As our annual NBArank list debuts players 100-51, our panel of experts breaks down the big questions from the results.
Who is overrated and underrated? Which young Los Angeles Laker has the most potential?
1. Luka Doncic is the only rookie in the top 100 for this season. Did we get that right?
Tim MacMahon, ESPN: The word out of Dallas is that Doncic has often been the best player on the court in pickup games at the Mavs' facility despite not being in great shape by NBA standards. And before you make a crack about the Mavs' talent or lack thereof, these games have included local products like LaMarcus Aldridge. Doncic, a special passer, is the most accomplished Euro teen ever and has a huge advantage over other rookies because he arrives in the NBA as a seasoned pro.
Chris Herring, FiveThirtyEight: It's probably too early to say. I could see a well-rounded player like Jaren Jackson Jr. or Wendell Carter Jr. being good enough to carry that distinction as a first-year player. And if any rookie has a breakout playoff showing like Jayson Tatum did this past season, the answer will only come into clearer focus.
Royce Young, ESPN: Probably. He's certainly the most accomplished, which gives him an actual résumé to evaluate. Projecting Doncic as a high-level rookie is more straightforward than doing it for other one-and-done stars like Deandre Ayton or Trae Young. There's often a transition period into the professional life, and, while it wasn't the NBA, Doncic has a head start on the rest of the class.
André Snellings, ESPN Fantasy: I agree with Doncic making it. Based on everything we know about him as a prospect and his expected role in Dallas, he is likely to be an impact player.
Should more of his rookie classmates have joined him in the top 100? Much like last season, this is a deep, talented class that should make noise immediately. The points-based fantasy rankings (based entirely on projected box score production) have two clusters of rookies in the top 100: Trae Young (45) and Deandre Ayton (46) are right there with Doncic (54), plus Marvin Bagley (90), Kevin Knox (95), Wendell Carter Jr. (96) and Collin Sexton (97) just sneaking in. Odds are at least one of these other rookies will join Doncic in making a top-100 impact.
Kevin Pelton, ESPN: I think so. Ranking three rookies in last year's top 100 (Lonzo Ball, Markelle Fultz and Dennis Smith Jr.) proved overly exuberant; only Ball came close to providing that kind of production. So the bar should be high, and Doncic has the best chance of clearing it, given his historic level of play for a teenager in the competitive EuroLeague.
2. Who is most likely to outperform his ranking this season?
Young: Without a doubt, Kristaps Porzingis. It's obvious that injury concerns have deflated his ranking, but, assuming a full recovery, he's a top-30 player who is only ascending. And assuming the Knicks are turning a bit of a corner -- OK, a big assumption -- Porzingis could find himself in a more comfortable and productive situation playing for David Fizdale.
Markkanen was good enough as a rookie who couldn't buy a beer -- averaging 15.2 points and 7.5 rebounds -- that the tanking Bulls found creative ways to keep him off the court late in the season. This skilled kid, who can casually put the ball through his legs and throw it down in the layup lines, is really going to take off in his second season. He could make the Jimmy Butler deal look like a steal for the Bulls, depending on how the drama in Minnesota plays out.
Pelton: Tyreke Evans. Evans played at an All-Star level last season, and while his 3-point percentage might slip a bit from last year's 40 percent, he has become a capable 3-point shooter. That will allow Evans to initiate the Pacers' offense when Victor Oladipo rests and play off the ball alongside Oladipo. I think Evans will be a contender for the Sixth Man Award.
Snellings: DeAndre Jordan measured out as a top-5 center and top-20 player overall in real plus-minus each season between 2014-15 and 2016-17. Jordan's offensive game is predicated on easy finishes in the paint, so it was somewhat predictable that losing Chris Paul would have a detrimental effect. Now in Dallas, playing on a squad that should have a dynamic backcourt in Doncic and Dennis Smith Jr., Jordan should bounce back to his usual impact levels this season.
Herring: If we're focusing only on guys outside the top 50, I might go with Tobias Harris. He's a strong candidate to average 20 points per game with the Clippers, and he played in all 82 games last season.
3. Who is least likely to live up to his ranking this season?
Pelton: Brandon Ingram. We're valuing Ingram as the second-best player on most teams, and I think that's too much, too soon. While Ingram improved dramatically in Year 2, that was partially because the bar started so low. His .536 true shooting percentage was still weaker than league average, and Ingram doesn't supply enough shot creation to compensate.
Snellings: Kristaps Porzingis and DeMarcus Cousins are both easy top-50 players when healthy, but both are huge men who are coming off major leg injuries that were suffered late last season. While we've heard good things about their rehab, both remain huge injury risks this season. As such, there's a reasonable chance that they just physically aren't able to live up to their rankings this season.
Young: Ricky Rubio seems like a strong candidate. And it might not really be all that much his fault. So much of Rubio's success has been in that he is a nice fit for the Quin Snyder "blender," with a lot of movement and space to operate. But if Donovan Mitchell is ready to make his leap into superstardom, Rubio might have less of the ball and be forced to play on the wing, which isn't a strength.
