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Greatest NBA Rivalries of All-Time

Which are the greatest NBA rivalries of all-time?

The game of basketball is a beautiful game. It’s fluid, fast-paced, and jam packed with high-flying highlights. Something that makes the NBA even more fun, is how unnecessarily drama filled the league can be. The storylines off the court unfold like the midseason climax of a Telenovela, and we eat it up.

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As drama and storylines have intertwined over the NBA’s 75 years, a number of high profile rivalries have made the league that much more fun to watch. From the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers to Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell, these are the greatest NBA rivalries to ever exist.

<code><iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/N71Pv48erIc" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>","hed1.) Bill Russell vs Wilt Chamberlain</code>
1.) Bill Russell vs Wilt Chamberlain

The NBA would not be what it is today without the legends who laid the groundwork. The NBA was just a decade old when the Boston Celtics would select Bill Russell second overall in the 1956 draft. Three years later, the Philadelphia Warriors would select a demigod from the Harlem Globetrotters, Wilt Chamberlain, and the first NBA rivalry would ensue.

Chamberlain undoubtedly wins the edge in this rivalry if you’re looking at statistical accomplishments. Wilt the Stilt basically wrote the NBA record book, holding 72 all-time records, including most points in a single game after becoming the first player to score 100 points in a game. Russell clears Chamberlain by a mile if we’re looking at winning on the court. Russell helped lead the Celtics to 11 championships, solidifying them as the first great NBA dynasty. Chamberlain may have finished with more than double the career points, but Russell has nearly six times as many championships.

<code><iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/wgVOgGLtPtc" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>","hed2.) Golden State Warriors vs Cleveland Cavaliers</code>
2.) Golden State Warriors vs Cleveland Cavaliers

The 2010’s NBA will surely be remembered as the Cleveland Cavaliers vs Golden State Warriors era. With an aging team in Miami and no guarantee of another championship, LeBron James left the Heat to form another big three in his hometown of Cleveland. Simultaneously, the Warriors development of Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes, and Draymond Green was coming to fruition.

The two teams would meet in the NBA finals for the first time in 2015, and Steph Curry was able to round out his first MVP year with a championship. The Warriors would use that momentum to rifle off a NBA record 73 wins the next season and make a return to the finals to play, you guessed it, the Cleveland Cavaliers. After going down 3-1, LeBron James went full Thanos mode and willed the Cavs back to force a game seven, a game they would end up winning.

The Warriors would recruit Kevin Durant the next summer, forming the greatest five-man lineup the NBA has ever seen. They may not have surpassed their regular season wins record, but the Warriors would handily beat the Cavaliers in the next two finals. This would mark the first time in NBA history that the same two teams played in four straight NBA finals. Although LeBron James is not with the Cavs anymore, they have one of the hottest young rosters in the NBA. Is it possible we see the fifth installment of a Warriors vs Cavaliers NBA finals this year (I hope not).

<code><iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/24NLqvKER1c" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>","hed3.) Shaquille O’Neal vs David Robinson</code>
3.) Shaquille O’Neal vs David Robinson

When Shaquille O’Neal entered the NBA in 1992, the league knew it was in trouble. A quick moving giant who could dominate anyone in the paint, O’Neal was built to take over a basketball court. Off the court, he was known for his childish but hilarious attitude. On the other side of the spectrum was the Admiral, David Robinson. Robinson is just as skilled as O’Neal, but is quiet and reserved.

After a litany of off-the-court comments between the two players, a beef was ensuing that no one could stop talking about. The difference in personalities was the most glaring, but what Robinson would do in 1994 took the beef to a whole new level. In just his second year O’Neal looked to be the NBA scoring leader with 2,345 points headed into the last game of the season, while Robinson was sitting with 2,312 points. The Admiral would put up a career high 71 points in the last game of the season, taking the scoring title from O’Neal.

<code><iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/4K9jm1pFjSE" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>","hed4.) Chicago Bulls vs Detroit Pistons</code>
4.) Chicago Bulls vs Detroit Pistons

The praise that Michael Jordan gets for being the GOAT of basketball did not come easy. Although Jordan was dominating the league throughout the 80’s with top scoring performances and flying highlights, the Bulls were never able to win anything significant. That’s because the Detroit Pistons stood in their way. Dubbed the ‘Bad Boys’, the Pistons of the late 80’s and early 90’s claimed two titles.

The Chicago Bulls and Detroit Pistons would meet in the playoffs four years in a row from 1988 to 1991. The Pistons would win the first three meetings playing a physical brand of basketball known as the “Jordan Rules” which saw heavy defensive pressure and attention to Michael Jordan. MJ would get his revenge in 1991, sweeping the Pistons while averaging nearly 30 points and 7 assists across the series.

The younger generations may not be aware, but the Bulls and Pistons are definitely one of the greatest NBA rivalries ever.

<code><iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/QnPvSxyufFw" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>","hed5.) Magic Johnson vs Larry Bird</code>
5.) Magic Johnson vs Larry Bird

There is no rivalry between individual players in any sport that can compete with the likes of Larry Bird and Magic Johnson. Two basketball legends destined by the cosmos to be intertwined, this rivalry was more than fate. Bird and Magic would first face-off in the 1979 NCAA finals. Bird led the cinderella story Indiana State Sycamores to an undefeated season and a trip to the NCAA finals. They would be outplayed by a much better Michigan State squad, led by Magic Johnson.

Both players would enter the NBA the next year, with Bird winning rookie of the year, and Magic winning a championship and finals MVP. The Lakers and Celtics would meet in the Finals three times, with the Lakers winning two of those meetings. The 80’s will be remembered as the era of Bird and Magic, and for good reason. The two would end the rivalry on a high-note by winning gold as teammates and co-captains for 1992 USA Olympic ‘Dream Team’. It is no understatement to say that Magic and Bird are the reason the NBA is as popular as it is today.

<code><iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/X7r6vXeOfyQ" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>","hed6.) Lakers vs Celtics</code>
6.) Lakers vs Celtics

There are few rivalries in all of sports that can contend with the history of the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers. Two of the NBA’s oldest teams, the Celtics and Lakers have been going at since the NBA was created. The two teams have met in the NBA finals a record twelve times. What’s most notable about those meetings is how spread out they are. They would meet in the finals six times throughout the 1960’s, three times throughout the 1980’s, and twice since 2000. The series would go to seven games in five of those twelve series.

Not only was the rivalry heated on the court, but opposing owners and GM’s regularly beefed. Red Auerbach was the longtime coach and GM of the Celtics and was known for his swaggering attitude. He would prematurely light up cigars on the bench during the fourth quarter of games in anticipation of his team winning and would regularly taunt the Lakers. Although the Lakers are in a lull right now, we will surely see these two franchises meet again one day in the finals.

Did I miss any of the greatest NBA rivalries? Shoot me a tweet @justincohen24 and let me know which one you think deserves to be on this list!

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Sports

Avengers Assemble: NBA Players as Marvel Characters

Although our world isn’t filled with the superheroes that occupy the Marvel universe, we have a different class of superhuman’s: the NBA. The NBA has some of the greatest athletes in the world who all carry themselves with a unique flare and style, the same way our heroes do the MCU.

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The NBA and Marvel have partnered up on a number of occasions to promote new movies, and even broadcast a game that had special graphics. The league will be producing branded merchandise in accordance with the new Black Panther: Wakanda Forever movie set to hit theaters this weekend. As we anticipate the newest addition to the MCU, we take a look at NBA players and their Marvel equivalent.

<code><iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/Hk2vk-UNAl8" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>","hedCaptain America: Steph Curry</code>
Captain America: Steph Curry

What makes Captain America so great is his resiliency. He’s constantly leading the charge into battle and no matter who the foe in-front of him his, he doesn’t flinch. Steph Curry embodies Cap because of his leadership and determination. After years of ankle injuries, he never gave up. When Klay Thompson was hurt and the Warriors went through a two year rebuilding phase, Steph kept fighting like they were contenders.

<code><iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/Y2YO-2Vwxd8" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>","hedBucky Barnes: Klay Thompson</code>
Bucky Barnes: Klay Thompson

Klay Thompson truly is the Bucky Barnes to Steph Curry’s Captain America. Whenever Curry needed a helping hand, Thompson was there to rain down three’s and keep them in contention. The brotherhood and friendship that the splash brothers have created is a beautiful one.

<code><iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/q1R5cvTFOHo" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>","hedIron Man: Luka Doncic</code>
Iron Man: Luka Doncic

Like Iron Man, Luka Doncic uses his untapped I.Q. to maneuver the battle field of the court to make his opponents look like pawns. Both Iron Man and Doncic have a bottomless bag in their arsenal of weapons. Luka must also go through the same lesson that Iron Man learned, you can’t win without playing as a team.

<code><iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/6qirIefUuUc" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>","hedThor: Giannis Antetokounmpo</code>
Thor: Giannis Antetokounmpo

Like Thor the god of thunder, Giannis soars through every opponent to rip down dunks like it’s nothing. It is truly an understatement to say that Giannis looks like a demigod on the court. Thor also started off as a quiet stoic character in the MCU and has evolved to a hilarious figure, the same evolution we’ve seen from the Greek Freak.

<code><iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/fcVq3UG1fJ0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>","hedHulk: Zion Williamson</code>
Hulk: Zion Williamson

If you are looking for a hulking figure that can physically dominant anyone while also jumping to incredible heights, look no further than Zion Williamson. Not only does Zion do the things that Hulk does, he even kind of looks like him with the newly added muscle this offseason.

<code><iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/UqAtmSaNxEg" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>","hedThanos: LeBron James</code>
Thanos: LeBron James

Dread it, run from it, LeBron still arrives. The mad titan Thanos had one goal, collect all the infinity stones to eliminate half the universe. While LeBron may not be chasing rings to wipe out half the population, it’s evident that he is on a quest to pass the legacy of Michael Jordan. There have been stretches of James career where it legitimately looked like <a href=”http://<iframe width=”560″ height=”315″ src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/bCiT6psniYc” title=”YouTube video player” frameborder=”0″ allow=”accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture” allowfullscreen>Thanos and Hulks first encounter.

<code><iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/1BEOnpLm0UM" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>","hedLoki: James Harden</code>
Loki: James Harden

Like the god of mischief, James Harden is exceptionally crafty with the ball, creating all types of action on offense. We’ve seen Loki go from trying to destroy the Avengers to virtually joining them, the same way James Harden has abandoned other teams for what seemed like greener pastures. I think the greatest similarity between these two is that i’m really not sure if I consider them a hero or a villain.

<code><iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/6AkLHdfYCYQ" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>","hedSpiderman: Donovan Mitchell</code>
Spiderman: Donovan Mitchell

Donovan Mitchell has been given the nickname ‘spida’ because of speedy ability to rise up and dunk on any defender. His ability to maneuver traffic and even hit shots from deep are the exact qualities of Spiderman. Mitchell also protrudes a sense of youthful giddiness the same way Peter Parker does.

<code><iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/U-ARxuWLh9c" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>","hedBlack Panther: Ja Morant</code>
Black Panther: Ja Morant

Ja Morant has been a high-flying superstar since the second he stepped foot onto an NBA court. Like how Black Panther stands for Wakanda, Morant has been taken under the wing by the people of Memphis and sees it as his duty to bring a championship their way.

<code><iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/6VmDi6EdX94" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>","hedDoctor Strange: Nikola Jokic</code>
Doctor Strange: Nikola Jokic

The way that Nikola Jokic is able to dominant an NBA court is truly magical. Whether it’s needling passes through impossible windows, or hitting the most unconventional fall-away jumper, Jokic can do it. These are both characters you don’t want to cross, because they will come back with a vengeance.

<code><iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/siMiP-94aLM" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>","hedUltron: Kawhi Leonard</code>
Ultron: Kawhi Leonard

Like the machine Tony Stark created as a bodyguard for the world, Kawhi Leonard is cold, calculated, and robotic on the court. There are no mistakes, there are no second guesses, he knows what his next move is and he is going to take it. Not only did Ultron betray his creator Tony Stark, but Leonard ended up freezing out the Spurs and Greg Popovich, forcing a trade out of San Antonio.

<code><iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/YGmCB8djtuc" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>","hedBlack Widow: Kevin Durant</code>
Black Widow: Kevin Durant

Black Widow is a character who has had a lot taken from her. From youth she was put into a world-class group of assassins and taken from her family. After teaming up with the Avengers, she would lose that to. Although it was Durant’s decision to leave the Warriors, it’s not far off to say he has had quite a bad string of teammates recently. Despite the outside noise surrounding him, Durant always goes out and gets the job done, the same way Natasha Romanoff did.

<code><iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/D3EGBhwcJW4" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>","hedGroot: Joel Embiid</code>
Groot: Joel Embiid

Lengthy: check. Hilarious and immature: check. Kind of hard to understand: check. Groot and Joel Embiid have more things in common than maybe anyone on this list. Both come in extremely clutch for their squad when they need it most, and almost always deliver it with comedic undertones.

<code><iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/tv5_UwPEvTk" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>","hedHawkeye: Damian Lillard</code>
Hawkeye: Damian Lillard

There is nothing like watching Damian Lillard rain down threes from thirty+ feet out. Like Hawkeye, both him and Lillard are scarily accurate with their shot, and have an intense sense of loyalty to those they consider family. Although Dame never tried to sacrifice himself instead of C.J. McCollum at last years trade deadline how Hawkeye did with Black Widow on Vormir, he still remains one of the best teammates anyone could ask for.

<code><iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/43IEboKTOmc" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>","hedKorg: Steven Adams</code>
Korg: Steven Adams

Korg is simply just Steven Adams in a costume, there is no other way around it.

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Sports

The Highest Scoring Games in NBA History 

As the great Mark Jackson says “It’s a make or miss league” and it seems as though today players can’t miss. As defensive players are punished significantly now for playing any ounce of physical defense, league scoring has steadily increased. Since 2013-2014 league average for scoring eclipsed 100 points and hasn’t dipped since.

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With the average league scoring increasing each season, you’d expect the single-game record for most points to be recent, but the opposite proves to be true. Of the top five highest scoring games ever, four take place before 1991. Here is the list of the ten highest scoring NBA games ever.

<code><iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/dOVBVaOnPAc" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>","hed1.) Denver Nuggets 184 - Detroit Pistons 186</code>
1.) Denver Nuggets 184 – Detroit Pistons 186
  • Total Points: 370
  • Date: December 13, 1983

The single highest scoring game in NBA history features the infamous ‘bad boys’ of the 80’s Detroit Pistons. Led by Isiah Thomas, the Pistons claimed two NBA championships. Denver Nuggets Kiki Vandeweghe led the game in scoring, putting in 51 points across the triple-overtime game. Overall four players eclipsed the 40+ individual scoring mark and this game will forever be remembered as the highest scoring game in NBA history.

<code><iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/MTQu6NL3KWc" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>","hed2.) San Antonio Spurs 171 - Milwaukee Bucks 166</code>
2.) San Antonio Spurs 171 – Milwaukee Bucks 166
  • Total Points: 337
  • Date: March 6, 1982

The second highest scoring game in NBA history saw the San Antonio Spurs defeat the Milwaukee Bucks with over 330 points being scored. George ‘iceman’ Gervin led the game in scoring, putting in 50 points himself. The Spurs were able to put up 171 points while only attempting one three pointer all game… just shows you how different the league is today.

<code><iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/JVP9vnQGw1w" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>","hed3.) Chicago Bulls 168 - Atlanta Hawks 161</code>
3.) Chicago Bulls 168 – Atlanta Hawks 161
  • Total Points: 329
  • Date: March 1, 2019

When the Chicago Bulls and Atlanta Hawks faced off in Trae Youngs rookie year, it was pure fireworks. Deep three after deep three from both sides were being knocked down like it was easy work. Zach Lavine led the Chicago Bulls, putting in 47 points, 9 rebounds, and 9 assists. Trae Young put on a show himself, dropping 49 points and 16 assists.

<code><iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/N-fIfKRc3QI" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>","hed4.) Golden State Warriors 162 - Denver Nuggets 158</code>
4.) Golden State Warriors 162 – Denver Nuggets 158
  • Total Points: 320
  • Date: November 2, 1990

When Don Nelson took over as the head-coach of the Golden State Warriors no one really knew what to expect. The free-thinking coach wanted to run a point-forward offense, where a bigger player would take up the ball. Coaching the Nuggest was Paul Westhead, who had just run a championship with the Lakers using a run-and-gun offense. What ensued was the fourth highest scoring game in NBA history.

<code><iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/rBPlmNY5WSY" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>","hed5.) Denver Nuggets 163 - San Antonio Spurs 155</code>
5.) Denver Nuggets 163 – San Antonio Spurs 155
  • Total Points: 318
  • Date: January 11, 1984

There was just something about that 1980’s Denver Nuggets offense that worked, and that’s why they’re in the top five of this list twice. In a 1984 matchup with the Spurs, Kiki Vandeweghe put in 50 points en route to a eight point win. 318 total points would be scored between each teams, making this the fifth highest scoring NBA game ever.

<code><iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/45xBoYTLSCA" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>","hed6.) Phoenix Suns 161 - New Jersey Nets 157</code>
6.) Phoenix Suns 161 – New Jersey Nets 157
  • Total Points: 318
  • Date: December 7, 2006

On a December night in 2006, the Suns and Nets combined for the sixth highest scoring game in NBA history. What’s most shocking about this entry on the list is that the early 2000’s was primarily known for it’s low scoring. This game ended up being a double overtime thriller that saw the Suns barely edge the Nets.

