I love lists. I’m a list fanatic. I have lists of my lists. I can’t get through a day without a list. I sometimes complete a task, find a list, and write it down just so I can cross it off. But I digress.
The Ringer made a list of the NBA’s top 100 players ranked in order. This is not an original idea. In fact, I wrote a Read & React about the CBS Sports list just a few months ago. Still, as I mentioned, I’m a sucker for lists, so I’m going to read & react to this one as well.
Here’s the full list at The Ringer and below are some highlights and my reactions.
To save time, here’s the list of Celtics and their positions on the list.
#6 - Jayson Tatum
#20 - Jaylen Brown
#57 - Marcus Smart
#63 - Robert Williams III
#68 - Al Horford
#79 - Malcolm Brogdon
#98 - Grant Williams
#99 - Derrick White
It’s all about adding things. Basketball is a tension and release game; competent scoring draws defensive attention, and when the defense overreacts, you can punish it with passing. Tatum’s isolation game, largely fed by a diet of dribble pull-ups, is where a lot of that tension comes from. According to Synergy, he played in isolation on roughly 19 percent of his possessions in 2020-21 and 2021-22.That has allowed him to develop his release game, gradually improving his assist numbers season by season.
4 out of the 5 players listed above Tatum are former MVPs and the other one is Luka Doncic who is sure to win an MVP in the near future. So that’s an indication that he’s in contention for MVP and he may even be entering the discussion of “best player in the NBA.”
The blurb above is a good quick explanation for why he’s in that conversation now. He just keeps improving his game. The defense tries to take away what he does best, so he adapts and punishes them in other ways.
Instead of focusing on what he can’t do, Brown’s impact is best understood once you accept who he is and what he does. Asking him to make everyone around him better is a mistake. Asking him to obliterate whatever is in his path for 35 minutes is a pleasure. Luckily, Boston—which traded for Malcolm Brogdon in the offseason to take over some ballhandling—is now allowing Brown to focus on the latter, and the result may be another trip to the Finals.
Brown has broken the way I evaluate players. For the most part, you can kind of tell what kind of ceiling a player has based on what their weaknesses are. Jaylen has consistently broken through whatever perceived ceilings he’s had.
There’s some debate over the framing of his talent at this point. Some people (like Michael Pina in the quote above) talk about maximizing his talents and minimizing the things he’s still working on. Others prefer to see him as a continually growing and developing star. This may be a cop-out, but I think both can be true. While he’s maximizing his strengths, he can pick his spots to work on his weaknesses (which aren’t exactly numerous).
Either way, if this ranking reflects his place in the league by the end of the year, he’s got a great chance of making one of the All NBA teams. Most impressive.
You could quibble with the exact rankings for Smart, Rob, Horford, and Brogdon, but it is clear that they are in that “Solid to great rotation players that aren’t All Stars.” I think Robert Williams will climb these lists if/when he gets healthy again, but that may be a year away.
Grant and Derrick sneaking into the back end of this list is just icing on the cake and I think there’s a chance that they could move up even higher in future years.
Bonus Link: Tatum ranks 12th in their League Pass Ratings (and I expect that he’ll be pretty high up on the trade value column when it gets released as well).
Your turn, what stood out to you about these rankings?