|Elton Brand is the very bubble of elite. (Getty Images)|
Last year we ranked the Elite 100 players in the National Basketball Association. Our crew of three, who watch every NBA team on a regular basis throughout the season, sat down and evaluated the players using every criteria we could. Past performance, recent production, injury, projected improvement, character isssues, decision making, basketball IQ, advanced metrics, team fit -- everything. And now we present our 2012 edition, starting with No. 100 through No.50.
We said this last time, but it bears repeating. This thing is incredibly difficult. There's no science to it, no metric you can rely on to trump all others. You have to factor so much in, and there's only so much your brain can process. We have as much confidence in these rankings as you can have, and we're still arguing about them even as we post them. That's what makes this fun. And that's all it is, fun.
You can win a title with a group of guys who aren't in the top 20 on our list. (It's insanely difficult and requires a lot of chanting and sheep's blood, but it can be done.) This isn't about whether or not these guys can win. Basketball relies on team chemistry, individual effort, and communication. This merely seeks to establish the best of the best.
Basically, I'm trying to be like your third-grade softball coach. We're all winners here.
The ratings are prepared by the three bloggers for Eye on Basketball: Royce Young, Ben Golliver and Matt Moore. The rankings are averaged.
And with that, we begin the 2012 edition of the CBSSports.com NBA Elite 100.
2012 Stats: 11.0 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 1.6 bpg, .494 eFG%, 18.0 PER
Brand was a huge part of the Sixers' success last season, but the slip due to age and injury is obvious. He moves into a reserve role this season with Dallas.
2012 Stats: 9.7 ppg, 6.7 apg, 3.3 rpg, .455 eFG%, 14.8 PER
Andre Miller: We write a lot about how Miller's underrated, then we rank him second to the cliff. Go figure. "Dre's" calm demeanor should help the Nuggets almost as much as his lobs to JaVale McGee.
2012 Stats: 12.5 ppg, 6.2 rpg, .9 bpg, .479 eFG%, 14.1 PER
You know how a hammer can be used in multiple ways, even for just a handful, but does them very well? That's Bass. Jumper, jumper, rebound, jumper, drive, jumper, repeat.
2012 Stats: 12.5 ppg, 2.4 rpg, .520 efG%, 14.9 PER
Thompson could have a breakout sophomore season if the Warriors make the leap. He's got good defensive instincts and can shoot the lights out. He and Harrison Barnes are going to be quite a tandem on the wing.
2012 Stats: 4.8 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 1.0 spg, .493 eFG%, 9.7 PER, 102 defensive rating
The No-Stats All-Star became the All-Threes Role Player in the Finals. Battier also defended the four position when Chris Bosh was injured, took charges and stunned Oklahoma City with his ability to score. It is not a stretch to say he was the difference (outside of LeBron James) in the Heat's second franchise title.
2012 Stats: 9.5 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 1.2 spg, .506 eFG%, 13.3 PER
If the Rockets stay afloat this season, it might be because of Jeremy Lin's flash, but it could just as well be because of Parsons' substance. Parsons showed a lot last year and was one of the Rockets to step up under Kevin McHale, which prompted a lot of the offseason moves. He's a pillar in Houston, now.
2012 Stats: 5.1 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 1.1 bpg, .489 eFG%, 8.7 PER
Perkins needs to live up to his reputation as a Dwight-Stopper this season to reclaim some of the clout he had when traded to OKC. Perkins struggled through the playoffs but it was discovered later that he had a groin injury, which severely limited him. He still was a huge part of the Thunder's win over San Antonio, but in a league that continues to shift more and more toward small ball and versatility, Perkins' old-school center approach loses its value.
2012 Stats: 12.0 ppg, 3.7 rpg, .8 spg, .472 eFG%, 11.7 PER
Tuff Juice bounced back from a serious knee injury and helped push the Clippers to the second-round. He's feast or famine, and when he's famine, it gets ugly. He's got a lot more help offensively this season with Jamal Crawford on board and Chauncey Billups back, but at 32 and with so many injuries under his belt, there's only so long he's got left on the wire.
2012 Stats: 13.8 ppg, 11.0 rpg, 1.2 bpg, .481 eFG%, 17.9 PER
Great decision-maker when rebounding. Terrible decision-maker in his personal life. Humphries takes a lot of flak but has been a very productive player who gives consistent effort. Should flourish with so little attention drawn on the Nets.