<code><iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/R5x30NCqJbA" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>","hed7.) Houston Rockets 159 - Washington Wizards 158</code>
7.) Houston Rockets 159 – Washington Wizards 158
  • Total Points: 317
  • Date: October 30, 2019

Our second recent entry on this list comes in a 2019 game against the Houston Rockets and Washington Wizards. 2019 saw James Harden go on a nuclear run, dropping 30+ games like it was nothing almost every night. Bradley Beal would put in 46 points but it wouldn’t be good enough for James Harden and his 59 point performance.

<code><iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/BDkluF-tlWQ" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>","hed8.) Philadelphia Warriors 169 - New York Knicks 147</code>
8.) Philadelphia Warriors 169 – New York Knicks 147
  • Total Points: 316
  • Date: March 2, 1962

If you thought the NBA wasn’t jam packed with action in the 1960’s oh boy would you be wrong. This 1962 game between the then Philadelphia Warriors and New York Knicks ended up becoming the eight highest scoring game in NBA history. This game remains one of the most important in NBA history, as it was the time that Wilt Chamberlain scored 100 points himself. This is a feat that will most likely never be done again.

<code><iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/85IEXNTmu_U" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>","hed9.) Cincinnati Royals 165 - San Diego Rockets 151</code>
9.) Cincinnati Royals 165 – San Diego Rockets 151
  • Total Points: 316
  • Date: March 12, 1970

Oscar Robertson and Russell Westbrook are without a doubt the kings of triple-doubles, being the only two players to average the feat across the season. In a March 1970 game against the Rockets, Robertson put up a 30 point triple-double to help lead his team to a win in the ninth highest scoring NBA game ever.

<code><iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/w3Sz1W06Y5s" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>","hed10.) Phoenix Suns 173 - Denver Nuggets 143</code>
10.) Phoenix Suns 173 – Denver Nuggets 143
  • Total Points: 316
  • Date: November 10, 1990

The 1990 Suns were a special team. On the precipice of adding a legendary Charles Barkley in a few years, the Suns had all the key rotational players to build around. In this 20 point beatdown of the Nuggets, over five players on the Suns scored over 20 points. Cedric Ceballos led scoring for the Suns with a 32 point performance off the bench.

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Sports Sports

The 32 Most Valuable Sports Teams In The World

Despite the pandemic, the value of the top 50 most valuable sports teams on the planet increased by 30% from 2021 to 2022, to a whopping $222.7 billion. Today, we’re taking a look at the top half of that list. Due to some ties in value, there are actually 32 teams on the list.

1. Dallas Cowboys, $8.0 billion
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  • Sports league: NFL
  • Owner: Jerry Jones

Within the NFL, the Dallas Cowboys have been the most valuable team since the late 2000s. When you take into consideration every sports team around, Real Madrid were the most valuable until 2016 when the Cowboys took over and they’ve been the most valuable team in the world ever since.

2. New England Patriots, $6.4 billion
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  • Sports league: NFL
  • Owner: Robert Kraft

The New England Patriots are the second most valuable team in the National Football League and this is still largely because of the Brady-Belichick era, but the franchise history of winning 6 Super Bowls and having arguably the best coach in league history also has a lot to do with it.

3. Los Angeles Rams, $6.2 billion
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  • Sports league: NFL
  • Owner: Stanley Kroenke

From 2020 to 2021, the Los Angeles Rams had a whopping 20% increase in their value, which was 6% more than the NFL’s average in that same time period. When you consider that they’ve since won the Super Bowl, the 107% increase in value over the last five-years shouldn’t seem too shocking.

4. New York Yankees, $6.0 billion (tied)
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  • Sports league: MLB
  • Owners: Steinbrenner family

You don’t have to know the first thing about baseball to know the New York Yankees and recognize their world-famous logo that is often seen on fitted caps and snapbacks. Their branding alone makes it no surprise that they’re the only MLB team worth over $4.1 billion, at a whopping $6.0 billion. All this, despite the fact that the team’s last championship was nearly 15 years ago.

5. New York Giants, $6.0 billion
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  • Sports league: NFL
  • Owners: John Mara and Steven Tisch

Although they haven’t had a great run in recent times, the New York Giants’ history and the simple fact that they’re a New York team puts them high up on this list here and 4th on the list of the most valuable teams in their league.

6. New York Knicks, $5.8 billion (tied)
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  • Sports league: NBA
  • Owner: Madison Square Garden Sports

The New York Knicks have been the most valuable team in the NBA for the best part of a decade. Through all of their struggles as a team, they remain beloved amongst New Yorkers. They took the spot as the most valuable NBA team from the Lakers when they signed an incredibly lucrative cable deal.

7.. Chicago Bears, $5.8 billion (tied)
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  • Sports league: NFL
  • Owners: McCaskey family

A cool and unbelievable stat about the Chicago Bears when it comes to their value is that just over 100 years ago in 1920, they were purchased by George Halas for $100. No, that’s not a typo. That’s the equivalent of around $1,418, which is around a 249,000,000% increase in value.

8. Golden State Warriors, $5.6 billion (tied)
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  • Sports league: NBA
  • Owners: Joe Lacob and Peter Gruber

From 2016 to 2020, the Golden State Warriors had a growth of 147% in value, one of the highest among the top 50 most valuable sports teams in the world. This is largely due to their championship success in that period and it made them the second most valuable team in the NBA, above even the great brand that is the L.A. Lakers.

9. Washington Commanders, $5.6 billion (tied)
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  • Sports league: NFL
  • Owner: Daniel Snyder

The Washington Commanders don’t have a great reputation as of late but their recent acquisition of Carson Wentz could do something to change that. Their rebuild period could be coming to the end but despite it, from 2016 to 2020, their value increased by 23%.

10. Los Angeles Lakers, $5.5 billion
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  • Sports league: NBA
  • Owners: Jerry Buss Family Trusts and Phillip Anschutz

Not only is the purple and gold of the L.A. Lakers one of the best sports brands ever, but in 2012, the team signed a $4 billion, 20-year deal with Time Warner. This means that regardless of the trouble that they currently find themselves in, they won’t be losing any value or even growing at a much slower rate anytime soon.

11. New York Jets, $5.4 billion
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  • Sports league: NFL
  • Owners: Johnson family

New York is a massive media market so in spite of the lack of success that the Jets have seen in recent years, they remain in a top spot with a value of just over $4.8 billion. 

12. San Francisco 49ers, $5.2 billion
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  • Sports league: NFL
  • Owners: Denise DeBartolo York and John York

The 49ers didn’t see as much growth from 2020 to 2021 as many of the other teams in the league did and they have a low operating income, but the San Francisco football team remains one of the most valuable teams in the NFL, and sports in general. As the ride a wave of constant success, they remain very profitable.

13. Real Madrid CF, $5.1 billion (tied)
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  • Sports league: La Liga
  • Owners: Club members

Two spots in-front of Barcelona is their arch-rivals, Real Madrid, coming in with a valuation of $5.1 billion, just $10 million more than Barca. For those that don’t follow soccer and don’t understand the scope of it, it’s truly hard to fathom how big this Spanish team is. In 2013, 2014, and 2015, this team topped the list of the most valuable sports teams. The El Clasico between Real Madrid and Barcelona is one of the biggest and highly-touted rivalries in all of sports.

14. Las Vegas Raiders, $5.1 billion (tied)
(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
  • Sports League: NFL
  • Owner: Mark Davis

Although the Raiders jumped ship from Oakland to Las Vegas, they still have one of the most active fandoms in all of sports. The Davis family has owned the Raiders since purchasing it in 1966 for $180,000. They have been playing in Las Vegas since 2020.

15. FC Barcelona, $5 billion (tied)
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  • Sports league: La Liga
  • Owners: Club members

Not only is Barcelona the fifteenth most valuable sports team in the world, the 2nd most valuable soccer team in the world and one of the few non-American teams on the list, but in terms of revenue, they are the world’s richest club, with an annual turnover of nearly $800 million.

16. Philadelphia Eagles, $4.9 billion
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  • Sports league: NFL
  • Owner: Jeffrey Lurie

This might be a somewhat surprising entry in the list for people but for the Philadelphia Eagles, their passionate fanbase and their recent Super Bowl win has done a lot for their $4.9 billion valuation. 

17. Houston Texans, $4.7 billion
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  • Sports league: NFL
  • Owner: Janice McNair

Considering the Houston Texans are one of just four NFL teams to have never made it to the Super Bowl, they’re doing a great job here with their valuation of $4.7 billion. They were founded in 1999 and were owned then by Bob McNair who tragically passed away in 2018.

18. Denver Broncos, $4.65 billion
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  • Sports league: NFL
  • Owner: Rob Walton

The Broncos were recently aquired by Rob Walton and Walton-Penner group for a whopping $4.65 billion, giving them their valuation. On this list, they’re tied for 25th place with a couple of other teams in different leagues and sports entirely.

19. Manchester United F.C., $4.6 billion (tied)
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  • Sports league: Premier League
  • Owners: Glazer family

Manchester United sat atop the list of the most valuable sports teams in 2010, 2011, and 2012, before they were knocked off the spot by Real Madrid. Even then, it took until 2019 for them to get knocked out of the top 5. Following the Munich air disaster in 1958, Matt Busby is credited with rebuilding the team and setting the foundation for what they have become in the subsequent decades.

20.) Miami Dolphins, $4.6 billion (tied
(David Santiago/Miami Herald/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)
  • Sports league: NFL
  • Owners: Stephen Ross

The Miami Dolphins look like a reinvigorated franchise behind the guidance of first year head coach Mike McDaniels. In 2008, Stephen Ross bought 50% of the Dolphins franchise and later purchased an additional 45% in January 2009 at a total value of $1.1 billion.

21. Seattle Seahawks, $4.5 billion
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  • Sports League: NFL
  • Owner: Paul G. Allen Trust

The Seahawks saw a peak in popularity and success in the early 2010’s, going to two Super Bowl’s and winning one. They were headlined by the “Legion of Boom”, the nickname given to their stifling defensive tenacity. Lumen Field where the Seahawks play is known as one of the loudest stadiums in professional sports.

22. Liverpool F.C., $4.45 billion
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  • Sports league: Premier League
  • Owners: Fenway Sports Group

Liverpool F.C. are very much a global brand and the team is notorious for having a lot of supporters all around the world. This is a large part of the reason that the team has a valuation of over $4 billion. LeBron James is also a minority owner of the club, acquiring 2% in 2011.

23. FC Bayern Munich, $4.28 billion
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  • Sports league: Bundesliga
  • Owners: Club members

If you’re an American sports fan, then grasping the way that soccer leagues work can be confusing. Luckily, you can read up about it here. Essentially, the Bundesliga is the premier soccer league in Germany and Bayern Munich is not only the most valuable soccer team there but the most valuable sports team in the country as well.

24. Manchester City, $4.25 billion (tied)
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  • Sports league: Premier League
  • Owner: Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan

From 2016-2020, Manchester City saw a 108% growth in value, the 6th highest amongst the top 50 highest valued sports teams in the world. City became one of the top six in the 2010s and has since become a powerhouse not just in the Premier League or even soccer, but on the planet.

25. Green Bay Packers, $4.25 billion (tied)
(Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images
  • Sports League: NFL
  • Owner: Shareholders

The Packers are one of the original NFL teams and have one of the strangest ownership structures in professional sports. Fans can buy shares of the Packers when made available every couple of years. Owning a share gives you voting rights and an invitation to their annual corporate meeting.

26. Los Angeles Dodgers, $4.08 billion
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  • Sports league: MLB
  • Owners: Guggenheim Baseball Management

The Los Angeles Dodgers are owned by Guggenheim Baseball Management who even if you haven’t heard of by name, you likely know the people associated with the brand. Of course, this team was originally the Brooklyn Dodgers and they moved to L.A. in the late 1950s. New York and L.A. are good homes for any teams, as the valuation shows.

27. Atlanta Falcons, $4.0 billion
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  • Sports league: NFL
  • Owner: Arthur Blank

The Atlanta Falcons saw a wave of success in the 2010’s behind the quarterback play of Matt Ryan. They would tragically blow a lead in the Superbowl and never regain their spot back as a contending team. In February 2002, Arthur Blank bought the Atlanta Falcons, for $545 million.

28. Pittsburgh Steelers, $3.98 billion
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  • Sports League: NFL
  • Owner: Daniel Rooney Trust, Arthur Rooney II

The Pittsburg Steelers are tied with the Patriots for the winningest NFL franchise, with six total Super Bowls. The Rooney family has been the sole owners of the franchise since Art Rooney founded the team in 1933. It cost Rooney only $2,500 to purchase the franchise fee to create the team.

29. Minnesota Vikings, $3.93 billion
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  • Sports League: NFL
  • Owner: Zygmunt Wilf

The Minnesota Vikings look to have what could be the greatest wide receiver the world has ever seen in Justin Jefferson, and he helps fill stadiums and sell jerseys. Zygmunt Wilf has owned the Vikings since he purchased the team from founder Red McCombs in 2005. Wilf, along with his brother Mark and four other partners, purchased the team for $600 million.

30. Boston Red Sox, $3.9 billion (tied)
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  • Sports league: MLB
  • Owners: John Henry, Thomas Werner

Since their establishment in 1901, the Red Sox have won 9 World Series, tied for the third-most in MLB history. Interestingly, they’re owned by the same owners as the aforementioned Liverpool F.C., Fenway Sports Group, whose client base includes LeBron James and Johnny Manziel amongst its clients.

31. Baltimore Ravens, $3.9 billion (tied)
(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
  • Sports league: NFL
  • Owners: Stephen Bisciotti

The Baltimore Ravens have been under intense contract talks with franchise quarterback Lamar Jackson, but have been unsuccessful at reaching a deal. They have steadily been one of the best teams in the NFL over the last two decades, winning two Superbowls. Bisciotti bought a minority interest in the Ravens from Art Modell in 2000, completing the purchase of the franchise on April 9, 2004.

32. Los Angeles Chargers, $3.88 billion
(Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
  • Sports league: NFL
  • Owners: Dean Spanos

The Charges moved from San Diego to Los Angeles in 2017, and not many people seemed to notice. People did however notice the construction of SoFi Stadium, the more than $5 billion dollar stadium the Chargers built which stands at the forefront of sports, technology, and architecture.

Categories
Sports

ONE37pm’s Top 137 NBA Players for the 2022-2023 Season

With the 2022-2023 NBA season tipping off this week, there are approximately 450 players on active rosters, ranging from Lebron James (who might be the best basketball player ever) to Keljin Blevins (who’s Damian Lillard’s cousin). As such, here is our inarguable, ironclad list of the top 137 players currently in the NBA.

Nos. 137-131
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137. Derrick Rose, New York Knicks

It has been so enjoyable to watch Rose prolong his unique career. Despite all the injuries, Rose continues to provide valuable minutes on whatever team he plays for. When Rose does find the magic, the entire arena glows. There aren’t many players who capture the fans’ love for the game more than the former MVP. –Bo Templin

136. Montrezl Harrell, Philadelphia 76ers

Since entering the league in 2015, Montrezl Harrell has made a living off an intense brand of basketball. Trezz will go toe-to-toe with any center in the paint, actively grabbing boards and fighting for extra possessions. Although Trezz will have a decreased role with the 76’ers, he has the opportunity to contribute to a team with championship aspirations. –Justin Cohen

135. Devin Vassell, San Antonio Spurs

Every team needs a Devin Vassell. A consummate role playing wing, the 22-year-old Vassell has an uncanny ability to cover ground away from the ball on defense, smothering opportunities before his opponent even realizes that there was an opportunity. Offensively, he’s a threatening shooter, although he’ll spend most of this season as the overtasked tank commander of a purposefully bad Spurs team. On a good team, Vassell would be an NBA Twitter hipster favorite; on the Spurs, he’s sadly wasted. –Jack Tien-Dana 

134. Lu Dort, Oklahoma City Thunder

Luguentz Dort looks and plays like he trains with Jose Conseco. At his best, he’s a burled-up nightmare for ball handlers, climbing into their handle like it’s a baby bjorn. Last year, Dort encouragingly made strides offensively, ginning up 17.2 points per game through a combination of punishing drives and almost good-enough spot up shooting . Still, the offense is largely a mirage—no real NBA team would tolerate Dort shooting more than 14 times per game and he’s better suited for a scaled down usage anyways—but the defense is so fearsome that any scoring oomph is ultimately gravy. –JTD

133. Jordan Clarkson, Utah Jazz

Jordan Clarkson has consistently been one of the most underrated players in the NBA. I helped come up with this list and even I think it’s criminal that J-Clark is this low! Clarkson was the 2021 Sixth Man of the Year and has been an integral piece for the Jazz off the bench. Expect Clarkson to be traded before the deadline as the Jazz are in full #TankForWembanyama mode. –JC

132. Malik Monk, Sacramento Kings

The only guy who had any fun last year with the Lakers, Monk’s mini-breakout was rewarded with a two-year, $19 million deal with the Kings and a reunion with De’Aaron Fox, his former Kentucky teammate. After four troubled years in Charlotte, Monk found a groove riding shotgun with Lebron James. Freed from the yoke of on-ball responsibility, Monk reinvented himself as a bob-and-weave off-ball threat and his best season as a result—his 13.8 points per game and 59.7% True Shooting were both easily the highest marks of his career. 

