We are less than two weeks from the beginning of training camp. NBA basketball is on the horizon, and with it comes the return of the greatest basketball players in the world.
Before last season, we ranked the top 50 NBA players. It’s safe to say a lot has changed since then. This time around, we are expanding the list to 100 in an effort to show more love to more excellent players.
For comparison’s sake, here are the top 10 players from last preseason:
- LeBron James
- Giannis Antetokounmpo
- James Harden
- Luka Doncic
- Kawhi Leonard
- Stephen Curry
- Kevin Durant
- Nikola Jokic
- Jimmy Butler
- Damian Lillard
Given the relative uncertainty around rookies, we did not put rookies on the list. Cade Cunningham, Evan Mobley, and the like will probably join the top 100 soon enough, but we haven’t seen them in NBA action yet.
Here are the top 100 NBA players entering the 2021-22 season.
SF, Golden State Warriors
Ranking the top 100 NBA players — 100. Andrew Wiggins
Andrew Wiggins made the best of his new situation in Golden State, becoming a genuinely impressive wing defender and a useful complementary scorer. He’s still prone to some brutal decision-making on offense, but if he can keep hitting 38.0 percent of his 3s, Golden State will be more than happy.
The Warriors will be right back in contention next season if Klay Thompson is healthy. Golden State has loaded up on a couple strong free agents, and with Kelly Oubre presumably out of the way, Wiggins should have more room to play to his strengths as a downhill driver and cutter.
Larry Nance Jr.
PF, Portland Trail Blazers
Ranking the top 100 NBA players — 99. Larry Nance Jr.
Larry Nance Jr. is best known for his dunks, but he’s more than a vertical spectacle. He’s one of the best defensive forwards in the NBA, supplying elite versatility to any rotation. His quick hands, dynamic athleticism, and advanced instincts allow him to guard multiple positions, and he’s a force off the ball, where he racks up deflections.
On offense, Nance has rounded into form as a strong complementary talent. He processes the game at a high level, and generally knows where and when he should be. He doesn’t domineer possessions, but instead thrives as a rim runner and occasional spot-up shooter, with the passing chops necessary to connect all the dots.
PG, New Orleans Pelicans
Ranking the top 100 NBA players — 98. Devonte’ Graham
The Pelicans will benefit from Devonte’ Graham’s arrival, even if it stems from unfortunate asset mismanagement. He’s a pretty perfect fit next to Zion Williamson — a high-I.Q. playmaker and one of the NBA’s most prolific spot-up shooters. He can play off the ball, or keep the offense zipping when he’s at the controls.
Graham struggled at times last season, but he was also buried in a deep Charlotte backcourt. For better or worse, the Pelicans will put his talent on full display. He’s essentially the No. 3 option behind Williamson and Brandon Ingram at this point.
C, Memphis Grizzlies
Ranking the top 100 NBA players — 97. Steven Adams
Steven Adams is universally accepted as the strongest player in the NBA. That has its inherent benefits. He’s possibly the best offensive rebounder in the game, not to mention a pretty darn great defensive rebounder. He can also impose his will defensively in certain matchups, especially when harassing the league’s more post-bound centers.
A rough year in New Orleans has dulled the excitement around Adams as a player, but he’s still quite useful, and should find a more amiable home in Memphis. He can feast on dump-offs from Ja Morant and bring his physicality to the city of Grit n’ Grind.
C, Detroit Pistons
Ranking the top 100 NBA players — 96. Kelly Olynyk
Kelly Olynyk experienced a renaissance of sorts in Houston, seeing his workload expanded tenfold for a losing team short on NBA talent. While Olynyk’s numbers in Houston probably overstate his value — 19.0 points, 8.4 rebounds, 4.1 assists, .542/.392/.844 — he is no doubt a very useful, versatile offensive weapon.
We should see Olynyk produce fruitfully in Detroit, even if he will now take a backseat to Cade Cunningham and Jerami Grant. He brings immense value as a floor-spacer at center, with the quickness and face-up ability to torch slower bigs on the perimeter. He’s also a physical, smart team defender, if not a great rim protector.