And now, the thrilling conclusion of Thursday morning's pre-free agency rankings. (In hindsight, I probably should have written the part about the higher ranked players first, rather than starting with the Top 50 and finishing with players 51-100. I admit it's a little anticlimactic, although, now that I think about it, how much tension would there have been to read it that way anyway? It's not like you didn't think Durant was going No.1. I guess I just changed my mind in the course of this intro. Well, anyway...)
[UPDATE: So before I could get this piece published, the Lakers had to complicate things by trading Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol for Chris Paul. Not only does it throw off the earlier rankings of Paul, Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and David West, it basically makes the following projections of Andrew Bynum, Luis Scola and Lamar Odom automatically defunct. I've decided to leave their blurbs in as they would've appeared prior to the deal, with lines through them, rather than completely starting these rankings over from scratch. For how the deal affects these players' projections, check out Mike Gallagher's take on the trade.]
[UPDATE UPDATE: The NBA has reportedly vetoed the CP3 trade. So the aforementioned slashes have been removed, and the article now reads exactly as it would have if the trade never happened. Oi vey, what a waste of time.]
51. Greg Monroe:
Somehow carved out a niche on the John Kuester roller coaster. With Kuester gone, and Big Ben ancient, has a chance to put up big numbers in big minutes. Gets a lot of steals for a center, needs to work on shot-blocking.
52. Kyrie Irving:
A rookie, so be prepared for inconsistency and growing pains. He's on a totally vacant Cavs roster desperate for a team leader and scorer. Will have free reign the moment Sessions and/or Davis is traded.
53. Brandon Jennings:
Does a lot of things well for a guard. Capable of putting up a triple-double every night. Takes horrible shots; 39% field-goal shooting absolutely disgusting. Captain Jack could eat into stats. Make or break year for him.
54. Andrew Bynum:
Has the potential to become 20-10-2 All-Star if moved in deal involving Dwight Howard. More than serviceable in L.A., although ceiling is squelched. Major health concern every year; knees have never been right.
55. Channing Frye:
Strictly a role player, but a totally unique one. It's hard to think of another bigman who can drain three's and block shots. Streaky, as shown by 43% shooting, but locked in as a starter and has room to grow.
56. DeMarcus Cousins:
Spitting image of a young, right-handed Zach Randolph. Not necessarily a good thing. Great potential, will be a double-double machine at some point. Bad work ethic, immature. A bit of a fantasy headache.
57. Danilo Gallinari:
Not good at rebounding or doing stuff other than shoot the ball. Is an excellent shooter however. On Denver team with three players in China and Nene about to leave, could easily post 20-point average for the first time.
58. Marc Gasol (FREE AGENT):
26-year-old with a surprising amount of upside. Numbers will be capped if re-signs in Memphis, playing beside Randolph, the rebound vacuum. A new destination could spell great things for fantasy owners.
59. Andray Blatche:
Not shy at all. Does a lot with the minutes he's granted, but makes awful decisions and is awful to watch. Requires admitting you have Andray Blatche on your fantasy team.
60. Andrea Bargnani:
Scores a lot for miserable Raptors team, one of the few centers who offers three-point shooting. Doesn't rebound or block shots at all, which is counter-intutive to the good things he does as a bigman.
61. Andrew Bogut:
Shot-blocking monster when he's healthy. Is rarely healthy. Dreadful free-throw shooter, enough to single-handedly lose you the category. Has a lot of question marks for someone otherwise largely productive.
62. Stephen Jackson:
Field-goal percentage waned considerably last year. Still posts huge amount of minutes; hard to keep him out of a lineup. Good distributor and hits plenty of three's. Golden State days are over, but can be productive anyway.
63. Devin Harris:
Ankle as sturdy as wet newspaper. Red "DTD" tag practically embedded with his name. Hard to see him averaging more than 16 on team that goes through Jefferson and Millsap. Still solid whenever he's in the lineup.
64. Ray Allen:
Sensational shooter. May not help you in a ton of categories, but won't negatively affect you either. Game formulaic enough that age is only slight concern, but lockout season could induce restings at some point.