131. Wendell Carter Jr., Orlando Magic

The NBA’s evolution can be charted by the Wendell Carters of the world. While the league’s best players will do bonkers shit, it’s startling how naturally Carter can do things that would’ve looked like witchcraft not even a decade ago. Combining the stature of a traditional big man, Carter has gradually, subtly expanded the boundaries of his game. Last season, Carter enjoyed the best year of his three year career, posting career highs in points per game (15.0), rebounds (10.5), assists (2.8) and three pointers (1.2 makes per game). So far this preseason, he’s shown how his variegated skillset can combine and recombine with Franz Wagner and Paolo Banchero in exciting new ways—Carter’s 18 point, seven rebound, eight assist performance against the Grizzlies this week was the clearest proof of concept of where his game is headed. –JTD

 

Nos. 130-126
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130. Immanuel Quickley, New York Knicks

Within the larger Knicks-iverse, most of the discussion is focused on what Immanuel Quickley can’t do. Sure, whatever—he can’t really get to the rim or read defenses or play point guard. But what Quickley can do—dislodge defensive shells with deadeye pull-up shooting—is arguably the most important skill for a guard to have. In his way-too-low 23.1 minutes per game, Quickley was New York’s most uplifting offensive player, if not necessarily their best—his catalytic offensive impact (he pumps up the team’s offensive rating by +4.5 points per 100 possessions and has a team-best +1.4 offensive EPM) belies his modest stats (11.2 points per game, 39.2% field goal percentage). At the risk of sounding like a delusional Knicks fan (which I am), Quickley’s shooting might even give him latent All-Star potential. –JTD

129. Joe Harris, Brooklyn Nets

It is no secret that perimeter shooting is the focus of every team. Considering that, Harris will find a contributing roster spot for a long time. His playoff numbers have been disappointing, but all it takes is one good postseason stretch, and people will fall right back in love with the three point specialist. –BT

128. Steven Adams, Memphis Grizzlies

There aren’t many players who command the level of respect that Adams garners in the league. He is a no drama, STRONG, and self-aware big man. He’s not winning you games, but he is certainly not losing you any games. If you were drafting an all-winning culture team, Adams might be a top-10 player in the Association. –BT

127. Gordon Hayward, Charlotte Hornets

Gordon Hayward is what would happen if a suburban homeowner association were somehow also an NBA player. Aside from a 44 point explosion on January 6th, 2021, Hayward has reinvented himself as a kind of frictionless, all-purpose offensive weapon rather than the ball-dominant All-Star he showed hints of becoming in Utah. Beset by injuries and aging curves (Hayward has missed significant time in both of his two seasons in Charlotte), he now relies on veteran guile rather than sneaky-athletic pop; he’s now the guy attacking tilted defenses rather than the guy who’s actually tilting the defense. He can do everything as long as he’s not asked to do too much. –JT

126. P.J. Tucker, Philadelphia 76ers

Not many players are able to make a mark on a game, while having a limited scoring arsenal, but Tucker’ impact is unmistakable. Even at his age, Tucker continues to be one of the nastiest defenders in the NBA and a true competitor. Every team would be lucky to have Tucker on their roster, even if he isn’t able to slash through the paint the same way most players can. –BT

Nos. 125-121
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125. P.J. Washington, Charlotte Hornets

Despite his manifold skills and competencies, PJ Washington is plagued by the feeling that he’s less than the sum of his parts. At 6’7 with a 7’2 wingspan, he has the perfect frame to navigate the ever-shifting terrain of power-forward-dom. He’s an excellent floor spacer (36.5 percent on nearly five 3s per game), defender (90th percentile as a rim protector, according to BBall Index) and flexible, low-maintenance scorer (ranked above the 70th percentile in points per possession as a pick-and-roll ball-handler, spot-up shooter, pick-and-roll screener, cutter and transition scorer). So why doesn’t it feel like he’s better? –JTD

124. Keldon Johnson, San Antonio Spurs

Heading into his fourth season, Keldon Johnson is so close to being so good. If he could add a touch more shooting flexibility from deep or turn some of his floaters into layups or just grow two inches taller, he’d put himself on an All-Star trajectory. Nevertheless, a season on a bootless Spurs squad will offer plenty of opportunities for experimentation. With the Spurs openly lusting for a high draft pick, the weirder and bolder Johnson gets, the better.  –JTD

123. Brandon Clarke, Memphis Grizzlies

His game can appear as awkward to the naked eye, but Clarke’s impact on a game is noticed by his teammates. And if you sleep for a single moment on either end of the floor, he will make you pay with an offensive rebound or a defensive disruption, despite being an undersized big. He meshes well with teammates and plays the game with a really pleasing level of respect. –BT

122. Kevin Porter Jr., Houston Rockets

If I had my druthers, Kevin Porter Jr. would be so high that it would nuke any scintilla of credibility that this list has. Ignore that his efficiency was well below-average and that every reputable advanced stat has him underwater and that his stats have the substance and nutritional value of a Pringle. Instead, focus on the way that his handle wiggles on the edge of potential and kinetic energy or the way he aggressively hunts passing windows (when he feels like passing) or the way that his velveteen touch grants him access to a buffet of step-back jumpers and goofy-foot layups. –JTD

121. Spencer Dinwiddie, Dallas Mavericks

The crypto-king of the NBA, Spencer Dinwiddie, may not have been able to turn his contract into a digital asset, but he has distinguished himself as a viable glue-guy for the Mavericks. Dinwiddie was exceptional during his 2019-20 campaign in Brooklyn, and we saw glimpses of that last year. As Tim Hardaway Jr. makes his return, Dinwiddie will have a decreased role with the Mavericks, but still remains one of their better rotational players. –JC 

Nos. 120-116
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120. Bobby Portis, Milwaukee Bucks

 Portis came out of the gate last year scorching hot. In fact, he was one of the best marksmen in the league. Naturally, he slowed down in the second half, but for the better part of the last two years, Portis has ignited the Bucks in times of need. Beyond the natural scoring ability, Portis plays defense with a fiery intensity, even if the foot speed can be troublesome on the perimeter. If the Bucks want to capture another title soon, Portis will need to be a big part of that recipe. –BT

119. Harrison Barnes, Sacramento Kings

I don’t have any strong Harrison Barnes takes—I’m not a maniac. -JTD

118. Bojan Bogdanovic, Detroit Pistons

This one plays for Detroit. A casualty of Utah’s violent teardown, Bogdanovic lends the Pistons some credibility as a real NBA team rather than simply a Potemkin losing machine. Sneakily, the sharp-shooting Bogdanovic is one of the NBA’s most consistent scorers—his 3,748 points over the last three seasons are more than Jimmy Butler, Chris Paul, Anthony Davis and Paul George have notched over that same timeframe. –JTD

117. Bogdan Bogdanovic, Atlanta Hawks

This one plays in Atlanta. With the newly acquired Dejounte Murray becoming the second load-bearing presence in the Hawks’ offense, Bogdanovic should return to the bench, where he’ll anchor Atlanta’s reserves. Bogdanovic is a good player in any context, but he’s been especially productive when separated from Trae Young; last season, Bogdanovic scored 36.3 points per 100 possessions in the 568 minutes he played without Trae Young, but just 20.8 points per 100 possessions when he was alongside Young. –JTD

116. Lauri Markkanen, Utah Jazz

On my own personal list, Lauri Markkanen easily takes the top spot. What more is there really to say about the GOAT? Dirk Nowitzki incarnate, The Finnisher, Magic Markkanen, The Real Splash Mountain. I’m expecting a light 25/10/5 in Utah for Markkanen this season. [Editor’s note: Justin’s Lauri Markkanen takes don’t represent us] –JC

Nos. 115-111
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115. Robert Covington, Los Angeles Clippers

If Draymond Green invented the idea of the ultra-undersized small ball center, Robert Covington brought it to the mainstream. Over the last few years, Covington has slid down the positional spectrum, even anchoring lineups as the nominal “big” alongside the similarly sized Marcus Morris. His defense isn’t quite at the same All-Defense level it was in Philly or Houston, but remains a genius help defender because of his spatial awareness and keen instincts. –JTD

114. De’Andre Hunter, Atlanta Hawks

Even if the Hawks crapped out against the Heat in last year’s playoffs, Hunter thrived across the five game series, averaging 21.2 points per game on a blistering 67.3 percent True Shooting. Fully healthy for the first time since spring 2021, Hunter offered a glimpse of a fully realized and weaponized version of himself, a perma-mismatch who can thrive in Trae Young’s shadow. Initially hailed as a  three-and-d role player, Hunter has shown surprising scoring chops—juiceless guys don’t average more than 20 points in a playoff series. As for his regular season performance, we don’t have to talk about it! –JTD

113. Josh Hart, Portland Trail Blazers

Josh Hart’s name is well known in the league, partially because he played for the Lakers, but also because he has surprised fans with every opportunity that comes his way. He takes on tough tasks on the defensive end—and does so with pleasure. Hart finds a way to fill up the stat sheet, perhaps more than you’d expect. But beyond the box score, Hart also provides some of the intangibles that every playoff hopeful needs. –BT

112. Cole Anthony, Orlando Magic

Slowly but surely, the gulf between Cole Anthony’s production and Cole Anthony’s confidence shrinks. At this point in his career, Anthony is too unrestrained to truly be good. Still, the fact that he was only the third player in NBA history to average 16 points, five assists, five rebounds and two three-pointers per game as a 21 year old is overwhelming proof of his talent and potential. –JTD

111. Isaiah Hartenstein, New York Knicks

Let’s get nerdy for a second. According to Estimated Plus-Minus, Isaiah Hartenstein was the 35th most impactful player in the league last year; the creatively named DARKO and RAPTOR are similarly glowing, each rating Hartenstein as one of the 50 best players in the league. Although Hartenstein definitely—probably?—isn’t actually a top 50 player, he’s a lot closer than you’d think.  Whereas nearly every non-superstar has some clear deficiency, Hartenstein is a purely additive force. He’s the rare center who can backstop a defense and facilitate an offense from the elbow; he can gunk up an offense on one end and then help it sing on the other.

Nos. 110-106
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110. Terry Rozier, Charlotte Hornets

Scary Terry first made his name known when he took over for an injured Kyrie Irving and led the Celtics to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2017. After leaving Boston the next year, Rozier took his talents to Charlotte where he has been a consistent 18-20 points per game scorer. With LaMelo Ball injured to start this season, expect Rozier to have an increased role within the Hornets. –JC

109. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Denver Nuggets

The truest indication of KCP’s progress as a player is that he’s no longer a meme. Once mostly known for that time he wore an ankle monitor on the court while he was on house arrest, Caldwell-Pope has evolved into the archetypal role playing wing, winning a ring with the Lakers in 2020. He might not be a true on-ball stopper on defense, but he has the court-sense and scrappiness to compensate for that, hectoring his man away from the ball and disrupting the cadence of opposing offenses. Offensively, he’s embraced his role as a spot-up shooting specialist, letting roughly five 3s fly per game and nailing about 40 percent of them. –JTD

108. Jusuf Nurkic, Portland Trail Blazers

 It would be hard to imagine Nurkic making any incredible leaps in his future, but the former comeback player of the year has been around the league for a while now now. He won’t be changing the direction of a season or the discourse around a team, but if Nurkic found himself in the right place, he could be a very solid contributor in a couple different levels of the game. It just seems that Portland might be in a bit of a stalemate. -BT

107. Caris Levert, Cleveland Cavaliers

Levert is a bucket, an unorthodox, idiosyncratic scorer who will put up 20 points per game when given the opportunity. The problem is that it’s uncertain whether he should be given that opportunity on a good team. As such, he represents a small-scale Rohrsarch test of how to define value and utility in the NBA—how much does it matter that you can get busy with the ball in your hands if you aren’t quite at the level to warrant split custody of the ball with stars like Darius Garland and Donovan Mitchell? –JTD

106. Kevin Love, Cleveland Cavaliers

Major League Pickleball team owner Kevin Love sits squarely at 106 on our list. He may not have the impact and quick first-step (Actually he never had a quick-first step) he used to have, but the leadership and experience he brings to a locker room is second-to-none. Love’s leadership is a huge reason for the Cavs’ revival and it’ll be awesome to see him lead this squad of young studs. -JC

Nos. 105-101
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105. Mike Conley Jr., Utah Jazz

Existing in the netherregion between washed and unwashed, Michael Conley is still an eminently useful NBA player, albeit no longer the almost-All-Star he previously was. On the precipice of his age 35 season, Conley admirably downsized into a more secondary role, serving as a counterweight to Donovan Mitchell’s scoring gravity and funkily gashing defenses on the second-side . Now, though, he’s the cheese that stands alone in Utah as the roster has been gutted for the upcoming tank. It sucks—Conley deserves to be on a good team and NBA fans deserve to see Conley on a good team. Adam Silver, please do something about this immediately! –JTD

104. Josh Giddey, Oklahoma City Thunder

There are only a handful of NBA players who have Josh Giddey’s otherworldly court vision. Every time he plays, he conjures up a new batch of singularly brilliant assists, which is made doubly impressive by the fact that he’s not a particularly threatening scorer himself and rarely shares the court with multiple legitimately good players. Similarly, there’s nobody in the NBA who can match Josh Giddey’s sumptuous mane. If everything breaks right and he builds on last year’s All-Rookie Second Team campaign, call him by his new name: Himothee Chalamet. –JTD

103. Jabari Smith Jr., Houston Rockets

Have you ever wondered what it would be like if Danillo Gallinari could put opposing offenses in a chokehold? Now you don’t have to! The third pick in the 2022 Draft, Smith seems poised to become an intriguing cocktail of lights-out shooting and advanced, space-devouring defense once he adapts to the NBA. –JTD

102. Mitchell Robinson, New York Knicks

Mitchell Robinson is a heavyweight fighter with the soul of an artist. He can cram lobs and swat shots with as much force as anybody in the league, but there’s the lingering sense that he yearns for more. Namely, “I just wanna do crossovers,” he told Fred Katz of The Athletic“I ain’t gonna lie.” –JTD

101. Alex Caruso, Chicago Bulls

When I first saw Alex Caruso put on a Chicago Bulls uniform I had to clean my glasses because I was damn sure I was watching Michael Jordan. Caruso not only plays with the highest level of effort, his defensive I.Q. and leadership is unmatched. The Bulls were one of the best defensive teams in the league when Caruso and the team were fully healthy last season. If the Bulls want to win a championship, just send CarusGOAT out for 48 minutes every night. –JC

Nos. 100-96
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1oo. Jaden Ivey, Detroit Pistons

Catch Jaden Ivey on the right game and he’s a dead ringer for Ja Morant. From the moment Ivey makes his proper NBA debut, he’ll immediately be one of the most dynamic athletes in the entire NBA. Ivey needs to refine his jumper and handle, but the fourth pick in the 2022 NBA Draft is so fast that he’ll still put up numbers as he irons out his kinks on the fly. –JTD

99. Norman Powell, Los Angeles Clippers

Originally a high-energy glue guy in Toronto, Powell has evolved into the NBA’s quietest great scorer, inching closer towards 20 points per game each year. The beauty in his game is its adaptability—he doesn’t need to operate as the heavy-dribbling lodestar of a team, but he can in a pinch; he’s overqualified to set up camp in the corner, but he’ll snipe corner threes without complaint. On a Clippers team that’s defined by its array of extremely versatile, useful role-playing wings, Powell is the most versatile and useful. –JTD

98. Herb Jones, New Orleans Pelicans

Most rookies are bad at playing defense because playing defense is really, really hard. Evidently, Herb Jones never got the memo. In just his rookie season, Jones emerged as a serious All-Defense candidate, immediately proving to be an invaluable member of the Pelicans’ rotation and future core. With his quick hands and feet, he’s able to corral and mirror ball-handlers. With his awareness and feel for the game, he can wreck entire sets as an off-ball rover away from the play. Avoiding Herb is the sage thing to do; his thyme is now. –JTD

97. Derrick White, Boston Celtics

An integral guard off the bench for the Celtics, Derrick White is arguably the best basketball player in the world as long as you ignore the 96 players in the NBA who are better than him. –JTD

96. Kristaps Porzingis, Washington Wizards

Porzingis had a bad time in Dallas this past season prior to his trade to Washington. Shooting a career low from 3 but turned that around in the 17 games he played with the Wizards. If he is afforded proper spacing and can hit at a clip above 35% from 3 this is easily a top 100 player in the NBA if his body allows him to be. –Martino Puccio

Nos. 95-92
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95. Jakob Poeltl, San Antonio Spurs

Trivia time: which NBA center contested the most shots in the restricted area per game last season and held opponents 8.2 percentage points below their usual average on those looks? Jakob Poeltl, naturally. Beyond being the namesake of a neat little computer game, Poeltl is legitimately one of the most disruptive defenders in basketball, complementing his fearsome rim protection with surprising mobility. Originally a Raptor before he was marooned out in San Antonio, Poeltl has been the victim of bad timing—when he was on good teams earlier in his career, he was too raw to really register, but now that he’s an All-Defense caliber defender, his team is too bad to support his case. –JTD

94. Gary Trent Jr., Toronto Raptors

When Masai Ujiri shook up Toronto’s roster at the 2021 trade deadline, he acquired young sharp shooter Gary Trent Jr. from the Trail Blazers, who immediately stepped into a higher volume role with the Raptors than he had in Portland. A career 38% from three, Trent might even win the shooting competition if given the chance. Trent will break out this year as a Most Improved Player candidate. –MP

93. Christian Wood, Dallas Mavericks

Christian Wood is a prime example of how the NBA big man prototype has changed. At his size, Wood is able do a lot of things very well throughout the course of an NBA season. He isn’t the flashiest name on this list, but Woods’ production is undeniable. If you aren’t aware of what Wood can do, you haven’t been paying attention. An early favorite to win 6th Man of the Year, Wood could approach 20 points per game as Luka Doncic’s main pick-and-roll partner in Dallas. –BT

