Top NBA players for the 2019-20 season: 50-26

Top NBA players for the 2019-20 season: 50-26

BOSTON — Halfway there. 

Now that the dust has settled on an unprecedented offseason and we get closer to seeing a number of superstar players in new cities, a ranking of the Top 100 NBA players for the 2019-20 season felt right. 

In the first part of these rankings, we saw Celtics players Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown crack the top 100 while Isaiah Thomas and Dwight Howard headlined the bottom quarter of the list. In the 75-51 range, we got a glimpse of where Gordon Hayward and Terry Rozier stood among the NBA's elite. 

You'll see even more familiar faces in this section of the rankings, it's just a question of who edges out who. And remember, no rookies allowed.

Here’s the third part of our NBC Sports Boston Top 100 NBA players for the 2019-2020 season.

50. Steven Adams, Oklahoma City: Arguably the strongest player in the NBA, the Thunder will need a strong season from Adams to get to the postseason for a fifth straight year, which would tie the longest such stretch in franchise history.

49. D’Angelo Russell, Golden State: Only the second player (Karl Anthony-Towns) to be named an All-Star from the 2015 NBA draft class, Russell outperformed the expectations many had for him and the Brooklyn Nets. Can he do the same in the Bay with Golden State? 

48. Julius Randle, New York: Strength, power and a knack for scoring. This is what the New York Knicks are getting in Julius Randle, who is a good pick-up but certainly nowhere close to being the star New York Knicks fans were clamoring for this offseason. 

47. Trae Young, Atlanta: We knew all about the long-range, Steph Curry-like shooting. But Young showed tremendous growth and potential as a playmaker, averaging 8.1 assists which ranked fourth in the NBA last season. 

46. Gary Harris, Denver: Very underrated two-way player who moves well without the ball, and has enough basketball savvy to exploit defenses either with cuts to the basket, catch-and-shoot from mid-range or catch-and-dribble towards the basket for a close-range score or a dump off to a teammate for an easy scorer. 

45. Andre Drummond, Detroit: Drummond is a throwback of sorts when it comes to big men who are used to throwing bodies around and not necessarily throwing up 3’s. His defense and rebounding significantly impact games, but the lack of being a long-range threat along with facing smaller players while defending, may result in the Pistons being a bit more creative in how they utilize Drummond’s strengths.

44. Al Horford, Philadelphia: The numbers will never tell the full truth when it comes to Al Horford’s play. His leadership, scoring from inside as well as from the perimeter, will be more than enough to keep the Sixers in the hunt to come out of the East this season. 

43. Luka Doncic, Dallas: The NBA’s reigning Rookie of the Year, Doncic has the kind of size and playmaking ability to really take his game to another level with the return of Kristaps Porzingis.

42. Jamal Murray, Denver: The Denver Nuggets will look for him to continue growing as a scorer which makes a lot of sense when you look at his numbers last season. When Murray scored at least 20 points, the Nuggets were 20-9 in the regular season.

41. Jayson Tatum, Boston: Based on how he has grown physically, and the way he has played during his time with Team USA, Jayson Tatum seems ready to at least be in the All-Star conversation this year. His length, shooting and improving defense make him a player who appears on the path for a major breakout season.

40. Malcolm Brogdon, Indiana: There were more than a few eyebrows raised when Milwaukee traded Malcolm Brogdon to the Pacers, with Brogdon agreeing to a four-year, $85 million deal. But you love his leadership and upside, with him seemingly doing everything at a pretty good level now and seems to be getting better with time. 

39. Mike Conley Jr., Utah: He’ll be 32 years old by the time the season starts, but that won’t keep him from making a strong impact on his new team. He averaged a career-high 21.1 points and has shot at least 36 percent on 3’s in all but two seasons (his rookie season in 2007 and 2017 when he missed all but 12 games). 

