With the new NBA season here, CBS Sports has released a ranking for the top 100 players in the league this year.
As expected, there are more than a few former Kentucky Wildcats on the list. This is just more testament as to why John Calipari is such a great college coach as he has continued to breed great NBA players.
The first former Cat on the list is Brandon Knight of the Phoenix Suns. Here’s why CBS Sports ranked him No. 86.
Suddenly a sixth man after missing much of last season with a sports hernia, life has come at Knight fast. The guard was considered an All-Star snub just before the Bucks traded him to Phoenix in 2015, and it wouldn't be surprising if he ended up being moved again.
Knight gets traded a lot, but his talent is undoubted. He’s a good shooter who often gets a bad rep because he’s been traded a lot, and has found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time more than once (see: DeAndre Jordan dunks on Brandon Knight).
Next up is Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, the No. 2 overall pick in 2012 and a forward for the Charlotte Hornets. CBS ranked Gilchrist 80th; here’s what they had to say.
Due to injuries, it is unclear how good Kidd-Gilchrist can actually be. What we know is that he's an excellent wing defender that has shown potential at becoming a more polished offensive player, but potential only goes so far. He has to stay healthy. He'll never be a reliable shooter, but he needs to double down on his open-court and slashing abilities to take the next step.
Kidd-Gilchrist’s defensive abilities are what got him drafted so high, and they’re still his biggest strength. Hopefully he can improve on the offensive end and work his way further up this list.
Trey Lyles is the next Wildcat on the list, as CBS ranked the former Wildcat forward 73rd. Here’s what they had to say about the Utah Jazz’s big man.
Lyles' per-minute numbers are crazy, and he combines athleticism, range and hustle. He's like a taller, ganglier Paul Millsap in the making. Utah is expected to make a big jump in the West this year after not making the playoffs a year ago, and Lyles will be a big part of that. One of many really talented players for the Jazz.
Lyles is one of multiple important young talents on the Jazz. He looks like a modern big, being slimmer and more athletic than traditional bigs, and he will hopefully continue to improve and be a big part of the Jazz’s efforts to make the postseason.
CBS ranked Enes Kanter next, as they had the seven-footer at No. 70. Kanter is one player that had a lot of good and bad aspects to explain his ranking.
A skilled, efficient low-post big with great hands and fantastic rebounding numbers, Kanter remains polarizing because he remains one of the least effective defenders in the NBA. He had his moments in the playoffs, particularly against the Spurs, but he can be exploited easily. It's also worth noting that he played in all 82 of the Thunder's regular-season games last year and recorded only 33 assists.
Kanter has had a rough time dealing with family issues, and that can be a tough distraction. Hopefully he can get past that to help focus on the court, and improve his rebounding and passing.
Next up is a former Wildcat that has become one of the better guards in the NBA, Eric Bledsoe. Bledsoe is ranked No. 57 by CBS. They cite his strength, scoring and injury issues as to why he’s ranked where he is.
Whenever Bledsoe seems to have it going, he gets injured. If he can remain healthy, he and Devin Booker could help Phoenix regain some respectability. Bledsoe is a bulldog that plays far bigger than his diminutive stature, and he can really score. He's undersized, however, trying to match up with wings, and for all his fight, that could be a problem when paired with Booker.
Bledsoe certainly does play bigger than he is, and hopefully will pair up well with another former Wildcat in Devin Booker.
Speaking of Devin Booker, he’s next. CBS has the sharpshooting Booker ranked No. 43, with a focus on his scoring and defense.
He turns 20 this season, and he's as confident and composed a young player as you'll ever see. Booker has all the makings of a future star on offense, showing as a rookie that he had the potential to do so much more with the ball in his hands than he ever did in college. As well as being a sweet shooter, he can run pick-and-rolls and finish over bigger, stronger players.
The Suns moved Brandon Knight to the bench so Booker could keep his starting spot as a sophomore, and he now looks like their most important building block. He has a long way to go to become an even average defender, though.
Booker is looking as though he’s the NBA’s next great shooter, and I hope he can improve his defense to be a complete defender and one of the NBA’s best all-around players.
John Wall is next on the list. CBS has him ranked No. 18, citing the fact that his career has been extremely up and down. He’s gone from breakout star to average, he’s shown incredible athleticism but bad shooting ability, and now he’s healthy after having surgery but he’s still had two knee surgeries. There’s a lot of controversy when grading and ranking John Wall, but there’s no doubt that he’s one of the most athletic players in the NBA, and that alone puts him in great position to be a great player. CBS’ description of Wall is rather long, but here’s the part that sums it up.
This is another big season for John Wall. At times he'll look like a lion, at others he'll look like a lamb. His competitiveness cannot be denied, but at this point, Wall has to find a way to impact things like team chemistry and grit which have been, as of yet, beyond his control. Or catch fire with his jumper. One or the other.
Now getting to a guy who looks like he has the potential to be an all-time great, Karl-Anthony Towns. Towns is ranked No. 12 on CBS’ list, mostly because he’s extremely versatile, and his numbers currently match up to the likes of Tim Duncan and Shaquille O’Neal. That’s great company to be in. Many people are seeing him as the NBA’s next big thing, the next LeBron James-like talent, and CBS seems to be acknowledging that he has that potential.
Towns is a transcendent talent, and looks like the kind of franchise-altering, league-shifting force that you wait your whole life as a fan hoping for. He's smart, driven and versatile. He can hit from range, drive off the catch, post up, dominate the glass, and he's constantly pushing himself, critiquing even good performances. He's never satisfied.
DeMarcus Cousins comes in one spot ahead of Towns, ranked No. 11. Cousins is suffering through a bit of a crisis that I’m not sure he realizes, and CBS notes that crisis. They say he’s not yet forced his way out of Sacramento, which is surprising, but he’s 26 and nearing his peak. He isn’t going to make significant strides anymore, and he’ll only make any kind of stride at all for so long. If he stays in Sacramento he may be wasting his incredible talent.
Towns is coming up behind him as the predominant big man and soon he'll be the veteran. Cousins has given the Sacramento community so much and the team has always returned mismatched rosters and identities.
Anthony Davis is ranked No. 10, making it three straight Kentucky big men on the list. The only thing keeping Davis from being a top three player like he was last preseason is his health. Davis is yet to finish a full season, but other than that, he’s a generational talent that can play better than almost anyone in the league. Here’s part of what CBS had to say.
Nothing Davis did last year caused him to slide back to the rankings spot he occupied two years ago, after being ranked No. 3 on this list last year. It was again about what he didn't do -- and that was finish out a full season.
If Davis can have a consistent run with good health, he can easily be a top-tier player in the NBA.