92. Seth Curry, Brooklyn Nets

If not for his more famous brother, Seth Curry would potentially be the best shooter in the NBA. –JTD

91. Jae Crowder, Phoenix Suns (for now)

If you want to make the NBA finals, all you have to do is sign Jae Crowder. After signing with the Heat, they shocked the world and advanced to the finals in the bubble, and after signing with the Suns the same result followed. Crowder has been vocal in wanting to leave Phoenix, so don’t be surprised to see him traded this season. –JC

Nos. 90-86
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90. Jonas Valanciunas, New Orleans Pelicans

In an era where big men seem to grow quicker and weedier by the month, Jonas Valanciunas still succeeds by being possibly the strongest man alive. Even if Valanciunas is too ground-bound to be an elite center, he’s carved out a niche terrorizing the NBA’s more waifish centers. In recent years, Valanciunas has served as the resident heavy on the Memphis Grizzlies and New Orleans Pelicans, protecting two of the NBA’s brightest young stars in the process. But whereas most enforcers don’t have the capacity to do anything more than appear scary, Valanciunas is tremendously skilled; only Nikola Jokic and Joel Embiid were more prolific post-up scorers than Valanciunas last year. –JTD

89. Miles Bridges, Charlotte Hornets (kinda)

Miles Bridges shouldn’t be in the NBA.   –JTD

88. Brook Lopez, Milwaukee Bucks –

 When the Bucks made their Championship run in 2021, the Atlanta Hawks series brought a lot of adversity. Giannis suffered a nasty looking hyperextension and the Bucks Championship dreams were crushed. That was until Lopez decided to remind everyone of what he is capable of doing. Rediscovering the post game that made him a prolific scorer earlier in his career, Lopez finished with 33 points and gave the Bucks life. Last season was a bit of a drop off for the former All-Defensive Team selection, but it is indisputable that he will have games this season where he reminds people AGAIN what he has in his bag. –BT

87. Clint Capela, Atlanta Hawks

Capela has subtly shaped the current crop of big men in his own image. Daniel Gafford, Mitchell Robinson, Jaxson Hayes, Robert Williams III: all direct descendants of the shot-blocking, vertical-spacing style that Capela helped mainstream during his team with the Rockets. Now serving as Trae Young’s personal attaché in Atlanta, Capela supplies a necessary jolt of interior muscle to an otherwise perimeter-oriented Hawks team. At times, he alone seems to keep Atlanta’s defense respectable—during their Eastern Conference Finals run in 2021, Atlanta’s defensive rating was 8.3 points lower with Capela on the court, per Cleaning the Glass. -JT

86. Grant Williams, Boston Celtics

One of the best defenders in basketball is yet again on the Boston Celtics. This past year Grant improved substantially from 3, shooting 41% and 48% from the field with a career high in attempts. He won’t kill you on the offensive end but the value he brings on defensive plus, his improved shooting makes him a key weapon for Boston. –MP

Nos. 85-81
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85. Kyle Kuzma, Washington Wizards

Towards the end of last season, Kuzma’s on-court play finally escaped the shadow of his massive sweater sleeves. With Bradley Beal sidelined for most of the second half of the season, Kuzma assumed the mantle of the Wizards’ go-to guy and acquitted himself extremely well. Over his final 37 games, Kuzma pieced together the best individual stretch of his career, averaging 20.6 points, 9.1 rebounds and 4.1 assists. Compared to his the cowed, uncertain version of Kuzma that uneasily coexisted alongside Lebron James and Anthony Davis in LA, his first season in DC was Kuz at his uninhibited best. –JTD

84. Paolo Banchero, Orlando Magic

“The most basic explanation for Paolo Banchero’s appeal is that he’s more skilled than just about anybody who’s bigger than him and bigger than just about anybody who’s more skilled than him. Even as the NBA charges into its age of monsters, he’s built different; 6’10, 250-pound teenagers shouldn’t be able to pass, dribble, and shoot with his level of fluency.” I bet whoever wrote that back in June is a handsome genius. –JTD

83. Malcolm Brogdon, Boston Celtics

There was never a question of how good Malcolm Borgdon is, but rather how long he can stay on the court. This summer’s trade to Boston will see him have a lesser role than he had in Indiana, but when he is on the court his impact will be significant on both ends. If he can manage to play over 60 games this season with around 14 points, 4 rebounds and 5 assists per game, it’ll be a boon for Boston. –MP 

82. Cam Johnson, Phoenix Suns

“Cam Johnson would always have a high baseline level of utility because of his size and shooting touch, but his canniness and shot versatility is what separates him from the Pat Connaughtons and Georges Niangs of the world; he’s a good shooter in a variety of contexts, making him a roving, mobile weapon rather than merely a stationary spot-up threat. In this sense, Johnson is the NBA’s Bud Light Lime, an outwardly prosaic, generically decent option, but with a twist that elevates him towards greatness.” Wow, even dating back to last February, that handsome genius doesn’t miss! –JTD

81. Dillon Brooks, Memphis Grizzlies

To a lot of fans, the Memphis Grizzlies shot out of a cannon last year. But if you watched the team in the seasons leading up, it shouldn’t really have come as a surprise. Even when Ja Morant misses time, this team wins games. On a night to night basis, Dillon Brooks is an important member of this core. In addition to providing a nasty attitude on the defensive end, Brooks can provide some much needed scoring from three point land and at the rim. –BT

Nos. 80-76
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80. Nikola Vucevic, Chicago Bulls

Nikola Vucevic has had an interesting career arc to say the least. He went from criminally underrated in Orlando to equally overrated, in the eyes of some Bulls fans,. Yes, Vuc lacks defense prowess, but he remains one of the better offensive bigs in the league. I’m not sure if Vuc will ever hit the 20 points per game mark again, but he still a viable center. –JC

79. Franz Wagner, Orlando Magic

The last time a German Wagner pieced so many different styles and expertises together to create a gesamtkunstwerk this beautiful and unexpected, Der Ring des Nibelungen was being performed at the grand opening of the Bayreuth Festspielhaus in 1876. Yikes, this analogy got away from me. My bad. Anyways, Wagner—Franz, that is—was a revelation for the Orlando Magic as a rookie, showcasing an uncommon amount of perimeter skill and savvy for a 6’10 forward. Alongside fellow Top 137ers Banchero and Wendell Carter Jr., Wagner is an elemental piece of the NBA’s most promising and most unique frontcourt. –JTD

78. Dorian Finney-Smith, Dallas Mavericks

Outside of Luka Doncic, Finney-Smith was arguably the Mav most responsible for Dallas’ shocking Western Conference Finals appearance last spring. I’m sure that there are other NBAers who could handle the responsibility of guarding Donovan Mitchell, Devin Booker and Klay Thompson for three straight playoff series while also nailing 42.6 percent of their six 3s per game, but I’m having a hard time thinking of them.  –JTD

77. Kyle Lowry, Miami Heat

The intangibles are great; the aging curve for portly, small guards is considerably less kind. By the time the Heat reached the Eastern Conference Finals, Lowry had completely broken down—across his 10 games in the playoffs, Lowry averaged just 7.8 points on less than 30 percent shooting. No matter how propulsive your passing is or how scrappily you defend, you need to be able to make good shit happen when you have the ball; the last time we saw Lowry, he couldn’t.  –JTD

76. Anfernee Simons, Portland Trail Blazers

Few players had a breakout season like the young Anfernee Simons did last year. With Damian Lillard sidelined with injuries, Simons took over the Blazers offense and was electric. He put up streaks of 20+ points while helping dictate the pace of the offense. Although Dame will be back this year, Simons should be getting plenty of spotlight. –JC

Nos. 75-71
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75. RJ Barrett, New York Knicks

RJ has the potential to become an All-star if he puts it together on the offensive side of the ball. Some of his percentages decreased but his volume went up overall. I expect more efficient looks with Jalen Brunson coming into the fold and if his free throw shooting improves RJ will be one of the better 3rd options in the East. –MP

74. Russell Westbrook, Los Angeles Lakers

Missing shots isn’t a moral failing; turnovers don’t make you a bad person. Lost in all the concern-trolling and outright hatred that’s been directed at Westbrook is the basic fact that Westbrook was actually pretty good for most of last season. Bad players don’t average 18.5 points, 7.4 rebounds and 7.1 assists per game in an off year! While the three-point shooting is gross and he should probably shoot less overall, even late-stage Westbrook is a tremendously gifted slasher and passer; besides Ja Morant, no other guard generates paint touches as reliably as Westbrook does. When Westbrook has the ball, he has the power to completely reshape the defense—his drives force rotations, which create open shots for his teammates. Despite last year’s misery, the Lebron James-Anthony Davis-Russell Westbrook experiment in LA can still—and will—work. –JTD

73. Aaron Gordon, Denver Nuggets

Beyond being the slam dunk contest GOAT, Gordon has become the kind of sturdy, dependable player that Denver needs alongside Nikola Jokic. Supplying some of the athletic ballast that Denver’s roster mostly lacks, Gordon’s cutting and multi-positional defense tie the best Nuggets lineups together. -JTD

72. D’Angelo Russell, Minnesota Timberwolves

D’Angelo Russell almost never gets to the rim, aborting drives before he can unsettle a defense in a truly meaningful way. His efficiency isn’t commensurate with his usage, in large part because he can’t reliably create easy looks for himself. Defensively, he’s pretty bad. But, still, Russell possesses an ineffable charisma that supersedes all of that, making him one of the NBA’s most enigmatic players. –JT

71. OG Anunoby, Toronto Raptors

I dream of OG. With the Raptors, Anunoby is a foundational member of their post postmodern frontcourt, a collection of sun-blotting hellions who beat down opponents over 48 exhausting minutes. Scottie Barnes is the new hotness and Pascal Siakam is the current alpha, but Anunoby shows flashes of being a true two-way apex predator. In the right slant of light, Anunoby looks downright Kawhi-ish—the big hands, the rigid economy of his iso bag, the enveloping one-on-one defense are all elements pulled straight from a Kawhi Leonard starter kit. –JT

Nos. 70-66
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70. John Collins, Atlanta Hawks

John Collins is one of the best roll men alive, yet he spends more of his time floating around the perimeter than he does savaging the rim—last season, he only ended 2.7 possessions per game as a roller, but took 3.3 spot-up jumpers a game. To a degree, Collins has been punished for the breadth of his talents; somebody in the Hawks’ mega big front court has to space the floor and it sure isn’t going to be Clint Capela. As such, Collins has been forced to wear the hair shirt, sacrificing his preferred usages for the good of the team. In 2019-2020, Collins averaged a monstrously efficient 21.6 points per game, in large part because of his proficiency as a roller, post scorer, and offensive rebounder. Now, he does all of these markedly less often. John Collins needs to be allowed to do John Collins things again. –JTD

69. Jalen Green, Houston Rockets

After riding the struggle bus for most of his rookie campaign, Green went ballistic over his last nine games, averaging more than 29 points on torrid 62 percent True Shooting. Heading into his second season, Green has solidified himself as one of the NBA’s most electric young scorers. It sounds silly and simplistic, but Green just moves faster than everybody else, as if Adam Silver legislated that Green—and Green alone—were allowed to play in rollerblades. This burst is the bedrock for Green’s offensive attack. It’s how he can create space for a jumper against even the tightest coverage, or how he can scythe away defenders with rudimentary crossovers or easily snake into a heavily congested lane. On a Rockets team with no vested interest in winning games, Green has the potential to be the highest-scoring shooting guard in the entire NBA as a sophomore. –JTD

68. Jerami Grant, Portland Trail Blazers

Players on bad teams often devalued because their usage wouldn’t translate on a better team, but Jerami has done everything that was asked of him and has met expectations. A player that averages nearly 20 PPG on 35% from 3 can play on my team any day of the week. –MP

67. Tyler Herro, Miami Heat

Confidence is key in the NBA, and Tyler Herro is not lacking any of that. After helping the Heat make a finals appearance during the 2020 bubble, Herro has only gotten better, winning the Sixth Man of the Year award last season. I hope Herro will get an opportunity for more playing time this season, but that is up to Erik Spoelstra.  –JC

66. Jalen Brunson, New York Knicks

If you told me as a sophomore in high school that the starting captain of our basketball team would go on to sign a $100+ million dollar contract, I wouldn’t be surprised, because Jalen Brunson has always been that good. Earning McDonald’s All-American, Gatorade Player of the Year, two national championships, and a national player of the year award all before reaching the NBA, he was still slept on by scouts and fans. Frankly, he still is. I can’t wait to see Brunson put on a show in MSG this season. –JC

Nos. 65-61
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65. Tobias Harris, Philadelphia 76ers

Anyone who has watched the NBA and has seen Tobias Harris knows his talent. I expect the volume to go down with a healthier Harden and improved Maxey but the potential to fill the stat sheet will be there for Harris who can provide that in a few different roles. In any case, around 15 points, four rebounds and four assists per game from your 4th best player is pretty damn good. -MP 

64. Klay Thompson, Golden State Warriors

Amongst this list of 137 best NBA players, I can’t imagine there is a player who has moved more in the last two years than Thompson. It feels cruel to say, but the reality is that he is not the top 15 player he once was. With that said, everyone is rooting for him to become that guy again and maybe with more time under his legs, Thompson can return to that superstar form. We could look back on this ranking by the end of the season and laugh. In his diminished state, he was still a contributing starter on a Championship team, which is a triumph on its own. –BT 

63. Julius Randle, New York Knicks

Everybody needs to be nicer to Julius Randle. Despite the protestations of RJ Barrett stans and Obi Toppin-ites, Julius Randle is still the undisputed top dog on the Knicks; to be fair, though, being the top dog on the Knicks isn’t exactly a super high bar—it’s like being the best dunker in the New York Philharmonic. Just 18 months ago, Randle was feted as the Knicks’ savior, but his jumper has since evaporated and he’s has struggled to settle into a more appropriate role. For what it’s worth, in the preseason, Randle seemed to have shed some of the ball-stopping and mid-range chuckery that plagued him last year, suggesting that the arrival of Jalen Brunson has nudged his game in the right direction. JTD

62. Lonzo Ball, Chicago Bulls

Me when Lonzo is healthy :). Me when Lonzo is hurt :(. I have been 🙁 more than 🙂 during Lonzo’s tenure with the Chicago Bulls. –JC

61. Myles Turner, Indiana Pacers

The promise of Myles Turner as a shot-blocking, three-sniping stretch big is intoxicating enough that it’s worth riding the sinusoidal wave of his inconsistent play. –JTD

Nos. 60-56
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60. Michael Porter Jr., Denver Nuggets

The jumper is so pure and the off-ball movement is so defense-warping that it’s possible to look past the fact that Michael Porter Jr. has a supremely borked spinal cord and gets covid every few months like the Brazilian president. –JTD

59. Mikal Bridges, Phoenix Suns

If you want to win a championship, or even be considered a contender, you need guys like Mikal Bridges. He is one of the best young three-and-d players in the league today, earning All-Defensive First Team honors last season. Bridges has improved every season since entering the league and this could be a huge year for him. –JC

58. Jordan Poole, Golden State Warriors

Considering the infectious, obvious delight that Poole takes in stunting on defenders, it’s kind of a miracle that he doesn’t get punched more often; Poole hoops like his crush’s boyfriend is guarding him and she’s watching from the sidelines. In his first season as an important member of Golden State’s rotation, Poole was a revelation—his cavalier ball-handling and aggression is a necessary element for an offense that largely relies on off-ball movement and clever passing. –JTD

57. Al Horford, Boston Celtics

Al had a resurgence returning to Boston last season whilst being one of their postseason heroes. He earns this spot due to his defensive versatility and improved shooting. The only question that arises is how much that one year sitting in OKC effected his energy levels, if he can maintain his postseason level for a whole year, it’ll be a massive boost for Boston’s title chances. –MP

56. CJ McCollum, New Orleans Pelicans

After playing Robin to Damian Lillard’s Batman in Portland for his whole career, Mccollum was shipped out to the New Orleans Pelicans. He has been a great fit, becoming a much needed veteran presence for the young team. Mccollum has always been underrated, and at moments shows shot-making ability that rivals the likes of Khris Middleton (Bo won’t like that one). –JC

Nos. 55-51
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55. Desmond Bane, Memphis Grizzlies

Like his biceps, Desmond Bane’s game grows with each month. In his second season, Bane became a pillar of a top five offense, moving beyond the catch-and-shoot, quaternary ball-handler role he occupied as a rookie. His shooting is the kind of defense-rearranging weapon that every offense needs and he’s able to wend his way into clean looks in a variety of contexts. The next step for him will be to ramp up his second-side playmaking to become the ideal complement to Ja Morant.  –JTD

54. Marcus Smart, Boston Celtics

Defensive player of the year on the NBA’s best defensive team is a great feat to accomplish. He can defend wings and bigs on occasion and do it well. He has become a respectable 3-point shooter and valuable playmaker for the Celtics which helps him land within the top 60. –MP

53. Domantas Sabonis, Sacramento Kings

He may not play for a big market franchise, but Sabonis gets his roses from NBA fans. Even on a losing team, Sabonis finds a way to produce at a really high level. His game is hard to describe at times, but he is certainly effective. The expectations for him most likely have a ceiling this year, but NBA fans can only hope we see him in a different environment in the future. –BT

