ESPN has released its top 51-100 players ahead of the 2020-21 season, and four Spurs made the list, which somehow feels both right and wrong at the same time. On one hand, the four players who made it make sense, and having four “top 100” players isn’t bad for a team looking to make the playoffs, but they are awkwardly all clumped together, and where they place and in what order is up for debate.
97. Derrick White
Previous rank: 100
2020-21 projected RPM: 1.4
Swing skill: Previously a below-average 3- point shooter, White knocked down 3.1 triples per game at a 39% clip in seven bubble games, averaging 18.9 PPG and 5.0 APG. Given White’s defensive value, he’s a lot better just than a top-100 player if he can maintain that level of volume and accuracy — he ranked 12th in my wins above replacement player metric in seeding games. — Kevin Pelton
95. LaMarcus Aldridge
Previous rank: 41
2020-21 projected RPM: -0.6
Cause for concern: Aldridge’s scoring average has dropped in each of the past two seasons, from 23.1 PPG down to 18.9 PPG last season. Aldridge’s rebounds also declined last season (from 9.2 RPG to 7.4 RPG), and he also missed 19 games due to injury, most of his career. Aldridge is also 35 years old and preparing for his 15th NBA season. — André Snellings
83. Dejounte Murray
Previous rank: 71
2020-21 projected RPM: 0.0
Secret skill: Murray returned last season with a much improved jump shot. He took almost twice as many long midrange jumpers and more than three times as many 3s last season than in 2017-18, increasing his field goal percentage dramatically in both ranges. His free throw percentage also jumped almost 10 points. Shooting could lead the uber-athletic Murray toward making strides as an impact offensive player this season. — Snellings
82. DeMar DeRozan
Previous rank: 46
2020-21 projected RPM: -0.9
Secret skill: Charles Barkley once called former Spurs superstar Tim Duncan “Groundhog Day” because he was so consistent. DeRozan has inherited that mantle. DeRozan’s three-year averages (22.1 PPG, 5.7 APG, 5.1 RPG) are almost exactly the same as his last season averages (22.1 PPG, 5.6 APG, 5.5 RPG). The Spurs can concentrate on putting the best pieces around DeRozan to take advantage of what he does. — Snellings
Based on these rankings, it’s probably safe to say there won’t be any Spurs in ESPN’s top 50 (welcome to life outside the playoffs). White and Murray’s rankings feel about right, although one could make an argument for a swap. Aldridge took quite the tumble, but it’s somewhat understandable —maybe not entirely justifiable — due to his age and health concerns, but DeRozan is the one who baffles me, especially when you look at who’s ranked ahead of him.
Are players like Dennis Schroder, Kantavious Caldwell-Pope, or even perpetually injured stars like Blake Griffin and John Wall better than him at this point? Even Davis Bertans is ranked at well above DeRozan at 61st. I love me some Latvian Laser as much as any Spurs fan and am glad he went and earned his money in a place where he was free to let it fly, but is he better than DeRozan, especially by 21 players? I’d personally have DeRozan closer to 50, but that’s just my opinion.
How about you, Pounders? Do you agree with this rankings? Feel free to discuss in the comments below.