We’re not arguing that the Nets roster has been shamed by Sports Illustrated. Nor are we going to challenge their rankings. We’re just suggesting that even beyond predicting team records (and the ultimate champion nine months from now), making a call on the top 100 players is sorta silly.
For the record, Brook Lopez is the only Net to make the top 100, at No. 38 (same as last year and between Chris Bosh and Khris Middleton.) Here’s Rob Mahoney’s take on the Nets big man...
Lopez plodded along as usual last season to help carry the hapless Nets as much as one could. That it was all for naught is less a reflection on him than on the roster. No big could have redeemed a group that lacking and that inexperienced, especially when considering that post work has become a spatially collaborative enterprise. He did what he could under the circumstances—including dropping 20.6 points per game on 51.1% shooting from the field in a similar portioning of offense to years past. The bulk of it came from the post, though Lopez has also diversified his offense with plenty of rolls and cuts to avoid systemic stagnation. Those skill sets have even less overlap around the league than one might think. Very few of the league’s post specialists have a good sense of how to move and duck in at an opportune moment for an easy score, yet Lopez bolsters his efficiency on touches of that very kind. There’s only so much that a defense can do when a 7-footer slices through the lane for a deep, unexpected catch. Lopez takes that opportunity and runs with it, creating an additional lane of accessibility for his skilled offensive game. Thanks to wrinkles like this, Lopez could still function as a primary or secondary scoring option on a very good team. There just isn’t much in his game to actually elevate lesser players around him—especially given that Lopez is only an occasional passer from the low block and largely just a passable interior defender. He works, in good times and bad, as something of a monolith.
Okay. That’s a pretty good assessment. But it also means that Jeremy Lin didn’t make it. (Nor did the leading Olympics scorer in the last 20 years, Bojan Bogdanovic). SI’s Mahoney explained the lack of Lin this way...
Lin has charted an admirable course as a role player since his Linsanity days and found ways to improve every season. What he gave the Hornets last season was vital to their success; Charlotte finally got its offense moving by having multiple playmakers on the court at all times and sustained that play by ushering in Lin as Kemba Walker’s natural backup. The arrangement made sense and Lin carried his role well—making him one of the league’s best reserve point guards and a reasonable free agent target for the Nets this summer. Omitting Lin from the Top 100 isn’t a slight or an oversight. It’s merely an acknowledgment that Lin’s offerings in the last year were both helpful and a cut below some of the league’s most impactful players.
There was no mention of any other Nets player. What was interesting is who joined the Nets point guard on the less-than-100 list. Joe Johnson, now of the Utah Jazz, Deron Williams, now of the Dallas Mavericks ... and apparently the most controversial snub, Derrick Rose of the New York Knicks "superteam" (his words, not ours).
This can all be debated, but remember, the ESPN list of ALL NBA players has yet to come.