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Top 100 of 2017, 31-40: The forgotten titans

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Several big men and other established stars make up the next segment of our countdown of the Top 100 NBA players in 2017.

Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

After spending much of the first 30 picks of the Top 100 NBA Players of 2017 countdown gambling on potential, the panel collectively settled for a lot of established stars, particularly up front. Several of the most prominent big men in the NBA today make an appearance.

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

40.  Harrison Barnes

Barnes was one of the consensus top players in his 2010 recruiting class, which is either a foreshadow of great things to come or a gentle reminder that high school rankings are an inexact guessing game. Barnes may always be something of a tease, but he had a strong rookie season and an exciting postseason. He has the athleticism and the game, and he's already a decent 3-point shooter. I'll take that package in a 20-year-old and I think bigger things are ahead of him.  -FLANNERY

TJARKS: Higher than Klay Thompson? It will be interesting to see how the pecking order in Golden State shakes out over the next few years.

PRADA: As someone who thinks Klay is overrated, I approve of Barnes ahead of him. But No. 40 for a guy that might be banished to the bench this year and wasn't that great in the regular season as a rookie is a bit aggressive.

ZILLER: I think the ceiling for Barnes is pretty high. He's going to be a pretty good starter at worst, in my opinion.

KACZAMREK: This feels too high. This is projecting an awful lot of improvement for a guy who had a PER of 11.0 last season.

39.  Chris Bosh

In the first 10 years of his career, Bosh has been to eight All-Star Games, won two NBA titles and a Gold Medal. His combination of skills is incredibly valuable; he's the ideal small-ball 5. How many players out there can stretch the floor, protect the rim and get 20 and 10 in an NBA Finals game? His game, which is built around length and shooting ability, will age really well, even if the Big Three get broken up. Right now, he's averaging 19 points and nine rebounds a game on 50-percent shooting. If he continues at his level of production for the next five years -- his age 29-34 seasons -- he's a surefire Hall of Famer. -TJARKS

ZILLER: I think I'm plum out of opinions on Chris Bosh. The comparisons to other players do, however, make my head hurt only because imagining him without LeBron James and Dwyane Wade at this point seems wrong.


38.  Bradley Beal

I think people take for granted that he was just 19 last year. Once he got over some early-season struggles, he was as good as any rookie in the league. I'm not sure if he'll ever be a superstar because I don't know how much he can develop his isolation game, but the Ray Allen comparisons aren't that absurd, and I think his developing chemistry with John Wall will make both of them better. Trading him for James Harden still would have been the better play, but alas. -PRADA

ZILLER: That was the softest declaration that Bradley Beal might be the next Ray Allen possible.

FLANNERY: But I read it in a scouting report somewhere!

Question for the group: Has The Next Ray Allen replaced The Next Michael Jordan as the go-to move for shooting guard projectionists?

PRADA: Yes. Soon, it'll be followed by The Next James Harden.

O'DONNELL: Beal might be closer to The Next Eddie Jones than The Next Ray Allen, but that isn't such a bad outcome either.

37.  Al Horford

Al Horford is quite exceptional at basketball. I think he's probably the most underrated player in the NBA right now and it seems like he has the type of game that will age well. He's a very smart player who doesn't really have many glaring holes. I see no reason why he can't be very productive well into his 30s. -KACZMAREK

ZILLER: I want to see Horford in top 5 of MVP voting one of these years. So good.

PRADA: I'm worried his defense will fall off without Josh Smith there to help protect him, but I'm intrigued to see him in Mike Budenholtzer's offensive system.

FLANNERY: Allow me to present a hypothetical: If Horford was healthy in 2011-12, the Hawks probably beat the Celtics and Danny Ainge breaks the gang up one year earlier, thus saving Bostonians from the Jordan Crawford Experience, while keeping the Horford-Josh Smith Hawks together for another decade after an unexpected run to the conference finals. Basketball is a weird game.

TJARKS: Those Horford-Smith teams have never gotten enough credit. How many franchises can really sneeze at six straight playoff appearances and three trips to the second round? I'm not convinced Atlanta will be able to build a team that good around Horford again.

O'DONNELL: Wasn't that as much a byproduct of a crappy conference more than anything else? Those Hawks teams were solid, but they were never going to win anything.

36.  Roy Hibbert

Not much extraordinary about Hibbert: He's a long, smart 7'2 player who is exceptional at defense and a little clunky on offense. That's about exactly what you'd expect. The Pacers front office needs to be showered with praise for the David West acquisition a couple of years back. What a perfect move for that club; not too flashy, just right for Hibbert. Perfect. -ZILLER

KACZMAREK: I just want to say that Hibbert was my pick for Defensive Player of the Year this past season. I think he'll win one before 2017.

FLANNERY: I have nothing bad to say about this pick. He'll probably be higher, health permitting.

35. Marc Gasol

Marc Gasol boasts the type of game that would seem to age well. He was the best defensive center in the league last year, and it had very little to do with athleticism. He's a terrific passer who can pace an offense out of the high post if need be. He shot 85 percent from the foul line and has developed a nice mid-range J. Age isn't going to make him any less huge. For whatever Gasol gives up now or in the future in terms of speed and quickness, there aren't many 7'1 and 265-pounds folks. Even if Gasol never gets much better, I doubt he'll get much worse for a long while. -O'DONNELL

ZILLER: My concern is that he shares Pau Gasol's genes and Pau -- a smart, skilled player whose game should have aged relatively well -- has fallen off of a cliff.

