80. Victor Oladipo, SG, Orlando: A stat-stuffer who can do a bit of everything, Oladipo was miscast last year when Jacque Vaughn tried to use him at the point. It's too soon to rule out that he'll eventually develop into a star, but last season wasn't as promising as I'd hoped for him. I'm still higher on him than Michael Carter-Williams though.
Last Year Rank: 99 SI Rank: N/A
79. Josh Smith, SF, Detroit: Speaking of miscast, why did Joe Dumars ever think that signing Smith to big money to be the team's small forward would be a good idea? (Probably for the same reason he signed Charlie Villanueva and Ben Gordon.) Smith cannot shoot a lick, but it's hard to blame his shot selection when he's on the floor with Monroe and Andre Drummond. It figures to just get worse for Smith from here on, as his athleticism wanes.
Last Year Rank: 24 SI Rank: 53
78. Deron Williams, PG, Brooklyn: What exactly does he do well anymore? Seriously, what can you point to and say, "Deron Wlliams does this better than the average starting point guard," besides make money? He was outplayed by Shaun Livingston for most of the season and was beyond useless against Miami in the conference semis. He supposedly got in shape in the off-season, but we've heard that about him before.
Last Year Rank: 32 SI Rank: 45
77. David Lee, PF, Golden State: Decent midrange shooter and excellent pick-and-roll finisher who gives you a decent effort on the boards and even in the post but is a glaring defensive liability in space or at the rim. Was exposed in the playoffs when he had to play without Bogut. His contract makes him practically untradeable, plus Harrison Barnes hasn't showed nearly enough to explore moving him fully.
Last Year Rank: 62 SI Rank: 60
76. DeMarre Carroll, SF, Atlanta: Perhaps I'm higher on him than most, but Carroll was an unsung hero last season for a Hawks team that had to forge an identity built on defense and three-pointers with Al Horford out, and Carroll worked to be a respectable shooter from out there, as well as a plus defender, while finishing second on the club in rebounding. One of those guys who knows what his strengths are and sticks to them, in the Spurs mold.
Last Year Rank: N/A SI Rank: N/A
75. Tony Allen, SG, Memphis: Another fellow I'm perhaps too high on, Allen cannot dribble, shoot or even make simple layups at times. He does, however, drive scorers batty and he raises his game when it matters most. There is no way the Grizzlies would be better off with a league average starter at the two. Allen's toughness is a part of that crew's identity.
Last Year Rank: 74 SI Rank: N/A
74. Jonas Valanciunas, C, Toronto: A rugged banger still working through consistency issues, Valanciunas would be well served to add some range on his jumper to bring some variety to his game. He has miles to go as a passer as well, but he's only 24 and has leapfrogged past Amir Johnson as the team's primary interior option. Needs to develop better pick-and-roll chemistry with Kyle Lowry.
Last Year Rank: 97 SI Rank: 80
73. Dion Waiters, SG, Cleveland: Waiters hasn't shown a propensity to do anything particularly well, and has been rather poor in some aspects of the game, such as transition defense. The good news is that he promised to watch tapes of Dwyane Wade to learn how to play the way LeBron James wants, so ...
Last Year Rank: 89 SI Rank: N/A
72. Danny Green, SG, San Antonio: Vastly underrated as a defender, Green quietly rebounds well above the normal rate for two guards and blocks more shots than Kawhi Leonard. His dribbling and passing remain works in progress and he's still prone to mental lapses, but nobody has a quicker release on the three and he's learned to make them in transition now. Scores in bunches to blow games open.
Last Year Rank: 57 SI Rank: 96
71. Nikola Pekovic, C, Minnesota: An absolute mauler inside and very consistent, but offers almost no rim protection despite his size and that just will not work if you want your team to contend on any level. I feel like he hasn't had the proper level of coaching. Even though he can't jump or move laterally, his instincts on where to be should be better than they are. We'd all probably appreciate him a lot more if he played with a springy power forward who could help him out.
