK, probably overranked, but whatever. But Hibbert over Nene? That's insane.
SHARP: No no no, he's definitely overranked. I'm blaming this pick on delirium from draft fatigue. But Hibbert over Nene? Not insane when you factor in Nene's Exploding Knees™.
ZILLER: Let it be noted that Sharp has now picked Hibbert and Tyler Hansbrough. It's not just that he's drunk the Vogelade. He's also possibly on acid.
57. Andrea Bargnani
To justify his NBA existence, Bargnani always needed to be an elite scorer. In 2011, he finally showed the potential to get there. He hit the 20-ppg mark (21.4 actually) and while he dipped below league-average efficiency in the process, his usage rate simply has to come down. How Toronto manages that in the short-term is a mystery; Ed Davis obviously has room for offensive growth, but DeMar DeRozan might be tapped out with a 23-percent usage rate.
Regardless: there's no chance Bargnani will have a career resembling anything like what Dirk Nowitzki has put together. None. Not even close. But Bargnani is in that Brad Miller-Keith Van Horn range. That's not so bad, right? -- Ziller
SHARP: So yesterday when we were writing up 64-72 I started wondering whether anyone had remembered to pick Bargnani. I figured the answer was no, and that seemed about right. But I think comparing him to Keith Van Horn might be more damning, regardless of where he’s ranked.
- Brad Miller's rebounds/36 minutes at age 25: 9.9.
- Keth Van Horn's rebounds/36 minutes at age 25: 7.2
- Andrea Bargnani's rebounds/36 minutes at age 25: 5.2
And that's supposed to be an unflattering comparison.
ZILLER: I just threw up.
56. Jared Sullinger
We all know that rebounding translates better than any other stat from college to the pros, and Sullinger was a monster on the glass last season. Sullinger swallowed up 26.2 percent of available defensive rebounds last year, good for 18th in the entire country. That was despite him being a little pudgy, which is something he's reportedly fixing this summer. An in-shape Sullinger probably would have been the No. 1 pick in the 2011 NBA Draft last season, and with good reason. Combine his rebounding with an improving perimeter shot and good touch on the block, and you have the prototypical power forward for a great team. -- Prada
SHARP: It's tempting to mock this pick, but he does one thing extremely well (score down low), and by 2015, how many other low post scorers will there be in the NBA? He won't be dominant, but 17-18 ppg sounds about right for him.
ZILLER: He compares favorably to J.J. Hickson at this stage of his career. So that's something!
55. Brandon Knight
Brandon Knight was 4.0 student in high school. Brandon Knight became the go-to scorer in crunch time for Kentucky last season, and carried his team to the FInal Four. Brandon Knight looked pissed on draft night. He may not have the skills and/or athleticism to crack the top 25 of this list, but Brandon Knight will be really good, and along with Greg Monroe, he'll bring the Pistons back from the dead over the next few years. -- Sharp
PRADA: Brandon Knight also committed five gazillion turnovers last season in the SEC.
ZILLER: I think Knight's NBA potential depends completely on his jumper. It fell regularly enough at Kentucky that I think this ranking is fair. And besides, at least he's not Rodney Stuckey! (Who Sharp picked in these very rankings, I might add.)
On Friday, we'll rip through Nos. 54 through 46. We're starting to get into legit stars now! Watch out below.