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The 2019-2020 NBA season was one of the wildest seasons in league history. With the first part of the regular season ending in March due to COVID-19 and the restart with only 22 teams at the end of July, it made evaluating players and their overall rankings for the upcoming season an interesting task.
With the league set to tip off on December 22nd, here is my list of the top 50 NBA players heading into the season.
I have included players who either missed the entire season or missed time last year due to injury, while rating them fairly as training camps are underway.
Over the next two articles, I will be giving my thoughts and opinions on your favorite players. In this article will be players ranked 26-50.
26. Rudy Gobert – Utah Jazz
Gobert could have won another Defensive Player Of The Year award last season. He grabs 31% of his team’s defensive rebounds when he’s on the floor. That equals fewer second chances for opposing teams.
27. Kristaps Porzingis – Dallas Mavericks
Porzingis finally returned to 2017-18 form as he helped lead the Dallas Mavericks back to the playoffs. Increasing his rebounds to almost 10 per game (9.5) and knocking down 147 three-pointers, the “Unicorn” regained his nickname.
28. Jrue Holiday – Milwaukee Bucks
Holiday might be the most underappreciated player in the entire league. Not only does he guard the opposing team’s best player, but he also locks them down. Players shoot 40.6% when guarded by Holiday. Besides doing all of that work on defense, he still gives you right around 20 points, seven assists, and five rebounds on a nightly basis. Let’s see how he does in Milwaukee.
29. Domantas Sabonis – Indiana Pacers
Why is Sabonis so high? When you get 50 double-doubles and have 30 games of five or more assists in 62 games, you earned it. If he hadn’t gotten get injured, the Indiana Pacers would not have gotten swept in the playoffs.
30. Trae Young – Atlanta Hawks
The knocks on Trae Young are his defense and his team having not made the playoffs yet in his tenure. However, he was the fifth player in NBA history to finish a season averaging at 29 points and nine assists a game in the same season. He’s an All-Star and walking double-double on a nightly basis. He is one of the major reasons why Atlanta is ready to soar in the upcoming season.
31. Jamal Murray – Denver Nuggets
Murray was brilliant in the playoffs and finally turned the corner with his overall game. He averaged 26.5 points and 6.6 assists as he led the Nuggets to the Western Conference Finals. Now he has the chance to build on that.
32. CJ McCollum – Portland Trail Blazers
One of the best players in the league to never make the All-Star team, McCollum just gets it done on a nightly basis. He has averaged 20 points per game in each of the last five seasons and he has no signs of slowing down. More than just a scorer, he averages over four assists per game as well. He’s just as dangerous as his backcourt mate Damian Lillard in the clutch.
33. John Wall – Houston Rockets
Wall missed all of last season and it will be almost two calendar years since he’s seen NBA action. He has come back from injuries before in his career at an All-Star level. But this time he’s coming back from a left Achilles and left heel injury at the same time. So for now I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt. Maybe the change in scenery will help the resurgence.
34. Andre Drummond – Cleveland Cavaliers
Drummond became the seventh player in NBA history to lead the league in rebounding three consecutive seasons in a row. His 102.9 defensive rating placed him sixth in the entire league.
35. Khris Middleton – Milwaukee Bucks
Middleton made another All-Star team and he finished last season with career highs in points and rebounds per game. He was three missed shots away from finishing the season with a 50/40/90 stat line. Even more impressive, he averaged less than 30 minutes a game.
36. Kemba Walker – Boston Celtics
Walker played last season on a team with the most talent that he has ever played with in his time in the league. So his numbers took a bit of a dip from his previous season third team All-NBA selection. But that does not mean he isn’t one of the better point guards in the NBA. Very few players in the game can do what Walker does with the ball in his hands.
37. Brandon Ingram – New Orleans Pelicans
The 2019-20 Most Improved Player finally lived up to the potential that he showed in his first three seasons in the league. He has evolved into one of the best scorers in the NBA. After having four games of 30 or more points in 190 games in Los Angeles, Ingram had 11 of those games in his first season in New Orleans. Ingram can make Pelicans fans feel a bit better after the Anthony Davis trade, because they got an All-Star in return.
38. Kevin Love – Cleveland Cavaliers
Cleveland might not have had the best record this season, but Love regained his health and his play showed it. Love missed only nine games after missing 83 regular-season games over the previous two seasons. He regained his shooting stroke and was averaging 21 points and 11 rebounds a game in March before the season ended.