52. Scottie Barnes, Toronto Raptors

The Toronto Raptors were able to win a championship in 2019 with the one-year loan of Kawhi Leonard, and after that no one was sure what direction the franchise would go. If they were in a rebuild, that might be over now because Scottie Barnes is ready for the big time already. An elite defender, Barnes is the defending Rookie of the Year and could reach an All-Star level year this year. –JC

51. Tyrese Haliburton, Indiana Pacers

After joining the Pacers at the trade deadline, Haliburton proved that the “connector” label no longer applied to him; he’s a flat-out star. In his 26 games in Indy, Haliburton averaged 17.5 points and 9.6 assists per game on 62.9 percent True Shooting. At times, his passing genius seemed utterly incongruent with the scrappy hardos who filled out the rest of the Pacers’ tank-tastic rotation, like Stephen Hawking doing a long division Mad Minute. If Steph Curry shatters defenses with his shooting, Haliburton does so with his passing. Against Haliburton, all five defenders have to stay on high-alert—or else the ball is whizzing past their head to an open Pacer. –JTD

Nos. 50-46
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50. Tyrese Maxey, Philadelphia 76ers

A complete list of guys who averaged more than 17 points per game on better than 59 percent True Shooting in their age-21 season: Tyrese Maxey, Trae Young and Michael Jordan. Seems good. –JTD

49. Andrew Wiggins, Golden State Warriors

Stepping up in the biggest postseason of his life and shutting down Jayson Tatum in the NBA Finals was sensational for Andrew Wiggins. Add in his improved 3 point efficency and his All-Star Game start, he is finally fulfilling his potential as a two-way threat in the NBA. Wiggins has finally arrived. -MP

48. Deandre Ayton, Phoenix Suns

It has been a bizarre two years for Ayton. For stretches, people argued that he was an undeniable piece in the Phoenix Suns’ future. In other stretches, he was absent entirely. Now in 2022, Ayton finds himself in a position to continue to play with a contending Suns team, unhappily bound to them on a maxed contract by the legalities of restricted free agency. –BT

47. Robert Williams III, Boston Celtics

More than Jayson Tatum’s purported breakout season or Marcus Smart’s “Defensive Player of the Year” season or whatever awful voodoo magic makes Boston teams good at every sport, Robert Williams was the root of Boston’s midseason turnaround into a basketball supernova. The near-future of NBA defense will be heavily indebted to Timelord—his switch from a traditional rim protector to a souped-up low man could prove to be the most influential schematic shift in the NBA’s last few years. JTD

46. Jarrett Allen, Cleveland Cavaliers

Based on his permanent smile and perfect afro, Jarrett may look like a funny guy who poses no real threat. Behind that contagious smile is one of the most elite rim protectors in the NBA. Allen has steadily averaged over one block per game his entire career, and put up over 10 rebounds per game last season. Don’t challenge Jarrett Allen at the rim, because the ball will probably be blocked into the 3rd row. –JC

Nos. 45-41
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45. Evan Mobley, Cleveland Cavaliers

While Robert Williams and the Celtics pioneered the idea of the game-breaking low man, Mobley is poised to perfect it. Even if he shamefully didn’t win Rookie of the Year last season, Mobley is a transformational presence in Cleveland, single handedly changing the franchise’s trajectory. It’s his immediate goodness that empowered them to trade for Donovan Mitchell—Mobley is the kind of multi-purpose defensive sin-eater who can compensate for any leaks on the perimeter. As of right now, Mobley’s defense is far ahead of his offense, but his 15.0 points per game as a rookie are representative of a level of skill and coordination that will become even more apparent as he grows stronger and more confident. –JTD

44. De’Aaron Fox, Sacramento Kings

Some situations are difficult and none are quite like the Kings, Fox has proven time and time again how he makes them competitive despite them lacking some talent. In 10 games with Sabonis last year, Fox averaged nearly 29 points per game, perhaps a good omen for a breakout year. –MP

43. Cade Cunningham, Detroit Pistons

Hall of Famer. That’s Cade’s future and I have been sure of this since his college days and this year is only going to be further proof of it. He is going to be better in every single aspect and is going to have the Pistons in many games this season. I expect over 20 points, five rebounds and five assists per game from Cade this year with the help of Ivey playing off of him. -MP

42. Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors

Draymond Green may get more press for his face-punching and trash talking, but it’s undeniable what he brings to a team. Every championship team needs someone who’s gonna do the dirty work. At the end of the day, Draymond is to Golden State what Rodman was to the Bulls, and you don’t want to lose that. –JC

41. Fred Van Vleet, Toronto Raptors

 It is truly incredible that Fred Van Vleet finds his way onto this list. He has none of the physical attributes that these other stars have, yet here he is and deservedly so. It will be difficult for the Toronto Raptors to compete in this Eastern Conference, but there is no doubt that Van Vleet will continue to ball and be a competitive thorn in the asses of the Eastern powerhouses. 

Nos. 40-36
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40. Dejounte Murray, Atlanta Hawks

Coming over from San Antonio in a blockbuster deal, Murray is the best teammate that Trae Young has ever had. Murray has always been one of the scariest, most tentacular defensive guards in the world, but last year he emerged as an offensive force as well. Entrusted with complete control of the Spurs’ offense for the first time, Murray amped up both his volume and efficiency, posting career highs in points (21.1 per game), assists (9.2) and True Shooting (53.3 percent, which is still pretty bad but whatever). Where Murray was overtaxed as a primary ball-handler, he’ll be a potent release valve in the Hawks’ offense, darting through the crevices that Trae Young cracks open. If Atlanta returns to the Conference Finals like they did in 2021, it’ll be because of the way that Murray unlocks the rest of their roster.  –JTD

39. Jaren Jackson Jr., Memphis Grizzlies

Jackson Jr. is going to miss the start of the season as he battles back from another injury in his early career. When he came into the league, there was a consensus that he could be a very good player. What we didn’t know was the he would turn into one of the best rim protectors in the league, this quickly. Combine that with Jackson Jr.’s knack for knocking down perimeter shots, and you have one of the more interesting under 25 players in the NBA. –BT

38. Lamelo Ball, Charlotte Hornets

Don’t mistake Lamelo Ball’s sizzle for an absence of steak. While Ball has earned a reputation as a feckless showman, he’s also a winner. In his first two years in Charlotte, Ball single-handedly turned the Hornets from an anonymous also-ran into an exciting squad on the brink of the playoffs. Last year, he built on his Rookie of the Year debut to make his All-Star debut. More than his capacity to do cool shit, Ball is so special because of the multiplicative effect that his cool shit has on the rest of his team. For Ball to graduate from All-Star to All-NBA status, though, he’ll need to become a much better finisher at the rim; Ball has an alarming paucity of pop, forcing him to try to unspool spinny prayers around shot-blockers where a bouncier guard could opt for something simpler. –JTD

37. Brandon Ingram, New Orleans Pelicans

Maybe the most underappreciated player in the league today, Ingram has averaged 23 points per game on 46% from the field and 38% from 3pt territory since joining NOLA while still being a serviceable defender. He’s not Kevin Durant 2.0 (because no one is) but I’ll be damned if Brandon Ingram isn’t in this conversation of top 40 NBA players. –MP

36. Jamal Murray, Denver Nuggets

Jamal Murray was on a quick ascension to basketball immortality after helping the Nuggets come back from a 3-1 series deficit not once, but twice in the bubble. Unfortunately, his glow-up was put on pause by an ACL injury in the spring of 2021 that held him out for the last 20 months. Now that Murray is healthy, he’ll once again form one the NBA’s deadliest duos with Nikola Jokic. –JC

Nos. 35-31
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35. Anthony Edwards, Minnesota Timberwolves

Anthony Edwards is not only a generational talent in the NBA—he’s one of the funniest players as well. Every interview featuring Ant is followed by some outrageously hilarious comment, like this viral clip from his rookie year. If Ant can keep progressing, the sky’s the limit. 

34. Darius Garland, Cleveland Cavaliers

The three most important skills for being a good NBA point guard are  pull-up shooting, live-dribble passing, and being a cool dude. Darius Garland is among the NBA’s best at all three. During his breakout third season, Garland was the beating heart of the Cavs, asserting himself as a nightly 25 point, 10 assist guy after the All-Star break. There’s a pleasing ambivalence about him, an urge to hunt highlights but also a keen understanding of how defensive schemes work and how to attack them—he’s like a breakdancing chess master or a professor who can do a kickflip. Either way, whether he’s chaining together dribble moves that would give Bob Cousy a stroke or Nash dribbling to open up a passing lane, he’s electric.-JTD

33. Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards

Bradley Beal said his biggest fear is not giving himself a chance to win—and then proceeded to sign a five year max-contract with the Wizards. He’s still one of the best scorers in the NBA and will keep the Wizards in playoff contention for the next couple of years. –JC

32. Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota Timberwolves

 Last season was a massive year for the Kentucky product. For what seemed like the first time, Anthony-Towns got a level of respect from the NBA community. This year could present some new opportunities for Towns, who will play alongside a fierce rim protector in Rudy Gobert. He completely embodies the modern era of NBA big men and it will be pleasant to see him back up an impressive 2021-2022 campaign. –BT

31. Zach Lavine, Chicago Bulls

Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Zach Lavine. Those are the only three players in NBA history to hit 13 or more threes in a game. Although Lavine saw a dip in three-point production last year, his 2020-21 campaign was phenomenal, taking 8.2 threes a game while hitting at a 41.9% rate. If Lavine can get his three-point touch back to this level, he and DeRozan become an even filthier duo on the offensive side of the ball. –JC

Nos. 30-26
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30. Pascal Siakam, Toronto Raptors  

No other elite NBA player lets you see them sweat as much as Pascal Siakam. There’s nothing easy or effortless about him. Whereas other players seem to naturally fall into gaudy stat lines, when Siakam makes you appreciate how difficult it truly is to average 22.8 points, 8.5 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game. His bag is built on persistence more than panache—he doesn’t knife or glide to the hoop as much as he staggers, staging an awkward choreography of pivots and lurches until he creates enough space to score. Even on defense, his goodness is derived from his constant motion—just look at the way he sprints out to shooters and back to the rim or barrels through a passing lane. This is purely an aesthetic matter, but it clouds Siakam’s public perception all the same; Siakam is every bit as good as smoother operators like Paul George or Brandon Ingram, even if he doesn’t hold that same Hooper clout. –JTD

29. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Oklahoma City Thunder

Nothing Shai Gilgeous-Alexander does “matters,” but that doesn’t make it any less impressive. By virtue of having the same elusive quality as the scary ghost baby monster in Game of Thrones, SGA is impossible to contain off the dribble. Not even the cramped badness of the Thunder’s offense could contain him—last year, Gilgeous-Alexander led the NBA with 23.9 drives per game. On a better team, Gilgeous-Alexander would be as celebrated as just about any young star in the league; the only difference between Gilgeous-Alexander and, say, Donovan Mitchell is that Mitchell has spent his career playing for teams that valued him rather than resenting him for the unforgivable sin of helping them win games. –JTD

28. DeMar Derozan, Chicago Bulls

DeMar DeRozan is the single reason for giving me life as a Chicago Bulls fan. Before Deebo, the last 4 years of Bulls basketball has been uninspired play backed by a starting lineup of tank drivers that the Utah Jazz couldn’t even lose to. Thank you, DeMar, for making Chicago Bulls basketball fun again. –JC

27. Khris Middleton, Milwaukee Bucks

After getting injured during last year’s playoffs, Middleton may have fallen on a lot of these lists. He disappears for chunks of games and doesn’t have the loudest game in general. However it is almost a given that at some point this year, Middleton will have a 40+ point game where fans ask, “do we underrate Khris Middleton?” And the answer is probably yes. –BT

26. Chris Paul, Phoenix Suns

One of the greatest point guards to ever live, Chris Paul just consistently wins you basketball games. CP3 has aged like a fine wine over the years as he’s continuously refined his already near-flawless skillset. –MP

Nos. 25-21
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25. Paul George, Los Angeles Clippers

Perhaps more than anyone on this list, Paul George has every tool you could ask from a player. There is nothing you could point to and say, “that is his kryptonite.” George has made it abundantly clear that he is the number two to Kawhi Leonard. This year could be a major year to boost George’s resume. –BT

24. Jrue Holiday, Milwaukee Bucks 

If an NBA fan was to ever argue the importance of voting based awards, point them in the direction of Jrue Holiday as a counterpoint. Holiday hasn’t and will not win a defensive player of the year award, but every guard in the league knows the stress that Holiday brings. Every time an opposing ball handler dribbles, they are taking a massive gamble. Outside of Kyrie Irving, Holiday also has one of the most impressive off-hands in the NBA. He is the least decorated star on this list, but is respected by his peers in a way that most fans aren’t aware of. If Kevin Durant calls him the best wing defender in the NBA, I believe him. –BT

23. Ben Simmons, Brooklyn Nets

Yeah, yeah, I know—Ben Simmons hasn’t played basketball in nearly 18 months and the last time he did, he had a mental health crisis. But all the memeage and mockery obscures the fact that Simmons is, was, and will be awesome. Very few NBAers are Simmons’s peers as a playmaker, defender or athlete; no NBAer this side of prime Lebron James has ever blended those three disparate skill sets with as much grace as Simmons. On the court, he’s the rare player with an innate understanding of the mechanics of basketball and the athleticism to bend them to his will. And as a result, he’s held to an impossible standard—when you can do so many things, people expect you to do everything. It doesn’t matter that Simmons can’t shoot, the same way it doesn’t matter that Embiid can’t run a pick-and-roll or that a refrigerator isn’t also a school bus. Now on a Nets team that’s so gnarled with talent and neuroses that Simmons’ own problems blend into the background, hopefully Simmons’s greatness can have the space to be appreciated on its own terms. –JTD

22. Kyrie Irving, Brooklyn Nets

Please keep your family and friends safe this flu season and get vaccinated. –JC

21. Donovan Mitchell, Cleveland Cavaliers

Since the invention of the 3-point line, Michael Jordan, Allen Iverson and Vince Carter are the only guards to average more points over their first five seasons than Donovan Mitchell. In this sense, Mitchell gets buckets with uncommon ease and élan—most guys who are as athletic as Mitchell can’t replicate his lethal pull-up shooting; most guys as skilled as Mitchell don’t win dunk contests. –JTD

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20. Jaylen Brown, Boston Celtics

For his playoff performances alone, Jaylen Brown thrust himself into the conversation of a top 25 player in the NBA. No moment is too big for him and he will continue to flourish as he enters his prime years in the NBA. The picture of consistency, Brown will get over 23 points per game, hit multiple threes a game and play top tier defense. –MP

19. Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers

When we look back at what players helped revolutionize the three-point line, Damian Lillard has to be in the discussion. His ability to knockdown what is considered the ‘deep’ three rivals the likes of any shooter in NBA history. After being sidelined with injuries last season, Dame will be coming back with a vengeance. –JC

18. Rudy Gobert, Minnesota Timberwolves

During his six-year tenure as Utah’s anchor and franchise lodestar, Rudy Gobert has found his niche as the NBA’s least superstarry superstar. The most dominant defensive presence of his generation, Gobert practically guarantees a top ten defense with his mere presence—beyond being able to shut down an opposing offense on any given night, Gobert has proven that he’s even able to shut down the entire league. Now with the Timberwolves, Gobert is the central figure in the NBA’s most exciting and most daring team-building experiment, providing the defensive ballast to complement Anthony Edwards’ and Karl-Anthony Towns’ offensive production. -JTD

17. Bam Adebayo, Miami Heat

 If things go according to plan this year, the Miami Heat will be competing amongst the top dogs in the East come next May. For the last few years, they have been able to do so with disciplined offense and a grinding defensive mindset. That defensive presence does not happen without Bam Adebayo. There are very few people on this planet who can effectively defend the likes of Anthony Davis and Giannis, but Adebayo is one of them. If you have a superstar big man, the Heat have an answer. And his name is Bam Adebayo. –BT

16. Devin Booker, Phoenix Suns

Not many 25 year olds have accumulated the amount of points and playoff experience that Booker has. He had his lulls during the last post-season, but that is somewhat expected with most young stars. One thing is for sure, when Booker is cooking – he reaches boiling temperatures. Look across the league and you will be hard pressed to find a player able to fill it up the way Booker can. That sense of scoring will persevere in his future, even if it comes with occasional slow periods. –BT

Nos. 15-11
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15. Trae Young, Atlanta Hawks

Amongst Resistance-type people in 2017ish, there was a whole genre of lame Tweets about how it’s important that we don’t collectively normalize conduct that’s never been normal in American history. The same could be said about Trae Young—it’s shocking and unfair that a guy who puts up such ludicrous statlines has been met with such little fanfare. In this sense, Young is undeniably one of the best offensive guards to ever pick up a basketball; last season, he averaged 28.4 points and 9.7 assists per game while maintaining above-average efficiency on a vertiginously difficult diet of shots. Young’s defense and general smallness prevent him from entering the NBA’s most rarefied circles, but, as the league’s resident troll king, he’s perfectly content to lob stones and alley-oops as an outsider.  –JTD

14. Ja Morant, Memphis Grizzlies

From a purely aesthetic and entertainment perspective, Ja Morant would top this list. But as tempting it is to key in on the time he jumped over Kevin Love or detonated on Jakob Poeltl or turned Malik Beasley’s bones to dust or stole Avery Bradley’s soul, Morant evolved from a “budding star” into a bona fide MVP candidate because of the way that he filled out the margins between the highlights. Crucially, he realized that if nobody can stop him from getting to the rim, he should simply always get to the rim; despite being a spindly 6’3, he led the league with 16.6 points in the paint per game. Like all the best guards, Morant has an internal rubric for whatever coverage is thrown his way—he turns drop coverage into a runway to embarrass whatever poor galoot is waiting for him at the rim; his jumper is now to make going under screens painful; hedging is a non-starter, lest he split the defense like a wishbone. Last season, Morant’s talent and sheer force of will turned Memphis from an exciting oddity into one of the best teams in the league. Now, he’s looking to run up some more chimneys. –JTD

