For the seventh season in a row, ESPN.com is ranking the top players in the NBA. Who will be the best player this season?
To get the final ranking, we asked our expert panel to vote on pairs of players.
Kevin Durant vs. LeBron James. Kyrie Irving vs. John Wall. Russell Westbrook vs. James Harden.
We asked, “Which player will be better in 2017-18?” To decide, voters had to consider both the quality and the quantity of each player’s contributions to his team’s ability to win games.
We’ll roll out our top 100 players over the next week. If you want to get involved in the discussion or just follow along, use the Twitter hashtag #NBArank. You also can follow along @ESPNNBA and on Facebook.
Here are Nos. 76-100.
Stats & Info: Since 2010-11, the NBA has had a new record for 3-point attempts every season. In an age defined by the proliferation of the long ball, perhaps nobody embodies that evolution quite like Ryan Anderson, who is the only player who has averaged at least five 3-point attempts per game in every season since 2010-11. He’s also a beneficiary of Houston’s system, as just 18 of his 506 3-point attempts last season came with a defender within 4 feet.
Stats & Info: He’s back! Though Ginobili might have lost a (Euro) step, last season proved once again that good things happen when he’s on the floor; for the 14th time in 15 seasons, the Spurs were better with Ginobili in the game than with him on the bench. Of the 350-plus players who have logged at least 12,000 minutes over the past 20 years, Ginobili’s net rating of +10.7 ranks first.
Stats & Info: If you were tasked to assemble a team featuring the league’s best “heat-check guys,” Dion Waiters is snagging a roster spot. And last season, the Heat’s fortunes seemed tied to the ebbs and flows of Waiters, who sported a PER over 10 points higher in wins than he did losses, the largest such disparity of his career. Miami went 12-4 when he scored 20 or more and just 4-8 when he was held to single digits.
Stats & Info: This is Nowitzki’s 20th season in Dallas, and when he steps on the court for the first time, he will tie Kobe Bryant’s NBA record for the most seasons played with a single franchise. Nowitzki also has a shot at climbing into the top five on the all-time scoring list, as he needs 1,160 points to pass Wilt Chamberlain for fifth place. If he plays in 70 games, Nowitzki would need to average 16.6 PPG to move up the list.
Stats & Info: With the departure of Paul Millsap, Dennis Schroder is now the leader of a rebuilding Hawks franchise and a prime candidate for catchy yet empty box score stats in 2017-18. In 755 minutes he played without Millsap last season, Schroder averaged just under 22 points and eight assists per 36 minutes. Unfortunately for the Hawks, they were outscored by 7.5 points per 100 possessions during that time, a number that would have ranked dead last in the NBA.
Rockets | SF | @TrevorAriza
Last year’s rank: 99
2017-18 projected RPM: 0.65
Stats & Info: Ariza’s ability to knock down outside shots and defend both forward spots makes him a crucial piece in Houston. He shot better than the league average on corner 3s for the sixth straight season in 2016-17, while his 3.1 deflections per game ranked in the top 10 among forwards.
Stats & Info: The tag team of Favors and Rudy Gobert provides hope for Utah in the post-Gordon Hayward era. In the 500-plus minutes in which Favors and Gobert shared the floor last season, the Jazz outscored teams by 10.7 points per 100 possessions, a number that was easily their best in four seasons as teammates and one that actually went up when Hayward was not on the floor with them. Favors will likely play a larger role on offense and, as such, will need to improve upon the 33 percent he shot last season in games in which Hayward did not play.
Stats & Info: Perhaps no player enjoyed a career revival last season to the degree that James Johnson did in his first season in Miami, as he nearly doubled his career scoring average while also setting career highs in assists, rebounds and minutes per game. After ranking outside the top 50 at his position in real plus-minus in 2015-16, Johnson ranked eighth in 2016-17.
Stats & Info: In the seven games he played last season without Gordon Hayward, Hood averaged 17.9 PPG on 14 shots per game, which led all Jazz players. With pass-first Ricky Rubio subbing in for George Hill, Hood could realistically average close to the 15.8 FG attempts per game that Hayward did last season and is a good candidate to lead the Jazz in scoring.
Mavericks | C | @NerlensNoel3
Last year’s rank: 126
2017-18 projected RPM: -0.03
Stats & Info: It’s a big season for Noel, who will be playing on a one-year, qualifying offer after failing to secure a long-term deal as a restricted free agent this offseason. Noel is dripping with defensive potential, as he was the only player to average three steals and two blocks per 100 possessions last season. In fact, the only players his size over the past 30 years to do that while playing at least 1,000 minutes are Hakeem Olajuwon and David Robinson.
Stats & Info: On a per-possession basis, Harris rated as one of the NBA’s most efficient offensive two-guards last season, ranking ahead of Klay Thompson, DeMar DeRozan, Devin Booker and Andrew Wiggins among others in Offensive RPM. Harris connected on 54 percent of his corner 3s, which ranked fourth among the 137 players who attempted at least 50 of them.