2012 Stats: 9.3 ppg, 5.4 rpg, .466 eFG%, 13.2 PER
Glen Davis actually played better than he did in Boston last year, it's just that he looks so much worse when he's not playing in Boston. He'll have all the opportunities he wants to score next year with Howard gone. He's the best big man they have. Think about that.
|J.R. Smith returns to the Knicks. (Getty Images)|
No. 90: J.R. Smith, G, Age 26 , New York Knicks
2012 Stats: 12.5 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 1.5 spg, .490 eFG%, 15.2 PER
Missing out on a full season of J.R. Smith in Mike D'Antoni's system is a tragedy. The Knicks got Smith back at a huge discount, and he's a shooter that can fill the bucket up like few can, plays surprisingly good defense, and gives the same amount of effort... he just does what he wants.
No. 89: J.J. Redick, G, Age 28, Orlando Magic
2012 Stats: 11.6 ppg, 2.5 apg, .521 eFG%, 15.1 PER
You have to wonder where Redick's career would have been had the Bulls managed to land him when he was a restricted free agent. He's shown the ability to run an offense effectively even if he's not a playmaking point guard, and it'll be interesting to see if Jacque Vaughn uses him in that capacity more than Stan Van Gundy did.
No. 88: Kevin Martin, G/F, Age 29, Houston Rockets
2012 Stats: 17.1 ppg, 2.7 rpg, .486 eFG%, 16.5 PER
Was it the coaching change, the rule change affecting the rip-through, simple regression or just a bad year? Kevin Martin's slide was noticeable and unfortunate. Martin and McHale did not mesh well and his future with the Rockets is in doubt.
2012 Stats: 9.6 ppg, 3.0 rpg, .8 spg, .513 eFG%, 15.7 PER
Lost the early point guard battle in Indiana against Darren Collison, won the war. Hill needs to get back to the kind of production he gave in San Antonio, though, and that includes on the defensive side. Whether that's how Indiana uses him, health, or something else, it needs to happen, especially after his new $40 million contract.
No. 86: O.J. Mayo, SG, Age 24, Dallas Mavericks
2012 Stats: 12.6 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 1.1 spg, .476 eFG%, 14.7 PER
A promising career has wound up with a decent but lower-than-expected ceiling. Good for what he is, but that's what he is. Without a significant jump in his ability to finish at the rim, he's going to be a solid defender who is a streaky shooter, good and bad.
2012 Stats: 13.0 ppg, 8.8 rpg, .535 eFG%, 20.5 PER
A promising big man with tons of versatility. But can he be the second-best player on a team?
No. 84: Shawn Marion, F, Age 34, Dallas Mavericks
2012 Stats: 10.6, 7.4 pg, 1.1 spg, .488 eFG%, 15.0 PER
His defense remains top-notch while age downgrades his offense step-by-step. He's still a reliable starter and a big piece of the Mavericks' puzzle.
|Jeremy Lin has huge expectations in Houston. (Getty Images)|
No. 83: Jeremy Lin, PG, Age 24, Houston Rockets
2012 Stats: 14.6 ppg, 6.2 apg, 1.6 spg, .478 eFG%, 19.9 PER
One of the biggest questions of next season: Can he match (or top) his breakout year? It's a new system, a new city, and teams will be gameplanning for him now. He struggled toward the end of last year (when he played) after the book got out on how to attack his dribble. Those adjustments will be key for him going forward.
2012 Stats: 16.7 ppg, 2.0 apg, .503 eFG%, 12.8 PER
Raptors fans keep holding their breath for DeRozan to make the leap. Starting to turn blue...
No. 81: DeAndre Jordan, C, Age 24, Los Angeles Clippers
2012 Stats: 7.4 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 2.0 bpg, .632 eFG%, 16.4 PER
That's right, a guy who had his minutes yanked away by Reggie Evans (Reggie Evans!) in the playoffs comes in at 82. This from a center with rebounding issues given a massive contract last offseason. We have high hopes for the youth of today.
2012 Stats: 12.8 PPG, 5.2 rpg, 1.0 spg, .538 eFG%, 18.9 PER
Young inexplicably takes a tumble despite arguably his best season last year. He'll need to be more than the terrific role player he's been for Philadelphia, though, with Andre Iguodala gone from the forward position.
