Putting together a top 100 list of NFL players creates all kinds of difficult decisions. How can you weigh a quarterback's impact vs. a left tackle's, the relative worth of a multi-tooled running back vs. a shutdown corner? Ditto for baseball: Pitchers in one category, hitters in the other, with defense a factor in both.

But putting together a top 100 list of NBA players works better than individual rankings for any other team sport. You may have different positions in basketball, but whether you're a point guard or a big man, the two goals are the same: Put the ball in one hoop, stop the ball from getting in the other.

And maybe that's why annual NBA player rankings generate so much chatter and controversy -- not just among fans but among players themselves. Carmelo Anthony and DeMar DeRozan both lashed out a year ago when they believed certain top-100 rankings put them too low. A miffed C.J. McCollum went a step further: "We need to start ranking these weak ass journalist," he tweeted.

Of course, that's why we do it: To spur on conversation. CBS Sports polled 10 NBA insiders and writers, including former players Raja Bell and Wally Szczerbiak, to create our list. The result was a list that balanced hype and production, a look at how we would value these players as we enter the 2018-19 season.

There's not much conversation to be had about who is No. 1 on this list. Frankly, there's not much conversation about No. 2, either. LeBron James and Kevin Durant stand in a league of their own. After that? Well, that's where the fun starts. -- Reid Forgrave

LeBron James Los Angeles Lakers SF
When there's a legit argument going on whether an active player will end his career as either the greatest NBA player of all time or the second greatest, that player and only that player must be considered the No. 1 active player in the game. Simply put, James should win MVP every single season. The only reason he doesn't is because he's measured against his own greatness (and because the MVP is a regular-season award). -- Forgrave
Kevin Durant Golden State Warriors SF
The back-to-back NBA Finals MVP might not be the most popular player among non-Warriors fans, but there is no denying his greatness. Durant's efficiency in Golden State has been otherworldly, and his evolution into one of the league's better defenders has been critical to his team's success. He turns 30 at the end of the month, and it feels like it is only a matter of time until he is No. 1 on this list. -- James Herbert
Anthony Davis New Orleans Pelicans PF
If you factor in Davis' age (25), he very well could top this list moving forward. It's a shame he hasn't experienced more team success, but that could come with what should be another MVP-caliber year from The Brow. -- Colin Ward-Henninger
Stephen Curry Golden State Warriors PG
LeBron and Durant check more boxes than Curry, but in terms of flat-out impact on the game, neither of those players can match the shooting threat that Curry presents. Aside from that, he is a world-class ball-handler, one of the better finishers at the rim in the league, a special (if at times sloppy) passer and an underrated defender. -- Brad Botkin
James Harden Houston Rockets SG
Last season's MVP is a dominant force on the offensive end, where he's not only one of the best one-on-one scorers in the league, but also one of the best playmakers as well. He has the ability to single-handedly carry his team for whole stretches of the season. -- Jack Maloney
Kawhi Leonard Toronto Raptors SF
When healthy, Leonard is the best two-way player in the NBA. He was many pundits' pick to win MVP last season. If his injuries are fully healed, he's a good bet to win it this season on what might be the most balanced team in the NBA. During his last healthy season, Leonard finished third in Defensive Player of the Year voting while averaging 25.5 points on 38 percent 3-point shooting. -- Forgrave
Giannis Antetokounmpo Milwaukee Bucks PF
The frightening part is he can still get better. For as well-rounded as Antetokounmpo's game is -- he should have made the All-Defensive Team last season -- it is hard to talk about him without discussing his still-developing jump shot. The 23-year-old's season-to-season improvement has been one of the best reasons to pay attention to professional basketball over the past five years, and while he could wind up being a Hall of Famer without extending his range, it is fun to imagine how he will bewilder opponents if he ever does. -- Herbert
Russell Westbrook Oklahoma City Thunder PG
Arguably the most polarizing player in the upper echelon of NBA talent, you can't argue with Westbrook's passion, ferocity or game-changing ability. Averaging a triple-double in two consecutive seasons is pure insanity. -- Ward-Henninger
Chris Paul Houston Rockets PG
Paul's first season with the Rockets ended in unfortunate circumstances, but along the way he proved exactly why the team acquired him. Though he often focuses on setting up his teammates, he's more than capable of pouring in the points when necessary. Plus, he handles himself well on the defensive end. -- Maloney
