Stampler Ranks The NBA's Top 100: Part 2 - The top 50

Debby Wong-US PRESSWIRE

You'll never guess who I have at number one. Oh ... maybe you will. Well, I bet you'll never guess who I have at number 86!

A couple weeks back, Sports Illustrated ranked their top 100 NBAers for the upcoming season. You might have heard, it inspired some sort of serious feud that was totally not a contrived marketing campaign.

Anyway, the writers used all kind of fancy statistics and metrics to compile their rankings. I, on the other hand, being a cranky lazy old-fashioned columnist, will be doing this just by my gut and my gut alone. No stats and no peeking at their rankings to color my judgment. Let's see how close mine came to theirs. (After I did my rankings, I put SI's ranking in parentheses next to mine, followed by a plus/minus number to show the difference. Positive numbers means I ranked the player higher than SI did, negative means I ranked them lower, and N/A means Not Available as in I ranked somebody they didn't include.)

In case you missed part 1 of this list, click here.

*   *   *

50.          Ty Lawson, PG, Nuggets: A good slasher who was miscast in the role of having to be the team's top scorer since the Nuggets don't have any stars. Didn't close out every game either as Andre Miller hot a hand some nights. (42, -8)

49.          Raymond Felton, PG, Knicks: Started fabulously but injuries waylaid his year. He's a decent, not great, three-point shooter. More athletic than he appears, but should probably lose some weight. (N/A)

48.          Paul Millsap, PF, Hawks: The pairing him with Al Horford seems odd on paper, but it can't be any worse than sharing the block with Jefferson all those years at Utah. Millsap has been underrated for years and should benefit from facing less talented fours across the Eastern Conference. (38, -10)

47.          Anthony Davis, PF, Pelicans: Missed some time as a rookie and was fooled often by pump-fakes and precision pick-and-rolls. With Robin Lopez gone he'll really have to pick up his defense in his second season, but at least he's got a more dynamic point guard to work with. (41, -6)

46.          Ricky Rubio, PG, Wolves: Struggled initially in his return from ACL surgery, but got better as the season went on. A good defender and a flashy passer, but his cringe-inducing jumper limits his upside. It's never a good thing when the point guard is the best defender and the worst shooter on the club. (93, -47)

45.          Jimmy Butler, SG, Bulls: A revelation who came on strong in the second half of the season for Chicago, often out-Luol-Denging Luol Deng. The addition of Derrick Rose into the lineup should afford him the chance to direct even more energy into his already manic defense. (90, -45)

44.          Chandler Parsons, SF, Rockets: Parsons might be under the impression that having Howard will help his game, but I happen to think it will do just the opposite. Howard wants to slow it down and will demand a ton of low-post touches, when Parsons has the skills to handle the ball and work the pick-and-roll quite a bit. (94, +50)

43.          John Wall, PG, Wizards: He's still fragile, but Wall showed improved maturity in his limited time last season and both his assist rate and three-point percentage improved if I recall. He was a difference-maker for the Wiz when healthy and I'm curious if he can lead them into the playoffs this season. (40, -3)

42.          David West, PF, Pacers: One of the last back-to-the-basket scorers left. West's leadership skills have improved by leaps and bounds from his New Orleans days, which made it a no-brainer for Indy to re-sign him as he's the glue of their offense. He's protected quite a bit by Roy Hibbert on defense though. (31, -11)

41.          Jrue Holiday, PG, Pelicans: Holliday doesn't figure to return to the All-Star Game in the stacked Western Conference, but he's joining a better team overall and it wouldn't be shocking to see him lead the Pelicans to the playoffs. He'll have considerably more firepower around him here than at Philly, where nobody could shoot. (48, +7)

40.          Klay Thompson, SG, Warriors: Has deep range and is more effective driving to the hoop than he gets credit for. The defense comes and goes (mostly the latter) but isn't completely hopeless. Not a bad passer either. (89, +49)

