As they do every year, ESPN and its panel of NBA experts rank the top NBA players from 100 (the worst) to 1 (the best) and release it to the masses just before a new season gets underway.
This year, Oklahoma City Thunder only had one player on the list, and that was guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who came in at No. 38.
That’s quite a jump from last year, where he was ranked 64th overall.
ESPN also ranked former Thunder players Chris Paul, Steven Adams, Dennis Schröder, and Danilo Gallinari.
Gallinari jumped up six spots at No. 85 this year, ranking at No. 91 last year.
Schröder, who wasn’t ranked at all last year, was listed at No. 79 this year.
Adams moved up five spots from last year and was ranked 70th overall.
Paul was listed 15th overall after being finishing at No. 32 last season.
Placing at No. 38, to me, is an excellent spot to put Shai in. With an increase in offensive responsibility, it is safe to assume that Shai’s stats will benefit greatly. This will be the first time since high school that Shai will be the main guy on a team as he has had to take a backseat role in college with Kentucky and in the NBA with the Clippers and Thunder thus far.
The only significant disagreement with the list I have is Boston Celtics’ Marcus Smart, ranked at No. 37.
When comparing their campaigns from last season, Shai had better per-game averages in every major category outside of assists and steals on more efficient shooting.
In terms of advanced stats and value metrics like VORP and WS, Shai was better than Smart.
Even if last season’s numbers are irrelevant in this list, I have difficulty understanding how somebody can be higher on Smart than Shai heading into this season. The latter has more responsibilities for their team’s performance.
But besides that, I think Shai is ranked around the type of players he shares similar talents with, such as Malcolm Brogdon, De’Aaron Fox, and Russell Westbrook.
I am a bit surprised that Al Horford did not make a list. I understand Horford’s public perception was down right now due to his lousy season with Philadelphia last year, but that had more to do with the odd fit than it did with Horford’s talent.
Nonetheless, if everything goes to plan with Horford in Oklahoma City this season, he will be viewed as a Top 100 player once again if he has a bounce-back campaign. In normal circumstances,
Horford is easily a Top 100 player as he exemplifies the modern big with his adequate skillsets in scoring, shooting, rebounding, passing, and paint protection.