65. JaVale McGee:
Like Wizard counterpart Blatche, makes offensive decisions that are at times painful to watch. Makes an effort to block every single shot attempt, very athletic. Could become the Marcus Camby of this decade.
66. Mike Conley:
Has covered the career gamut already, from coveted draft pick to total bust to solid fantasy option. Will put up competent stats as low-round point guard, but don't expect breakout on a maxed-out Grizzlies roster.
67. Kevin Garnett:
Strictly a role player at this point. Has developed his percentages wonderfully over the years. Can contribute in almost every stat. Huge injury risk though, and lockout scheduling could reduce his minutes in a big way.
68. Luol Deng:
At last became a three-point shooter. Good mid-range scorer, fills out intangible stats adequately. Seems to have moved past previous health issues. Scoring will drop a tad with a Chicago free agent acquisition.
69. Kris Humphries:
May not have the greatest morale following Kim Kardashian breakup. Nonetheless, fantastic rebounder when given the minutes, and there's no one who can challenge him for them. Should average another double-double.
70. Luis Scola:
Picked up where Yao left off, averaging 18-and-8 until a knee injury killed his season. That average is sustainable, but he offers few blocks and steals. Minutes could face minor reduction following previous injury.
71. Jason Kidd:
Will give you a little of everything. Hits more threes as age increases, gets as many blocks, steals, assists and rebounds as any guard out there. Incredibly old though, and 39% shooting is U-G-L-Y.
72. Roy Hibbert:
Did plenty of good things the moment Jim O'Brien got canned. Blocks a lot of shots, solid passer for a bigman. FG% and rebounding are disappointing for someone 7-foot-2. Indiana frontcourt is more crowded this year.
73. Wesley Matthews:
Filled Brandon Roy's shoes admirably. Terrific shooter, a poor man's Ray Allen. Like Ray-Ray, does almost nothing besides hit three's. Shouldn't be too impeded by the presence of a semi-healthy Roy. Good for 15 PPG.
74. Carlos Boozer:
Usually a dependable double-double producer. Is coming off a horribly discouraging postseason though, even losing minutes to Taj Gibson. Can't seem to stay healthy either. A definite red flag player.
75. Tim Duncan:
Had his worst season by a mile last year, and will get benched a ton due to the hectic makeup schedule. Still incredibly productive while he's on the floor, still a good shot-blocker and rebounder. Just don't rely on him.
76. Mo Williams:
An enormous disappointment following LeBron's exodus. Lacks initiative. Clippers a perfect landing spot for him. Great percentages, hits lots of three's, should be much better in 2012. But can he stay healthy?
77. Marcus Thornton:
Did the job when Tyreke Evans got hurt. A natural scorer in the mold of J-Rich. Relies heavily on outside shot. Evans and Jimmer will make scoring tougher for him, but he could again finish in the mid- to high-teens.
78. Tyson Chandler (FREE AGENT):
Was awesome in Dallas, making 63% of shots, hitting a tolerable amount of free-throws, and posting close to a double-double average with a few blocks thrown in. Will have virtually the same stats wherever he lands.
79. D.J. Augustin:
Fantastic percentages, great shooter. Might have to fend off Kemba Walker for minutes. Doesn't look to score enough. Has talent, and is in sweet situation, but lacks the mentality that's good for fantasy purposes.
80. Elton Brand:
Became relevant once more with his first solid season in years. Health permitting, should have no trouble duplicating 15-8-1-1 statline. Will never return to 20-and-10 glory days, but still more than draftable.
81. Tony Parker:
The jettisoning of George Hill frees him up for extra minutes. Solid production from an unsung point guard, even without three-point shooting. You know what you're going to get from him. Still, beware "DNP-CD" in April.
82. Jose Calderon:
Inexplicably, saw his assists go up after Bosh left town, but his scoring dropped. Incredibly inconsistent. Has flashes of elite assist outbursts, and flashes of 2-for-9 games. Factor in injuries and he's totally unpredictable.
