This is part three of my series evaluating Sports Illustrated’s top 100 NBA players of 2014. As we enter the top 50 players, this space is reserved for the league’s elite. If you missed my first two installments you can find them both below.
Now … let us continue.
SI.com list Revised List
48. Jrue Holiday 48. Jrue Holiday
47. Damian Lillard 47. Damian Lillard
45. Danilo Gallinari 45. O.J. Mayo
44. Al Jefferson 44. David Lee
41. Anthony Davis 41. Rudy Gay
50. Anthony Davis (PF, New Orleans Pelicans)
Anthony Davis had a spectacular rookie campaign and had he stayed healthy for the entire season, he would have given Damian Lillard a run for his money for the Rookie of the Year award. In just 64 games, Davis averaged 13.5 points and 8.2 rebounds while adding 1.8 blocks per game, which ranks ninth best in the league. In addition, he finished the season with a player efficiency rating (PER) of 21.8 (league average is 15), which ranks fourth-best among the league’s power forwards and 16th-best overall. The fact that Davis remained this effective throughout the entire season as a rookie is truly remarkable. Going into this season one year older and wiser, Davis has a bright future ahead of him, not just as a defensive powerhouse, but a great all-around basketball player. Ranking him at No. 41 is a bit overzealous as he is just entering his second year and, although is a fantastic basketball player, has quite a bit of room to improve. Anthony Davis comes in at No. 50.
49. Danilo Gallinari (SF, Denver Nuggets)
Danilo Gallinari had his best season as a pro last year with the Nuggets. He averaged a career high 16.5 points and 5.2 rebounds per game while finishing the season with a PER of 16.7,which ranks 14th best among small forwards, and ranked second in points per game on the Nuggets trailing Ty Lawson by only 0.5 points. The Nuggets desperately missed him in the playoffs as Gallinari went down with a knee injury in mid April. While Gallinari is a prolific scorer frmo the outside, he has improved he rebounding and defensive skills as his time in the league has progressed. Coming back at full health this season, Gallinari will continue to be a go-to scorer whose shooting ability spreads the floor and allow for fellow teammates like Ty Lawson and Kenneth Faried to expose their offensive talents. Danilo Gallinari gets the No. 49 spot.
48. Jrue Holiday (PG, New Orleans Pelicans)
Jrue Holiday is another player on this list who had a career best season last year. In the 2012-13 campaign, he averaged 17.7 and 8 assists per game, all career highs by a large margin. In addition, he finished last season with a PER of 16.7, also a career high and one that ranked 21st among point guards. Now in New Orleans, he joins and incredibly talented backcourt that includes Tyreke Evans with Eric Gordon and Austin Rivers coming off the bench. Holiday will be given free reign to shoot as one of the teams best scorers and it is very possible that he will average even better numbers than last season. At only 23 years old, Holiday has many years left in the league and has plenty of time to improve and refine his skills. SI got this one right, Jrue Holiday is No. 48.
47. Damian Lillard (PG, Portland Trail Blazers)
There is very little to say other than this young man’s game is nice. As a rookie, Damian Lillard averaged 19 points and 6.5 assists per game. As the floor general for the Blazers, he executed the offense and led his team with pose that of a seasoned veteran. This upcoming season holds very high expectations for both Lillard and the Blazers who feel poised to make a playoff run, and have a very good chance to with the collection of talent they have; Lillard is the heart and soul of this team. At only 23 years old he has asserted himself as one of the best young players in the league and with time and practice he will surely become one of the league’s premier stars. As this list has gone on, I have not agreed with SI that often, but once again, they got it right. Damian Lillard is right where he belongs at No. 47.
46. Jamal Crawford (SG, Los Angeles Clippers)
OK, back to disagreeing with SI. I am so confused at to why Jamal Crawford was placed at No. 76 on SI’s list; that is absolutely ludicrous! While coming off the bench for the Clippers, he averaged 16.5 points per game. He finished a very close second to J.R. Smith in Sixth Man of the Year voting and proved to be one of the most dynamic players on the Clippers. He provided a spark off the bench like almost none other in the league. He has the uncanny ability to get to the basket and at the same time knock down a jumper with just an inch of space between him and his defender. Even at 33 he continues to dazzle all (except those at SI apparently) and prove extremely beneficial for the Clippers and is one of the most dynamic players in the league. He earns the No. 46 spot.