Stats & Info: When Cody Zeller was in the lineup last season, the Hornets won games at a clip that would have netted them the 5 seed. Unfortunately, they went 3-17 in the games Zeller missed, resulting in an 11th-place finish in the East. Zeller’s absence was felt mostly on defense as the Hornets gave up 111.1 PPG in those 20 games, 8.5 more than they did with Zeller in the lineup.
Restricted FA | PF | @threekola
Last year’s rank: 95
2017-18 projected RPM: 2.51
Stats & Info: Consistency eludes Mirotic, who remains unsigned following another up-and-down season in Chicago. After averaging just 9 PPG on 30 percent shooting from 3 over the first five months of 2016-17, Mirotic ended on a high note, scoring nearly 16 PPG in March and April, while connecting on 43 percent from beyond the arc.
Stats & Info: The 76ers added a Splash Brother of their own in J.J. Redick, who, along with Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, is one of just three players to average at least 15 PPG and shoot better than 40 percent from beyond the arc in each of the past three seasons. Although the 76ers ranked 25th in 3-point FG percentage last season, Redick is a perfect fit for Brett Brown’s system, as Philadelphia ranked second in total spot-up plays last season.
Stats & Info: Fultz might enter his rookie campaign with the least pressure of any recent No. 1 overall pick, as four other Sixers rate ahead of him. While much of the focus will be how he fits alongside Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, Fultz has the potential to be an impact defender from day one. Thanks in part to a 6-foot-10 wingspan, opponents shot just 1-for-14 against him in isolation last season in college.
Stats & Info: For all of Roberson’s limitations on the offensive end (he shot 3-for-21 from the FT line in the playoffs), he remains one of the NBA’s best perimeter defenders. An All-Defense selection for the first time, Roberson ranked among the top five in defensive real plus-minus among all perimeter players.
76ers | PF | @BenSimmons25
Last year’s rank: 120
2017-18 projected RPM: N/A
Stats & Info: Simmons missed all of last season and did not participate in Summer League, so he’s perhaps the league’s biggest mystery entering 2017-18. ESPN.com’s fantasy projections peg him for 14.7 PPG, 6.6 APG and 5.9 RPG, all-around production that is almost unheard of by a rookie. In fact, the only two rookies in NBA history to reach those thresholds are Magic Johnson and Oscar Robertson.
Stats & Info: Russell gets a fresh start in Brooklyn following a turbulent first two seasons with the Lakers. The lefty did show flashes of playmaking brilliance, averaging over 26 points and eight assists per 100 possessions, benchmarks that, while completely arbitrary, are incredibly rare for a player that young. The only other two players to reach those thresholds by the tender age of 20? Kyrie Irving and LeBron James.
Stats & Info: For the first time in his career, Greg Monroe did not start a single game last season, as his role in Milwaukee continued to diminish. Though not much of a rim protector and perhaps not ideally suited for the modern pace-and-space game, Monroe averaged 18.8 points and 10.5 rebounds per 36 minutes, nearly identical to his per-36 production from each of the two previous seasons.
Stats & Info: Williams is an elite bucket-getter in a reserve role, as his 13 25-point games off the bench last season were more than twice as many as any other player. He set career highs in true-shooting percentage and PER, while also leading all shooting guards in offensive real plus-minus.
Stats & Info: There were 232 players who launched at least 100 triples last season. The player that ranked first among all of them in 3-point FG percentage? Pau Gasol. The gap between Gasol and the second-best was the same as the gap between the second-best and 94th-best. In a league littered with bigs reinventing themselves in the age of pace-and-space, Gasol has transformed into perhaps the game’s most deadly stretch 5.
Stats & Info: Morris was a part of the Wizards’ 5-man starting lineup also consisting of John Wall, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter and Marcin Gortat that logged nearly 500 more minutes than any other 5-man lineup last season. When those four played without Morris, the Wizards’ net rating dropped from plus-8.1 down to plus-2.0.
Stats & Info: Oladipo will be the NBA’s 38th-highest-paid player this season after coming off a 2016-17 campaign in which he ranked 111th in win shares and finished with a below-league-average PER. He’ll have chances to be a primary creator in Indiana, though it’s worth mentioning he shot just 42 percent in the 500-plus minutes he played without Russell Westbrook last season in Oklahoma City.
Stats & Info: Dieng was a lone bright spot defensively for a Timberwolves team that finished 26th in defensive efficiency last season. The only players to average at least 25 minutes per game and rank ahead of Dieng in defensive real plus-minus were perennial defensive player of the year candidates Rudy Gobert, Draymond Green and Anthony Davis. The dependable Dieng is one of three players to appear in all 82 games each of the past two seasons.
Stats & Info: Though Patterson’s move to Oklahoma City received significantly less ink than Paul George’s (and rightfully so), it’s one that could pay huge dividends, as Patterson provides much needed spacing in the frontcourt. He made 94 3s last season in Toronto, 90 more than OKC’s second-half starter Taj Gibson has in his career. Thunder starting power forwards combined to rank 22nd in made 3s and 25th in 3-point FG percentage last season.
Analysis provided by ESPN Stats & Info’s Micah Adams.