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Top 100 of 2017, 81-90: Everyone forgets about Josh Smith

Two new members of the Detroit Pistons, as well as a number of young players that have yet to accomplish much in their NBA careers, make up the next 10 players on our Top 100 of 2017 list.

Kevin C. Cox

The Top 100 NBA players of 2017 countdown rolls on. In this edition, some of the picks get loopy before we realize we forgot about two polarizing new Detroit Pistons players.

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

90.  Rudy Gay

Gay will be 31 in 2017, so right at the edge of his peak. And this is thing I've always said about Rudy Gay: he's not awful. He's not even bad. He's bad for an $18 million contract. The argument has always been about his value to a team at that price point; folks who mark for him tend to make it about the fact that he obviously looks like an elite basketball player. He just doesn't perform like one, and that's where the issues arise.

That said, the 90th best player in the NBA would be on the 18th team All-NBA, and I'm comfortable with projecting Gay there in 2017. If this eyesight thing was actually a big deal, he'll be way higher. He's primarily discounted now because he's a scorer who can't shoot. -ZILLER

O'DONNELL: Gay's 230 pounds, so it wouldn't take much added strength to make him a small-ball power forward. If Toronto runs with a Valanciunas-Gay-Ross-DeRozan-Lowry lineup next season, it could be really fun. I fear we let Gay slip too far down the board.

PRADA: I dunno, I've given up on him. Some of the shot selection he demonstrated in Toronto last year was shameful. He's going to have to accept a pay cut on his next deal, and that'll probably determine the trajectory of his career. If he commits to being a role player on a good team, he could retain some value, but if he signs with another bad team, he's going to be doomed to the same kind of performance he showed in Toronto.

89.  Iman Shumpert

The Knicks reportedly wouldn't include Shumpert in a package for Rajon Rondo this summer despite Carmelo Anthony's preferences, which hints that they believe Shumpert will be even better than the No. 89 best player in the league five years from now. It's certainly possible. In 2017, Shumpert will only be 27 years old. We know he's a monster athlete, can handle the rock and could be a terror of a perimeter defender. Given the dearth of quality shooting guards in the game today, it isn't too crazy to believe he could someday soon join the top of the positional group.  -O'DONNELL

PRADA: The big question: will being with the Magic after James Dolan forces the Knicks to trade him for Arron Afflalo help or hurt his development?

FLANNERY: Who else was in this bizarro package for Rondo? Shump's good, just not as good as Knicks fans want him to be.

KACZMAREK: I think he's a nice role player. A little too high here though.

88.  O.J. Mayo

Can I make a confession? I think O.J. Mayo was one of the underrated signings this summer. The two things I like about him are his solid three-point shooting and his durability. The dude doesn't miss games and that will keep him rich in jumpers and mid-level contracts. -FLANNERY

TJARKS: O.J. is the kind of player whose flaws you don't really appreciate until you watch him on a nightly basis. He's undersized for his position and he isn't a great athlete, so his margin for error is thin. He actually improved as a playmaker in his one season in Dallas, but his jumper was still inconsistent. On the nights when it isn't falling, he isn't helping you very much.

PRADA: I'm not inspired by this pick. He's so mediocre and it won't really do him much good to be on a Bucks team that also is so mediocre.

87.  Alex Len

Len was one of the more polarizing prospects in this year's draft, but there's a reason he went in the Top 5, in spite of his somewhat underwhelming numbers at Maryland. He's a big center (7'1 and 250 pounds) with athleticism, some decent post moves and the ability to hit a mid-range jumper. He's only 20 years old, and if he stays healthy, he could have a Jonas Valanciunas-like growth curve.

Of course, health is the $64,000 question with Len. I'd probably have put him higher on this list if he hadn't had surgery on BOTH his ankles before he ever played in the NBA. That's terrifying, especially for a young big man. -TJARKS

PRADA: All he needs to do is steal someone else's feet!

KACZMAREK: Eighty-seven: also the number of ankle surgeries that Alex Len will have before he plays a game for the Suns.

86.  Cody Zeller

Zeller could be the prototypical modern power forward. He moves his feet beautifully, which will make him an asset as an individual defender on smaller guys and as a pick-and-roll stopper. He runs the floor well and is excellent attacking on the move, which will prevent teams from using bigger players to defend him. His jumper will come around enough to space the floor, and while he's still a bit weak inside, he'll be doing less posting up, which will accentuate his strengths and cover up his weaknesses. We'll look back at him as the guy we picked apart too much coming into the 2013 draft. -PRADA

ZILLER: He will almost certainly be the No. 1 Zeller.

