Sports Illustrated recently released a comprehensive list of who they project to be the top 100 NBA players heading into the 2014-2015 season. Four of our very own Cleveland Cavaliers players have made it on to the list, but you may be surprised with some of the rankings.
97. Anderson Varejao
Center | Age: 31
6-11, 267 pounds
Last year: No. 66
•8.4 PPG, 9.7 RPG, 2.2 APG, 0.6 BPG, 49.5 FG%
17.1 PER, 5.4 Win Shares, 2.3 RAPM
Anderson Varejao, with his high-energy, blue-collared work around the basket, is no scrub by any means. There’s a reason why LeBron James has singled out Varejao to be one of his favorite players. With high rebounding numbers to boast about and a defensive prowess, Varejao is a pit bull in the paint and rarely needs the ball in order to be effective.
Players who Varejao beat out on the list were Jimmy Butler of the Chicago Bulls (#98), Kevin Martin of the Minnesota Timberwolves (#99), and Boris Diaw of the San Antonio Spurs (#100).
21. Kyrie Irving
Guard | Age: 22
6-3, 193 pounds
Last year: No. 20
• 20.8 PPG, 6.1 APG, 3.6 RPG, 43.0 FG%, 35.8 3P%
• 20.1 PER, 6.7 Win Shares, -1.3 RAPM
Being ranked #21 isn’t anything to run to home about, however, with the statistical flat-line last season, the ranking is more-or-less fair. After a tremendous FIBA Basketball World Cup outing, Kyrie has shown that he has the potential to become a top 10 player in this league and possibly best point guard in years to come. With LeBron James at the helm, Irving will be shown the door to basketball superstardom, it is up to Kyrie, however, to walk through it.
Notable guards that ranked lower than Irving were Damian Lillard of the Portland Trailblazers (#22), Derrick Rose of the Chicago Bulls (#23), and Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers (#24).
7. Kevin Love
Forward | Age: 25
6-10, 243 pounds
Last year: No. 13
• 26.1 PPG, 12.5 RPG, 4.4 APG, 45.7 FG%, 37.6 3P%
• 27 PER, 14.3 Win Shares, 5.1 RAPM
Statistically, Kevin Love is a monster. Not only did he average a double-double, but he also hit 2.5 triples per game on 37.6% shooting as a power forward. Playing with the most unselfish superstar on the planet, Love will have plenty of opportunities to stretch the floor with his long-distance sniping. One slight qualm one may have with Love is his inability to defend; however rest assured, with LeBron at the helm and the media constantly poking at Love’s defensive inabilities, something tells me that we will see a high-energy, highly-engaged Kevin Love on the defensive side of the floor this season.
Notable big men that Love ranked above this season were Dwight Howard of the Houston Rockets (#9), Blake Griffin of the Los Angeles Clippers (#10), LaMarcus of the Portland Trailblazers (#12), and Dirk Nowitzki of the Dallas Mavericks (#14).
1. LeBron James
Forward | Age: 29
6-8, 250 pounds
Last year: No. 1
• 27.1 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 6.3 APG, 56.7 FG%, 37.9 3P%
• 29.4 PER, 15.9 Win Shares, 5.6 RAPM
I mean come on, did you really think LeBron’s rank would be anything other than numero uno? The NBA has been LeBron’s league for several years now and it isn’t even close. With four MVPs, two NBA championships, and two NBA Finals MVPs, nobody has dominated the 2010′s like LeBron has. King James boasts the efficiency of a center, yet takes as many threes as a shooting guard, while at the same time distributing like a point guard. James can cover every single position on the court from point guard to center, and his help defense is among the NBA’s elite. With a completely new roster and sidekicks Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving to assist, James has an opportunity to turn his legacy into one of of the NBA’s best fairy tale endings.
Those who rounded out the top five were Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder (#2), Chris Paul of the Los Angeles Clippers (#3), Russell Westbrook of the Oklahoma City Thunder (#4), and Tim Duncan of the San Antonio Spurs (#5).