No. 79: Brandon Jennings, PG, Age 22, Milwaukee Bucks
2012 Stats: 19.1 ppg, 5.5 apg, .476 eFG%, 18.4 PER
The battle with Jennings on this list is "Do we have to include him?" vs. "Don't we have to put him higher?" and it's a constant state of conflict. He was a near-All-Star at the break, then fell off a cliff, and struggled to co-exist with Monta Ellis. Even the Bucks don't know what to do with him.
2012 Stats: 15.5 ppg, 6.5 rpg, .491 eFG%, 15.4 PER
Was he another victim of the coaching change last year or have we started to see a real age-related slide? We'll see what the wizards on the Suns' training staff can pull off.
No. 77: Marcin Gortat, C, Age 28, Phoenix Suns
2012 Stats: 15.4 ppg 10.0 rpg, 1.5 bpg, .555 eFG%, 21.2 PER
Let's see how he does when he's the best player on the team. His growth has been phenomenal, but things could change a lot with the new-look Suns.
2012 Stats: 10.8 ppg, 11.5 rpg, 1.4 spg, .514 eFG%, 18.9 PER
If healthy, he'd be 20 to 30 spots higher. But the health concerns mean you just don't have as much to go on as you'd like. He's headed for age 30 as well, and with the Cavs still rebuilding their roster, there's no way to tell how this season goes for him.
No. 75: Goran Dragic, PG, Age 26, Phoenix Suns
2012 Stats: 11.7 ppg, 5.3 apg, .518 eFG%, 18.0 PER
Explosive, but has never played big minutes before. Prime opportunity to take the leap in Phoenix, but needs to improve defensively, and has to be the primary creator for a team that looks very different from the last time he was in town.
No. 74: Kenneth Faried, F, Age 22, Denver Nuggets
2012 Stats: 10.2 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 1.0 bpg, .586 eFG%, 21.9 PER
One word: Manimal.
No. 73: Andrea Bargnani, F/C, Age 26, Toronto Raptors
2012 Stats: 19.5 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 2.0 apg, .467 eFG%, 17.9 PER
Could have been an All-Star were it not for injury last year. With help at the center position allowing him to play more to his strengths, will he keep up the defense and rebounding improvements he made or become more for what he was criticized for?
2012 Stats: 7.9 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 1.3 apg, .543 eFG%, 16.6 PER
We're all jumping to put him higher, but trying to restrain ourselves after his rookie season. Gregg Popovich has called him the future of the Spurs.
No. 71: Jrue Holiday, PG, Age 22, Philadelphia 76ers
2012 Stats: 13.5 ppg, 4.5 apg, 1.6 spg, .471 eFG%, 14.7 PER
A big opportunity to shine with Bynum in and Iguodala out, but the clock's running out on waiting for him to assert himself.
No. 70: Arron Afflalo, SG, Age 26, Orlando Magic
2012 Stats: 15.2 ppg, 2.4 apg, .534 eFG%, 14.7 PER
Going to be a rough year for him, wins-wise, in Orlando, but he can take on the challenge and really prove he's elite if he decides to.
|George is part of the Pacers' core. (Getty Images)|
No. 69: Paul George, F, Age 22, Indiana Pacers
2012 Stats: 12.1 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 1.6 apg, .510 eFG%, 16.5 PER
Most of the Pacers should probably be higher than they are on this list, and George is no exception. Showed real improvement last year, especially on the catch-and-shoot, but remains just a great utility player.
2012 Stats: (Played for CSKA Moscow in 2011-2012)
Back from Russia, showed a lot in the Olympics, was criminally "meh" his last year in Utah. No one knows exactly what we'll get from Kirilenko but the debate is worth having.
2012 Stats: 16.5 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 4.5 apg, .464 eFG%, 16.4 PER
Remember when he had that historic rookie season? Neither do we, apparently. Evans continues to have issues with finding a position, and being able to play with the ball to create more than shots. But he's also one of the most athletic players in the league and incredibly versatile. Big season for him this year, one way or another.
No. 66: Ray Allen, G, Age 37, Miami Heat
2012 Stats: 14.2 ppg, 3.1 rpg, .566 eFG%, 14.8 PER
Has a comfy position in Miami, but how much of last season was an injury that's healed and how much was just age? His minute-allocation will be something to watch.
No. 65: JaVale McGee, C, Age 24, Denver Nuggets
2012 Stats: 11.3 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 2.2 bpg, .556 eFG%, 19.9 PER
Sometimes he looks like the next great center, with touch, footwork, aggressiveness, and crazy athleticism. Sometimes, he runs the other direction on offense. That's JaVale.