39. Blake Griffin – Detroit Pistons
Griffin’s numbers took a major nose dive as he attempted to play with a knee injury that ended his season before the new year. He’s still dangerous in the high post and will return to form this season. The real question is can he play more than 70 of the Pistons games in the upcoming season? In his last full season, Detroit went 39-36 with him in the lineup.
40. Nikola Vucevic – Orlando Magic
Vucevic did not have the same numbers as he did in his All-Star 2018-19 season, but that does not mean he was not as impactful. Players that can score from all parts of the floor and grab double-digit rebounds do not grow on trees. If he can get back to the defensive level he had in his All-Star season, then this ranking is too low for him.
41. Zach LaVine – Chicago Bulls
LaVine had every reason to be on the All-Star team last season. He’s an outstanding offensive player who has become a serious threat from beyond the arc. His 184 makes from three was 22 more than his previous two seasons in Chicago combined. He averaged close to 25 points, five rebounds, and five assists per game.
42. De’Aaron Fox – Sacramento Kings
Why is Fox considered one of the best up and coming players in the league? Go watch his play after the All-Star break. He averaged 24.5 points and 6.4 assists, shooting over 50% from the floor as he kept the Kings in the Western Conference playoff race. Even though his defensive numbers weren’t as good as his sophomore season, he is still a coach’s nightmare on that side of the ball.
43. Ja Morant – Memphis Grizzlies
The 2019-2020 Rookie of the Year almost single-handedly makes people pay attention to the Memphis Grizzlies. Besides his highlight-reel plays, Morant is fearless and gets it done when it counts. He finished in the top 20 in clutch points per game. His second season could elevate him into an elite class before his 22nd second birthday.
44. Jaylen Brown – Boston Celtics
Brown is a top-15 talent and when given a chance he is an extremely dynamic player. A mid-range game monster on offense, Brown increased range to consistently hit the three-point shot. After increasing his scoring average by seven points per game this season, Brown might have to become more aggressive to reach his full potential on that side of the ball. When he does, he will enter the elite level when it comes to the best two-way players in the game right now.
45. Zion Williamson – New Orleans Pelicans
Before the torches and pitchforks come out, remember Williamson only played in 24 games and still has those struggles from the free-throw line. But when you average 22.3 points per game in 27 minutes, that automatically puts you in the top-50. Let him play 70% of the Pelicans games this season with the same metrics he had in a small sample size, then he will rocket up the rankings.
46. Fred VanVleet – Toronto Raptors
The ultimate bet on yourself player enters the ranking at number 47. VanVleet has become the guy in Toronto you want to take the big shots in big moments. He’s the perfect complement to Kyle Lowry and an outstanding combo guard. All of his betting on himself has allowed him to finish last season in the top 20 in steals per game, total steals, steals percentage, defensive win shares, and assists.
47. DeMar DeRozan – San Antonio Spurs
In his 11th season, DeRozan shot over 50% from the floor for the first time in his career. The most dangerous midrange player in the game combines that skill with getting to the free-throw line over seven times a game. You can almost pencil him in for 20 points on a nightly basis and for the second straight season he averaged over five rebounds and five assists per game.
48. D’Angelo Russell – Minnesota Timberwolves
Russell was not placed in the best situation fresh off of having the best season of his young career in Brooklyn. He was involved in the sign-and-trade Kevin Durant deal and his time in Golden State was not how he or the team planned it. With Stephen Curry getting hurt and Klay Thompson not returning from his ACL injury, Russell did the best he could with the situation that was presented. Now teaming in Minnesota with his close friend Karl-Anthony Towns, Russell will find a way to duplicate his All-Star season.
49. Caris LeVert – Brooklyn Nets
LeVert was outstanding in the bubble for the short-handed Brooklyn Nets. On top of being a very good on-ball defender, LeVert’s three-point shot turned him into one of the best two-way players in the game. The only thing stopping him from getting a higher spot on this list is his two returning All-Star teammates.
50. Jusuf Nurkic – Portland Trail Blazers
If one player proved how much of a difference maker he could be it was the Portland big man. After his return to the Blazers’ lineup in the bubble, they became a new team. Now that he is healthy, he could end up as a top five big man when all is said and done this season.