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The Sports Daily > The Lottery Mafia
The NBA Lottery Top-50 Player Rankings

As the entire league is ranked across the Internet, The Lottery Mafia again looks to the little guy. Who are the 50 best players on projected lottery teams?

Every season the NBA world partakes in an ultimately meaningless, but incredibly meaningful, ranking exercise. Who are the league’s best players, and how do they compare across position, team, age, and health to the other players in the league?

Very smart people at Sports Illustrated, ESPN, SB Nation, and elsewhere have put their heads together and produced detailed and intelligent lists. Ultimately, they mean nothing. Ranking players “right now” is fruitless, as one twisted leg or player traded and things change. A player ranked below another could easily be swapped for the better one because of age, health, contract, or even just relational concerns.

The value of such a ranking is for those of us following the sport. It’s important for the popularity of what is ultimately a game to generate debate and discussion. They don’t mean anything on the court — LeBron James is ranked as the top player in the world, but he lost because the Warriors had three top-10 players and the Cavaliers had just one. But they do help us to understand what players belong in what tier. Superstars and role players are vital to our understanding of the game.

As always, the popular media focuses on the good teams — an eventuality when the best players in the league tend to help their teams win. Of Sports Illustrated’s top 30 players, just five project to be on lottery teams. At The Lottery Mafia, it’s our job to right the wrong of lopsided coverage, and bring to you the best the worst have to offer.

Thus, here are the top-50 players of the lottery world. We used ESPN’s BPI predictions to determine the field, which means that in the Western Conference Utah and Memphis are replaced in the playoff field by Denver and Minnesota. In the East, Charlotte, Miami and Philadelphia (bold, BPI – bold) replace Indiana, Atlanta, and Chicago.

Have a Role: 31-50

50. Tony Allen
49. Julius Randle
48. T.J. Warren
47 Joe Johnson
46. Nikola Mirotic
45. Zach LaVine

This is a combination of aging veterans and young players waiting to take “the leap”. Mirotic is underrated on a terrible Bulls team, while Randle is probably over-hyped on the Lakers. And let’s pour one out for the “Grindfather” Tony Allen as he has officially left Memphis.

44. Thabo Sefolosha
43. Nikola Vucevic
42. Tyson Chandler
41. Allen Crabbe
40. Kent Bazemore
39. Luol Deng

Welcome to a group of one-dimensional veterans, followed by one-dimensional wings who cashed in during the bonanza of 2016. If Bazemore can regain his status of two seasons ago he will rise up this list, but for now he’s stuck in the group of disappointing role players.

38. Elfrid Payton
37. Aaron Gordon

These two are separated out for a moment. Each offers tremendous upside if they realize their potential, which is a huge “if” in Orlando. But the last two months of the season showed a snapshot of what they could become if they put things together.

36. Robin Lopez
35. Reggie Jackson
34. Bismack Biyombo
33. Chandler Parsons
32. Dennis Schroeder
31. JaMychal Green
30. Joe Ingles

It’s hard to believe the best players in this grouping are Joe Ingles and JaMychal Green, but it’s true. Schroeder is hyper-inefficient, Reggie Jackson is coming off of a truly abysmal season, and Bismack Biyombo and Robin Lopez are un-stretched-5s in an era of basketball phasing them out. Chandler Parsons would be a top-15 player on this list if healthy, and should be off the list based on last season. We’re splitting the difference here.

29. D’Angelo Russell
28. Jeremy Lin
27. Devin Booker
26. Victor Oladipo
25. Evan Fournier
24. Wes Matthews
23. Tobias Harris

A collection of high-upside guards who still need to put things together, from maturity (Russell) to defense (Booker) to health (Lin). Oladipo was the centerpiece of the Paul George trade and will have every opportunity to shine. Wes Matthews and Tobias Harris are on fringe playoff contenders and underrated by many.

22. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
21. Nerlens Noel
20. Rodney Hood

This trio enters the season with much to prove. “KCP” and Noel are both on one-year deals, ready to cash in next year. To do so, they will need to play extremely well, as there are a lot of free agents next summer but not a lot of cap space. Hood is also up for a pay raise, and will attempt to demonstrate his worth to Utah as a primary scoring option.

19. Dirk Nowitzki
18. George Hill
17. Myles Turner
16. Avery Bradley

How much does Dirk Nowitzki still have in the tank? If the answer is a lot, then the Mavericks could fight their way into a playoff berth — crazier things have happened. George Hill is a solid point guard when healthy, but that was not the norm last season. Turner is out to prove his worth as the Pacers’ best player and keep Indiana relevant, and Avery Bradley may have to do the same for the Pistons to make the postseason.

15. Kristaps Porzingis
14. Brook Lopez
13. Andre Drummond

The question of which of these big men is better right now is a tough one to answer. Brook Lopez is the most polished offensively, but inconsistent defensively and on the boards. Andre Drummond is an incredible athlete and elite rebounder, but has no polish and his production has flat-lined. Right now Porzingis may be the worst of the group, but by the end of the year this ordering will almost certainly have changed.

12. Ricky Rubio
11. Dwyane Wade
10. Carmelo Anthony

How much value do veterans such as Wade and Anthony still offer? They can score the basketball, but how is their inconsistent defensive effort best weighed? Ricky Rubio has clear weaknesses but even clearer strengths, and could help Utah stay out of the lottery. No team has more players on this list than the Jazz’s seven.

9. Harrison Barnes
8. Jrue Holiday
7. Derrick Favors

These three players represent a trio of teams that could reasonably make the playoffs if things break right (or if they played in the Eastern Conference). How much each of them can stay healthy and produce at a high level may determine whether their respective squads can pierce the postseason field.

6. Eric Bledsoe
5. DeMarcus Cousins

Both Bledsoe and Cousins put up strong numbers for their teams, numbers that suggest two-way impact. The problem is that their teams never win. Bledsoe has been on a rebuilding squad for years, but will another team trade for him when he hasn’t really won much of anything? Cousins could be an inexpensive offensive force for a contender to trade for — or a locker-room cancer who will never have the discipline necessary to help a team win.

4. Marc Gasol
3. Mike Conley

The Memphis Grizzlies have invested a lot of money in their two stars, and they have received nothing but elite performance and effort from them in return. But as the team ages into mediocrity, the sheer amount of money owed to two players stands out. Gasol and Conley are too good and too proud to be on a terrible team, and they alone will keep Memphis from bottoming out. That keeps a top pick out of reach, while the playoffs are similarly past their mettle on the other. Could the right deal from another team pry one away?

2. Rudy Gobert

Gordon Hayward was Utah’s first-option offensively last season, and their lone All-Star. But a reasonable case can be made that Rudy Gobert was their best player, and defensively perhaps no one in the league had more of an impact. The Jazz will have an elite defense this season — the question is whether their offense can keep up.

1. Anthony Davis

The only player on this list to also be a top-10 overall player in the league, Anthony Davis has been plagued by where he was drafted perhaps more than any other player in the league. The Pelicans continue to make short-sighted moves to hamstring their ability to build a contender around Davis. From paying huge sums of money to centers when Davis IS A CENTER (seriously, New Orleans — figure this out), to hiring an offensive-minded head coach and handing him players who can’t shoot, this franchise has cheated Davis again and again.

That being said, he is still an incredible basketball player worth watching each and every night. He can score from anywhere on the court now, comes out of nowhere to reject shots, and when he’s the lone big on the floor attacks the glass and throws back offensive rebounds. His skill set as a big man is second to none in the league. If the Boston trade rumors are true, it will be incredible to one day see Anthony Davis on a team that pushes Davis to reach his full potential. Playoff Davis is something we have seen just once thus far.

While the league’s best reside in the lofty clouds of the playoff picture, the players in the lottery deserve recognition too. Anthony Davis, Rudy Gobert, and the rest of this list are the best of the worst, and are no less worthy of acclaim for it.

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