On Thursday, we unveiled the first batch in our Top 99 NBA Players of 2015 rankings. No one died, so I feel we're off to a great start. Next up: Nos. 90 through 82. Will Sharp pick Dominique Wilkins? Will Prada roll the dice on Jaden Smith? Find out below!
To tweet about the rankings, we're using the hashtag #nba2015.
90. Devin Harris
Harris has been so undervalued due to that absolutely dreadful Nets' season that I think he's disrespected a bit too much. He's certainly not perfect, and that single All-Star bid might look laughable when we reflect on Harris' career someday. But he's not bad. He's certainly as good or better than Mike Bibby was in his prime ... and Bibby was the third-best player on a team one shot from the NBA Finals. (Harris has, of course, been to the Finals too.)
Deron Williams was clearly a massive upgrade on Harris, but the fact that Harris' score-first style was terribly unsuited for Brook Lopez (as compared to Williams' more balanced -- though still score-heavy -- approach) makes it look worse than it is. I'm not sure Utah is the right place for Harris, but he should remain an above-average starting point guard going forward. -- Ziller
Prada: Can Harris really stay healthy enough to justify this ranking in four years? Four years is a long time.
89. Tristan Thompson
Lots of people raised their eyebrows when they saw Thompson get picked at No. 4 by the Cavaliers over Jonas Valanciunas, Jan Vesely and a bunch of other dudes many who raised their eyebrows had never seen play. In due time, I think the Cavaliers will be vindicated for their decision.
Thompson has flaws and he'll never be a superstar, but it was refreshing to see a team draft a guy because of what he can do instead of what he can't do. Thompson doesn't have much of a jump shot and he still needs to work on his defensive rebounding, but he is an elite one-on-one defender and a phenomenal offensive rebounder. He combines length with uncanny defensive smarts to lock up the best post players in college basketball last year. Just ask Derrick Williams.
P.J. Brown made a 15-year career out of doing the things Thompson can already do today. Why can't Thompson be that similar kind of solid starter on a good team? -- Prada
Sharp: Would P.J. Brown have been considered one of the top 100 players in the league at any point in his career?
Prada: If you value winning, then yes.
Ziller: Aren't we supposed to be comparing Thompson only to LaMarcus Aldridge because of physical similarities and college choice? Considering where Valanciunas lands on this list -- foreshadowing! -- that will be a pair of interesting progressions to watch.
88. Al-Farouq Aminu
He had a pretty forgettable rookie year, but he's also 20 years old. Wedged between Blake Griffin and Eric Gordon in the Clippers lineup will give him plenty of chances to succeed, but he also won't be asked to do to much. "Faroooooooooooouq" will be a fun name to scream one day if he turns into a defense/transition terror like I think he can. -- Sharp
Ziller: I look forward to seeing Farouq's offense come around in the year 2027. When you're being cast aside for Ryan Gomes, even as a rookie ...
Prada: There are way too many Clippers on this list.
Sharp: But... Faroooooooooooooooooouq.
87. David Lee
Lee had about the worst season imaginable after finally signing a big contract and leaving the Knicks. That elbow injury really seemed to mess him up, and despite his experience with the infamous Stephon Marbury-Steve Francis backcourt, he struggled to adjust to Stephen Curry and Monta Ellis shooting a combined 52 times a game.
That said, I trust the first five years of his career over the last. He was much better than the season-long stats looked before the injury and in March and April -- he should be a 15 points, 10 rebounds guy again this season ... provided he and Pastor Mark Jackson get along. I mean, who else are the Warriors going to play up front ... Jeremy Tyler? -- Ziller
Prada: If only defense wasn't half the game.
Sharp: Between his attitude, athleticism, heart ... David Lee is pretty much the polar opposite of Andray Blatche. And yet, he's pretty much the same player as Andray Blatche. If you look at last season as an aberration, then maybe he'll bounce back and be fine. But if you look at last season as a reality check, then it's hard to imagine Lee being this good in 2015.
86. Marcus Thornton
Thornton is a bit limited, but man can the dude score. After his new coach irrationally hated him in New Orleans, Thornton was exiled to Sacramento, where he averaged nearly 22 points a game in 38 minutes a contest. He's also just 23 years old. Here's a list of 23-year-old guards who averaged at least 19.6 points/36 minutes with at least a 53.8-percent true shooting percentage in NBA history:
- Kobe Bryant
- Michael Jordan
- Oscar Robertson
- Gilbert Arenas
- David Thompson
- Tiny Archibald
- Ben Gordon
- Dwyane Wade
- Otis Birdsong
- Derek Smith
- Walter Davis
- Rolando Blackman
- Mitch Richmond
- Isaiah Rider
Pretty good company, huh? There are a couple duds, but most of those guys were pretty good players. At worst, Thornton becomes this generation's Vernon Maxwell without the fiery demeanor. At best, he could be a lot better than that. -- Prada
Sharp: Hell yeah! I've been a Thornton fan since his rookie year, and if ends up in the right situation (read: not Sacramento), he could turn into one of the better 6th men in the league.
