Ranking season is upon us, and two Cavs outside of the big three have made it into Sports Illustrated’s top 100 NBA players. At this point only players 51-100 have been revealed, so Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love and LeBron James are yet to be revealed. But J.R. Smith and Tristan Thompson were listed today by Sports Illustrated.
For J.R. Smith, SI had him ranked as the 96th best player in the NBA. When you consider that there are 150 starters in the NBA - plus some of the faults Smith has shown in his game - this feels like a pretty good spot to place him. That being said, when you start to see names like Evan Fournier and Cody Zeller immediately after him, you start to wonder if he could have been placed a little higher. Part of his value to the Cavs, is that they are able to highlight his best traits while limiting the number of opportunities for mistakes by him. So if you’re ranking his value in a vacuum, I get placing him here. But his impact to the Cavs is much greater than his individual value.
SI had this to say about Smith:
Tristan Thompson also made an appearance on today’s rankings, rising from 70th last season to 52nd. Immediately I quickly rolled my eyes to see him listed as a power forward, a position he hasn’t really played much of over the last few seasons unless it was out of necessity. Thompson being ranked this high is a testament to his versatility defensively and ability to be selective and effective on the offensive side of the floor.
SI had the following to say about the man in the middle for the Cavs:
It’ll be interesting to see if Thompson’s contract continues to be brought up so frequently, especially as more and more people sign contracts under the new CBA. A similarly limited player to Thompson in Bismack Biyombo signed for four years and $72 million this past summer. So I’m not sure if the money he’s earned can solely be attributed to James. But there’s no denying the impact he’s made on the Cavs, and at the end of the day that’s all that really matters.