Last Year Rank: 51 SI Rank: 48
70. Kyle Korver, SG, Atlanta: Korver played a career-high 33.9 minutes a night at 32 years old for the depleted Hawks and nevertheless led the league in three-point accuracy, hitting them at a 47.2 percent clip and setting a league record for consecutive games with at least one make. Having Carroll around helped him defensively, as he could afford to check the second-best perimeter guy most nights. Might be headed for a big year if both Horford and Paul Millsap can stay healthy.
Last Year Rank: N/A SI Rank: 74
69. Tiago Splitter, C, San Antonio: Four years in and I still have no idea if Splitter is on the absolute perfect team for his talents or the worst. He needs to play with a smaller, skilled, jump-shooting power forward like a Millsap where he can have the lane to himself to finish screen and rolls, and to protect the rim on the other end. But he's stuck with Tim Duncan, who's been both a blessing and a curse to him and has reduced Splitter to a backup role during money time. The checks aren't bouncing though, so Splitter can't be too sore.
Last Year Rank: 73 SI Rank: 70
68. Monta Ellis, SG, Dallas: A dangerous combo guard who is just beginning to enter his "third-option" phase, Ellis thrived last season with Dirk Nowitzki to draw the attention away from him and Jose Calderon to feed him the ball. With Felton running the point now, more playmaking responsibility will be on Ellis' shoulders, which is fine because he's always been an underrated passer. His weaknesses will forever be his horrid defense and wonky three-point stroke.
Last Year Rank: 94 SI Rank: 66
67. Eric Bledsoe, PG, Phoenix: His scoring exploded in his first season as a starter and he put up solid numbers across the board, but what was the most surprising about Bledsoe was that he and Goran Dragic showed workable chemistry together despite being new teammates. What makes Bledsoe intriguing is his athleticism is almost right there with Russell Westbrook and Derrick Rose and he's got more defensive grit than both. His potential is off the charts and he's only 25, but there's also the murky injury history as well.
Last Year Rank: N/A SI Rank: 33
66. Rudy Gay, SF, Sacramento: It's hard to believe Gay the Raptor and Gay the King were the same player. In Sacramento he shot it about he shot 48.2 compared to 38.8 in Toronto, even though his three point percentage plummeted from 37.3 to 31.2. He also stopped rebounding in Sacramento and passed it more. In line to play some stretch four next year.
Last Year Rank: 58 SI Rank: 67
65. Kenneth Faried, PF, Denver: Improved his stock most of anyone on that FIBA World Cup team when it didn't even appear that he would make the squad at first. He's an efficient inside scorer and rebounding demon and can throw down dunks with the best of them, but his size limits what he can do in his own end. Needs to play with a shot-blocking center to be effective.
Last Year Rank: 72 SI Rank: 77
64. Isaiah Thomas, PG, Phoenix: Took off last season, making Greivis Vasquez expendable and helping to facilitate the trade for Gay. Then parlayed his big year into a nice contract from Phoenix that the Kings surprisingly decided not to match and worked out a meek sign-and-trade instead. At 5-9 Thomas will always be a defensive liability, so maybe he's destined to be a third guard on a contender.
Last Year Rank: N/A SI Rank: 90:
63. Roy Hibbert, C, Indiana: Still a defensive force to be reckoned with, but all the talent was sucked out of his body by the MonStars the final two months of the season, coincidentally right around the time the Pacers traded for Andrew Bynum just to keep him away from Miami. Should get more offensive opportunities with Paul George out.
Last Year Rank: 18 SI Rank: 52
62. Jeff Teague, PG, Atlanta: Very solid first season under Mike Budenholzer and should only get better with Horford to dump it to, which will take pressure off him to hoist from deep, which isn't really his forte. I see him being able to get to the rim a bit easier next season, but you never know, that Dennis Schroeder kid is gonna push too.
Last Year Rank: 82 SI Rank: 92
61. Paul Pierce, SF, Washington: Just about at the end of the line, but Pierce and his "old man game," is right at home when it comes to playoff basketball, especially the slower pace of the Eastern Conference. Pierce should take the pressure off John Wall from having to create every possession, but his regular season minutes have to be managed carefully.
Last Year Rank: 28 SI Rank: 46
Continued in Part 3