13. Zion Williamson, New Orleans Pelicans

Asking someone to guard Zion Williamson seems like it should be an OSHA violation. Although Williamson has played in just 85 out of 226 games since he was drafted in 2019 and missed all of last season with some nebulous foot injury, those 85 games have been transcendent. To zero in even more, the unveiling of “Point Zion” over the final 39 games in 2021 was utterly game breaking. During this stretch, Williamson transitioned from an All-Star caliber play finisher to an All-History caliber initiator, bombarding the paint on his way to 28.9 points, 7.2 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game on 65.5 percent True Shooting. When healthy, Williamson is essentially Shaq with a crossover or Giannis Antetokounmpo but the muscled density of a black hole. –JTD

12. Anthony Davis, Los Angeles Lakers 

Obviously there is the elephant in the room that needs to be mentioned with Anthony Davis, and that is the inconsistent availability. But when you decide to remove that variable, he is as lethal of a weapon as almost anyone. Of course, he has the luxury of playing alongside LeBron, and that has to make life a little easier for Davis. But if the Lakers want to compete for another Championship, Davis will need to play more like a Batman than a Robin. –BT

11. James Harden, Philadelphia 76ersJames Harden isn’t washed. He’s not even close to being washed, unless putting up 21 points, 10.5 assists and 7.1 rebounds on well above-average efficiency while nursing a messed-up hamstring and adapting to an entirely new system on the fly somehow qualifies as washed. And that’s his floor. Now with a summer to regain the burst that abandoned him during last year’s playoffs and a roster retooled to fit his sensibility, Harden will once again look like James Harden. –JTD

Nos. 10-6
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10. Jimmy Butler, Miami Heat

“More than his sturdy 6’8 frame or productive psychopathy, Jimmy Butler’s superpower is his poise, his galvanizing clarity of purpose. Possessing an uncanny ability to function completely on his own terms, he doesn’t just bend the flow of his game to his will; he manifests his own vision for how the game should—and will—be played. He plays with a drummer’s understanding of tempo, setting the rhythm and cadence for the other nine players on the court.” –JTD

9. Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics

Whether Jayson Tatum can conquer the demons of a suspect NBA Finals showing will be one of the most fascinating watches for this 2022/23 season. How does Jayson Tatum respond and how well will he play? If he bounces back and shrugs it off then this is a top 10 player but the efficiency in the biggest of games will ultimately determine this. But the best player on a team that went to the finals is worthy of this position. MP

8. Kevin Durant, Brooklyn Nets

When Kevin Durant faced my Milwaukee Bucks in the 2021 NBA Playoffs, I never felt that sense of helplessness. PJ Tucker gave Durant every bit of fight that he had in him, and it was still moot. When Durant is healthy, there is nothing you can do but hope that he misses. His offense is virtually unguardable. And prior to the recent injuries, his perimeter defense was shining in the 2018 playoffs. During the regular season, Durant gets buckets very casually. And when the intensity picks up in the postseason, those buckets are just as accessible. Perhaps more than anyone, his offense is… inevitable. –BT

7. Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers

If the “traditional” big man is a dinosaur archetype that’s long gone extinct, Joel Embiid is like if a velociraptor learned to harness the power of the meteor and use it to reaffirm its place atop the food chain. The reigning scoring champion and back-to-back MVP runner-up finishes, Embiid has steadily expanded his offensive horizons so that he’s now a devastating isolation scorer from all areas of the court. But while Embiid’s all-court iso game was borne from necessity, the addition of James Harden now gives Embiid a running mate who can amplify Embiid rather than merely complement him; the Harden-Embiid pick and roll battery put up 1.15 points per possession, the best in the league. –JTD

6. Lebron James, Los Angeles LakersIt sounds like an 80s action movie. Lebron James is the greatest basketball player ever—but now he has some unfinished business. Even amidst the rubble of last year’s debacle, James was unimpeachable on an individual level. Somehow, he had the best scoring year of his illustrious 19-year career, averaging 30.3 points per game on 61.9 percent True Shooting. While James can’t sustain the same level of galaxy-destroying athleticism he could ten years ago and has quiet quit on defense, he’s compensated by becoming a genuinely fantastic three-point shooter; Paul George and Jayson Tatum were the only forwards to make more threes than James’ 2.9 per game last season. Despite whatever marginal slippage James has suffered, there are still spurts where he looks like the best basketball player alive. Even divorced from the gravitas and deference that accompanies being Lebron James, James is still an elite athlete who doubles as a knockdown off-the-dribble shooter and has a legendary, cyborg brain. Some day, James will slip from his perch atop the NBA, but that won’t be any time too soon. –JTD

Nos. 5-1
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5. Kawhi Leonard, Los Angeles Clippers

Kawhi Leonard has quietly dominated the NBA largely for his whole career, and has yet to crack a smile. Injuries have kept Leonard off the court in a number of different seasons, but when healthy he is one of the NBA’s best. If he and Paul Geoge can stay healthy, the Clippers may be hoisting their first Larry O’Brien trophy.  –JC

4. Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors

When we think of the most impactful players of all-time it’s impossible to have the conversation without Steph Curry. Finally capturing the elusive Finals MVP, there is nothing left for him to accomplish. Steph Curry with no pressure might be the most dangerous versions of him. He’s easily top five, if not top five all time. -MP

3. Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks

My father had Michael Jordan, my brother had Kobe, and I have Luka Doncic. After averaging 21 points, six rebounds and seven assists per game as a rookie, Doncic has steadily improved each year. As his usage rate and overall statistics continue to increase, the reality of Doncic winning his first MVP award becomes much more real. If the Mavericks can somehow find a way to finish in the top four in the west, that MVP trophy just might be Luka’s. –JC

2. Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets

My co-worker Bo Templin has many admirable qualities, not limited to the fact that he trains at MMA gyms and could kill me with his own two hands if he so chooses. But despite his protestations, I must speak my truth: Nikola Jokic is the best player in the NBA going into the 2022-2023 season. On the most basic level, Jokic’s case is bolstered by the fact that he’s the back-to-back reigning MVP. Whether you prefer advanced metrics or normie stats, Jokic is a historically great player coming off one of the best seasons in NBA history. Averaging 27.1 points and 7.8 assists per game last year, he overwhelmed opponents with his wide-bodied hippyness and soft touch, drawing double teams which he then neutered with his panoptic passing.

Even in an era that’s defined by the fundamental reimagination of basketball’s traditional mores and philosophies, Jokic is a radical, if only because big fat guy who passes like he can see the future is a string of words that didn’t exist before Jokic came along. And now that Jokic is finally rejoined by Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr., he should be better than ever. –JTD

1.Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks

This was a non-negotiable. I only agreed to work on this project if we collectively agreed that Giannis was the best player in the NBA. There was some minor pushback that I decided to ignore, as I feel very strongly about this. 

The accolades are obvious. He has numerous MVP awards, Finals MVP, DPOY, all-star appearances, and on and on you can go.  I suspect that most of the justifications you will read about Giannis will include descriptions of his absurd athleticism and ridiculous size.

Those things are true, but there is still more to Giannis that separates him from everyone else in my opinion.  I’m imagining a collective roll of the eyes as people read this, but the big difference between Giannis and other players is his attitude and effort. He is the most pure leader – and does so by example. When a turnover is committed, he sprints back to be the first person back on defense. When he misses a shot, he uses that energy on the defensive end. When a teammate grabs a rebound and pushes forward, Giannis supports them by filling lanes in the fast break. These things may seem elementary, but when a team plays over 100 games a year, these tasks get forgotten. Not by the Greek Freak. He is everything a team wants in a superstar. –BT

Categories
Sports

ONE37pm’s Top 137 NBA Players for the 2022-2023 Season (137-98)

When the 2022-2023 NBA season tips off next week, there’ll be approximately 450 players on active rosters, ranging from Lebron James (who might be the best basketball player ever) to Keljin Blevins (who’s Damian Lillard’s cousin). As such, here is our inarguable, ironclad list of the top 137 players currently in the NBA.

137. Derrick Rose, New York Knicks
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It has been so enjoyable to watch Rose prolong his unique career, carving out a role as a spark plug for the Knicks. Despite all the injuries, Rose continues to provide valuable minutes on whatever team he plays for. When Rose does find the magic, the entire arena glows. There aren’t many players who capture the fans’ love for the game more than the former MVP. –Bo Templin 

136. Montrezl Harrell, Philadelphia 76ers
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Since entering the league in 2015, Montrezl Harrell has made a living off an intense brand of basketball. Trez will go toe-to-toe with any center in the paint, actively grabbing boards and fighting for extra possessions. Although Trez will have a decreased role with the 76ers, he has the opportunity to contribute to a team with championship aspirations. –Justin Cohen

135. Devin Vassell, San Antonio Spurs
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Every team needs a Devin Vassell. A consummate role playing wing, the 22-year-old Vassell has an uncanny ability to cover ground away from the ball on defense, smothering opportunities before his opponent even realizes that there was an opportunity. Offensively, he’s a threatening shooter, although he’ll spend most of this season as the overtasked tank commander of a purposefully bad Spurs team. On a good team, Vassell would be an NBA Twitter hipster favorite; on the Spurs, he’s sadly wasted. –Jack Tien-Dana

134. Luguentz Dort, Oklahoma City Thunder
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Luguentz Dort looks and plays like he seasons every meal with creatine. At his best, he’s a burled-up nightmare for ball handlers, climbing into their handle like it’s a baby bjorn. Last year, Dort encouragingly made strides offensively, ginning up 17.2 points per game through a combination of punishing drives and almost good-enough spot up shooting . Still, the offense is largely a mirage—no real NBA team would tolerate Dort shooting more than 14 times per game and he’s better suited for a scaled down usage anyways—but the defense is so fearsome that any scoring oomph is ultimately gravy. –JTD

133. Jordan Clarkson, Utah Jazz
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Jordan Clarkson has consistently been one of the most underrated players in the NBA. I helped come up with this list and even I think it’s criminal that J-Clark is this low! Clarkson was the 2021 Sixth Man of the Year and has been an integral piece for the Jazz off the bench. Expect Clarkson to be traded before the deadline as the Jazz are in full #TankForWembanyama mode. –JC

132. Malik Monk, Sacramento Kings
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The only guy who had any fun last year with the Lakers, Monk’s mini-breakout was rewarded with a two-year, $19 million deal with the Kings and a reunion with De’Aaron Fox, his former Kentucky teammate. After four troubled years in Charlotte, Monk found a groove riding shotgun with Lebron James. Freed from the yoke of on-ball responsibility, Monk reinvented himself as a bob-and-weave off-ball threat and had his best season as a result—his 13.8 points per game and 59.7% True Shooting were both easily the highest marks of his career.  –JTD

131. Wendell Carter Jr., Orlando Magic
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The NBA’s evolution can be charted by the Wendell Carters of the world. While the league’s best players will do bonkers shit, it’s startling how naturally Carter can do things that would’ve looked like witchcraft not even a decade ago. Combining the stature of a traditional big man, Carter has gradually, subtly expanded the boundaries of his game. Last season, Carter enjoyed the best year of his three year career, posting career highs in points per game (15.0), rebounds (10.5), assists (2.8) and three pointers (1.2 makes per game). So far this preseason, he’s shown how his variegated skillset can combine and recombine with Franz Wagner and Paolo Banchero in exciting new ways—Carter’s 18 point, seven rebound, eight assist performance against the Grizzlies this week was the clearest proof of concept of where his game is headed. –JTD

130. Immanuel Quickley, New York Knicks
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Within the larger Knicks-iverse, most of the discussion is focused on what Immanuel Quickley can’t do. Sure, whatever—he can’t really get to the rim or read defenses or play point guard. But what Quickley can do—dislodge defensive shells with deadeye pull-up shooting—is arguably the most important skill for a guard to have. In his way-too-low 23.1 minutes per game, Quickley was New York’s most uplifting offensive player, if not necessarily their best—his catalytic offensive impact (he pumps up the team’s offensive rating by +4.5 points per 100 possessions and has a team-best +1.4 offensive EPM) belies his modest stats (11.2 points per game, 39.2% field goal percentage). At the risk of sounding like a delusional Knicks fan (which I am), Quickley’s shooting might even give him latent All-Star potential. –JTD

129. Joe Harris, Brooklyn Nets
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 It’s no secret that perimeter shooting is the focus of every team. Considering that, Harris will find a contributing roster spot for a long time. His playoff numbers have been disappointing, but all it takes is one good postseason stretch, and people will fall right back in love with the three point specialist. –BT

128. Steven Adams, Memphis Grizzlies
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There aren’t many players who have commanded the level of respect that Adams has garnished in the league. He is a no drama, STRONG, and self-aware big man. He’s not winning you games, but he is certainly not losing you any games. If you were drafting an all-winning culture team, Adams might be a top-10 player in the Association. –BT

127. Gordon Hayward, Charlotte Hornets
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Gordon Hayward is what would happen if a suburban homeowner association were somehow also an NBA player; I bet he really got into Kanye’s music just this week. Aside from a 44 point explosion on January 6th, 2021, Hayward has reinvented himself as a kind of frictionless, all-purpose offensive weapon rather than the ball-dominant All-Star he showed hints of becoming in Utah. Beset by injuries and aging curves (Hayward has missed significant time in both of his two seasons in Charlotte), he now relies on veteran guile rather than sneaky-athletic pop; he’s now the guy attacking tilted defenses rather than the guy who’s actually tilting the defense. He can do everything as long as he’s not asked to do too much. –JT

126. P.J. Tucker, Philadelphia 76ers
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Not many players are able to make a mark on a game, while having a limited scoring arsenal, but Tucker’ impact is unmistakable. Even at his age, Tucker continues to be one of the nastiest defenders in the NBA and a true competitor. Every team would be lucky to have Tucker on their roster, even if he isn’t able to slash through the paint the same way most players can. –BT

125. P.J. Washington, Charlotte Hornets
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Despite his manifold skills and competencies, PJ Washington is plagued by the feeling that he’s less than the sum of his parts. At 6’7 with a 7’2 wingspan, he has the perfect frame to navigate the ever-shifting terrain of power-forward-dom. He’s an excellent floor spacer (36.5 percent on nearly five 3s per game), defender (90th percentile as a rim protector, according to BBall Index) and flexible, low-maintenance scorer (ranked above the 70th percentile in points per possession as a pick-and-roll ball-handler, spot-up shooter, pick-and-roll screener, cutter and transition scorer). So why doesn’t it feel like he’s better?  –JTD

124. Keldon Johnson, San Antonio Spurs
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Heading into his fourth season, Keldon Johnson is so close to being so good. If he could add a touch more shooting flexibility from deep or turn some of his floaters into layups or just grow two inches taller, he’d put himself on an All-Star trajectory. Nevertheless, a season on a bootless Spurs squad will offer plenty of opportunities for experimentation. With the Spurs openly lusting for a high draft pick, the weirder and bolder Johnson gets, the better.  –JTD

<code><iframe width="1353" height="486" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/lKi9g1UYl-U" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>","hed123. Brandon Clarke, Memphis Grizzlies</code>
123. Brandon Clarke, Memphis Grizzlies

His game can appear as awkward to the naked eye, but Clarke’s impact on a game is noticed by his teammates. And if you sleep for a single moment on either end of the floor, he will make you pay with an offensive rebound or a defensive disruption, despite being an undersized big. He meshes well with teammates and plays the game with a really pleasing level of respect. –BT

<code><iframe width="1353" height="486" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/Qv0iRu7p3bU" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>","hed122. Kevin Porter Jr., Houston Rockets</code>
122. Kevin Porter Jr., Houston Rockets

If I had my druthers, Kevin Porter Jr. would be so high that it would nuke any scintilla of credibility that this list has. Ignore that his efficiency was well below-average and that every reputable advanced stat has him underwater and that his stats have the substance and nutritional value of a Pringle. Instead, focus on the way that his handle wiggles on the edge of potential and kinetic energy or the way he aggressively hunts passing windows (when he feels like passing) or the way that his velveteen touch grants him access to a buffet of step-back jumpers and goofy-foot layups. –JTD

<code><iframe width="1353" height="486" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/RfDqAv1kJOI" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>","hed121. Spencer Dinwiddie, Dallas Mavericks</code>
121. Spencer Dinwiddie, Dallas Mavericks

The crypto-king of the NBA, Spencer Dinwiddie, may not have been able to turn his contract into a digital asset, but he has distinguished himself as a viable glue-guy for the Mavericks. Dinwiddie was exceptional during his 2019-20 campaign in Brooklyn, and we saw glimpses of that last year. As Tim Hardaway Jr. makes his return, Dinwiddie will have a decreased role with the Mavericks, but still remains one of their better rotational players. –JC 

<code><iframe width="1353" height="486" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/xjoyylISvgs" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>","hed120. Bobby Portis, Milwaukee Bucks</code>
120. Bobby Portis, Milwaukee Bucks

