The ever-so-controversial Bleacher Report released their top-100 NBA players list for this past season. Like always, a list of top NBA players created by the media caused plenty of people to talk.
I’m not going to go over the entire list and where individual players should actually be ranked because that would take forever. The most important thing to note here is that Bleacher Report lists four Celtics players in their top-50.
I should also mention that Marcus Smart was #54 on this list. You can make your arguments that Smart was a top-50 player this season. But for the sake of arguing, I’m just happy he’s getting enough recognition to be that high on the list.
Coming in at #43 is Gordon Hayward. Considering Hayward is coming off his worst year statistically, besides his rookie year, I respect this ranking for Gordon. Averaging 17.3 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 4.1 assists per game with 50/39/85 splits, Hayward finally became a reliable option for Boston.
People have to keep in mind that Hayward is playing as the fourth option on this team. So his numbers aren’t exactly going to pop out. He’s playing alongside three 20+ PPG scorers in the starting lineup. His percentages and usage rate (20.9%) should tell the story. He’s doing the most with the little opportunities he has. After the season he had last year, being near the top-40 is a massive improvement for Hayward.
Coming in at #30 is Jaylen Brown. Brown came into this season with a huge chip on his shoulder. Not only was he coming off the worst season of his young career, besides his rookie year where he didn’t get many minutes, but he was getting ripped on for receiving such a massive contract extension before the season began. Needless to say, Jaylen shut all of his haters up.
Averaging 20.4 points, 6.4 rebounds, 2.2 steals, and 1.1 steals per game with 49/38/74 splits, Brown made a big jump from last season to now. I mean, Brown was literally on the bench last season because he couldn’t find his role with the rest of the starters. You can blame a certain someone for that. But it was incredible to see Brown come into this season with the attitude that he had. Jaylen knows he has a lot to prove, and he’s showing that he is a player this team needs if they want a chance to win it all. He brings a different energy to this team and is a player we can expect to see in a Boston uniform for many years to come.
I do want to point out that it’s kind of ridiculous that Zion Williamson ranks one spot ahead of Brown. Sure, Zion is a freak of nature that will have a high ranking on everybody’s list. But he only played 19 games this season. At this moment in time, he doesn’t deserve to be ranked so high on this list, but we all know how the media treats him.
Coming in at #24 is Kemba Walker. Kemba might not be putting up career highs like he was last season in Charlotte, but he didn’t come to Boston to put up career highs. Kemba is sharing the spotlight with two emerging stars next to him. It’s also important to note that injuries caused Walker to miss 14 games this season, too.
We all know what Walker brings to the table. He has shown us this season that he is a born leader and is ready to not only compete, but start to win championships in Boston. Let’s not act like averaging 21.2 points, 4.9 assists, and 4.1 rebounds per game is a bad thing, either. He has a new role in Boston. He’s comfortable not having to be the #1 option at all times like he was in Charlotte. Can he go off for 30-40 points if the team needs him to? Absolutely! But, he has no issue taking a back seat to guys like Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, especially since they’ve developed so much since last season. Kemba is still a #1 option but plays like a #2 or #3 option. That’s what makes him so unique.
I will say I do think it’s outrageous that Kyle Lowry (#20) is ahead of not only Kemba, but Russell Westbrook (#22) as well. Sure, the Raptors have the #2 seed in the Eastern Conference. But Lowry is not better than either of those two guards. I believe this is another controversial ranking to get people like me to talk and give them free publicity.
Last but not least, Bleacher Report lists Jayson Tatum as the 11th best player in the NBA. Averaging 23.6 points, 7.1 rebounds, 2.9 assists, and 1.4 steals per game, Tatum made a jump this season unlike anything we’ve seen before from a 22-year-old rising star. It’s almost like Tatum made two jumps this year. He’s shown that he can be the #1 option on a championship team in such a short time.
The potential was always there. It was a matter of when he would make that jump fans were expecting him to make. With Kemba Walker joining Boston in free agency, fans got the idea that Tatum’s time was coming. No point guard is better for Tatum than Kemba. He’s allowed Tatum to grow and evolve into the player we all expected him to become. The scary thing is, he’s only getting started.
Bleacher Report had Tatum ranked ahead of All-Star forwards Pascal Siakam, Paul George, and Ben Simmons. The future is so bright for Jayson Tatum. He’s now starting to get that spotlight Boston fans have been waiting for him to receive for over a year now. A strong playoff run for Tatum and the Celtics is what he needs to solidify himself as a top player in the NBA. Time will tell, but if this season has shown anything, it’s that he’s more than capable of doing it.
Let me know what you think of Bleacher Report’s rankings of Boston’s top-5 players, but also their overall list. I know there are some controversial picks in there, so I’m curious to hear other people’s NBA player rankings.
-Dante Turo (@DanteOnDeck)
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Photo: NBC Sports Boston