Three NBA Cats ranked between Nos. 30-11 by Sports Illustrated

Sports Illustrated rolled on in its Top 100 NBA Players of 2018 countdown on Wednesday with players ranked Nos. 30-11, and three more Wildcats had their names called.

Former Kentucky big man DeMarcus Cousins checks in at No. 23, the 2016 NBA Rookie of the Year, Karl-Anthony Towns, is No. 14, and Cousins’ teammate at Kentucky John Wall is No. 13. Towns rose nine spots in the rankings from last year and Wall moved up four positions.

All three NBA Cats averaged double-doubles and more than 20 points per game last season. Cousins was traded to the New Orleans Pelicans during the NBA All-Star break and put up a career-high 27.8 points and 10.6 rebounds per game for the season. Towns built on his Rookie of the Year campaign with averages of 25.1 points and 12.3 rebounds per game. Wall had the best year of his career last season, averaging a career-high 23.1 points and a career-high 10.7 assists per game. He was named to the All-NBA Third Team.

Former Kentucky All-American Karl-Anthony Towns is ranked No. 14 in Sports Illustrated’s Top 100 NBA Players of 2018. (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 on Cousins:
“Cousins’ scoring explosions and highlight plays go viral with ease, and his deep portfolio of skills – ball-handling, post moves, 3-point range and much more – is unmatched at his position.”
Mahoney on Towns:
“Towns’ (25.1 PPG, 12.3 RPG, 2.7 APG) present-day performance becomes all the more terrifying when you consider that the best is so clearly yet to come. Even modern bigs don’t have this kind of floor game. The league is ready for roll men and pop shooters. No defense, however, is fully prepared for a 7-footer shooting 36.7 percent beyond the arc to charge so smoothly toward the rim without the slightest notice. Everything Towns does is overwhelming – so much so that it’s a struggle to even brainstorm what an ideal defender for him might look like.”
Golliver on Wall:
“What made Wall truly special last season wasn’t his two-way play, it was his ability to be a point-generating machine as both a scorer and a passer. The only player besides the top two MVP finishers – Russell Westbrook and (James) Harden – to average 20 points and 10 assists, Wall set new career highs in both categories, as well as PER, while guiding Washington to a top-10 offensive for the first time in his seven-year career.”

Sports Illustrated has now released its rankings for players from Nos. 100-11, and Kentucky leads all schools with eight players named. Mahoney and Golliver released their rankings for players ranked Nos. 100-51 on Monday. Patrick Patterson (No. 98), Julius Randle (No. 94), Nerlens Noel (No. 86) and Booker (No. 64) were named in that post. Eric Bledsoe (No. 38) was ranked in SI’s post naming players ranked Nos. 50-31.

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 30-11 player rankings by clicking here.

Wildcats in Sports Illustrated’s Top 100 NBA Players of 2018

13. John Wall (Washington Wizards)
14. Karl-Anthony Towns (Minnesota Timberwolves)
23. DeMarcus Cousins (New Orleans Pelicans)
38. Eric Bledsoe (Phoenix Suns)
64. Devin Booker (Phoenix Suns)
86. Nerlens Noel (Dallas Mavericks)
94. Julius Randle (Los Angeles Lakers)
98. Patrick Patterson (Oklahoma City Thunder)