Ranking the Top 100 players of the century (100-81)

Ranking the Top 100 players of the century (100-81)

Ranking

Ranking the Top 100 players of the century (100-81)

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With the 2019 offseason pretty much wrapped up and the doldrums of the summer settling in, HoopsHype has decided to kick off a fun offseason project.

Our entire team voted and ranked each of our Top 100 players of the 21st century – which, for our purposes, begins with the 2000-01 season – and we’ll present the results over a series of eight articles.

From multiple-time MVP winners, to All-NBA-level players, to defensive stalwarts, the NBA has seen an incredible amount of talent come in and out of the league over the past 19 seasons, making this exercise a difficult one.

Without further ado, let’s jump right in to the first 20 players in our Top 100 list.

100. SERGE IBAKA

Stats: 12.3 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 2.2 bpg, 51.4 FG% in 10 seasons
Accolades: One NBA title, three All-Defensive 1st Teams, two-time blocks leader

An outstanding role player and a defensive specimen in his prime, Serge Ibaka has enjoyed an impressive career since reaching the NBA back in 2009-10.

Ibaka has been surrounded with elite talent for a lot of his time as a professional, reaching the NBA Finals back in 2011-12 as a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder alongside Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, and again in 2018-19 with the Toronto Raptors, sharing the frontcourt with Kawhi Leonard.

The big man’s blend of shot-blocking and floor-spacing has helped set him apart as a complementary piece throughout his playing days.

99. ANTOINE WALKER

21st century stats: 16.4 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 3.6 apg, 40.8 FG% in eight seasons
21st century accolades: One NBA title, two All-Stars

Looking back, Antoine Walker’s peak, and career in general, had the potential to be more impressive than it ended up being.

As a 3/4 type who could present matchup problems on offense thanks to his quickness and ball-handling when playing as a power forward and size when playing as a small forward, he was a distinctive talent.

Even with that talent, however, Walker’s final season was his age-31 campaign, and his last truly productive years came in his late-20s.

Nevertheless, Walker was able to amass two All-Star appearances this century, and played the role of Sixth Man quite well for the Miami Heat’s 2006 championship team.

98. RUDY GAY

Stats: 17.6 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 1.2 spg, 45.6 FG% in 13 seasons
Accolades: Two World Championships, All-Rookie Team

Although he was never a darling of the analytics community despite his high scoring numbers, Rudy Gay has churned out a solid career both as the top option on various teams and as a role player.

Gay was, for a long time, a big-stats-on-bad-teams type, with his best statistical days coming during his time with less-than-memorable Sacramento Kings squads.

Many even thought his career could be in jeopardy late in his Kings tenure following his Achilles tear back in the 2016-17 season, but Gay has bounced back nicely since then and bought into Gregg Popovich’s team-first culture as a member of the San Antonio Spurs. He has performed well as a third – and sometimes even fourth –  option.

Gay was also a valuable contributor on two USA Basketball World Cup-winning teams, one in 2010 and one in 2014.

97. ANDRE DRUMMOND

Stats: 14.1 ppg, 13.7 rpg, 1.7 bpg, 54.3 FG% in seven seasons
Accolades: One All-NBA, two All-Stars, three-time rebounding leader

Detroit Pistons big man Andre Drummond already has a pretty decent list of accolades. His raw averages, a double-double with nearly two blocks nightly for his career, are also impressive.

The problem: Drummond’s numbers haven’t translated to much team success for Detroit yet. Drummond and the Pistons have made the playoffs merely twice over the last seven years, with both visits ending promptly courtesy of two four-game sweeps. What’s worse: Detroit got outscored by 43.4 points per 100 possessions in the 2019 postseason with Drummond on the floor.

If he can figure out how to make a bigger nightly impact, not just on the raw stat sheet, he has the upside to shoot up this list over the coming years.

96. KARL-ANTHONY TOWNS

Stats: 22.3 ppg, 11.9 rpg, 1.5 bpg, 53.7 FG% in four seasons
Accolades: All-NBA 3rd Team, two All-Stars, Rookie of the Year

Another modern young big man, but one with an even higher ceiling, Karl-Anthony Towns is well on his way to major stardom if he maintains the trajectory he’s currently on.

Towns is a truly freakish talent thanks to his ability to space the floor from the 5-spot, clean up on the glass, score in face-up situations and out of the post, all while being able to create for teammates as well. Despite shooting over 1000 triples over four NBA seasons, Towns is still nearly at 54 percent from the field for his career, which speaks to what an insanely tidy scorer he is.

As his defense continues to improve, Towns should blossom into a perennial All-NBA candidate for the Minnesota Timberwolves.

95. RUDY GOBERT

Stats: 11.1 ppg, 10.5 rpg, 2.2 bpg, 62.9 FG% in six seasons
Accolades: Two DPOY awards, two All-NBAs, one-time blocks leader

French 7-footer Rudy Gobert is well on his way to a fantastic career through six campaigns.

