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|If it takes boxing out LaMarcus Aldridge's face to crack the top 100, DeMarcus Cousins will do it.|
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The #NBArank countdown is approaching the top 100 in the NBA. Which players in that neighborhood are reckoned too high or too low?
Tom Haberstroh, ESPN.com: The Bobcats. However, Tyrus Thomas was the owner of a top-51 player efficiency rating last season. He ranked 51st among qualified players, but he stayed on the bench most of the time. Charlotte's only hope of a top-100 player next season may be another unretirement from Michael Jordan.James Ham, Cowbell Kingdom: This is tough. Cleveland? Charlotte? Both of these teams have done a solid job of hitting the reset button by clearing out both salary and talent over the past few seasons. At least Cleveland has two top-5 picks to build around for the future. I think Charlotte gets the nod, but it's close. Rob Mahoney, The Two Man Game: Charlotte. The Bobcats have a number of likable young players, but they're sorely lacking in top-level talent. Tyrus Thomas and D.J. Augustin deserve consideration for the latter spots of the top 100, but ultimately they're edged out by other players due to inconsistency (though mostly due to injury) and defensive limitations, respectively.
Tom Haberstroh, ESPN.com: J.J. Barea. Meet the next James Posey. Good complementary player who will be vastly overpaid because he won a championship alongside some elite teammates. Correlation is not causation and all that.James Ham, Cowbell Kingdom: Marcus Camby tops my list of players who no longer deserve a spot in the top 100. Sure, he still rebounds and blocks shots, but at age 37, Camby is an offensive liability who shot less than 40 percent from the field last season. The offseason arrest and charge of marijuana possession doesn't help, either. Rob Mahoney, The Two Man Game: Shane Battier may be one of the defining perimeter defenders of this NBA generation, but his top-100 ranking is far too favorable. Battier's defensive rep far exceeds his value on that end at this point in his career, and his offensive game doesn't do enough to compensate for the drop off. Overall, Battier's a useful player, but a place in the top 100 is stretching it.
Tom Haberstroh, ESPN.com: Nick Collison (No. 115). The superb defender does all the little things that go unnoticed (cliché alert!). But here's why that statement isn't just sportswriter fluff: The big man perennially ranks among the league's best in adjusted plus-minus. Top players over the last two seasons in that category? LeBron, Durant, Nash, Chris Paul, Dirk and & Nick Collision. He's doing something very right.James Ham, Cowbell Kingdom: DeMar DeRozan clearly should have been ranked higher in my opinion. I expect huge numbers in 2011-12 from the high-flying third-year guard out of USC. DeRozan improved in almost every category last season except 3-point shooting, something I'm sure he's working on this offseason. Rob Mahoney, The Two Man Game: Greg Monroe. There's always danger in projecting value based on late-season performance, but Monroe appeared to turn a legitimate corner with the introduction of the 2011 calendar year. He's a smart, skilled player with a long career ahead of him, and he should already be listed among the league's top 100 players based on his rookie-year exploits.
Tom Haberstroh, ESPN.com: Jonas Valanciunas (No. 313). Key word: eventually. No one in the 2011 draft has a higher ceiling than this guy. As an 18-year-old in the Euroleague last season, he averaged 7.6 points and 5.4 rebounds in 14.9 minutes per game on 71 percent shooting. Translated to 40 minutes per game? 20 points and 15 rebounds. Not bad, kiddo.James Ham, Cowbell Kingdom: I'm going to sound like a Kings homer on this one, but if Marcus Thornton (No. 136) can avoid the temptation to sign overseas, he is primed for a huge breakout season. Look for Thornton and Tyreke Evans to form one of the highest-scoring guard tandems in the league in 2011-12. Rob Mahoney, The Two Man Game: Again, I turn to Greg Monroe. He has all the makings of a franchise center and should impact the game in numerous ways for the Pistons for the next decade-plus. Monroe -- who currently sits at No. 132 -- is a considerable talent, and though his ceiling isn't quite as high as, say, DeMarcus Cousins, he'll settle comfortably into a role as a career-long difference-maker playing the most valuable position in basketball.