83. Corey Maggette:
Why ranked so high, you ask? Because Maggette is the only guy who can score on Charlotte after they dealt Stephen Jackson. Lives to score on bad teams. Points might not be there in April, but enjoy them for now.
84. DeMar DeRozan:
Superfluous "De" in both first and last name. Decent scorer in great situation. Can't buy a three to save his life. Completely dependent on Raptors sucking to maintain high scoring average. Does little else but score.
85. James Harden:
Will at last become an NBA starter. Was terrific in last year's postseason. Gets a lot of steals, can hit the three and even dish it off. Only so much more he can score with Durant, Westbrook around.
86. Rodney Stuckey:
Assuming he asserts himself as the starting point guard, may finally be accountable. Detroit has a billion guards unfortunately, even drafting Brandon Knight in the first round. Who knows if it'll play out that way.
87. Michael Beasley:
Exploited pathetic Timberwolves lineup by scoring as much as possible last year. The selection of Derrick Williams is an enormous blow, potentially creating a SF timeshare. His stats won't be nearly as good in 2012.
88. Nick Young (FREE AGENT):
A tremendous mid-range shooter, he's the afro'd, skinny reincarnation of Glenn "Big Dog" Robinson. Hits a ton of three's. Can be close to a 20-point scorer if he signs in the right place. Does little else but score (deja vu).
89. Boris Diaw:
One of a kind player, former point guard turned power forward. Brings assists and three's to position. Mediocre scoring and rebounding aside, a bona fide fantasy asset. Has some competition though, lots o' trade rumors.
90. Hedo Turkoglu:
Had a disastrously-bad finish to 2011. Can distribute the ball, racks up three's and rebounds at the same time. Gets a lot of playing time under Van Gundy. Jump shot has mysteriously left him, scoring is an issue.
91. Ricky Rubio:
The Wolves went overboard just to have him at all. Hard not to see him logging lots of minutes, meaning he should produce solid numbers by default. Drafting him requires forgetting that he's the brainchild of David Kahn.
92. Lamar Odom:
Coming off one of his best seasons yet. Plays terrific when given enough minutes. Can do a little bit of everything. Stuck on the bench behind Gasol and Bynum, seriously capping his production. Weak foul-shooter.
93. Jameer Nelson:
Serviceable, hits three's, shoots at a high percentage. Perpetually stuck in nexus where he'll never score more than 13 or 14 points. Gilbert Arenas not likely to eat into minutes. A completely safe add.
94. Jason Richardson (FREE AGENT):
Unlikely to handle much of a scoring load after failing to do so in Orlando. Settles for way too many three's, wastes his athleticism. Nice scorer, good for the occasional outburst, but the hourglass is filling up rapidly.
95. Chuck Hayes (FREE AGENT):
Played fantastic down the stretch, showcased evolved game for "energy guy." Good passer, even posted a triple-double. Contributes in most categories; points and (especially) foul-shooting are the exceptions.
96. Emeka Okafor:
Has settled in nicely as a role player. Big body capable of big rebounding nights. Vapid production outside of blocks, rebounds and points. Doesn't even look to pass the ball. Bad foul-shooter.
97. Anderson Varejao:
Has three testicles. Once killed a shark with his bare hands. Can bend spoons with the power of his mind. Secretly a robot. [Just wanted to see if anyone was still reading these.] Basically, a poor man's Tyson Chandler.
98. Jeff Teague:
Already awarded the starting point guard role in Atlanta. Incredibly quick, played terrific in the playoffs. Hawks team in dire need of fresh blood, and could be the trick. A definite sleeper to keep an eye on.
99. Darren Collison:
The most milquetoast fantasy option imaginable. Does everything okay, nothing well. Assist average is meh, scoring is meh, can't hit a three. Fills a need, but there are much better fish in the sea.
100. Gilbert Arenas:
From the league's leading scorer to a gun-toting maniac, Arenas is impossible to depend on. But someone is going to have to score if J-Rich leaves, and especially if Howard is traded. Might have one usable year left in him.