Gobert has grown exponentially since arriving to the NBA, improving his hands, conditioning and confidence to become one of the best big men in basketball. He’s so impactful on the point-stopping end of the floor that the Utah Jazz are able to build their entire defensive scheme around him, and they have one of the best defenses in the league year-in, year-out and one that entails forcing low-efficiency mid-range jumpers and taking away corner threes.

Gobert isn’t just a defensive maestro, either. His offensive game has improved a ton since his rookie season, as he is now one of the best pick-and-roll screen-setters the game has to offer. The space he creates on rim-dives opens up free looks on the outside for Utah’s shooters, too.

He’ll never be a 20-point-per-game scorer, but Gobert is still one of the most impactful bigs in basketball even without that kind of scoring.

94. NENÊ

Stats: 11.3 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 1.1 spg, 54.8 FG% in 17 seasons
Accolades:
1st Team All-Rookie

Nenê has never reached enormous individual heights as a player, but his longevity and reliability gave him a boost in our rankings.

With a solid face-up game, post-up prowess and quick hands defensively, the Brazilian big man has carved out a nice role on various types of teams throughout his 17 seasons.

If he signs with a new franchise next season, he would be the last remaining player from the 2002 draft still in the Association.

93. SHANE BATTIER

Stats: 8.6 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 1.0 spg, 38.4 3PT% in 13 seasons
Accolades:
Two NBA titles, two All-Defensive 2nd Teams

Before every contender was frantically searching for the next great 3-and-D wing due to the importance of the archetype, there was Shane Battier.

The Duke legend, despite never producing huge counting stats, was one of the most trustworthy and intelligent defensive-minded wings in the game. Couple that with his healthy 38.4 career three-point percentage and you have the quintessential modern 3-and-D forward.

Battier was already extremely valuable in his actual career as evidenced by his contributions towards two NBA titles as a member of the Heat, but it’s hard not to wonder how much more valuable he would have been if he were currently in his prime, when his floor-spacing, bucket-stopping genius could have truly been appreciated.

92. AL JEFFERSON

Stats: 15.7 ppg, 8.4 rpg, 1.2 bpg, 49.9 FG%
Accolades:
One All-NBA 3rd Team, All-Rookie 2nd Team

A bucket-getting big man in the post, Al Jefferson was one of the most-difficult-to-stop centers in basketball when he would get going.

His best season came in 2013-14 as a member of the Charlotte Hornets when he averaged 21.8 points and 10.8 rebounds nightly, led his team to the playoffs and received 3rd Team All-NBA honors for his troubles.

91. JASON RICHARDSON

Stats: 17.1 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 1.2 spg, 43.8 FG% in 13 seasons 
Accolades:
All-Rookie 1st Team, two-time slam-dunk champion

More than anything, Jason Richardson is remembered for his death-defying feats during the 2002 and ’03 slam dunk contests…

…which is a bit of a shame, because he was an underrated player throughout his prime with the Golden State Warriors and the Hornets, and deserves more recognition for his actual on-court contributions.

A dynamic athlete at the 2-spot who could splash down threes when he got hot, Richardson may have never gotten an All-Star bid, but he was a legit problem during his heyday.

90. KYLE KORVER

Stats: 9.9 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 42.9 3P% in 16 seasons
Accolades:
One All-Star

One of the most accurate shooters in league history, Kyle Korver has enjoyed a long career, one that doesn’t seem to have an end in sight, thanks to his outstanding three-point prowess.

Korver has knocked down at least 40 percent of his three-point looks 11 of his 16 career seasons, has five campaigns where he shot over 45 percent from three and has one year where he shot an incredible 53.6 percent from the outside.

The league-leader in three-point percentage four times since 2003-04, Korver may not be a Hall-of-Famer, but he’ll be remembered fondly and for a long time due to his outside touch.

89. DAVID LEE

Stats: 13.5 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 2.2 apg, 53.5 FG% in 12 seasons
Accolades:
One NBA title, one All-NBA 3rd Team, two All-Stars

A face-up big man before it became expected of bigs to be able to do that consistently, David Lee was a very productive player throughout his prime.

The former Florida Gator had a four-year stretch in his late-20s where he averaged 18.7 points, 10.4 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game as a member of the Warriors and the New York Knicks, a stretch in which Lee earned two All-Star bids and received 3rd Team All-NBA honors.

Lee was also part of the Golden State’s 2015 championship team, where he played a role off the bench for the eventual title-winners.

88. SAM CASSELL

21st century stats: 16.9 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 6.1 apg, 46.2 FG% in eight seasons
21st century accolades:
One NBA title, All-NBA 2nd Team, one All-Star

In the 10-plus years since he retired, Sam Cassell has become underrated by the NBA collective.

He was a clutch performer, capable of and willing to knock down huge shots late in games, posted solid career numbers and was part of some of the best Timberwolves and Los Angeles Clippers teams in league history.

Plus, who could forget the fact that he had the NBA’s greatest big-shot celebration:

In the closing salvos of his career, Cassell was a mid-year acquisition for the 2007-08 Boston Celtics, becoming a role player for that year’s championship team.

