With the NBA regular season a little over a month away, here are my top players coming into 2018-2019. In this article, I will discuss players 11-20. 1-10 will come early next week.
Toughest omissions: Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Karl-Anthony Towns, Andre Drummond, Nikola Jokic, Kristaps Porzingis, Gordon Hayward.
20. Al Horford, Boston Celtics– Kyrie Irving is the best player on the Boston Celtics, but Horford was the most valuable Celtic last season. His stats have never told the whole story. It’s funny that people were astonished with the Celtics’ postseason success with “a bunch of young guys.” They had a top-five coach and a top 20 player.
19. Ben Simmons, Philadelphia 76ers– Simmons, who had the best rookie season since Blake Griffin in 2011, looks to build upon his success last year and assert himself as a superstar sooner than later. But after only one season under his belt and without any semblance of a jump shot, Simmons is a top-20 player right now.
18. Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz– The Stifle Tower was the anchor of the best defense in the league and was the best big drop-defender in the pick-and-roll. With Gobert on the floor last season, the Utah Jazz outscored opponents by 8.6 points per 100 possessions, and just 1.5 points per 100 possessions without him.
17. John Wall, Washington Wizards– Wall was tough to rank. He is clearly an elite talent, but the Washington Wizards played at around .500 without him for half of last season. However, Wall, is a five-time all star and was great against the Toronto Raptors in the playoffs last season (26/6/12 in six games.)
16. Victor Oladipo, Indiana Pacers– There is no doubt that Oladipo was one of the best players in the league last season, and arguably better than anyone ranked 11 through 20 on this list. Whether that level of play is sustainable places him at this point on my rankings. He shot a 43% from three October through December and 29% January through March. Which shooter will Indiana get this season?
15. LaMarcus Aldridge, San Antonio Spurs– LMA was a monster last season, making Second Team All-NBA and receiving a few MVP votes. Without Kawhi Leonard for basically the entire season, Aldridge carried the San Antonio Spurs to 47 wins in a brutal Western Conference. 23 points, 9 rebounds, and 1 block per game on 51% from the field isn’t too shabby for a 32 year old. Given his age, he is a regression candidate.
14. Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers– Lillard gets docked for defense here. Dame is one of the NBA’s best in clutch time performers and averaged 27/5/7 last season. If his defense improves, Lillard is in the discussion for second-best point guard in the league.
13. Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder– there is no doubt that Westbrook is a top 10 talent. His passion rivals only Kobe Bryant’s or Michael Jordan’s. His back-to-back seasons averaging a triple double suggests he is a once-in-a-generation talent. But he is yet to prove that the way he plays (record-setting usage rates) leads to postseason success. A mind-boggling 46(!) field goal attempts in the elimination game against the Utah Jazz leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Westbrook needs the right team around him to be as effective as he is, unlike his teammate…
12. Paul George, Oklahoma City Thunder– Paul George is the ultimate second banana. PG plays elite defense and he is great on- or off-ball on offense. George is perfect in the role he plays next to Russell Westbrook. Then again, he would fit very well on any playoff-caliber team.
11. Jimmy Butler, Minnesota Timberwolves– Butler, who turns 29 later this month, is in the middle of his prime and in a contract year. This season might be his best one yet. With that being said, tension in the locker room and swirling trade rumors might adversely affect his play. His two-way play is matched only by George and a few players in my top ten.