FLANNERY: That lack of athleticism concerns me as he ages. He doesn't have that much to lose, and when it goes, he'll be Sabonis-like, but not quite as skilled. Still, he should be effective at this point.

34.  Rajon Rondo

I've long ago given up ranking Rondo by conventional measures. He's been the best player on the court in playoff games with certain Hall of Famers and verified All-Timers, and he's disappeared at other times. My biggest concern is his lack of a consistent jumper as he ages, especially coming off an ACL injury that could begin to erode his dynamic first step. There's also the fact that Celtics' offenses have ranked obscenely low with him running the show.

Still, I can't get past the Wilt/Oscar stat lines when the lights shine brightest. He'll either be the most awesomely weird player in his early 30s or a sad shadow of his former self. I'm betting on the former. -FLANNERY

O'DONNELL: Can Rondo find a late-career shooting stroke, a la Jason Kidd? Paul summed up his aging perfectly. It will be fascinating to watch play out.

TJARKS: Since we're all just guessing anyway, do you think Rondo is still wearing a Celtics uniform in 2017?

ZILLER: No chance. I'd say that if the question was "2015." I should also note I was very close to picking Rondo in the 20s.

FLANNERY: I'll take the contrarian view that Rondo will be with the C's for the duration. This has nothing to do with the fact that he's my favorite guy in the league to write about. Nope, nothing at all.

KACZMAREK: I can see Rondo reacting to the tanking Celtics in two ways. Either it'll energize him and he'll want to really step up and be the man, or he'll pout and be a brat, solidifying his reputation as someone that's really hard to coach. We'll see.

33.  Carmelo Anthony

I'm not the biggest Carmelo fan in the world, but I can't see him slipping any farther than this. He's still only 29 right now and he doesn't get enough credit for how big and physical he is at 6'8 and 230 pounds. With the way the NBA is downsizing, he should have no problem excelling as a small-ball 4 through his mid-30s.

The question is whether he'll still be playing for the Knicks at that point. It would be interesting to see what he would do as a second option on a team like the Bulls; that's a team that could really use someone who can score efficiently on a ton of isolations. I think Carmelo's ability to create a good 1-on-1 shot is pretty valuable, but I know others disagree. -TJARKS

PRADA: Carmelo could probably do a reasonable impression of what he's done the past three years until he's in his mid-30s, so this is about right.

ZILLER: I agree. This is a solid pick, and perhaps too low. Melo is really quite good! I hope he doesn't catch something from Andrea Bargnani.

FLANNERY: Melo will be getting buckets for as long as he keeps playing, but he's almost at the same point Paul Pierce was when he "got it." Having Hall of Fame teammates helped, but Pierce went from disaffected gunner to all-around monster at age 30. I'm skeptical that Melo can do the same.

TJARKS: I don't put Carmelo on the same level as Pierce because he's never shown he can be a consistent playmaker for others. He could feel free to start playing defense, though. Maybe Metta World Peace will rub off him.

FLANNERY: For the record, I don't either.

32.  Deron Williams

Big point guards tend to hold up well over time, even ones that looked mortal while dealing with ankle pain. The second half of the 2012-13 season has me convinced that Williams should still be a borderline All-Star in four years, even if his shortcomings may prevent the Nets from getting over the top in the interim. -PRADA

FLANNERY: You know who's under a lot of pressure this year? Deron Williams. This is the best team he's ever played for on paper, and he's playing with two really demanding guys in Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. It's basically now or never for the Nets and for D-Will.

TJARKS: If everyone can stay healthy, this year's Nets team will be the best team Williams has ever played on. As a player, you can't ask for much more than that headed into your age-29 season. It will be interesting to see what he can do with them.

ZILLER: He looks atrocious whenever he's dealing with any sort of injury. Not to bring up the eternal Chris Paul debate (is it even a debate at this point?) but when CP3 is clearly nursing an injury, he's still really effective. Williams usually isn't. That's a problem as he arrives at the big 3-0.

KACZMAREK: Can I just stand up and boo a selection? BOOOOO. I disapprove.

O'DONNELL: I've long been high on Deron, but here's something that's pretty damning: when he was playing a Bulls team last year starting Nate Robinson and Marco Belinelli, I was never really scared of him. Stars are supposed to swing a series like that. Deron couldn't.

31.  Anthony Bennett

OK, OK, this is a homer pick, but hear me out.

Bennett has a pretty perfect situation to grow in Cleveland, with Kyrie Irving setting him up and no pressure to perform right away. He'll have a chance to improve defensively under Mike Brown and he just might pretend to care about that end of the floor by 2017. He's an athletic beast with a rare combination of size, speed and power. Stretch-fours are all the rage nowadays, right? With his ability to knock down threes and bully people in the paint, Bennett fits that mold. -KACZMAREK

PRADA: "He just might pretend to care about that end of the floor" ... What a ringing endorsement!

TJARKS: I had Bennett as the No. 1 player on SB Nation's Big Board prior to the 2013 NBA Draft, so I wasn't as surprised as most when the Cavs picked him. He's an offensive machine at 6'8 and 240 pounds, which you hardly ever see. Him and Kyrie on the pick-and-roll will be lethal. He's athletic too, so it isn't crazy to think that Mike Brown will make him at least a decent defender.

ZILLER: I imagine Conrad doing the Kanye shrug while making this selection.

INTRO | TOP 99 OF 2015 REVIEW | 91-100 | 81-90 | 71-80 | 61-70 | 51-60 | 41-50 | 21-30 | 11-20 | 10-1

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