Joel Embiid Philadelphia 76ers C
If he stays healthy, Embiid will be in the discussion for the No. 1 spot on this list before long. All of 94 games into his career, he's a Defensive Player of the Year candidate and high-level offensive producer. Embiid's post game is unstoppable and we know he has the ability to stretch defenses to the 3-point line. It will be interesting to see how he balances that part of his game moving forward. -- Botkin
Paul George Oklahoma City Thunder SF
George finished fourth in last season's Defensive Player of the Year voting and fit in seamlessly alongside Russell Westbrook as one of the NBA's top 3-point threats. He shot 40.1 percent on a career-high 7.7 3-pointers per game. Only four NBA players averaged more 3-point attempts per game than George; of that group, only Steph Curry shot a higher percentage than George. -- Forgrave
Kyrie Irving Boston Celtics PG
As skilled as anybody on the planet with the ball in his hands, Irving's one-on-one ability instills fear into even the most fundamentally sound defensive teams. While his numbers in Boston were essentially the same as they were in Cleveland, there were subtle improvements in terms of 3-point volume, defensive effort and leadership. Nobody knows what his future holds beyond this season, but he appeared to fully buy into coach Brad Stevens' system. -- Herbert
Jimmy Butler Minnesota Timberwolves SG
If Butler had never become an offensive superstar, he would have made a 15-year career out of his defense and motor, relentlessly hounding opposing stars to the point of frustration. The fact that he still plays like that while putting up crazy numbers is impressive to the point of being misleading: It makes you think every star scorer could simply decide to do the same. -- Herbert
Damian Lillard Portland Trail Blazers PG
Despite being an All-NBA First Team selection last season, Lillard continues to see himself as underappreciated and will surely take issue with his spot on this list. The jury is still out as to whether he can be the best player on a championship team, but he sure is fun to watch. -- Ward-Henninger
Klay Thompson Golden State Warriors SG
The second-best shooter in history, an elite perimeter defender and -- yes, already -- a surefire Hall of Famer. Thompson's willingness to simply do his job, on both ends, without voicing even a single complaint over the years about getting more shots or sharing in more of the spotlight, is probably the most overlooked factor in the Warriors becoming arguably the greatest team ever. -- Botkin
Karl-Anthony Towns Minnesota Timberwolves C
This is a high ranking for someone who hasn't yet mastered the intricacies of NBA defense, but that speaks to how proficient he is on offense. On some possessions, Towns looks like a throwback big man, making post defenders look lost and helpless as they try to deal with his array of moves and soft touch. On others, he looks distinctly like a 2018 center, hitting 3-pointers with ease and making guard-like plays off the bounce. -- Herbert
Victor Oladipo Indiana Pacers SG
This time last year, who would have thought that Victor Oladipo would be a top-20 NBA player? But that's exactly what he became after a breakout season on both ends of the court. -- Ward-Henninger
Draymond Green Golden State Warriors PF
The 2017 Defensive Player of the Year is a coach's dream, doing all the little things that make a team click. Even in a season where it seemed like Green had lost a step, he still did it all for the Warriors, averaging 11.0 points, 7.3 assists, 7.6 rebounds, 1.4 steals and 1.3 blocks, and shooting 30.1 percent from 3-point range. And the most impressive parts of Green's play don't even show up in box scores. -- Forgrave
Ben Simmons Philadelphia 76ers PG
Simmons put together one of the best rookie seasons the league has ever seen, despite the fact that he lacks a jump shot of any kind. There are certain times where that deficiency can be exploited, but over the course of the season Simmons is simply too strong, too athletic and too skilled for most opponents. -- Maloney
Nikola Jokic Denver Nuggets C
Jokic is the best passing big in the league, but his dominance goes beyond his ability to orchestrate an offense. The guy is a legit threat to join the 50-40-90 shooting club -- as a center. Towns is, too, but Jokic's scoring is part of the flow of the game in a unique way. Denver is one of the breakout teams to watch this year, and it all starts with Jokic. -- Botkin
Al Horford Boston Celtics C
The Celtics' big man might not put up the numbers that other top players in the league do, and that leads to a fair bit of criticism -- especially considering his large contract. However, there's no doubt that Horford is one of the most impactful bigs in the league, as he can protect the rim on one end and hit 3-pointers on the other. -- Maloney
John Wall Washington Wizards PG
