It’s that time of year again: with the NBA season just weeks away (finally!), pundits are ranking the top players in the league, 1 through 100, and CBS Sports is the first. While there might be some surprises near the top, like LeBron James failing to make the top 10, it’s not shocking that Mikal Bridges and Nic Claxton have made big jumps following last season.
Bridges ranks 29th, Claxton 79th. They’re the only two Nets on the list, compared to last season when all five Brooklyn types made the list: Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Ben Simmons, Seth Curry and Joe Harris ranked between No. 3 — Durant — and No. 95 — Harris.
With the exception of Simmons, they’re all gone and he didn’t make the top 100 this time around.
The methodology was fairly simple, as CBS Sports’ Brad Botkin explained:
Each of CBS Sports’ eight NBA staff writers — Brad Botkin, James Herbert, Jack Maloney, Sam Quinn, Bill Reiter, Ameer Tyree, Colin Ward-Henninger and Jasmyn Wimbish — submitted individual lists of their top 100 players in the NBA for the upcoming 2023-24 season, and results were calculated by assigning a point value to each player’s place on each writer’s list. A player ranked No. 1 received 100 points, while a player ranked No. 100 received one point, and the cumulative point totals were used to determine the order for this year’s edition of the CBS Sports NBA 100.
Both Bridges and Claxton made big jumps, Bridges from No. 51 and Claxton from not even on the list of 100. Bridges in fact jumped ahead of a number of NBA stars, including Draymond Green at No. 30; Brandon Ingram at No. 32; James Harden, at No. 33; Irving, at No. 35; Karl-Anthony Towns, at No. 37; Bradley Beal at No. 38; and the Bulls 1-2 punch of Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan at Nos. 43 and 44. He was ranked just behind two of his Team USA teammates, Jalen Brunson and Jaren Jackson Jr.
Of Bridges, Botkin wrote this:
Last year’s rank: 51. Bridges jumps 22 spots from last season’s rankings, and for good reason. He turned into a star in Brooklyn following a mid-season trade from Phoenix. After he got to the Nets, he averaged 26 points over 27 games on 47-38-89 shooting splits before coming out of the postseason gate with 30 in Game 1 vs. Philadelphia. For my money, Bridges is a top-two perimeter defender along with Jrue Holiday, and he might not be No. 2. Bridges is a plus 3-point shooter who is effective both on and off the ball, making him a fit for any system. He’s a no-doubt future All-Star, and perhaps All-NBA. — Botkin
Claxton who finished right behind Bridges at No. 5 in the NBA Most Improved Player balloting, made a jump over a number of players who were either excised from the list or ranked below him, starting with Simmons and two other former teammates, Harris and Curry, who didn’t make the list following injury-plagued seasons. Among the players still on the top 100 list but below Claxton include: Tobias Harris, at No. 80; R.J. Barrett, at 86; Robert Williams III, at No. 94; and Bruce Brown, at No. 98. Herbert wrote this of Claxton:
Last year’s rank: Not ranked. One of 2022-23’s breakout players, Claxton was a legitimate Defensive Player of the Year candidate for the Nets. Few bigs are as comfortable switching onto the perimeter and, now that he’s bulked up a bit, few can bully him on the interior anymore. Claxton’s free-throw shooting (54.1%) still needs to improve, but his finishing (78% at the rim, per Cleaning the Glass) is otherworldly and he’s crafty with dribble-handoffs and in the short roll. — Herbert
Overall, CBS Sports ranked Nikola Jokic of the champion Nuggets at No. 1; Giannis Antetokounmpo at No. 2; Steph Curry at No. 3, Luka Doncic at No. 4 and KD at No. 5.
There will be other rankings in the next couple of week, including ESPN’s which slices things even thinner, rating teams based on where their players fall. Of course, by October 24, none of these rankings will make much of a difference. It’s why they play the games.