38. Kristaps Porzingis, Dallas: If the pictures we’ve seen of Porzingis bulking up in the offseason are legit, look for him and the Mavericks to be flexing on teams a whole lot more than anyone is anticipating. At 7-foot-3, a stronger, healthy Porzingis makes Dallas a team that could prove to be a lot more competitive than expected. 

37. Zach LaVine, Chicago: One of the emerging stars in the East, LaVine has big-time scoring potential in this league while displaying the ability to use be a solid rebounder and assist man. 

36. C.J. McCollum, Portland: Having averaged at least 20 points per game each of the last four seasons, there’s no debating his ability to score with the best of them in the NBA. But last season saw him finish with a +5.0 plus/minus, his highest plus/minus ever.

35. DeMar DeRozan, San Antonio: His streak of averaging at least 20 points per game (six years and counting) isn’t likely in jeopardy. But he’ll be hard-pressed to replicate the career season he had last year in assists (6.2) and rebounds (6.0).

34. Kevin Love, Cleveland: The Cavs are going to be horrible, but the same can’t be said for Kevin Love. Heading into this 12th NBA season, he’s averaged double-digit rebounds seven times while never averaging less than 9.1 per game.

33. Pascal Siakam, Toronto: After a breakout season ending with an NBA title and the league’s Most Improved Player award, Kawhi Leonard’s departure means much more of the load at both ends of the floor, will fall upon Siakam’s shoulders. Is he up for the challenge?

32. Nikola Vucevic, Orlando: It seems that Vucevic is often overlooked when discussions center around the game’s best centers. He tallied 60 double-doubles last season which ranked third in the NBA.

31. Lou Williams, Los Angeles Clippers: Yes, he is about as one-dimensional a player as you’ll find in the NBA. But here’s the thing. Everyone knows this, and he still gets buckets night-in, night-out. Talk all you want about Paul George and Kawhi Leonard. But the difference-maker on many nights for the Clippers will be Williams and his ability to outscore most opposing benches by himself.

30. Jrue Holiday, New Orleans: The in-your-jersey defense, consistent shot-making and overall feel for the game … there’s a lot to like about Jrue Holiday’s game. And while Zion Williamson will certainly garner much of the attention this season for the Pelicans, if they are going to make a push towards the postseason you can count on Holiday — more than Williamson — leading the charge.

29. Blake Griffin, Detroit Pistons: Having long since proven he’s more than just a dunking highlight reel, Griffin’s perimeter game (he took a career-high seven 3-pointers per game last year) is on the rise as well. The Pistons have lots of options as far as how to best utilize Griffin’s talent.

28. LaMarcus Aldridge, San Antonio: He shot better than 51 percent from the field for the second straight season, a first for the veteran forward. The Spurs are indeed a wild card out West, but at least San Antonio fans can count on Aldridge remaining as steady a performer as he’s ever been. 

27. Khris Middleton, Milwaukee: Only three players appeared in as many games as Middleton and had a higher plus/minus (+7.2) last season, a reminder of how good the Bucks are when he’s on the floor.

26. Kyle Lowry, Toronto: While the 33-year-old may have lost a step or two, that experience and talent still have tremendous value in this league. While you won’t put him on the shortlist of top-shelf point guards in the NBA, Lowry is still one of the better playmakers you’ll find in the NBA.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device. 

Blakely: Smart should be captain of the Celtics

Blakely: Smart should be captain of the Celtics

BOSTON -- It’s not that hard to find a player or two on the Celtics’ roster that’s universally viewed as being better than Marcus Smart. 

But when it comes to leadership, it's not even close. 

Smart is indeed the smart choice when it comes to looking for leadership on this Celtics team. 

And that leadership needs to be more than just talked about and embraced by his teammates. 

It needs to become official; and by official, I mean Smart being named a team captain. 

Arguably the most storied franchise in NBA history, the Celtics have not had a team captain since Rajon Rondo in 2014 - the longest stretch without a captain in franchise history.  

Only 18 players in franchise history have been bestowed with the title.