 Portis came out of the gate last year scorching hot. In fact, he was one of the best marksmen in the league. Naturally, he slowed down in the second half, but for the better part of the last two years, Portis has ignited the Bucks in times of need. Beyond the natural scoring ability, Portis plays defense with a fiery intensity, even if the foot speed can be troublesome on the perimeter. If the Bucks want to capture another title soon, Portis will need to be a big part of that recipe. –BT

<code><iframe width="1353" height="486" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/FepetK57Bm4" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>","hed119. Harrison Barnes, Sacramento Kings</code>
119. Harrison Barnes, Sacramento Kings

I don’t have any strong Harrison Barnes takes—I’m not a maniac. -JTD

<code><iframe width="1353" height="486" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/9LG5UD5vR68" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>","hed118. Bojan Bogdanovic, Detroit Pistons</code>
118. Bojan Bogdanovic, Detroit Pistons

This one plays for Detroit. A casualty of Utah’s violent teardown, Bogdanovic lends the Pistons some credibility as a real NBA team rather than simply a Potemkin losing machine. Sneakily, the sharp-shooting Bogdanovic is one of the NBA’s most consistent scorers—his 3,748 points over the last three seasons are more than Jimmy Butler, Chris Paul, Anthony Davis and Paul George have notched over that same timeframe. –JTD

<code><iframe width="1353" height="480" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/55fELBAHt1I" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>","hed117. Bogdan Bogdanovic, Atlanta Hawks</code>
117. Bogdan Bogdanovic, Atlanta Hawks

This one plays in Atlanta. With the newly acquired Dejounte Murray becoming the second load-bearing presence in the Hawks’ offense, Bogdanovic should return to the bench, where he’ll anchor Atlanta’s reserves. Bogdanovic is a good player in any context, but he’s been especially productive when separated from Trae Young; last season, Bogdanovic scored 36.3 points per 100 possessions in the 568 minutes he played without Trae Young, but just 20.8 points per 100 possessions when he was alongside Young. –JTD

<code><iframe width="1353" height="486" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/2C80xwnPGmw" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>","hed116. Lauri Markkanen, Utah Jazz</code>
116. Lauri Markkanen, Utah Jazz

On my own personal list, Lauri Markkanen easily takes the top spot. What more is there really to say about the GOAT? Dirk Nowitzki incarnate, The Finnisher, Magic Markkanen, The Real Splash Mountain. I’m expecting a light 25/10/5 in Utah for Markkanen this season. [Editor’s note: Justin’s Lauri Markkanen takes don’t represent us] –JC

<code><iframe width="1353" height="486" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/zt0RHHP-xPM" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>","hed115. Robert Covington, Los Angeles Clippers</code>
115. Robert Covington, Los Angeles Clippers

If Draymond Green invented the idea of the ultra-undersized small ball center, Robert Covington brought it to the mainstream. Over the last few years, Covington has slid down the positional spectrum, even anchoring lineups as the nominal “big” alongside the similarly sized Marcus Morris. His defense isn’t quite at the same All-Defense level it was in Philly or Houston, but remains a genius help defender because of his spatial awareness and keen instincts. –JTD

<code><iframe width="1353" height="486" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/fcc1vli8_BY" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>","hed114. De'Andre Hunter, Atlanta Hawks</code>
114. De’Andre Hunter, Atlanta Hawks

Even if the Hawks crapped out against the Heat in last year’s playoffs, Hunter thrived across the five game series, averaging 21.2 points per game on a blistering 67.3 percent True Shooting. Fully healthy for the first time since spring 2021, Hunter offered a glimpse of a fully realized and weaponized version of himself, a perma-mismatch who can thrive in Trae Young’s shadow. Initially hailed as a  three-and-d role player, Hunter has shown surprising scoring chops—juiceless guys don’t average more than 20 points in a playoff series. As for his regular season performance, we don’t have to talk about it! –JTD

<code><iframe width="1353" height="486" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/9e1KzZ0PU5I" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>","hed113. Josh Hart, Portland Trail Blazers</code>
113. Josh Hart, Portland Trail Blazers

Josh Hart’s name is well known in the league, partially because he played for the Lakers, but also because he has surprised fans with every opportunity that comes his way. He takes on tough tasks on the defensive end—and does so with pleasure. Hart finds a way to fill up the stat sheet, perhaps more than you’d expect. But beyond the box score, Hart also provides some of the intangibles that every playoff hopeful needs. –BT

<code><iframe width="1353" height="480" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/tRPqUfuEyRM" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>","hed112. Cole Anthony, Orlando Magic</code>
112. Cole Anthony, Orlando Magic

Slowly but surely, the gulf between Cole Anthony’s production and Cole Anthony’s confidence shrinks. At this point in his career, Anthony is too unrestrained to truly be good. Still, the fact that he was only the third player in NBA history to average 16 points, five assists, five rebounds and two three-pointers per game as a 21 year old is overwhelming proof of his talent and potential. –JTD

<code><iframe width="1353" height="486" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/A5AGDXRZvOM" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>","hed111. Isaiah Hartenstein, New York Knicks</code>
111. Isaiah Hartenstein, New York Knicks

Let’s get nerdy for a second. According to Estimated Plus-Minus, Isaiah Hartenstein was the 35th most impactful player in the league last year; the creatively named DARKO and RAPTOR are similarly glowing, each rating Hartenstein as one of the 50 best players in the league. Although Hartenstein definitely—probably?—isn’t actually a top 50 player, he’s a lot closer than you’d think.  Whereas nearly every non-superstar has some clear deficiency, Hartenstein is a purely additive force. He’s the rare center who can backstop a defense and facilitate an offense from the elbow; he can gunk up an offense on one end and then help it sing on the other.

<code><iframe width="1353" height="486" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/lc3YgJ57Xag" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>","hed110. Terry Rozier, Charlotte Hornets</code>
110. Terry Rozier, Charlotte Hornets

Scary Terry first made his name known when he took over for an injured Kyrie Irving and led the Celtics to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2017. Rozier would take his talents to Charlotte where he has been a consistent 18-20 points per game scorer. With LaMelo Ball injured to start this season, expect Rozier to have an increased role within the Hornets. –JC

<code><iframe width="1353" height="486" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/85n-LRgF1wk" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>","hed109. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Washington Wizards</code>
109. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Washington Wizards

The truest indication of KCP’s progress as a player is that he’s no longer a meme. Once mostly known for that time he wore an ankle monitor on the court while he was on house arrest, Caldwell-Pope has evolved into the archetypal role playing wing, winning a ring with the Lakers in 2020. He might not be a true on-ball stopper on defense, but he has the court-sense and scrappiness to compensate for that, hectoring his man away from the ball and disrupting the cadence of opposing offenses. Offensively, he’s embraced his role as a spot-up shooting specialist, letting roughly five 3s fly per game and nailing about 40 percent of them. –JTD

<code><iframe width="1353" height="486" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/a6ehY0miEGY" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>","hed108. Jusuf Nurkic, Portland Trail Blazers</code>
108. Jusuf Nurkic, Portland Trail Blazers

 It would be hard to imagine Nurkic making any incredible leaps in his future, but the former comeback player of the year has been around the league for a while now now. He won’t be changing the direction of a season or the discourse around a team, but if Nurkic found himself in the right place, he could be a very solid contributor in a couple different levels of the game. It just seems that Portland might be in a bit of a stalemate. -BT

<code><iframe width="1353" height="486" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/1qsHMOi0xSU" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>","hed107. Caris Levert, Cleveland Cavaliers</code>
107. Caris Levert, Cleveland Cavaliers

Levert is a bucket, an unorthodox, idiosyncratic scorer who will put up 20 points per game when given the opportunity. The problem is that it’s uncertain whether he should be given that opportunity on a good team. As such, he represents a small-scale Rohrsarch test of how to define value and utility in the NBA—how much does it matter that you can get busy with the ball in your hands if you aren’t quite at the level to warrant split custody of the ball with stars like Darius Garland and Donovan Mitchell? –JTD

<code><iframe width="1353" height="486" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/obuOdgecu_s" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>","hed106. Kevin Love, Cleveland Cavaliers</code>
106. Kevin Love, Cleveland Cavaliers

Major League Pickleball team owner Kevin Love sits squarely at 106 on our list. He may not have the impact and quick first-step (Actually he never had a quick-first step) he used to have, but the leadership and experience he brings to a locker room is second-to-none. Love’s leadership is a huge reason for the Cavs’ revival and it’ll be awesome to see him lead this squad of young studs. -JC

<code><iframe width="1353" height="486" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/n9Kc8kJNE5c" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>","hed105. Mike Conley Jr., Utah Jazz</code>
105. Mike Conley Jr., Utah Jazz

Existing in the netherregion between washed and unwashed, Michael Conley is still an eminently useful NBA player, albeit no longer the almost-All-Star he previously was. On the precipice of his age 35 season, Conley admirably downsized into a more secondary role, serving as a counterweight to Donovan Mitchell’s scoring gravity and funkily gashing defenses on the second-side . Now, though, he’s the cheese that stands alone in Utah as the roster has been gutted for the upcoming tank. It sucks—Conley deserves to be on a good team and NBA fans deserve to see Conley on a good team. Adam Silver, please do something about this immediately! –JTD

<code><iframe width="1353" height="486" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/js7KJdH6QkU" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>","hed104. Josh Giddey, Oklahoma City Thunder</code>
104. Josh Giddey, Oklahoma City Thunder

There are only a handful of NBA players who have Josh Giddey’s otherworldly court vision. Every time he plays, he conjures up a new batch of singularly brilliant assists, which is made doubly impressive by the fact that he’s not a particularly threatening scorer himself and rarely shares the court with multiple legitimately good players. Similarly, there’s nobody in the NBA who can match Josh Giddey’s sumptuous mane. If everything breaks right and he builds on last year’s All-Rookie Second Team campaign, call him by his new name: Himothee Chalamet. –JTD

<code><iframe width="1353" height="486" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/gco4ciDyfrg" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>","hed103. Jabari Smith Jr., Houston Rockets</code>
103. Jabari Smith Jr., Houston Rockets

Have you ever wondered what it would be like if Danillo Gallinari could put opposing offenses in a chokehold? Now you don’t have to! The third pick in the 2022 Draft, Smith seems poised to become an intriguing cocktail of lights-out shooting and advanced, space-devouring defense once he adapts to the NBA. –JTD

<code><iframe width="1353" height="486" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/dJf1RtcqSs8" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>","hed102. Mitchell Robinson, New York Knicks</code>
102. Mitchell Robinson, New York Knicks

Mitchell Robinson is a heavyweight fighter with the soul of an artist. Sure, he can cram lobs and swat shots with as much force as anybody in the league, but there’s the lingering sense that he yearns for more. Namely, “I just wanna do crossovers,” he told Fred Katz of The Athletic, “I ain’t gonna lie.” –JTD

<code><iframe width="1353" height="486" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/JLc32R-Xwqc" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>","hed101. Alex Caruso, Chicago Bulls</code>
101. Alex Caruso, Chicago Bulls

When I first saw Alex Caruso put on a Chicago Bulls uniform I had to clean my glasses because I was damn sure I was watching Michael Jordan. Caruso not only plays with the highest level of effort, his defensive I.Q. and leadership is unmatched. The Bulls were one of the best defensive teams in the league when Caruso and the team were fully healthy last season. If the Bulls want to win a championship, just send CarusGOAT out for 48 minutes every night. –JC

<code><iframe width="1353" height="486" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/Uv_Fm-i64to" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>","hed100. Jaden Ivey, Detroit Pistons</code>
100. Jaden Ivey, Detroit Pistons

Catch Jaden Ivey on the right game and he’s a dead ringer for Ja Morant. From the moment Ivey makes his proper NBA debut, he’ll immediately be one of the most dynamic athletes in the entire NBA. Ivey needs to refine his jumper and handle, but the fourth pick in the 2022 NBA Draft is so fast that he’ll still put up numbers as he irons out his kinks on the fly. –JTD

<code><iframe width="1353" height="480" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/PxG0zZpTaXk" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>","hed99. Norman Powell, Los Angeles Clippers</code>
99. Norman Powell, Los Angeles Clippers

Originally a high-energy glue guy in Toronto, Powell has evolved into the NBA’s quietest great scorer, inching closer towards 20 points per game each year. The beauty in his game is its adaptability—he doesn’t need to operate as the heavy-dribbling lodestar of a team, but he can in a pinch; he’s overqualified to set up camp in the corner, but he’ll snipe corner threes without complaint. On a Clippers team that’s defined by its array of extremely versatile, useful role-playing wings, Powell is the most versatile and useful.

<code><iframe width="1353" height="486" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/BbUKFyzKWz4" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>","hed98. Herb Jones, New Orleans Pelicans</code>
98. Herb Jones, New Orleans Pelicans

Most rookies are bad at playing defense because playing defense is really, really hard. Evidently, Herb Jones never got the memo. In just his rookie season, Jones emerged as a serious All-Defense candidate, immediately proving to be an invaluable member of the Pelicans’ rotation and future core. With his quick hands and feet, he’s able to corral and mirror ball-handlers. With his awareness and feel for the game, he can wreck entire sets as an off-ball rover away from the play. Either way, avoiding Herb is the sage thing to do; his thyme is now. 

Categories
Sports

The 8 Best NBA Fantasy Sleepers You Can Draft Ahead of Next Season 

With the NBA season just mere weeks away and the preseason kicking off, you might have a fantasy basketball draft coming up and aren’t sure who to snag in the late rounds. Don’t fret, we’re here to help with all your fantasy basketball needs. We’ve talked about underrated players before, but ere is our list of the best NBA fantasy sleepers you might be able to get late in your draft. 

1.) Brandon Clarke
2021-22: 10.4 points, 5.3 rebounds, 64% FG
(Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images)

With the absence of Jaren Jackson Jr. due to a foot injury, Brandon Clarke will be tasked with manning the load at the power forward position for the Grizzlies. In just under 20 minutes per game last season Clarke was impressive, averaging 10 points and knocking down over 60% of his shots. Ja Morant will be leaning on Clarke heavily to begin the season and he is a solid selection, especially if you can draft Jaren Jackson Jr. towards the end of the draft. 

2.) Devin Vassell
2021-22: 12.3 points, 4.3 rebounds, 2.0 assists
(Photo by Tim Heitman/Getty Images)

There was not a single player in the 2020 NBA draft that shot the ball better from three as Devin Vassell did in college. In his two years at Florida State, Vassell put in 41.7% of his three point attempts, while taking nearly three a game. We haven’t seen that three-point savviness translate to the NBA, but with the departure of Dejounte Murray, expect Vassell to have an increased role. 

3.) Khris Middleton
2021-22: 20.1 points, 5.4 rebounds, 5.4 assists
(Photo by Jeff Haynes/NBAE via Getty Images)

Although Khris Middleton may be coming back from injury, he remains one of the most consistent scorers in the NBA. Middleton completed the rare feat of a 50/40/90 season. You may see Middleton drop in a lot of drafts because of that injury, but he should be back for the majority of the season. He remains one of the most consistent fantasy players and a solid selection for any team. 

4.) Isaiah Jackson
2021-22: 8.3 points, 4.1 rebounds, 1.4 blocks
(Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)

Isaiah Jackson is a second year forward from the University of Kentucky. In his rookie season last year he was able to see the floor in 36 games, starting in 15 of those. Jackson still remains a little raw, but it’s clear the Pacers see him as a possible future rotational player. Expect Jackson to get an increase in minutes this season as he attempts to carve out a role as a starter for the Pacers. 

5.) Kyle Kuzma
2021-22: 17.1 points, 8.5 rebounds, 3.5 assists
(Photo by Dustin Satloff/Getty Images)

Kyle Kuzma has had a heavy spotlight on him since the day he entered the league, being drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers. He was able to avoid the reckoning of LeGM and stay on the Lakers for their 2020 bubble championship. Kuzma was exceptional last season, nearly putting in 20 points a game for the Wizards. Expect that production to increase or at the minimum be matched. 

6.) Anfernee Simons
2021-22: 17.3 points, 3.9 assists, 40.5 3pt%
(Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)

Last season guard Anfernee Simons carried the load for the Portland Trail Blazers with all-star Damian Lillard injured. Simons took full advantage of the opportunity, finishing out the season dropping 30-point games like it was nothing. Although his production will drop significantly from that last stretch, he still remains an integral part of the Blazers. Look for Simons to have a well-established role this year for the blazers. 

7.) Darius Bazley
2021-22: 10.8 points, 6.3 rebounds, 1.4 assists
(Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

When Darius Bazley was drafted by the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2019, he was still extremely raw. Although it looked like looming #1 draft pick Chet Holmgren would replace the up-and-coming Bazley, with Holmgren injured the Thunder have a huge gap. They will lean on Bazley to fill that spot early in the season, and the Thunder will be in no rush to get Chet back and onto an NBA floor. 

8.) Tre Jones
2021-22: 6.0 points, 3.4 assists, 2.2 rebounds
(Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images)

The Spurs have quietly been developing the skills of guard Tre Jones since he joined the team in 2020. Greg Popovich made it very clear the Spurs are not contending for a championship, which means this is the time they find out who is going to be a Spur for the long-run and who is just there for rebuilding. There is a big hole at the Point Guard spot for the Spurs, and they will lean on Jones heavily to start the season. 

Categories
Popular Culture

The 10 Best Basketball Documentaries You Can Watch Right Now

The game of basketball has given so much to us as fans. Throughout the NBA’s 75-year history, a number of athletes and moments have shaped the league into what it is today. The history of the NBA may not go as far back as other professional sports leagues, but the impact that it’s had on the culture is unrivaled. If you’re looking to get educated on some of the most iconic NBA moments and stories, here are the best basketball documentaries. 