Even in an injury-plagued 2017-18 season, there were still positive signs about Wall continuing to develop as one of the best point guards in the NBA. Namely, his career-high 37.1 percent 3-point shooting. While advanced statistics indicated last season was a slight regression for Wall -- his player-efficiency rating was the lowest since the second season of his career -- he's undoubtedly elite. -- Forgrave
Rudy Gobert Utah Jazz C
Gobert is this high on the list due largely to his brilliant defense, which took the Jazz from a good team to a very good team last season. Still only 26, watch out if he adds more offensive weapons. -- Ward-Henninger
Gordon Hayward Boston Celtics SF
Capable of scoring at all three levels, Hayward is one of the most skilled wings in the NBA. Unfortunately, he's coming off one of the most gruesome injuries we've even seen in the league. Only time will tell if he can get back to his level of play before the injury, but if he does the Celtics will be frightening on offense. -- Maloney
DeMar DeRozan San Antonio Spurs SG
We're going to find out a lot about DeRozan this year in San Antonio. He's going to be operating in a system that tends to highlight everyone's strengths while minimizing their weaknesses. For all DeRozan's improvement as a playmaker (including his becoming a more willing 3-point shooter), he is still an incomplete offensive star and a subpar defender. If he's going to continue rounding out his game, there is no better place to do it than San Antonio. -- Botkin
Kristaps Porzingis New York Knicks PF
There are serious flaws in Porzingis' game, including passing and perimeter defense, but his combination of size and skill justifies the "unicorn" nickname and all the hype. Should he put his durability problems behind him, shift to center full-time and learn to leverage his scoring to make his teammates better, he can rocket up this list. -- Herbert
DeMarcus Cousins Golden State Warriors C
Talent-wise, Cousins belongs higher on this list, but Achilles tendon injuries are perhaps the most difficult to bounce back from. The Warriors won't rush him back, and when he is ready to go, he'll be facing more single coverage, and playing in more space, than he's ever seen in his life. He's also an elite passing big, which should become a major asset in his game after a season in the Warriors' movement-based, all-inclusive system. -- Botkin
In a couple of years, Mitchell could crack the top 10 in lists like these. The 13th pick of the 2017 draft immediately became the face of the Utah Jazz at age 21. With Mitchell's ascendance, the Jazz turned their franchise around after the free agency jilting by Gordon Hayward. -- Forgrave
LaMarcus Aldridge San Antonio Spurs PF
With all of the drama surrounding Kawhi Leonard last season, Aldridge's phenomenal season flew a bit under the radar. He deserves a ton of credit for bouncing back from a few subpar seasons in San Antonio and truly becoming the leader of that team. -- Maloney
Bradley Beal Washington Wizards SG
Beal took a step forward last season and proved he could be more of a playmaker in John Wall's absence. He was rewarded with his first All-Star selection, and it probably won't be his last. -- Ward-Henninger
Kemba Walker Charlotte Hornets PG
While Walker's seven-year career in Charlotte has only seen two playoff appearances -- both first-round losses -- that doesn't take away from his molding himself into one of the most consistent point guards in the NBA. Over the past six seasons, the seldom-injured Walker has averaged 34.9 minutes, 19.9 points and 5.5 assists. -- Forgrave
Jrue Holiday New Orleans Pelicans PG
The Pelicans finally won a playoff series, and the world got to see how great of a two-way guard Holiday is. -- Ward-Henninger
Jayson Tatum Boston Celtics SF
Almost as soon as Tatum put on a Celtics uniform, he erased doubts about his defense and shot selection. Months after his second-round performance against Philadelphia and his incredible Game 7 against Cleveland in the conference finals, the way he handled playoff pressure remains mind-blowing. Going forward, the major question is how he will develop in the context of Boston's stacked roster -- had he been drafted by a rebuilding team, he would be seen as the clear No. 1 offensive option. -- Herbert
CJ McCollum Portland Trail Blazers SG
McCollum is one of the silkiest players in the league. Not especially quick or strong, his creativity as both a ball-handler and shot creator should be talked about much more than it is. He can razzle-dazzle anyone, yet his game is economical in his ability to score from all three levels in his main role, and also competently run an offense when Damian Lillard is off the floor. -- Botkin
Kevin Love Cleveland Cavaliers PF
The five-time All Star signed a four-year, $120 million contract extension shortly after James left for the Lakers, indicating this Cleveland team has no intentions of tearing down and rebuilding. Love should return to a more featured role now that James is gone. The last season Love played before joining James, he averaged 26.1 points, 12.5 rebounds and 4.4 assists in 2013-14. -- Forgrave
Devin Booker Phoenix Suns SG
