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NBA rankings debate: Snubs, surprises and future stars

The 2019 version of NBArank debuted on Monday with players Nos. 100 to 51, including hyped rookies (the Memphis GrizzliesJa Morant), established veterans (the Denver NuggetsPaul Millsap) and intriguing players on new squads (the New Orleans PelicansLonzo Ball).

Who didn’t make the cut but should have? Which players are the most underrated and overrated? And which future stars are set to rise the most over the next year?

Our NBA experts answer the biggest questions about this year’s rankings and what they mean for the upcoming season.

More: Ranking the best players in the NBA this season


1. What is your biggest takeaway from the rankings?

Tim MacMahon, ESPN: We aren’t buying the theory that big men aren’t that valuable in today’s NBA. I see 15 players who will see all or a significant chunk of their minutes at center (including New Orleans Pelicans center Derrick Favors, Indiana Pacers power forward Domantas Sabonis and Memphis Grizzlies power forward Jaren Jackson Jr.) among the 50 players in this pool. And there are a bunch more to come in the top 50.

Nick Friedell, ESPN: This section is chock-full of guys whom teams are banking on to take significant leaps in their play this season. A lot of these young players have the ability to play much better over time. Whether they do — or don’t — will be key to their teams’ seasons.

Eric Woodyard, ESPN: Detroit Pistons star center Andre Drummond being listed outside of the top 50. Sure, he isn’t the greatest offensive threat. But we can’t just glance over the fact that Drummond led the league in boards the past two seasons and is one of eight players in league history to post at least 1,000 points and 1,000 boards in six or more consecutive seasons. I don’t see him slowing down, either — he’s only 26. Maybe they forgot about Dre.

Andre Snellings, ESPN: The NBA is getting younger, with the new generation taking over and carrying the wave moving forward. A whopping 31 of the players ranked 51-100 have been in the NBA five seasons or fewer, which in the era of one-and-done means most of these guys are under 25 years old. With this shaping up as one of the most exciting NBA seasons in recent memory, it would appear that the future is in good hands.


2. Which player didn’t make the cut but should have?

MacMahon: Sacramento Kings small forward Harrison Barnes has his limitations, particularly as a playmaker. But anyone capable of scoring 19 points per game with decent efficiency deserves to be considered among the top 100 players in the NBA. My unsolicited advice to the Kings: Utilize Barnes primarily as a stretch-4 in pace-pushing lineups.

Woodyard: Many people forget that when coming out of high school, Minnesota Timberwolves small forward Andrew Wiggins was heralded as the best player in the nation. After one year at Kansas, he has by no means enjoyed a legendary NBA career, with no All-Star appearances, but the kid can straight-up ball. Could he go harder at times? Sure. But he put up 18.1 points with 4.8 assists last season, with a career average of 19.4 points per game. I think the trade rumors could spark a career season for Wiggins. He is a top-100 player in this league.

Snellings: I almost picked Terry Rozier by default because someone is going to have to produce for the Hornets this season, but Jonas Valanciunas was too strong not to pick. He has been a per-minute monster who wasn’t getting the minutes for years, averaging 19.4 points per 36 minutes on 56.2% shooting with 13.3 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per 36 minutes, primarily for the Raptors the past four seasons. The Grizzlies traded for him and gave him minutes to end last season, and his production scaled with more playing time. He’s a legit 20-10 threat this season who has had a positive defensive RPM for four straight seasons — a clear top-100 player.

Friedell: There are few players on the list I would want on the floor more than Andre Iguodala. He might not put up big numbers anymore on a night-to-night basis, but he is very smart, and his teammates and coaches respect him.

3. Who is most likely to outperform his ranking?

Woodyard: I was shocked when I didn’t see LA Clippers point guard Patrick Beverley‘s name listed on the NBA All-Defensive Team last year. You can’t tell me he wasn’t at least worthy of second-team. I’m not buying that. With the additions of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, the good thing for Beverley is he will be in the spotlight more. More media attention and more wins typically bring more opportunities to achieve individual accolades and possibly a title. I totally expect Beverley to outperform his No. 79 ranking. He’s as tough as nails, and playing with better talent will only help him.

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