Ziller: I'm both terrified and delighted that Marcus Thornton and Jimmer Fredette will be sharing a backourt for the next four years (once the Kings sign Thornton to a four-year, $32 million deal this offseason). We know why Monty Williams didn't play him: defense. A mean Ben Gordon sounds about right.
85. Terrence Jones
Had he left school early he probably would have gone Top 3, which would have A) burdened him with the unfair expectations of a top 3 pick B) meant spending his first four years in Utah, Minnesota, or Cleveland. Instead, he goes back to school where he'll develop more, come into the league more prepared, and by 2015, he'll be a solid starter (no. 85-worthy) at worst. There's also a chance he's 50 spots too low on this list. -- Sharp
Ziller: I don't think there's any chance he's 50 spots too low on this list. And he definitely wouldn't have gone top three in 2011 ... maybe not even top 10. He didn't stay in school for the same reason Harrison Barnes did. He stayed in school because the last few months of his season in the SEC (!) constituted a disaster. I think there's a better chance Brandon Knight is an MVP candidate in 2015 than there is Jones is 50 spots too low.
Prada: You'd have to really believe in the Cult of Kentucky theory for Jones to be 50 spots higher.
Sharp: Hold up--if Terrence Jones left school this year, you think Tristan Thompson, Enes Kanter, and Jonas Valanciunas all go ahead of him? Top 3 may be a stretch, but on ceiling alone, Terrence Jones would've been worth a gamble in this year's draft. If he puts it all together, he could be a perfect 2nd or 3rd scorer on the wing.
Prada: Suppose Jones went to Tennessee instead of Kentucky. You think he's really this highly-regarded as a prospect?
Ziller: Yes, I can totally see three power foward/centers going over an inefficient tweener forward in the draft.
84. Tyson Chandler
This is probably far too low for Chandler as a talent, but the injury concerns are as impossible to ignore for us as they will be for his free agent suitors this offseason (whenever it begins). If there is a hard cap put into place, this could be the most interesting case not named Greg Oden to watch: the Mavericks aren't shy with an unlimited kitty, but if you put a lid on that ... will they risk taking on a potentially crushing contract to keep a title team together? It's a real test of Mark Cuban's risk appetite and Donnie Nelson's faith in fortune.
That said, if he can remain healthy into his 30s, Chandler is one of the few game-changing big men in the game --and it's all because of his defense. Alonzo Mourning and Dikembe Mutombo stayed better than relevant well into their fourth decades because of defensive excellence. Chandler could be an heir. -- Ziller
Prada: Expecting Chandler to remain healthy for the next four years is like picking the Mavericks to win the NBA Finals before the 2011 Playoffs started.
Sharp: "Tyson Chandler's Expiring Contract" seems like something we'll be hearing often come the 2015 trade deadline.
83. Ed Davis
If a rookie posts a 58.3-percent true shooting percentage and an offensive rating of 120 in Toronto, does anyone notice? People really should. Those are pretty impressive numbers for a 21-year-old, and there's no reason to suspect that Davis won't continue to improve as his team improves.
Consider how Davis stacks up compared to his peers from the 2010 draft class. We expect huge things from DeMarcus Cousins and Derrick Favors, but Davis was more productive than Favors and much more efficient than Cousins. Some figure Greg Monroe was the most impressive rookie big man, but Davis wasn't that far behind him statistically.
As his role increases, this ranking may even be too low. -Prada
Ziller: I like Davis a lot, but it remains to be seen if he has a lot of promise or will be this type of productive, solid, unspectacular big man. I mean, his rookie season was rather David Lee-ish, right? I hope he and Andrea Bargnani have a strong season together, and that Jonas Valanciunas makes this an awesome frontcourt in a couple years. But I'm not holding my breath because of a solid rookie season for Davis.
82. Rodney Stuckey
I'll be honest, I have no recollection of making this pick--this was the point where the draft was driving all us crazy and my brain had sort of melted, I think. But Rodney Stuckey's credentials in 2015 are pretty much the same as his credentials now. He'll be quietly solid, he'll probably be one of the bright spots on an otherwise mediocre team, and he won't be quite good enough to qualify for "one of the most underrated players in the league" status. But where Devin Harris seems like a guy who'll fade to Bolivia, Stuckey seems like a guy's who'll be lurking in the NBA's middle tier for at least another few years, and probably longer. -- Sharp
Prada: That's because Stuckey is younger than Harris, nothing more. Until Stuckey approaches what Harris has produced in his career, he doesn't belong on this list.
Ziller: The only reason Stuckey can't fade into Bolivia is because he's kinda already there.
We're taking Monday off for Labor Day, but we'll be back with Nos. 81 through 73 on Tuesday. Now that Rodney Stuckey is off of the board, anything goes!