Ranking the top 100 NBA players — 35. Darius Garland, Cavaliers
A big reason behind Cleveland’s renewed relevance is the simple fact that Darius Garland is the point guard now. He’s an absolute star, emerging as one of the NBA’s premier pick-and-roll ball-handlers for a team otherwise short on perimeter creators. His pull-up jumper is deadly, while his elite first step and unreal craft around the basket make him very difficult to contain. Expect more All-Star appearances in his future.
Ranking the top 100 NBA players — 34. Fred VanVleet, Raptors
Fred VanVleet kicked things up a notch after Kyle Lowry’s departure. He made his first All-Star appearance in the process, emerging as one of the few 6-foot guards who can genuinely impact the game on both sides of the ball. VanVleet is a tenacious competitor and ultra-confident shot-maker. VanVleet’s success is even more impressive when you consider how limited Toronto’s crop of ball-handlers is. A lot of the Raptors’ shot creation burden rests on his shoulders, and he delivered.
Ranking the top 100 NBA players — 33. Jamal Murray, Nuggets
It’s been too long since we saw Jamal Murray on a basketball court. It’s easy to forget the magic of his run in the Bubble. You would struggle to find a better co-star for Nikola Jokic. Murray can take over games off the dribble, but he’s so elite because he doesn’t need to dominate possessions. He’s an excellent off-movement shooter who keeps the defense occupied even when he doesn’t have the ball. Plus, last time we saw him, Murray was becoming a rock-solid guard defender.
Ranking the top 100 NBA players — 32. Donovan Mitchell, Jazz
Donovan Mitchell has to play defense. That’s really it. He’s already a superb offensive talent, with underrated strength to match his deadly first step and dynamic pull-up game. He can put his shoulder down and overpower at the rim, or he can rain down 3s. He’s very hard to stop. In the playoffs, however, he was tough to watch on defense. He has to embrace both sides of the ball and add more winning habits to his game to make the leap from All-Star to superstar.
Ranking the top 100 NBA players — 31. James Harden, Sixers
There has been a lot of talk about James Harden‘s decline recently. Sure, he’s not the top-5 player and perennial MVP candidate who once redefined how elite NBA offenses work. But, Harden is still a good scorer who also happens to be one of the smartest manipulators and passers in the game of basketball. He elevates teammates even when his shots aren’t falling, and he unequivocally made the Sixers a better team after his arrival.