Booker has always been able to fill it up, and he really took it to another level last season, pouring in 24.9 points per game. Improving other aspects of his game, such as playmaking and defense, will go a long way toward determining what level of star he becomes in this league. -- Maloney
Kyle Lowry Toronto Raptors PG
Lowry's minutes and stats both dipped last season, but he still made his fourth straight All-Star appearance. Entering a season in which he'll turn 33 in March, it will be interesting to see if his production continues to decline with new offensive focal point Kawhi Leonard. -- Ward-Henninger
Khris Middleton Milwaukee Bucks SF
Forever underrated, Middleton showed against the Celtics that he is an All-Star-caliber player when he is aggressive, empowered and healthy. He quietly averaged 20 points for the first time last season, and if he nudges that up a bit while maintaining his defense and efficiency, he will make an absurd amount of money next summer. -- Herbert
Mike Conley Memphis Grizzlies PG
Conley has never been an All-Star, but everyone thinks of him as one. He's as steady as they come and can hold his own against the league's elite point guards night in and night out. If Conley can stay healthy and plays up to his normal standards, and if Marc Gasol can do the same, the Grizzlies have a chance to remind people of the team that was a perennial upper-middle-class Western Conference team for years. -- Botkin
Andre Drummond Detroit Pistons C
The Pistons are coming off a disappointing season in which they failed to make the playoffs, but that was through no fault of Drummond, who was -- perhaps a bit quietly -- spectacular at times. He led the league in rebounding and showed great improvement in his passing/playmaking ability. -- Maloney
Clint Capela Houston Rockets C
Capela is the perfect fit for the Houston Rockets system. He's a player who knows his role -- defend, rebound, run to the rim -- as well as any player in the NBA. He may not be the ideal modern versatile big man, but he executes exactly what the Rockets need him to. -- Forgrave
Jaylen Brown Boston Celtics SG
Brown thrived in a much bigger role than expected last season because of the injury to Gordon Hayward. He's a versatile wing who proved he can defend, hit 3-pointers and perform in the clutch. -- Ward-Henninger
Steven Adams Oklahoma City Thunder C
We talk about him as something of an enforcer, but this dude is a borderline All-Star. He's a brute on the defensive end and the best offensive rebounder in the league. Plus, every year he becomes more and more of a threat to get his own buckets in one-on-one matchups. He's terrific in the pick-and-roll with Russell Westbrook, and also as an interior outlet for push shots and half-floaters when Westbrook attacks the rim only to dump off a pass at the last second. Every team in the league wishes they had this guy. -- Botkin
Marc Gasol Memphis Grizzlies C
When healthy and motivated, Gasol is one of the best, most unique bigs in the league. He can step out and shoot the 3-pointer, is a crafty playmaker and directs his team's defense as well as anyone in the league. Coming off a strange, drama-filled season, the Grizzlies will need Gasol at his best in 2018-19. -- Maloney
Blake Griffin Detroit Pistons PF
It's hard to believe how far he has fallen here, but it is a reflection of both Griffin's regression and the way the game has changed. As he has shifted away from the basket, his rebounding, free-throw rate and on/off-court numbers have suffered. This is a man who has worked tirelessly on his jump shot, became one of the better passers in the league and done his best to become an adequate defender, but he needs to prove that he can still have has a superstar-level impact on winning. -- Herbert
Paul Millsap Denver Nuggets PF
An injury-hampered 2017-18 season could make you forget how big Millsap's well-rounded, Draymond Green-like impact can be. Millsap is one of the most underrated two-way players in the league. A full season with a healthy Millsap can only help a defense that was among the NBA's worst last season. -- Forgrave
Aaron Gordon Orlando Magic PF
As a player development story, you can't ask for much more from Gordon. Since coming into the league, he has made giant strides in terms of his shooting and off-the-dribble game. Now that he has been rewarded with a four-year contract in the neighborhood of $80 million, he must be more judicious as a decision-maker -- his ideal role is a more explosive and scoring-inclined Draymond Green, guarding all five positions and serving as primarily a finisher rather than a creator. -- Herbert
DeAndre Jordan Dallas Mavericks C
Jordan might not be quite the athlete he was earlier in his career, but he proved last season that his success was not just all about playing with Chris Paul. You know exactly what you're going to get from Jordan each and every night: he'll finish efficiently around the basket, vacuums up rebounds and offers some rim protection. -- Maloney
Goran Dragic Miami Heat PG