2012 Stats: 12.7 ppg, 6.5 apg, 2.2 spg, .477 eFG%, 16.8 PER
For not being a star, Conley is about as good as it gets. Shoots well, runs an efficient offense, and has great decision-making abilities at both ends.
No. 63: Jason Terry, G, Age 34, Boston Celtics
2012 Stats: 15.1 ppg, 3.6 apg, 1.2 spg, .513 eFG%, 15.7 PER
Hoping for one last jolt of production in Boston. Not like he'll be lacking in confidence he can do it. Terry is still able to put together games he just takes over with his shot-creation.
2012 Stats: 15.0 ppg, 8.5 rpg, .532 eFG%, 19.7 PER
Probably the least-fan-favorite second-best player on a team in the league. Boozer actually did a fantastic job last season keeping the Bulls afloat when Derrick Rose was out. But that contract will continue to shade how he's considered.
|Rubio was kind of awesome last year. (Getty Images)|
No. 61: Ricky Rubio, PG, Age 21, Minnesota Timberwolves
2012 Stats: 10.6 ppg, 8.2 apg, 4.2 rpg, .398 eFG%, 14.6 PER
A brilliant rookie year cut down by a crushing injury. Can he get back up quick enough to show off that brilliance he did last year? Also might work on that shot while he's at it.
No. 60: Tony Allen, G, Age 30, Memphis Grizzlies
2012 Stats: 9.8 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 1.8 spg, .478 eFG%, 15.7 PER
On defense he's like a pitbull wrapped in flaming armor on an adrenaline additive. Just don't let him try to create on offense.
No. 59: Andrew Bogut, C, Age 27, Golden State Warriors
2012 Stats: (Played just 12 games due to injury.)
If he stays healthy for 70-plus games, and that's a big if, he's going to jump about 20 spots next year.
No. 58: Brook Lopez, C, Age 24, Brooklyn Nets
2012 Stats: (Played just five games due to injury.)
This ranking is apparently based on the idea that he will be healthy for the first time in three years and that he will go back to rebounding like a center instead of a shooting guard. It's like a magic trick.
No. 57: Nene, F/C, Age 29, Washington Wizards
2012 Stats: 13.7 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 1.0 bpg, .607 eFG%, 24.2 PER
You may be sensing a pattern here. "If he's healthy.."
No. 56: Gerald Wallace, F, Age 30, Brooklyn Nets
2012 Stats: 15.2 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 3.1 apg, 1.4 apg, .465 eFG%, 17.2 PER
Versatile, skilled, tough-as-nails, but also hitting his 30's. For right now, though, one of the best all-around players you'll find on both ends of the floor.
2012 Stats: 13.9 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 1.0 bpg, .534 eFG%, 17.3 PER
Everyone's loved the potential of Batum when compared with his production. Time for that production to hit star level.
No. 54: Stephen Curry, PG, Age 24, Golden State Warriors
2012 Stats: 14.7 ppg, 5.3 apg, 1.5 spg (only played 26 games last season due to injury)
Crossing our fingers that his ankles hold up this year (just like we did last year, and the year before).
|West helped the Pacers to the third seed. (Getty Images)|
No. 53: David West, F, Age 32, Indiana Pacers
2012 Stats: 12.8 ppg, 6.6 rpg, .489 eFG%, 17.8 PER
He was the biggest reason for the Pacers' climb to the top of the Eastern Conference, and West remains criminally underrated.
No. 52: John Wall, PG, Age 21, Washington Wizards
2012 Stats: 16.3 ppg, 8.0 apg, 4.5 rpg, .424 eFG%, 17.7 PER
No more excuses about the talent surrounding him. It's time for John Wall to make the leap and become the point guard the Wizards drafted him to be.
No. 51: David Lee, F, Age 29, Golden State Warriors
2012 Stats: 20.1 ppg, 9.6 rpg, 2.8 apg, .503 eFG%, 19.7 PER
Just a very good, productive player who's in a great position with the talent around him in Golden State this year.
2012 Stats: 19.2 ppg, 9.6 rpg, 1.7 bpg, .493 eFG%, 22.8 PER
A good career, but never became the beast many thought he would in Boston. Still the best low-post player in clutch-time in the league, and a dependable rock offensively. The Jazz need him to step up defensively this season.