SB Nation got together some of its brightest minds, and Conrad Kaczmarek, and put together a list that tried to do something impossible: predict the future. A panel including Mike Prada, Jonathan Tjarks, Tom Ziller, Conrad, Paul Flannery and Ricky O'Donnell got together and took turns ranking a player at each spot. The top 5, in order:
- Kevin Durant, small forward, Oklahoma City
- LeBron James, positionless behemoth and traitor, Miami Heat
- Andre Drummond, center, Detroit Pistons
- Russell Westbrook, point guard, Oklahoma City
- Derrick Rose, point guard, Chicago Bulls
- Kyrie Irving, point guard, Cleveland Cavaliers
- Kevin Durant - Should be in his absolute prime in 2017. He should have all or most of his athleticism, will be incredibly smart, and altogether unguardable.
- Anthony Davis - I think most of you know how high I am on Davis. While he struggled a little defensively last year as a rookie, he did quite well when playing with Robin Lopez. He has a developing jump shot, good handle and could be a dominant force on both ends.
- Kyrie Irving - Similar to Kevin Durant in that there just aren't any offensive weaknesses. I don't particularly care about his defense, but he will get better and force turnovers. I suppose you can worry about injuries.
- Russell Westbrook - Will still be at athletic pinnacle and should be a little better shooting and making decisions. Though I am firmly on the #LetWestbrookBeWestbrook bandwagon.
- LeBron James - Have to imagine some of his athleticism goes, but he will be a great stretch forward, distributor from high or low post, and impossible to guard low post scoring option. This might be low but hey, I don't know the future.
I could quibble with various things here, but its best if you just dive in and see for yourself. I loved Jeremy Lamb before the draft, and didn't love Dion Waiters, but Waiters at 73 while Lamb is 50th? Brad Beal at 38 is fine, and he was younger than Dion, but that seems like an extreme difference given their largely comparable rookie seasons. But these guys who did the list are fair and watch a ton of basketball; yes, they even watch the Cavaliers. I meet a lot of Cavaliers fans who rave about Waiters, thing he is fantastic and has star potential. This is just not a common view around the league right now. They could be wrong, but I think this is a little insightful.
That being said, I think a lot of rookies get overexposed and judged too quickly. If Dion had torn up the D-League like Jeremy Lamb and been walking into a situation like Oklahoma City where he was going to come off the bench for a title contender, their rankings might be reversed. Instead, he was thrown into the starting line-up of a bad team where he played terrible for 3 months before steadily improving.
I don't exactly believe that Anthony Bennett will be better than Tristan Thompson in three years, either, but best not delve too deeply into that one. Thompson will be 25 entering his 5th NBA season while Bennett will be 23 entering his third. Scoring is important but so is defense. All in all, though, this is what makes the Cavaliers a fascinating team. We simply don't know how good these guys are going to be. But we do have Kyrie Irving. And everyone thinks pretty highly of him.
What do you guys think? Check out the full top 100, there is some interesting stuff. Feel free to get indignant about Dion's ranking. I am certainly not a Dion homer and even I think it's a little low.