Does that look like the 76th best player in the league? I’ll let you decide…
45. O.J. Mayo (SG, Milwaukee Bucks)
So … SI originally ranked O.J. Mayo No. 77; my question would be, why? Mayo has been a consistent premier scorer in the league since her entered five years ago. Last season he averaged 15.5 points and 4.5 assists last season with the Mavericks. Now on Milwaukee he will be the first scoring option and has the potential to have an incredibly effective season. We should see Mayo get a serious increase in minutes per game as the Bucks must and will rely on Mayo if they have any hope of succeeding this season. Mayo is one of the league’s most prolific scorers; he is not the 77th best player in the league. He comes in at No. 45.
44. David Lee (PF, Golden State Warriors)
Oh how the Warriors missed David Lee come playoff time. Although Lee’s injury was lost in the incredible shooting of both Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, his absence on the court became very apparent during the series against the San Antonio Spurs. Last season Lee averaged 18.1 points and 11 rebounds per game but went down with an injury close to playoff time and only played in six postseason games, only seeing significant minutes in just one. He also ended last season with a PER of 19.23 which ranks 13th among power forwards. The Warriors will be very strong come this season and solid production from David Lee will be a big part of that. Now healthy again, he is poised to produce as well, if not better than last year. Lee is one of the league’s most productive power forwards and has been since he entered the league 8 years ago. David Lee earns the No. 44 spot.
43. Ty Lawson (PG, Denver Nuggets)
Ty Lawson is yet another person on this list who had a career best season last year. Last season he averaged 16.7 points and seven assists per game, both career bests. He also posted a PER of 18, which ranks 13th among the league’s point guards. With Andre Iguodala gone to Golden State, Lawson will have to shoulder more of the offensive load, which he is more than capable of doing. As one of the quickest guards in the league, Lawson has the uncanny ability to get to the basket, where he finishes more than 50 percent of the time. As he enters his fifth year, he will immediately hold the most responsibility as the teams point guard and given free reign to put points on the board; he has the potential to have an even better year than last. Ty Lawson comes in at No. 43
42. Al Jefferson (C, Charlotte Bobcats)
Al Jefferson is nothing short of a monster. Last season he averaged 19.4 points and 10.1 rebounds in 78 games for the Utah Jazz. He also finished with a PER of 20.9, which ranks fifth among the league’s centers. In addition to being an offensive and rebounding powerhouse, Jefferson also is a huge threat on the defensive end. Now on the Bobcats, Jefferson will not only receive more minutes, he will also receive more touches down low where he thrives on scoring. He will be the main scoring option on a Bobcats team that has struggled greatly to find consistent scoring in recent years and with Jefferson being able to provide that, the team will lean greatly on his abilities.
41. Rudy Gay (SF, Toronto Raptors)
What a splash the Toronto Raptors made when they traded for Rudy Gay. Gay came to the Raptors as they appeared wounded for their record at the time they acquired Rudy Gay was 17-30. They finished the season 34-48, having a record of 17-18 with Gay in the lineup. While this does not seem like a dramatic improvement, the Raptors won almost half of their remaining games that season, a huge improvement from the beginning half. Rudy Gay was a large part of this improvement. Last season he averaged 18.2 points overall, but averaged 20.4 points during his 35 games with the Raptors. While on the Raptors, he had a PER of 17.6, which ranks 10th among the league’s small forwards. Now going into his first full season in Toronto, Gay has the potential have a breakout season as the go-to scorer on the team. How and why SI ranks him at No. 64 on their list baffles me. Rudy Gay is an elite scorer in this league and his superior athletic ability gives him an edge in both the rebounding and defensive departments. Rudy Gay is one of the league’s best. He earns the No. 41 spot.
Let the debating continue.