Simple action and decent spacing can give Sabonis all he needs to be effective against most opponents. Sam Hauser, Virginia: Hauser will provide immediate relief for a Virginia program that was starved for 3-point shooting last season. Every player has the right to advocate for themselves, but if we’re assessing the value of those players from the position of building a team, extreme volatility makes for a considerable handicap. Other bigs could relieve Ibaka on his rougher nights. Which isn’t to say that James isn’t a great player, or won’t be this season. A sensible plan, devoid of vanity—that’s about as Horford as it gets. Our money is on Hurt (9.7 ppg, 3.8 rpg), who has redefined his body and tweaked his role, making a huge second-season jump for Mike Krzyzewski's team. Where White’s career takes him is difficult to predict, seeing as he’s already 25 years old. A go-to stopper who is also, in terms of style and production, the closest working analogue to Kevin Durant. Most players are willing to make certain concessions so long as they’re still allowed some other freedoms. Allen (17.3 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 3.0 apg) is absolutely one of them due to the fact Utah was merely 16-15 a season ago and Allen's teammate, Rylan Jones, who missed making our list by 10-or-so spots, was one of the 20 best freshmen in America. You’ll also rack up turnovers, as Booker did in droves, in part because he just isn’t a star-level passer quite yet. “The goal right now is to play the season,” he said. There’s no fault in either option. He's the top returning scorer for the Tigers and figures to step into a larger role as a sophomore, where Penny Hardaway will need his two-way talents as a scorer and Swiss Army knife defender. Capela is still finding his, particularly when the smaller opponents in question can deny him clean rolls to the rim. Aamir Simms, Clemson: The 6-8 forward with a nice outside shooting touch could play his way into NBA Draft consideration this season after leading the Tigers in scoring, rebounding, assists and blocks. It was as if, after a four-year plateau, Vucevic simply decided he would be better. What happens when he learns to better pick his spots? Where opinions differ is in how to make sense of it. Superstars can get away with a lot of things, but not this. Their season was a collective triumph, but everything would have fallen apart had Bogdanović not been able to scale within his role. It all seems simple enough until making the adjustment forces an opponent out of their comfort zone—demanding a cross-match they’d rather not make, or pulling a perimeter defender away from some other noteworthy assignment. Johnson is a former five-star recruit who has a 6-8 frame the size of a power forward but carries the skill and feel of a guard. It’s an odd dynamic. The Thunder was a good ecosystem for Westbrook in many ways (particularly on defense, where teammates always cleaned up after his gambles), though not in the most obvious ones. If it’s rim protection, Favors has shown he can suppress opponents’ percentages around the basket and ranked eighth in the league in block rate, ahead of Joel Embiid. But really, the kind of organic, off-ball movement Harris brings would add complexity to any offense. Westbrook’s recent inefficiency is inarguable. The most incredible thing about the way Vucevic played last year is how little can be traced to any exterior cause. It says a lot about the health of the league that a player like Paul George, who has no real holes in his game on either side of the ball, could rank as its ninth-best player. These things happen. MaCio Teague, Baylor: Teague transitioned from the Big South to the Big 12 with impressive efficiency last season after sitting out in 2018-19 as a transfer from UNC Asheville. This is especially potent when Nikola Jokić, the man initiating Denver’s offense, would love nothing more than to lead Harris down the baseline with a perfect pass. Please feel free to look back to’s Top 100 Players of 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015 and 2014. Perhaps it’s time we accept that he isn’t. Truth is, Pickett is a borderline-great point guard (15.6 ppg, 6.0 apg, 4.6 rpg) who would start on almost every team in America. Every second that Curry is on the floor, he is exacting a toll on the defense. Aaron Wiggins, Maryland: Someone will have to replace the production of departed stars Anthony Cowan Jr. and Jalen Smith, and Wiggins -- a former top-50 prospect -- is sure to improve upon the 10.4 points per game he averaged as a sophomore last season. It’s telling that Gordon has been fairly effective even in those circumstances. His drives have leaned towards frantic. But keep in mind: During the regular season, Green averaged just 7.4 PPG, because that’s how he prefers to play. -- DC, 49. Smart’s attempts obviously come much easier. We saw last season what Middleton can do in a simple, streamlined role: make a career-high 179 three-pointers (on 38% shooting), give a superstar all the room he needs to work, and carry