We’re spending the week counting down our best guess of the top 101 NBA players in the year 2021. Because of the way we did this -- a 101-player “draft” with 10 different writers instead of a consensus list — we were bound to forget a ton of players who have as good a case as any to be on the list.
So I (Mike Prada) asked several drafters to list one player they wish they had picked, but didn’t. Below are their answers, along with a few other players that should have merited more consideration on our list.
If there’s such thing as a snub from a made-up list predicting which players will be good four years into the future, this is it.
By Chris Greenberg
Al Horford has been underrated -- and winning games -- since he was at Florida cutting down nets.
In his college days, it Joakim Noah in the spotlight. In Horford's first season in Boston, it was Isaiah Thomas, Brad Stevens, or even Brooklyn’s draft picks that garnered much of the attention as the Celtics rose to the No. 1 seed in LeBron's East. This offseason it's been Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward getting folks excited about what comes next.
When the ball is up, though, it will be Al doing everything selflessly and skillfully at both ends of the floor, as usual His low-key court dominance is why his nicknames have included The Godfather and The Boss. His ability to shoot 67 percent from the field during a seven-game Eastern Conference Semifinals series victory over the Wizards is why he's a max player.
Now that's how you move the ball! pic.twitter.com/RFSGA9DHi1— Boston Celtics (@celtics) May 11, 2017
With a versatile game that allows him to impact play and the box score in myriad ways, Horford is equipped for the finesse trends hurting other bigs on the court and in the job market. With a star-studded supporting cast and one of the game's top coaches around him in Boston, Horford should continue to polish the nuances of his game without having to wear all the tread off his tires as 2021 draws near.
And, just maybe, that green and dirty water will keep him as ageless as Robert Parish. The Chief put up 14.9 points and 10.6 rebounds per game in his age-36 season.
Al's got that. Not sure half the high schoolers in this top 101 will be able to say the same.
By Zito Madu
The problem with Jordan Clarkson is that he's not one of the main pieces of the Lakers future, and thus doesn't get the attention necessary for his development. Instead, he gets used as a utility player. He plays shooting guard and point guard, coming into the starting spot and then going to the bench when necessary to make room for highly touted teammates.
He never really has the continuity at one position or one role to become what he truly can be, which is a shame. It wasn't that long ago that he made the all-rookie first team as a second-round. He has talent, and even with the uncertainty of his role, he still finished strongly last year.
He can be a very good player by his age-29 season in 2021. He just might have to leave the Lakers to do that.
By Tim Cato
With apologies to a few others who probably should have never fallen so far — jeez, one of Al Horford-Cody Zeller-Tobias Harris trio that got snubbed is going to make us look real dumb in 2021 — I’m going to make a case for Seth Curry here.
The overshadowed brother of Steph started slow and suffered an injury that cost him part of December. After returning, the Mavericks inserted him into the starting lineup on Jan. 12. By then, Dallas was floundering and coming off three straight losses that sunk them to 16 games under .500. In other words, the NBA world stopped caring about the Mavericks, and consequentially Seth.
Curry wouldn’t leave the starting lineup until he suffered another minor injury that ended his season seven games early. In that 36 game stretch, Curry averaged 15.4 points and 2.6 assists with a 63 percent True Shooting Percentage.
He’s not his brother and he never will be, and that’s fine. Can you settle for a top-10 shooter with an nifty off-the-dribble game? Give him a defined role, and Seth Curry can absolutely be a top-100 player.
By Kristian Winfield
There’s one thing stopping RHJ’s game from becoming somewhat complete: he shot 23.5 percent from three last season.
Introducing Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, youth camp marksman:
But Rondae Hollis-Jefferson can't shoot 3s, they said pic.twitter.com/MtwOtdxQhN— Kristian Winfield (@Krisplashed) August 25, 2017
No, one uncontested step-back three doesn’t make Rondae a shooter by any means. But he’s a freak athlete with the size, speed and strength to defend multiple positions. When he adds a reliable three-point shot into his repertoire, he’ll be a Top 100 player for sure.
(There were other players I could have gone with, but I kept it Brooklyn.)
By Mike Prada
When projecting current NBA players four years down the line, I have a simple rule: always bet on young wing players that have shown signs of developing into quality two-way options. Those players are rare and will be valuable as long as the NBA continues to trend toward positionless ball and pace-and-space.
Which is why, in retrospect, I made a mistake omitting Powell. In just his second year, Powell wedged his way into a crowded Raptors wing rotation and made a significant difference in key games. His three-pointer continues to develop, plus he can guard 2s and 3s while attacking the cup in the open floor and off spot ups. As the Raptors transition into a new era, Powell will get more chances to shine.
He’ll be 28 in four years and is on an upward trajectory. In retrospect, he should be on the list over several of the young wings chosen.
6 other guys we forgot
By Mike Prada
MARC GASOL: Big Spain will be 36 by the end of the 2020-21 season, which feels a tad too old to still be a productive player. But as long as Gasol continues to age like fine wine, we must consider the possibility. Gasol is certainly the best player today to not end up on this 2021 list.
CODY ZELLER: The Hornets went 33-29 with Cody Zeller last season and 3-17 without him. They were 5.4 points better per 100 possessions with him in the game and 3.6 points worse per 100 possessions with him out. He’s not flashy, but he’s valuable and should still be so by age 28.
TOBIAS HARRIS: We collectively underrated Pistons players after the rough season they had last year. (Unless you’re Ricky O’Donnell and you still believe in Stanley Johnson). Harris averaged 16 points on above-average efficiency last year. He should still be doing that by age 28.
ELFRID PAYTON: Count me in as one of this dude’s last believers. He quietly had a terrific second half last year and will only be 27 by the end of the 2020-21 season. Point guards often bloom late. Why can’t the same happen to Payton?
GORAN DRAGIC: He’ll be 35 by the end of the 2020-21 season, but his outstanding Eurobasket shows he still has plenty left in the tank.
PATRICK MCCAW: Because the Warriors always find diamonds in the rough that become way better than we all expect.