Sports Illustrated is currently ranking its top 100 players and two Cavaliers fell short of making the list.
Just outside of the top 100 are both J.R. Smith and Derrick Rose. Here’s what SI wrote about Smith:
It’s important to remember that what was one of Smith’s worst NBA seasons came amid paralyzing emotional turmoil. Perhaps Smith was headed toward an underwhelming year for other reasons, but this was not—and could not be—business as usual. Smith stuck to his lane but struggled to convert the same plays that had become routine for him during his stint in Cleveland. The results made his performance noticeably less reliable, if for completely understandable reasons. Smith has always been a borderline player for the Top 100, in part because the Cavs are so uniquely capable of drawing out his best play. Most other franchises wouldn’t get the same Smith, which combined with a downward trend in his performance was enough to edge him out of the mix.
This is fair read of Smith. Last year, due to injury and the premature birth of his child, he never really settled into a groove. This year, with everything seemingly back on track, he could be in for a season more in line with his 2014-15 and 2015-16 production.
Here’s what SI had to say about Rose:
The only active MVP winner not to make SI’s Top 100 of 2018 list, Rose (18 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 4.4 APG) qualified as a “snub” solely due to name recognition rather than what remains of his injury-ravaged game. In New York last season, the former No. 1 pick did show flashes of the off-the-dribble burst and finishing that once made him a three-time All-Star. More importantly, though, the 28-year-old-old Rose lagged as a facilitator and leader, missed 15+ games for the sixth straight season, completely abandoned his three-point shot, and proved wholly incapable of handling his defensive responsibilities. As a result, he merely put up empty box-score numbers for a hopeless loser, ranking outside the top 300 in Real Plus-Minus and outside the top 200 in WARP. It’s no surprise that Rose was forced to settle for a minimum contract with Cleveland. Meanwhile, Phil Jackson, the man who brought Rose to New York in a 2016 trade, is no longer employed.
First off, how crazy is it that Rose is the only former MVP to fall outside the top 100. What a fall it’s been for him. As this year goes, hit fit with LeBron James is questionable. But with Isaiah Thomas’ health in doubt, Rose will likely be the Cavs’ starter for at least part of the year. At the very least, he’ll get a chance to prove he belongs on this list.