FLANNERY: Don't sleep on Luke.

KACZMAREK: Tyler is coming back with a vengeance this year, I swear.

85.  Josh Smith

There's some risk that Josh Smith's athleticism will decline and that will cause his overall game to plummet, but he's not that old. He'll be in his early 30s in 2017, so it's not like he's going to suddenly become Chris Kaman athletically. He's a tremendously underrated defender and a great passer as well.

Heck, maybe Smoove will even develop a consistent jumper by 2017. OK, probably not, but he'll still be a nice player. -KACZMAREK

ZILLER: A fine pick. Though Smith's particular tools seem inclined toward youth (athleticism, agility), he's a much smarter player than most give him credit for being. The jumpers tend to be a barrier to that.

PRADA: He's too low. I know Detroit's a weird spot for him, and I know his athleticism helps make him as a player, but he's such a smart diagonal passer and defender that his game should age well.

FLANNERY: I can't believe Smoove was available here. Somebody's getting fired.

O'DONNELL: I hope Smoove never stops getting the green light from deep. Has an NBA player ever missed 2,000 threes while shooting below 30 percent? We could have our first!

PRADA: Not if Monta Ellis has anything to say about it! (Darkhorse candidate: Jordan Crawford).

84.  Brandon Jennings

Last season was depressing, but let's not forget that he was being coached by Scott Skiles, who clearly didn't want to be there, and Jim Boylan, who also clearly didn't want to be there. While I avoid discussing whether Jennings was the reason neither wanted to be there, I think a change of scenery and a new voice -- Mo Cheeks -- in his ear will do good. I also think he's a solid young player with room to grow (defensively, shot selection) and a nice cast around him. Do big things, Mr. Jennings! -ZILLER

FLANNERY: I've blocked everything about the Bucks out of my mind since, well, the Todd Day days, probably.

PRADA: But how many Todd Days has it been since you remembered the Bucks?

FLANNERY: Spoiler Alert: the Prada Pun Machine goes off the rails somewhere around the top 30.

PRADA: Sorry in advance.

83.  Klay Thompson

Sources say three points are worth more than two and can confirm an emphasis on shooting is sweeping the NBA. In that sense, Thompson is seemingly the ideal shooting guard of the future. He's tall (6'7), young (he'll be 27 in 2017) and has made more than 40 percent of this threes on a high volume of attempts his first two seasons in the league. As he fills out, he should be better finishing at the rim. Defense is another issue entirely, but he certainly has the body to one day turn into a quality defender. -O'DONNELL

ZILLER: Klay Thompson is the Monta Ellis to Stephen Curry's Baron Davis, and I mean that in the nicest way possible.

PRADA: Does that mean that, by 2017, Klay Have It All?

PRADA: In all seriousness, I think Klay is reeeealllly overrated offensively, but underrated defensively. His work guarding Tony Parker in Games 1 and 2 of the San Antonio series was the most impressive thing I've seen in his career to date.

KACZMAREK: I agree with Mike. Klay's shot selection is terrible and he really needs to start drawing fouls to improve his overall efficiency. By taking bad jumpers and never getting to the free throw line, he's counteracting a lot of the good that he does with his elite three-point shooting.

82.  Andrew Bynum

I mean, why not? -FLANNERY

ZILLER: This includes any player who harvests an organ from Bynum's basketball corpse, yes? If so, sign me up.

PRADA: I wonder if Andrew Bynum The Computer Geek can make Andrew Bynum The Basketball Player the league's first robotic center.

KACZMAREK: There's no way this ranking for Bynum is correct. Either he's healthy and way higher on this list, or he's injured and out of the league. But it's hard to pick which one it'll be, so this is probably the right average of those possible outcomes.

81.  Terrence Jones

Jones would have been a top-5 pick in 2011, but he stayed in school because he was worried about the lockout. Everyone worried that his points and rebounds slipped as a sophomore, but that's because he was playing with Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. You can't knock a guy for being a No. 3 option when his team went 38-2 and won a national title. He's a big, athletic (6'9 and 250 pounds) forward with excellent ball-handling ability for a player his size. He was very productive when he got on the floor last season and I think he's poised for a breakout season.

He reminds a lot of a young Josh Smith. That sounds weird because I just took him over Smoove, but I'm also an unrepentant ageist.  -TJARKS

ZILLER: ::avoids making eye contact::

PRADA: But enough about Anthony Randolph.

INTRO | TOP 99 OF 2015 REVIEW | 91-100 | 71-80 | 61-70 | 51-60 | 41-50 | 31-40 | 21-30 | 11-20 | 1-10

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