Deron Williams and Brook Lopez, always a worry with injuries, are ranked inside the top 50 of Sports Illustrated's top 100 for the 2014-2015 season.
Williams was ranked at 45 this season, one ahead of his former teammate Paul Pierce. D-Will is down from his 24 ranking last season, a big drop.
Deron Williams will likely never be Deron Williams again. That player -- the one who led the Jazz to the 2007 Western Conference finals and until recently was regarded as a superstar -- has been undercut by ankle injuries. What Williams can be, though, is a perfectly effective point guard.
Don't mistake his depressed output for a lack of influence. The Nets scored a whopping 8.3 more points per 100 possessions last season with Williams than without, according to NBA.com, despite the presence of an able backup (Shaun Livingston) and strong supporting creators (Paul Pierce and Joe Johnson). At this point, however, Williams' value is very much dependent on his physical state. (He missed 18 games in 2013-14 and had surgery on both ankles in May.) When ailing he tends to drive very little, instead leaning heavily on long jumpers off the dribble that have become the root of his inconsistency.
Williams is not an every-possession (or even every-night) performer. He's liable to turn in a single-digit scoring performances even when his team needs more. That's a problem and a demerit for these rankings. It just doesn't erase Williams' wealth of ability or all the good he offered the Nets despite his health woes. -- R.M.
Brook Lopez, despite playing only 17 games last season, is still ranked higher than Williams, at 36 of 100. Mahoney notes that he can be even higher if it wasn't for durability concerns.
If not for durability concerns -- Lopez broke his right foot twice in the last three seasons -- he would be ranked higher as the rare center who can carry an offense.
Brooklyn scored at a top-10 rate in 2012-13 with Lopez as its definitive leader in usage. That first-option role coincided with his most efficient season from the field (52.1 percent) since his rookie year and impressive production in the regular season and playoffs. Lopez followed that effort with absurd efficiency from the post before his latest foot injury ended his '13-14 season after only 17 games. He has had three surgeries since: two to repair damage in his foot and another to address a tendon in his ankle.
Lopez says he was cleared to play in late July. If he picks up where he left off, he would not only be a vaunted offensive player but also a burgeoning defender who shows a better understanding of how to use space to his advantage. Lopez was a genuine help to Brooklyn's defense last season. That more well-rounded game makes it easier to forgive his troubles on the glass. -- R.M.
That looks like it for the Nets in the SI list, with Andrei Kirilenko at 85 and Joe Johnson at 51. We are still going through the ESPN list, which ranks all 500 players rather than just the top 100. So far, In that list, Sergey Karasev is ranked at No. 389; Cory Jefferson is No. 426; Markel Brown at No. 451; Jason Collins at No. 474 and Jorge Gutierrez is 475.
- SI.com's Top 100 NBA players of 2015: 100-31 - Ben Golliver & Rob Mahoney - Sports Illustrated
- SI.com's Top 100 NBA players of 2015 - Ben Golliver & Rob Mahoney - Sports Illustrated