This week, Sports Illustrated is rolling out it’s Top 100 NBA Players rankings, and this morning, released the first half (picks #100-#51). Not surprisingly, Kentucky accounted for four of the first fifty picks: Devin Booker (#100), Brandon Knight (#98), Enes Kanter (#88), and Nerlens Noel (#84). Here’s a sampling of what the SI crew had to say about each.
100. Devin Booker, Phoenix Suns
“The buzz around Booker, a 2015 lottery pick, has steadily climbed since he made the most of Phoenix’s lost year to average 19.2 PPG and 4.1 APG after the All-Star break,” Ben Golliver wrote. “His brief cameo at the 2016 Las Vegas Summer League was met with rave reviews, as he displayed the knockdown shooting stroke that got him drafted, some nice playmaking instincts in traffic, and a fiery competitiveness that suggests he’s only just getting started.”
98. Brandon Knight, Phoenix Suns
“Knight’s game struggles to satisfy when used in volume,” argued Rob Mahoney. “The very thing that sets him apart–that nice scoring total–is a function of his skill set being pushed beyond its optimal range. Teams could do worse.”
88. Enes Kanter, Oklahoma City Thunder
“Kanter’s story is similar to many other big men who are trying to find a home in the changing NBA game: he’s a terror on the boards and he’s a low-post scoring machine, but his lack of rim-protecting ability and his molasses lateral quickness make him a major liability on the other end,” Golliver said.
84. Nerlens Noel, Philadelphia 76ers
“So rare is his defensive profile that it begs exception; his steal rate in each of his first two seasons ranks among the best of all time for a big, and only truly elite company (Hakeem Olajuwon, David Robinson) matched his output in terms of blocks and steals,” said Mahoney. “It was only with Noel on the floor that the Sixers, lacking as they were, came anywhere close to defensive respectability. To get all of this from a player still feeling his way through team defensive concepts is stunning.”
The rest of the rankings will be released throughout the week. Guesses as to how many UK players will be in the top 50? I’m going with five: Karl Towns, Anthony Davis, John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, and Eric Bledsoe.