<code><iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/Peh9Yqf1GXc" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>","hed1.) The Last Dance ","subhedDirector: Jason Hehir","buttonTextWatch on Netflix","buttonUrlhttps://www.netflix.com/title/80203144</code>
1.) The Last Dance
Director: Jason Hehir

Some may debate who the GOAT of basketball is (The answer is Michael Jordan) but there is no question what the best basketball documentary of all time is: The Last Dance.

This 10-part docu-series takes us behind the scenes of the 1998 Chicago Bulls championship run, dubbed “the last dance” as it was widely known that the team would be blown up the next season. The series gives us an intimate look at Michael Jordan’s rise to prominence, with exclusive interviews from former teammates and rivals. If you ever wonder why many consider Michael Jordan the greatest basketball player of all time, just give The Last Dance a watch and all your questions will be put to rest.

Watch on Netflix
https://www.netflix.com/title/80203144
<code><iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/HxlLCSktpfc" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>","hed2.) Magic And Bird: A Courtship Of Rivals","subhedDirector: Ezra Edelman","buttonTextWatch on HBOMax","buttonUrlhttps://www.hbomax.com/feature/urn:hbo:feature:GWNFI8w3GYGCGAQEAAACh</code>
2.) Magic And Bird: A Courtship Of Rivals
Director: Ezra Edelman

The 2010 documentary highlighting the illustrious rivalry of Magic Johnson and Larry Bird is one of the most important pieces of basketball content that exists. During the 1970s, the NBA was dangerously close to collapsing as league attendance and interest, in general, began to diminish. In 1979, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird would face off in the NCAA National Championship game, which is still the most viewed basketball game ever. Magic would be drafted to the Lakers and Larry to the Celtics just a year later, setting in motion the greatest rivalry in NBA history. I highly recommend this documentary, especially if you’re interested in what the NBA was like pre-Michael Jordan.

Watch on HBOMax
https://www.hbomax.com/feature/urn:hbo:feature:GWNFI8w3GYGCGAQEAAACh
<code><iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/1QKIcnY4tnM" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>","hed3.) The Dream Team ","subhedDirector: Zak Levitt, Andy Thompson","buttonTextWatch on Peacock","buttonUrlhttps://www.peacocktv.com/watch-online/tv/olympics/the-dream-team/9ef58df7-2a1c-3c12-951d-4b8d7af1260f</code>
3.) The Dream Team
Director: Zak Levitt, Andy Thompson

One of the most important moments in basketball history that helped grow the game to new heights was the rule change allowing professional basketball players to participate in the Olympics, starting in 1992. The change came after Team USA placed bronze in 1988 after losing to a much more experienced Soviet Union team. The 1992 Dream Team is highly considered the greatest twelve-man roster ever assembled, with eleven of the players being inducted into the Hall of Fame. Most importantly, the Dream Team introduced the game of basketball at the highest level to an international audience that had never experienced it before.

Watch on Peacock
https://www.peacocktv.com/watch-online/tv/olympics/the-dream-team/9ef58df7-2a1c-3c12-951d-4b8d7af1260f
<code><iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/AjRDgLIXpmc" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>","hed4.) Survive And Advance","subhedDirector: Jonathan Hock","buttonTextWatch on Disney+","buttonUrlhttps://www.disneyplus.com/movies/survive-and-advance/2AEMlKqkI0f7</code>
4.) Survive And Advance
Director: Jonathan Hock

When talking about the best sporting events in general, March Madness undoubtedly sits near the top of everyone’s list. What’s better than watching 64 teams made up of hungry and unproven college athletes battle their way through six single-elimination games in the hopes of claiming a National Championship?

The greatest Cinderella story in NCAA history belongs to the 1983 NC State Wolfpack, coached by the legendary Jimmy Valvano. NC State had to beat the likes of Michael Jordan at UNC as well as University of Virginia superstar Ralph Sampson just to reach the championship game. They would face off against a Houston team headlined by future NBA Hall of Famers Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler. The championship game is one of the most memorable ever, with an ending you’ll have to see to believe.

Watch on Disney+
https://www.disneyplus.com/movies/survive-and-advance/2AEMlKqkI0f7
<code><iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/-TRIx7oD3lo" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>","hed5.) Hoop Dreams","subhedDirector: Steve James","buttonTextWatch on YouTube","buttonUrlhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s8ovUQ4zOtU</code>
5.) Hoop Dreams
Director: Steve James

The 1994 documentary Hoop Dreams remains one of the most intimate looks we get into the life of a high school basketball prospect. The film follows two basketball players from the inner city of Chicago who have dreams of making it to the NBA one day. The pair commute over an hour each day to play basketball at a predominantly white school in the suburbs of Chicago. What the film does best is show the real struggle that these kids go through on their basketball journey and how slim the odds are of making the NBA.

Spike Lee delivers an extremely thought-provoking monologue as he tells the hundreds of high school kids in attendance at Nike All-American Camp, candidly warning the kids “The only reason why you’re here… you can make their team win. If their team wins, these schools get a lot of money. This whole thing is revolving around money.” I highly recommend this documentary, as it will give you an entirely new perspective on the high school basketball circuit. 

Watch on YouTube
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s8ovUQ4zOtU
<code><iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/LuUrAzQDetg" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>","hed6.) More Than A Game","subhedDirector: Kristopher Belman","buttonTextWatch on YouTube","buttonUrlhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b8tFXFnfmSU</code>
6.) More Than A Game
Director: Kristopher Belman

There has been no prospect in the history of sports as highly touted as the great LeBron James. James was a phenom the second he stepped on the court, distancing himself as the #1 prospect in the country by his junior year of high school. By his senior year, James had become a national icon and one of the most highly publicized athletes in the world. This led to St. Vincent-St. Mary adopting a schedule that saw them traveling the country playing nationally ranked teams. This saw a game where LeBron James would face off against Carmelo Anthony of Oak Hill Academy, the highest ranked player in the class above LeBron’s.

The most interesting aspect of this documentary is watching how scrutinized LeBron is over the recruitment process, as he was given a suspension for taking jerseys in exchange for pictures. I don’t think it’s hard to realize why James decided to circumvent college and go straight to the NBA after watching this documentary. This doc was also the reason that Drake, Eminem, Lil Wayne, and Kanye West got together and cooked up the classic “Forever“.

Watch on YouTube
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b8tFXFnfmSU
<code><iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/KV93Qfoo1Fs" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>","hed7.) Unguarded ","subhedDirector: Jonathan Hock","buttonTextWatch on ESPN+","buttonUrlhttps://www.espn.com/espnplus/catalog/ea812189-d130-416e-81a0-737503b8fd74/unguarded</code>
7.) Unguarded
Director: Jonathan Hock

The story of Chris Herren is a cautionary tale of how dark and difficult life can be, even when it looks as though you’re a success. Herren was one of the best high school basketball players in the country in 1994, taking home Gatorade player of the year honors as well as being named to the McDonald’s All-American Team. Herren struggled with substance abuse, however, and it only got worse once he got to college. Herren would be introduced to cocaine, which he would fail multiple drug tests for and eventually be kicked out of Boston College.

After transferring to Fresno State, Herren would finish his collegiate career there and be drafted to the Denver Nuggets. Herren chronicles how his time in Denver was the best, as his teammates helped set him straight. After being traded the next year back to his hometown Boston Celtics, the temptations around him proved too much, and an Oxycontin addiction would spiral into full-blown heroin addiction. Herren has been sober since 2008 and now tours the country giving talks to aspiring athletes, warning them of the dangers of addiction.

Watch on ESPN+
https://www.espn.com/espnplus/catalog/ea812189-d130-416e-81a0-737503b8fd74/unguarded
<code><iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/z6aQe4zLN2w" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>","hed8.) The Fab Five","subhedDirector: Jason Hehir ","buttonTextWatch on Disney+","buttonUrlhttps://www.disneyplus.com/movies/the-fab-five/1o0makxKjY9Y</code>
8.) The Fab Five
Director: Jason Hehir

We like to talk about the impact certain players had on the future of basketball and more specifically the NBA. The way Steph Curry revolutionized the three-point line, or how Michael Jordan made it possible for NBA players to sell themselves as their own brand. The 1990’s Michigan basketball team, dubbed The Fab Five, helped shift the culture of basketball back into the hands of the people that were playing it. Made up of Chris Webber, Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, Jimmy King, and Ray Jackson, the team made two NCAA finals but would lose both. Most notably, Chris Webber would call a timeout late in the game when Michigan had none, leading to a technical foul that would ice the game. 

Watch on Disney+
https://www.disneyplus.com/movies/the-fab-five/1o0makxKjY9Y
<code><iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/BgXLP8rCwEE" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>","hed9.) Benji ","subhedDirector: Coodie","buttonTextWatch on ESPN+","buttonUrlhttps://www.espn.com/espnplus/catalog/d83e5ef3-d3ce-4353-9a02-da652aa6b7f2/benji</code>
9.) Benji
Director: Coodie

The story of Ben Wilson is a tragic tale of how one of the highest touted basketball recruits ever, Ben Wilson, was shot dead outside his school in the inner city of Chicago. Wilson was remembered for being a sweet-natured and innocent kid who simply just loved to play basketball. This documentary gives an intimate look into how gun violence has plagued inner-city communities, which is still extremely relevant today. The film is directed by Coodie, who recently became widely known for his directing of the Kanye West documentary Jeen-yuhs.

Watch on ESPN+
https://www.espn.com/espnplus/catalog/d83e5ef3-d3ce-4353-9a02-da652aa6b7f2/benji
<code><iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/0K3YlzvjFbQ" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>","hed10.) Winning Time: Reggie Miller vs. The New York Knicks","subhedDirector: Dan Klores","buttonTextWatch on ESPN+","buttonUrlhttps://www.espn.com/espnplus/player/_/id/be1b44c9-18c9-4690-b970-283b82aa113a</code>
10.) Winning Time: Reggie Miller vs. The New York Knicks
Director: Dan Klores

Reggie Miller is one of the most overlooked NBA legends, in large part due to the fact that he was playing at the same time as Michael Jordan. Miller was an absolute dog in every sense of the word, constantly talking shit to opponents and hitting some of the nastiest daggers we’ve ever seen on an NBA court. The documentary chronicles Reggie Miller’s rise to fame, including having to compete with his sister Cheryl Miller, considered one of the greatest female basketball players of all time. The film’s focus however is on the 1995 Eastern Conference Semifinals, which saw Reggie Miller score eight points in 8.9 seconds amidst talking trash to Spike Lee who was sitting courtside. 

Watch on ESPN+
https://www.espn.com/espnplus/player/_/id/be1b44c9-18c9-4690-b970-283b82aa113a
Categories
Sports Strength

Winningest Head Coaches in NBA History

The head coach of a team plays a drastically different role in every professional sports league. A manager in baseball is tasked with when to take out certain pitchers and designated hitters, whereas an NFL coach has to be aware of opposing team’s schemes and how to counter them on every single play and engage in a form of mental warfare against opposing coaches. A chess match begins to form against these coaches in all sports, but the method of moving your pieces is drastically different. In the NBA, players can improvise more often, and the importance of the coach is regularly downplayed because of the impact an individual player can have. In rare cases, the stars will align and a head coach will enter the NBA with the talent of managing an NBA locker room and embark on a multi-decade run as a coach. Here are the winningest coaches in NBA history.

7.) Phil Jackson 1155-485
Coached Chicago Bulls, Los Angeles Lakers
(Photo by VINCENT LAFORET/AFP via Getty Images)

Phil Jackson may sit seventh on the all-time coaching wins list, but he no coach has a better win percentage than the zen master. In 20 seasons coaching in the NBA, Phil Jackson won 70.4% of his games. He was able to claim 6 championships with the Chicago Bulls and 5 with the Los Angeles Lakers, giving him the most championships of any coach in NBA history. Jackson helped popularize the famous triangle offense invented by Tex Winter. He is probably best known for his ability to manage big personalities like Michael Jordan, Dennis Rodman, Kobe Bryant, and Shaquille O’Neal.

6.) George Karl 1175-824
Coached Cleveland Cavaliers, Golden State Warriors, Seattle Supersonics, Milwaukee Bucks, Denver Nuggets, Sacramento Kings
(Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)

George Karl’s hall of fame coaching career spans over 25 years and includes stops with nine different franchises. In 1992, Karl would take over as head coach for the Seattle Supersonics, a good team that seemed to be stuck in a rut. By 1996 the Sonics would advance to the NBA finals under the guidance for George Karl. Karl would never win an NBA championship, but he was the 2013 Coach of the Year. George Karl officially retired from coaching after a short stint with the Sacramento Kings in 2016.

5.) Pat Riley 1,210-694 record
Coached Los Angeles Lakers, New York Knicks, and Miami Heat
(Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)

There are few coaches, and even players, who have touched as many corners of the NBA world as Pat Riley has. Starting his coaching career in Los Angeles, Riley coached the Showtime Lakers headlined by Magic Johnson and Kareem-Abdul Jabbar and would win five NBA championships while reaching the finals seven different times. Riley would then join the New York Knicks where he led them to one finals appearance. Ultimately Riley would end his coaching career in Miami where he would win one more championship before handing the reins to Eric Spoelstra in 2008. Having coached the likes of Magic, Kareem, Ewing, Wade, and O’Neal, very few coaches have touched as much hall-of-fame talent as Pat Riley has.

4.) Jerry Sloan 1,221-803 record
Coached Chicago Bulls, and Utah Jazz
(Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)

Jerry Sloan’s coaching career didn’t start on the hottest foot. After coaching the Chicago Bulls for three seasons and producing a 94-121 record, Sloan was given the can and embarked on his career in Utah. After filling a few roles in the Jazz front office, Sloan was finally introduced as the head coach in 1988. Sloan would lead the Jazz to 16 straight playoff appearances and two NBA finals appearances. Sloan helped coach John Stockton and Karl Malone to hall-of-fame careers and would end his coaching career after 23 years with the Jazz.

3.) Lenny Wilkens 1,332-1,155 record
Coached Seattle Supersonics, Portland Trailblazers, Cleveland Cavaliers, Atlanta Hawks, Toronto Raptors, and New York Knicks
(Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)

Coaching over 2,000 games is an extremely rare accolade for any NBA head coach, as only four coaches have hit that mark. Lenny Wilkens coached in 2,487 games over his 34-year coaching career, the most of any coach ever. Wilkens found the most success in Seattle, taking them to back-to-back NBA finals and winning one of those championship series. Wilkens also joined the newly minted Toronto Raptors organization in 2000, becoming the franchise’s fourth head coach.

2.) Don Nelson 1,335-1,063
Coached Milwaukee Bucks, Golden State Warriors, New York Knicks, and Dallas Mavericks
(Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)

Don Nelson was a pioneer in the landscape of NBA coaches. Nelson routinely used a ‘point-forward’ in his scheme which would situate a forward as the primary ball-handler, a strategy used by many NBA teams today. Nelson would go on to win three coach of the year awards but was never able to reach an NBA finals. The most notable playoff moment for Nelson would come during the 2007 postseason. Coaching the eighth-seeded Golden State Warriors, Nelson helped upset the one-seeded Dallas Mavericks in seven games, earning the team the nickname “We Believe Warriors”. Only four eight seeds have ever upset a one seed in NBA history.

1.) Greg Popovich 1,344-701 active record
Coached San Antonio Spurs
(Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images)

Greg Popovich is the only active coach on this list, and recently won his 1,336 NBA game against the Utah Jazz. One of the hardest aspects of making this list is the sheer amount of years that one has to spend coaching. Coaches are usually given no slack once losing ways enter the locker room, which leads to most of these coaches having to go to other franchises. Greg Popovich is an anomaly in this aspect. Popovich has been at the helm of the Spurs organization for 25+ years and led the franchise to five NBA championships to go along with six finals appearances. Popovich had 22 straight seasons of finishing above .500 with the Spurs, the longest streak of doing so with a single franchise.

Categories
Sports

Fantasy Basketball on the Blockchain? Sorare Partners with NBA

The NBA and its player association have agreed to a partnership with Sorare, a Web3 based company that’s created fantasy sports competitions which live on the blockchain. As Web3 continues to evolve, many established giants in their own respective industries continue to explore the space.

What is Sorare?
(Hint) Not Just Soccer Anymore!
Sorare

Sorare is a fantasy sports game that is rooted in blockchain technologies. This means that you own the players you use each week for fantasy competitions. They began exclusively with proper football fantasy competitions and currently have the rights to over 200 clubs around the world. The first step in expanding their platform was a partnership with Major League Baseball earlier this year. 

After securing over $600 million in funding last year, they’ve been valued at over $4 billion and have over two million registered users in over 180 countries. Recent efforts have focused on garnering a larger presence in the United States centered around these new NBA and MLB partnerships. 

Sorare and NBA
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This is far from the first time the NBA is exploring what’s capable in the realm of Web3. In 2019, the NBA partnered with Dapper Labs, the creators of NBA Topshot, a basketball card collecting platform that exists on the blockchain and NFL All Day, the football version of TopShot. Sorare differs from Topshot in the sense that it’s more than just collecting cards, you are using those cards in fantasy competitions. The NBA and NBAPA see this new partnership as an alternative investment to that of NBA Topshot and feel it won’t be a competitor. 

Sorare is aiming to launch their NBA program during the start of this season in October. You will be able to use players you acquire in fantasy competitions that are based on how the players perform in real life. Anyone over the age of 18 will be able to claim cards to participate in this new NBA fantasy competitions.

For more information or to sign up to receive updates, check out sorare.com/nba