There are few if any greater individual honors around these parts than to be named a team captain of the Celtics.

And the irony of that is the reason Smart deserves such an amazing individual honor is because of what he means to the team. 

Coach Brad Stevens has opted to go with a captain-less team, rationalizing it as wanting all the players to feel as though they have a voice in the direction of the team. 

While the premise is a good one and does make sense, naming a captain seems a logical next step for a franchise coming off a season when among the most talked-about issues was the team’s lack of leadership. 

And now it’s a lot easier to go with Smart as the captain with both Al Horford and Kyrie Irving off to Philly and Brooklyn.

Throw in the fact that the Smart, 25, is the longest-tenured Celtic and will be going into the second year of the four-year, $52 million deal, and all signs point towards Smart being named a captain sooner rather than later. 

Captain or not, Smart will find a way to put his imprint on games defensively while also making timely shots and setting up teammates with a much-improved game as a playmaker. 

But what will set Smart apart from his teammates this season is what happens inside the locker room or off the floor when the lights, cameras and action of the NBA are nowhere to be found. 

Smart will be the first to tell you he is a flawed player and will make mistakes at both ends of the floor this season. 

Still, what often separates Smart from others, are the lessons learned from those miscues and how he uses them to make himself and those around him, better players. 

That’s leadership, the kind that you expect from your captain, which is a title Marcus Smart deserves to call his own this season. 

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.

Al Horford says Celtics' tampering suggestions are 'ridiculous'

Al Horford says Celtics' tampering suggestions are 'ridiculous'

Al Horford said it’s “ridiculous” if the Boston Celtics are upset about any sort of tampering that occurred last month after Horford opted out of the final year of his deal.

Horford, appearing on the Dan Patrick Show on Monday, said he was aware of an ESPN report that suggested the Celtics had “stomped their feet” about what they considered tampering with Horford before the start of free agency. But Horford, who declined a $30.1 million option before signing a four-year, $109 million offer with the Philadelphia 76ers, dismissed it.

"I just think it’s -- what can I say? — it’s ridiculous,” said Horford. "It is what it is. Danny [Ainge] -- I love Danny. Danny was really good to me. I know he’s definitely frustrated that things didn’t work out with us.”

Horford opted out in mid-June and initial reports suggested he was eager to work towards a new long-term deal with Boston. Later that same day, however, reports shifted to suggest that Horford was seeking a four-year deal that Boston wasn't offering to that point.

While tampering seemed pretty evident across the league this summer, the Celtics could be upset that, before the start of free agency on June 30, it became clear that Horford had at least one mystery suitor ready to throw big money at him over four years. That took away any leverage Boston had and made it tougher for them to negotiate a deal they felt comfortable both in terms of years and money with Horford.

Last week after introducing Kemba Walker, Ainge said that he was unsure if Horford would have made the same decision if he knew Walker was coming to Boston.

"I don’t know if Al makes the decision he makes if he knows that Kemba is coming, as an example,” said Ainge. "I have no idea if that makes -- but that’s how free agency is, sometimes you gotta make decisions before you know other certainties. But I’m not worried about that. We just have two new guys that have chosen to come play for us that really want to be here and we wish them well. I’m grateful for Al and Kyrie choosing to come play in Boston and grateful for all that they gave us.”

Earlier in his interview on The Dan Patrick Show, Horford said opting out of the final year of his contract and departing Boston was no easy choice.

"It was a very difficult decision, just looking at everything that had gone on with the season, my time in Boston, it wasn’t a decision that was taken lightly by me,” said Horford. "We thought things were going to work out a certain way with Boston and they didn’t, and, yeah, I had to start looking at the next step. But it was not easy.”

Asked what went wrong with the 2018-19 Celtics, Horford suggested expectations weighed the team down.

"We had a lot of high hopes for our group,” said Horford. "I just think that we never were able to gel like we needed to, coming together as a group, and playing at the level consistently that we needed to play.” 

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.