Ranking the top 100 NBA players — 65. Scottie Barnes, Raptors
Scottie Barnes won Rookie of the Year, and he fully deserved it. Not many rookies, even top-4 picks, can step in and contribute so prolifically to a contender. Injuries got the better of him in the playoffs, but Barnes has already cranked up his scoring since college. He’s punishing mismatches in the post, he’s hitting more jumpers, and he’s also playing backup point guard at 6-foot-8. The guy is gifted, and he’s one of the best defenders on an elite defensive team.
Ranking the top 100 NBA players — 64. Al Horford, Celtics
What a renaissance for Al Horford, who deserves it. He’s a Hall of Fame talent and one of the greatest “under the radar” stars we’ve ever seen. He doesn’t leap off the screen in the traditional sense, but Horford impacts winning in countless ways. His basketball I.Q., selfless approach, and versatile defense have once again proven essential to a championship hopeful team. He’s not the same player he once was in Atlanta, but all the intangibles remain (and so does a good chunk of the talent).
Ranking the top 100 NBA players — 63. Nikola Vucevic, Bulls
Nikola Vucevic has the unsung hero of Chicago’s offense late in the season. He’s been up and down since the trade from Orlando, but still — not many 7-footers are so skilled. Vucevic is still very traditional in his approach. He plays drop coverage on defense, he posts up a lot, he uses his size to impose his will, he gobbles up rebounds. But, he’s also an excellent 3-point shooter and a diverse passer who elevates those around him.
Ranking the top 100 NBA players — 62. De’Aaron Fox, Kings
It has been a tough run for De’Aaron Fox, who doesn’t get enough credit for producing despite the absolute s—show going on around him. The Kings can’t do anything right and Fox has done his best as a leader in the locker room and on the court. He’s far from perfect, and he would benefit immensely from any sort of consistently behind the 3-point line, but that speed does a lot on its own. The guy gets to the rim whenever he wants.
Ranking the top 100 NBA players — 61. Jalen Brunson, Mavericks
Jalen Brunson has come on strong for the Mavs, who desperately need his offensive punch next to Luka. Brunson’s ability to fit in offensively, be it playing off the ball and swishing 3s or taking over when Doncic sits, has made him a viable No. 2 on a potential championship contender. He’s stronger than your average 6-foot guard, and he uses that strength to bully guard defenders and finish with touch around the paint. That, combined with advanced instincts and a high basketball I.Q., have made him a very desirable name in the upcoming free agency bidding war.