39.          Joe Johnson, SG, Nets: A solid mid-range shooter but he gives you almost nothing else. He floats for large portions of games, but can hit clutch shots. How he and Paul Pierce will function together in the half court will be fascinating. (59, +20)

38.          Manu Ginobili, SG, Spurs: I honestly felt guilty going even this low for Ginobili and I'm the biggest Manu homer on the planet. He just doesn't play enough games or minutes to justify a top-30 ranking anymore and his jumper never settled down all last season. When he's on though, he can still affect a game in more ways than just about any two-guard in the league, since the others have stopped bothering to guard people at all. Also, Ginobili remains the game's most entertaining passer, without question. (56, +18)

37.          Kawhi Leonard, SF, Spurs: Can he make the leap to full-fledged stardom in his third year? The playoffs were promising to be sure, but until he can be trusted on either end of a pick-and-roll, his offensive potential is limited. He's already superb in post-ups and ISOs though. (37!)

36.          Blake Griffin, PF, Clippers: Like West, he's protected by a shot-blocking center in DeAndre Jordan, with the difference being that Jordan is kind of a crappy defender. Griffin is basically David Lee with better hops and better PR, but most of the veteran writers and analysts are on to his fraud and Charles Barkley can barely contain his disgust when talking about him. (19, -17)

35.          Serge Ibaka, PF, Thunder: An overrated defender whose lack of offensive polish was exposed in the playoffs without Russell Westbrook, Ibaka nonetheless remains a good midrange shooter and alters a bunch of shots, even if his guy can score on him at a decent rate. Obviously he's a lot better as a third banana than a second option. (29, -6)

34.          Andre Iguodala, SF, Warriors: Finally joining a team where he won't be counted on to score at all, and it's scary to think how he can flourish as a defense/rebounding/energy guy on the run-and-gun Warriors. Their top seven guys are scary, to be honest, but Iguodala and Bogut are the only plus-defenders of the bunch, and the rest range from "below-average" to "David Lee." (33, -1)

33.          Chris Bosh, C, Heat: Naturally a guy who got slagged all season and playoffs long for his poor rebounding came up with the biggest board of the season which saved Miami in Game 6. I'm not a fan of Bosh by any means, but I do recognize and respect that he sacrificed a lot for the greater glory of James these past two years. He's miscast as a center, but it fits the rest of their personnel better. (17, -16)

32.           Deron Williams, PG, Nets: His lift magically came back over the last quarter of the season, but Williams remains a shell of the guy he was at Utah and has fallen behind his point guard peers. Now he finds himself on a loaded team and it remains to be seen how he'll mesh with numerous strong personalities. (24, -8)

31.          LaMarcus Aldridge, PF, Blazers: Like the rest of the Blazers, Aldridge has somehow been less than the sum of his parts over the years, often having to play center. Robin Lopez should ease that burden for him and the bench was radically fortified, so LMA is running out of excuses. (18, -13)

30.          Brook Lopez, C, Nets: I can see the Lopez-Kevin Garnett marriage working beautifully - they complement each other's strengths and weaknesses - but I can also see it ending in disaster, with Garnett breaking Lopez's will to live by January. That coaching staff will have their hands full. (30!)

29.          Kevin Love, PF, Wolves: He had to drop a bit after missing virtually the entire season with hand injuries, but I already thought Love was way overrated in 2012 as it was. He can't guard anybody, period, and they're not going to make the playoffs as long as that's the case. (13, -16)

28.          Paul Pierce, SF, Nets: Started slowly last season in Boston but gradually improved to the point where he was carrying the Celtics without Rajon Rondo. He did run out of steam by the playoffs, however. He should be able to pace himself a lot better in Brooklyn, though I imagine there will be internal rivalries with Johnson and Kirilenko. (32, +4)

27.          Tyson Chandler, C, Knicks: You almost feel sorry for him, having to anchor a defense full of thirty-somethings who can't be bothered to concentrate when they don't have the ball, but then you remember that Chandler already has a ring, has made more money than you'll ever see in 49 lifetimes and he hasn't developed his offensive game a lick since coming into the league out of high school. (27!)