87. JOAKIM NOAH

Stats: 8.8 ppg, 9.1 rpg, 2.8 apg, 49.1 FG% in 12 seasons
Accolades:
One DPOY award, All-NBA 1st Team, two-time All-Defensive 1st Team, two-time All-Star

Joakim Noah’s peak, which included a 1st Team All-NBA award and Defensive Player of the Year honors, reached heights that not a lot of players can attain.

His 2013-14 campaign, where he averaged 12.6 points, 11.3 rebounds, 5.4 assists, 1.2 steals and 1.5 blocks per game, earned him a fourth-place finish in MVP voting that year.

Unfortunately, injuries forced Noah to undergo a massive, hasty decline and robbed him of what could have been an even more noteworthy career.

86. MICHAEL REDD

Stats: 19.0 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 2.1 apg, 38.0 3PT% in 12 seasons
Accolades:
All-NBA 3rd, one All-Star, one Olympic gold

Knockdown shooting and high-volume scoring were Michael Redd’s strengths, and he was so good at those two skills that he earned a spot in the 2008 USA Basketball “Redeem Team”.

His best season came in 2006-07 when he averaged 26.7 points, 3.7 rebounds and 1.2 steals per game.

Redd made one All-Star team in his career.

85. MARCUS CAMBY

21st century stats: 8.9 ppg, 10.7 rpg, 2.1 apg, 2.4 bpg, 46.8 FG% in 13 seasons
21st century accolades:
One DPOY award, two-time All-Defensive 1st Team, three-time blocks leader

One of the best defensive bigs of this century, Marcus Camby was a shot-blocking extraordinaire during his time in the Association, averaging 2.4 blocks per game from 2000-01 through his final season in 2012-13. Camby led the league in blocks three times in that span (four times overall in his career), averaging 3.3 blocks twice and 3.6 blocks once those years.

In 2006-07, the UMass product was the league’s Defensive Player of the Year as a member of the Denver Nuggets.

Camby may be thought of mostly for his point-stopping ways, but he was also an efficient rebounder and underrated playmaker during his prime, averaging over three assists multiple time in his career.

84. BRANDON ROY

Stats: 18.8 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 4.7 apg, 45.9 FG% in six seasons
Accolades:
Two All-NBAs, three-time All-Star, Rookie of the Year

His career was cut far too short due to injury, but Brandon Roy still had a memorable one despite it lasting just six seasons.

For a brief spell, Roy was one of the best guards in the league, one who used quickness, ball-handling and pull-up shooting touch to wreak havoc with the ball in his hands.

Over the final two seasons of his prime, Roy put up 22.1 points, 4.6 rebounds and 4.9 assists nightly for the Portland Trail Blazers, making two All-NBA teams over that time for his troubles.

Late in his career during the 2011 playoffs, Roy had one final performance to remind everyone just how great he was prior to the injury troubles, scoring 18 fourth-quarter points to complete a huge comeback against the eventual-champion Dallas Mavericks.

83. LOU WILLIAMS

Stats: 14.2 ppg, 3.3 apg, 42.1 FG% in 14 seasons
Accolades:
Three-time Sixth Man of the Year

One of the greatest bench players in NBA history, Lou Williams will be remembered for thriving and excelling with multiple teams as a sixth man.

Williams is one of just two players ever to amass three Sixth Man of the Year awards, and playing for what projects to be an elite Los Angeles Clippers team next year, he’ll have the chance to earn that record for himself by winning the trophy for a fourth time in 2019-20.

Despite starting in just 20 games over the last two years, Williams has averaged 21.3 points, 5.3 assists and 1.9 triples over that stretch, even though he has played fewer than 30 minutes nightly.

82. HIDAYET TURKOGLU

Stats: 11.1 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 2.8 apg, 38.4 3PT% in 15 seasons
Accolades:
Most Improved Player, 2nd Team All-Rookie

A solid playmaking wing who could shoot and handle the rock on the wing at 6-foot-10, Hidayet Turkoglu was a matchup problem back in his heyday.

Turkoglu was a key member of the last Orlando Magic team to reach the Finals back in 2008-09, and his contributions were vital to Orlando making it that far that season.

81. RAJON RONDO

Stats: 10.4 ppg, 8.5 apg, 1.7 spg, 46.0 FG% in 13 seasons
Accolades:
One NBA title, All-NBA 3rd Team, four-time All-Star, two-time All-Defensive 1st Team, three-time assists leader, one-time steals leader

The enigmatic Rajon Rondo has put up impressive numbers and accolades throughout his still-ongoing career, and though some may argue that his averages can sometimes be misleading or empty, there’s no question that back in his prime he was one of the most impactful point guards in the league.

His defense, thanks to sublime instincts, long arms and huge hands, has always been his strongest suit, along with his ability to create for teammates.

Rondo has led the league in assists three times during his career, in steals once, and has one All-NBA to his name (third team). He was also a crucial part of the championship Boston team of 2008, when he shared lead guard duties with the previously mentioned Cassell.

You can follow Frank Urbina on Twitter: @FrankUrbina_.

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