Herring: Myles Turner is at No. 49, and I recognize how young he still is. But at some point, he has to show some true progression. To his credit, he has extended his range since his rookie year and has become an average 3-point shooter. But since logging 16 points, almost nine rebounds and one assist per 36 minutes as a rookie, he has basically turned in two seasons with exactly the same metrics. The Pacers have real talent, and I think they could realistically crack the Eastern Conference's top three if Turner ascends into something more. But he has to start realizing some of that potential we keep waiting for in order for that to happen.
MacMahon: What exactly has Markelle Fultz done to merit a spot on this list? He wasn't good enough to crack the 76ers' rotation in the playoffs, but now he's one of the top 100 players in the league? Maybe a summer working on his shot -- mentally and physically -- will allow Fultz to regain the form that led to Philadelphia trading up to take him with the No. 1 pick. At this point, however, he'd fit better on a list of draft busts than a list of the best players in the world.
4. Which young Laker will eventually rise the highest in a future NBArank?
Snellings: Kyle Kuzma and Brandon Ingram are both talented scorers and future impact players, but Lonzo Ball has the potential to be special. The parallels between Ball as a rookie and recently inducted Hall of Famer Jason Kidd as a rookie are striking.
Ball has Kidd's court vision and the tools to be a legendary floor general, but he also has better size than Kidd and the upside to match him as a defender and rebounder. Ball also shot and made a much higher volume of 3-pointers than Kidd as a rookie, so, if Ball can straighten out his shot, there's no reason he can't aspire to join Kidd one day on the highest levels. He has top-10 future NBArank potential, and perhaps top-5.
Young: The ceiling is highest for Ingram. There's a ton of tools in the toolbox, with a lot of potential to smooth edges and develop new weaponry. When you're that tall and that long, with quality shooting mechanics and solid instincts, it's not hard to see a star turn for Ingram.
Herring: I'd put my money on Ingram being that guy. Ball and Ingram are superior defenders with more potential on that end than Kuzma possesses. Ball is further along now on D, but you can't teach Ingram's length, and Ingram figures to be the most versatile scorer of the trio. The real question now is: How will these three be impacted by the addition of LeBron? Everyone's role changes when a player of his caliber joins a team. It's fair to assume they'll all get better, but there could be something of a learning curve involved for them.
Pelton: I still think Lonzo Ball has the brightest long-term outlook among the Lakers. Despite shooting 30.5 percent on 3-pointers as a rookie, he still had a positive impact in terms of team performance because of outstanding defense. If Ball can develop into even an average 3-point shooter, his other skills should make him a valuable part of a winning team.
MacMahon: Brandon Ingram is my favorite of the baby Lakers by far. I see him developing into a perennial All-Star soon after making a huge leap as a 20-year-old last season. But I'm not sure that happens in L.A., considering he's a point forward who needs the ball in his hands to be at his best -- and that's not happening on a regular basis on LeBron's team. Ingram is the Lakers' best young prospect, which also makes him their best trade asset.
5. Carmelo Anthony ranked No. 64 in last year's predictions, and he's outside the top 100 this year. Which of the following is most true?
A. Those results were about right.
B. Last year's ranking was too favorable.
C. We are underrating Melo.
MacMahon: I'll go with A. Melo is a former superstar in decline who needs to adapt his game to be an asset on a contender. He clearly thought his role in OKC negatively impacted his production, but he's at the point of his career where he needs to figure out how he can fit in, not expect to be a focal point. I'd love to see him redefine himself as a sixth man with the Rockets -- yeah, you, Melo -- a role that would make it easier to mask his defensive deficiencies.
Young: C. Blind taste-test here:
A: 17.7 PPG on 44/33/64 shooting split plus 4.4 RPG
B: 16.4 PPG on 40/36/77 plus 5.8 RPG
A is Andrew Wiggins, who ranked 71st, and B is Melo. Obviously age is a factor, and Melo is on a serious decline -- one he apparently is unaware of -- but he's still a productive player. He's not a good defender -- nor has he ever been -- and his habits can stall an offense. But there seems to be an idea that he's some detrimental NBA player, and that's just not the case. He's not a top-50 player anymore, and maybe not top-75, but now that he's on a minimum contract, it's hard to imagine many GMs taking some other top-100 players over him.
Herring: Based on numbers alone, B. Carmelo's calling card has always been his offense, yet he had the worst field goal percentage and worst true shooting percentage in the league last season among the 36 players who took 15 shots a game or more. His one-on-one defense was exploited time and again during the playoffs, when Utah did its best to force him into switch situations along the perimeter, prompting Billy Donovan to limit his playing time in the second halves of that series. He has a chance to be far better in Houston, but if this situation doesn't fit him well, it's hard to imagine that any situation would.
Snellings: A. At this time last season, Anthony was a 33-year-old small forward who'd made his career as a scorer, going to a Thunder team that needed him to play power forward as a third option. Now he's a year older and joining a championship-caliber Rockets squad on which he could conceivably be the fifth option. Given his skill set and age, his roles have necessitated drops in his rankings that should be steeper this season than even a year ago.
Pelton: B. The concerns about Melo's game his ranking reflected were evident in the playoffs, when he struggled to contribute offensively in a complementary role and was targeted by the Utah Jazz on defense. Given how poorly Anthony shot on 3s, I think there's a good chance he'll rebound this season, but he's still not likely to be a top-100 player.