26.          Zach Randolph, PF, Grizzlies: Has emerged, surprisingly, as a dependable leader for the Grizz and he remained a ferocious offensive rebounder and a clever, versatile scorer. With that said, the Spurs snuffed him completely with their size in the playoffs and humiliated him on the other end with the pick-and-roll, avenging the 2011 disaster. (35, +9)

25.          Al Horford, C, Hawks: Stuck in a blah sports town and overshadowed by the flashy Josh Smith, Horford has been perennially underrated. He missed virtually the entire season last year but I predict he'll be back to his usual very-good-not-great self this year, and he figures to get more room to work, since interior defenders will also have Millsap to worry about. (22, -3)

24.          Josh Smith, SF, Pistons: So naturally after writing how underrated Horford is, I slot Smith one spot higher than him. Science! I put the over/under on Pistons games I watch this season at 2.5, and I'm taking the under. (34, +10)

23.          Dwight Howard, C, Rockets: Who will Howard trash first when this ends in disaster? Kevin McHale? Hakeem Olajuwon? Jeremy Lin? James Harden? Yao Ming? All of the above and also eight separate women named "Cristal." (7, -16)

22.          Luol Deng, SF, Bulls: Man, if he had been healthy enough to just drain five percent more out of LeBron's tank last playoffs ... Oh, that's right! James doesn't have a tank because he's not a human being. (55, +33)

21.          Stephen Curry, PG, Warriors: I'd like to say this won't all end tragically for Curry, but he's got those chronically flimsy ankles and he's a Warrior so how else can it end? My random prediction is he leads the league in assists this year before it all goes terribly wrong in late March. (15, -6)

20.          Kyrie Irving, PG, Cavs: Of anyone on my list, Irving has the chance to be the most upwardly mobile this year. He could easily blossom into a top-10 player, but he needs to stay healthy and lead Cleveland into the top five or six in the East. (20!)

19.          Dwyane Wade, SG, Heat: How about you remind me of your place in history from down here, you windbag? (8, -11)

18.          Roy Hibbert, C, Pacers: Hibbert just about ground the Heat's front line into a fine pulp over the first six games of the Eastern Conference Finals but he, too, ran out of gas by the end, since Indy's laughably weak bench made it almost impossible for him to rest. That series was over for all intents and purposes when they blew Game 1. (23, +5)

17.          Kevin Garnett, PF, Nets: He can't play more than 25 minutes a night and has lost just about all of his scoring ability outside of the 15-foot jumper, so I can't go any better than 17 for KG. He's entering just about a perfect situation for him with Brooklyn though, where he won't be counted on for heavy minutes or points. (28, +11)

16.          Derrick Rose, PG, Bulls: I have him probably higher than he deserves to be considering the layoff, but it's that layoff that makes me think he'll be ready to go from Day 1 and be relatively close to his former self. Motivation shouldn't be a problem here either. (12, -4)

15.          Kobe Bryant, SG, Lakers: Seeking to do the impossible at his age - to return so soon from an Achilles tear -but you can't doubt Bryant's will. You can however doubt his defense and shot selection, which figure to be as shaky as ever, with less explosiveness all but assured and a bad roster around him. (9, -6)

14.          Russell Westbrook, PG, Thunder: Coming off a pretty serious injury and he's a guy who really relies on his explosiveness and cutting ability to score. If he's even five percent slower, that will hamper him a lot. Westbrook was never the most efficient player to begin with, but the Thunder were exposed without him. (5, -9)

