Four Cats ranked in SI’s 100-51 NBA player rankings

Sports Illustrated began to unveil its Top 100 NBA players of 2018 list on Monday, and the initial release, which featured players ranked 100-51, featured four former Kentucky players who played their ball for head coach John Calipari.

Patrick Patterson (No. 98), Julius Randle (No. 94), Nerlens Noel (No. 86) and Devin Booker (No. 64) all cracked the top 100. Players ranked 50-1 will be announced throughout the remainder of the week. Kentucky’s four players ranked 100-51 led all schools.

Booker saw a jump up of 36 spots in his ranking from last year. The star Phoenix Suns shooting guard was ranked No. 100 entering last season, his first year eligible to be included on the countdown. Patterson and Randle are new entries to this year’s top 100. Noel moved down two spots from last year’s ranking.

Former Kentucky guard Devin Booker is ranked 64th in Sports Illustrated’s Top 100 NBA Players of 2018 countdown. (photo by Chris Reynolds)

In explaining how the rankings were made and what criteria went into it, authors Ben Golliver and Rob Mahoney said that both injuries and injury risks were factored into the equation, as well as previous performances, including the playoffs.

Rookies were not included because they have not yet faced NBA competition. They did use a “predictive element” in anticipating improvement from young players and perhaps a decline in aging veterans, but future play beyond the upcoming season did not play a factor, nor did the player’s salary.

“Given the wide variety of candidates involved and the deep analytical resources available, no single, definitive criterion was used to form this list,” the two authors wrote. “Instead, rankings were assigned based on a fluid combination of subjective assessment and objective date. This list is an attempt to evaluate each player in a vacuum, independent of their current team context as much as possible. A player’s prospects beyond the 2017-18 season did not play a part in the ranking process.”

Golliver and Mahoney’s countdown includes a breakdown to show the reasoning for each of their selections, and Mahoney was particularly complimentary in his assessment of Patterson.

While Patterson doesn’t put up eye-catching statistics (6.8 points, 4.5 rebounds last season), his ability to make up for others’ shortcomings and fill in whatever cracks may appear make him a very valuable asset each time he takes the court. The 28-year-old forward is entering his eighth season in the NBA and first with the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Former Kentucky forward Julius Randle checks into SI’s Top 100 NBA Players of 2018 at No. 94. (photo by Chet White, UK Athletics)

“The beauty of Patterson’s game is that it never needs to be schemed to fit or featured,” Mahoney said. “The flow will find him. Possessions will naturally redirect themselves through Patterson when they stall, or find him as an open shooter on the perimeter. His positioning will help account for a teammate’s blown assignment, patching up what should have been a breakdown. A screen he sets will trigger the chain of events that ultimately leads to a score, albeit without any formal credit.”

Sitting just outside of the top 100 among the “biggest snubs” from SI’s countdown were former Calipari-coached Wildcats Enes Kanter and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Derrick Rose, who Calipari coached in 2007-08 at Memphis, and Rajon Rondo, who played at UK prior to Coach Cal, are among SI’s 25 most notable omissions.

This is the fifth annual edition of Sports Illustrated’s Top 100 Players list. Nine Wildcats were ranked in last year’s edition. Kentucky’s nine players in the 2017 season’s top 100 was four more than any other school in the country. UK also had the most players in the top 25 with four. Only one other school (Texas) even had two former players ranked in the top 25.

You can read the complete breakdown of SI’s 100-51 player rankings by clicking here. You can check out SI’s biggest snubs from the top 100 by clicking here.