second-unit lineups in need of his shot-making. Reading it quickly enough to keep an offense on the fly is a different bag—one that Horford has been carrying with ease his entire career. Yet the same player who takes those shots and comes up big in crunch time makes it a point to be mindful. The 6-9 sophomore averaged 10.5 points and 9.4 rebounds last season for a Villanova team that shared the Big East title. Even after an all-time playoff run, a championship win over the Warriors, and a Finals MVP, the conversation around Kawhi Leonard still comes back to load management. For both Murray and the Nuggets, the playoffs were exactly the sort of learning experience they needed them to be. Beal uses those angles to make hard drives, propelling him all the way to the rim more often than ever. Or it might even start earlier: before a screen is ever set, where Walker uses a subtle step to set up his defender to be creamed. Now back for his fifth season on campus, the lanky left-hander will be the heart and soul of a team with great potential. There are clear limits. Even when it’s frustrating, Towns will have to get comfortable with imposing himself more as a scorer. The very act of putting Joel Embiid on the floor is a strategic advance. Not many players have the luxury of playing as deliberately as the Mavericks allowed Dončić last season, which makes sense because most don’t stay quite as balanced as a possession drags on. No star player invests more into every possession than Giannis Antetokounmpo, which goes a long way for an unreasonably athletic 7-footer with real ingenuity. But it’s so much easier to stomach his awful defense and learning-on-the-job playmaking when he’s able to both convert difficult shots and create easy ones. Then, when they do, it becomes clear that Green knew where a possession was going all along. Sports are a relative enterprise. There’s no messing around with Butler. Joel Ayayi, Gonzaga: The 6-5 redshirt junior is one of the best all-around guards in the country who defends, rebounds, distributes and is improving as a 3-point shooter. Getting it back will probably take time, and thus warrant caution. Some aspects of Bledsoe’s game (namely his defense and physicality) translate brilliantly to postseason basketball. Sometimes being a great player means embracing the game for its humanity. Was there a ballsier performance in the playoffs than Jamal Murray’s? Marcus Carr, Minnesota: Carr emerged as one of the best guards in the Big Ten last season while averaging 15.4 points and 6.5 assists after transferring in from Pittsburgh. Williams ranked as the No. Given enough time, Harris has the tools necessary to find his way in any system. He can do more with less (it’s easier, for instance, to play more limited point guards when Griffin can share in the creative burden), but also more with more; imagine how lean Griffin’s game could be if his circumstances didn’t require him to do quite so much. Or would it be impact enough to double as one of the best facilitators in the league? This is at least part of the reason why Davis has played for just two winning teams in seven years. Markkanen has a chance to be one of the premier stretch bigs in the league. The tricky part was trying to figure out where to slot them. There are also many with flaws far more egregious than any of Teague’s, and far more detrimental. © 2004-2020 CBS Interactive. There is virtue in filling a role that others couldn’t, but less so when it all leads to somewhat ambiguous ends. Beyond that, Harris has initiative—a quality that keeps him cutting and curling and exchanging, thus requiring multiple defenders to keep tabs on his whereabouts. Marcus Zegarowski, Creighton: Our preseason pick for Big East Player of the Year is an elite 3-point shooter. It’s encouraging that Barnes is coming off the best three-point shooting season of his career (39.4% on 5.7 attempts per game) and remains a solid, multi-positional defender. Probably won't be good enough or big enough in the stats department to win ACC Player of the Year, but seems like he'll be Duke's key player on a particularly young team. Capacity is its own kind of skill. Everything is adaptable, in part because Kuzma can get to a wide array of runners and leaners whenever needed. Did you wonder if he was up for the rigors of postseason play? There is a subtlety to the job that can only be learned through working it—the kind that was even discernible in Young’s performance as he moved from month to month during his rookie season. If there’s a need for his team to adjust defensive styles on the fly, Aminu can shift from showing to trapping to switching without issue. After years of gradual development on his shot, Griffin emerged as a kind of player we had never seen before: a big who stretched the floor off the dribble, less a point forward than a 6’10” combo guard. LaVine isn’t perfect. It’s a rare intersection, a player who can rank in the top three in total blocks and in the top 20 in total three-pointers made.


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