13.          Rajon Rondo, PG, Celtics: Due back around December, I have a hunch Rondo will be a faster healer than his peers, and one less dependent on his explosiveness to succeed since he plays more of a cerebral game. The tanking Celtics will be wary of rushing him back, but I don't expect Rondo to be with Boston too long once he's up to speed. (26, +13)

12.          Carmelo Anthony, SF, Knicks: Sometimes he makes it look so ridiculously easy to score and other times he throws up a 6-for-23. It seems easier for ‘Melo to fill it up as a small-ball four, but it doesn't do his defense any favors and it wears him down over the course of the year. I think it's gonna get ugly for the Knicks unless Iman Shumpert really takes it up a couple of notches. (10, -2)

11.          Paul George, SF, Pacers: Armed with a contract extension, George has to go out and prove he's a star. Having Hibbert makes it easier for him to freelance defensively, but he has to earn whatever he gets on offense without a real point guard. If it all goes to form, the second and third rounds of the Eastern Conference playoffs figure to be insane. (25, +14)

10.          Joakim Noah, C, Bulls: Emerged as the heart and soul of the Bulls and I'm interested what the dynamic will be like over there with Rose back. Obviously Rose will carry the offensive burden, but by all rights it should be Noah's team. (21, +11)

9.            Pau Gasol, PF, Lakers: The elder Gasol struggled with injuries last year, but I predict he'll have one final hurrah this season, though there's a chance he won't finish it with the Lakers. He's still as skilled as any big in the league, including his more-celebrated younger brother. (36, +27)

8.            James Harden, SG, Rockets: I hope this ranking makes Kevin Durant happy, though I have a feeling something else I have in mind down the road won't. Harden probably thinks the addition of Howard will free him from ever having to play defense again. Boy will he be in for a rude awakening when he discovers 2009 Dwight is gone and not coming back. (11, +3)

7.            Dirk Nowitzki, PF, Mavericks: Can still score in more ways and from more awkward positions than any forward in the league and was playing at a really high level for a couple of months late last season in what was a lost cause. It's fair to wonder if he'll ever regain his desire from 2011 since he knows in his heart of hearts he has no chance with this roster. (16, +9)

6.            Marc Gasol, C, Grizzlies: The superior Gasol brother by virtue of his defense, Marc did all he could against the Spurs, but the talent disparity between the two sides - especially on the perimeter - was glaring. His 15-foot jumper is as automatic a weapon as there is in the league. (14, +8)

5.            Tony Parker, PG, Spurs: When his jumper is on, the opponent has no chance. I can't remember the last time the Spurs lost when Parker shot well. (4, -1)

4.            Chris Paul, PG, Clippers: Head to head, Parker's gotten the better of Paul in their match-ups and it's often been lopsided. What I can't ignore though, as much as I dislike Paul, is how much more Parker has had to work with. The gap between Paul and the second-best player on his team is massive, and then the gap between second and third is wider still. (3, -1)

3.            Kevin Durant, SF, Thunder: It's not a typo. There are two sides to a basketball court. Durant gets kudos for developing his passing, but they still went down pretty meekly to the Grizzlies. (2, -1)

2.            Tim Duncan, C, Spurs: Only two players in the league can dominate on both ends of the floor, so there you go. Tim Duncan is a golden god. (6, +4)

1.            LeBron James, SF, Heat. Whatever. (1!)

Hmmm. That was embarrassing. 19 differences out of a 100. The highest-ranked guy they had that I didn't include at all was Greg Monroe from the Pistons, who SI ranked 52nd. The highest I had that they didn't include was Knicks point guard Raymond Felton whom I had 49th. As you can see, our two lists vary wildly, with 50-place swings both ways, and really all they seem to have in common is that they both include current NBA players. I tried to stick to the top 20 guys at each position, while SI kind of went heavy on the bigs and light on the shooting guards, which kind of makes sense because shooting guards in the league are pretty crappy.

In conclusion, I'll argue that my list is more accurate since all my Spurs are ranked higher than their Spurs.

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