Ranking the top 100 NBA players — 45. Jarrett Allen, Cavaliers
The Cavs lost Jarrett Allen to injury late in the season and looked lost without him. He’s downright essential to Cleveland’s success on both sides of the ball. Defensively, he’s the backstop that unlocks the rest of the rotation’s unique versatility. On offense, he’s one of the most efficient at-rim finishes in the game and a perfect pick-and-roll complement for Darius Garland.
Ranking the top 100 NBA players — 44. Klay Thompson, Warriors
It has been a bumpy ride for Klay Thompson since his return from a two-year absence, but he has already put up a few vintage Klay Thompson performances. He’s the best shooter in the NBA behind his own teammate with a truly singular capacity for getting hot and carrying the offense with just his 3-point stroke. As Thompson gets his legs back under him, he should start looking more like his old self.
Ranking the top 100 NBA players — 43. Deandre Ayton, Suns
The Suns’ premature exit from the postseason led to very loud buzz around Deandre Ayton’s future. He didn’t sign an extension last summer and now Phoenix could face a tricky restricted free agency period. Regardless of whether he stays or not, though, Ayton should get paid. He’s one of the best rim protectors in the game already and his rate of improvement since year one is plainly remarkable. He gets better every year and he’s a monster athletically.
Ranking the top 100 NBA players — 42. CJ McCollum, Pelicans
CJ McCollum’s arrival in New Orleans helped push the Pelicans over the edge into real contention. He’s still one of the most gifted guard scorers in the NBA, with a skill set suited to the Pelicans’ multi-pronged offensive attack. He’s used to playing with or without the ball thanks to years spent in Damian Lillard’s shadow. You won’t get much from McCollum on the defensive end, but his arrival basically consummated the Pelicans’ status as a top-tier NBA offense on paper. Zion’s return looms large next season.
Ranking the top 100 NBA players — 41. Domantas Sabonis, Kings
The Kings probably lost the Domantas Sabonis trade, but not because Sabonis won’t hold up his end of the bargain. He immediately became the Kings’ best player and the kind of interior offensive force Sacramento has lacked since the days of DeMarcus Cousins. With the strength of a body builder and the footwork of a ballerina, Sabonis can wreak havoc in the post. Leave him iso’d in the post, and he’ll probably score. Throw extra bodies at him, and he’ll pick you apart with his passing. He’s hard to game plan for.