Dragic has never been a guy who could be the best player on an elite team, yet he's been Miami's best player for a couple years. That sort of tells you what you need to know about the Heat, who are the perfect reflection of their point guard -- tough as hell, competitive every night, but ultimately out of their depth with the big boys. -- Botkin
Otto Porter Washington Wizards SF
Extremely versatile at both ends of the floor, Porter has established himself as one of the best role players in the league. His teammates John Wall and Bradley Beal may get most of the attention, but make no mistake, Porter is a vital part of this Wizards squad. -- Maloney
Tobias Harris Los Angeles Clippers SF
Harris has developed into an efficient scorer and a reliable 3-point shooter. He'll get a chance to shine as the focal point of the Clippers offense. -- Ward-Henninger
Gary Harris Denver Nuggets SG
Harris continued his ascent to stardom last season, averaging career-highs in points, 3-pointers made and steals. He's an essential part of the Nuggets' high-octane offense and their best perimeter defender. -- Ward-Henninger
Brandon Ingram Los Angeles Lakers SF
Ingram improved across the board in his second season with the Lakers, even taking on some point guard duties when Lonzo Ball was injured. He averaged 16.1 points, 5.3 rebounds and 3.9 assists while shooting 39 percent from 3-point range last season. Playing next to James makes Ingram a breakout candidate for the upcoming season. Don't be surprised when Ingram is averaging 20-plus points per game this season. -- Forgrave
Eric Gordon Houston Rockets SG
Healthy in Houston, Gordon has revitalized his career and seems primed to remain an overqualified sixth man on a contender for the foreseeable future. He spaces the floor to 30 feet, gets buckets driving to the basket and adds value on the other end with his length and physicality. Do not overlook him. -- Herbert
Jamal Murray Denver Nuggets PG
Don't be surprised if Murray hits the 40-percent mark from 3-point range this year and flirts with 20 points a game. The threat of Murray's scoring/shot creation unlocks so much of what the Nuggets are able to do as an elite offensive team. -- Botkin
Lou Williams Los Angeles Clippers SG
In Year 13, on his fifth team in five years, Williams had a career season, averaging 22.6 points in 32.8 minutes with a true shooting percentage of 57.4 percent and a usage rate of 29.8 percent. You have to surround him with shooters and defenders, but he has proven beyond any doubt that he can carry an offense by himself. -- Herbert
Joe Ingles Utah Jazz SF
From international journeyman to a $52 million contract with the Jazz, Ingles may be one of the most unlikely success stories in the NBA. He's is one of the top 3-point shooters in the league, hitting 3-pointers at a 44 percent rate the past two seasons, but he's much more than that. He's a deft passer, a versatile defender and an all-around high-IQ basketball player. -- Forgrave
Eric Bledsoe Milwaukee Bucks PG
Bledsoe struggled to find chemistry with the Bucks after coming over from Phoenix. He could regain his old form under the direction of new coach Mike Budenholzer. -- Ward-Henninger
Luka Doncic Dallas Mavericks PG
Doncic wasn't the No. 1 pick in this year's draft, but he might end up being the best player. He's already won a career's worth of awards and titles in Europe, and the veterans in Dallas are raving about his ability. There aren't many rookies showing up on the scene who impress Dirk Nowitzki before training camp even starts like Donic did. -- Maloney
Myles Turner Indiana Pacers C
Turner has the tools to be an elite two-way big who can stretch the floor, but he has yet to put it all together. He's still just 22 years old, though, so his breakout season could be on the horizon. -- Ward-Henninger
Harrison Barnes Dallas Mavericks SF
Barnes has performed admirably and consistently as the de facto go-to-guy on the Mavericks. He'll have more help this season, which should send him back to a role for which he's better suited. -- Ward-Henninger
JJ Redick Philadelphia 76ers SG
One of the best shooters of all time, Redick gave the Sixers exactly what they were looking for when they signed him to a one-year, $23 million deal last summer. No one likes chasing him around the court, and he gave Philadelphia some playmaking when needed, too. At 34, he has showed few signs of aging -- it's not just that he averaged 17.1 points last season, it's that he still moves the way he did five years ago while playing 30 minutes a night. -- Herbert
Trevor Ariza Phoenix Suns SG
The Rockets not ponying up to re-sign Ariza could turn out to be one of the biggest mistakes of this offseason; he was the unheralded key to Houston's success. The former journeyman has found his NBA niche as a versatile 3-and-D defensive stopper. His veteran presence can only mean good things for the young Phoenix Suns. -- Forgrave
Derrick Favors Utah Jazz PF
Favors, who is somehow only 27 years old, had a nice bounce-back campaign last season after a down season in 2016-17. Despite the league trending towards versatile, perimeter-oriented bigs, he's built a nice frontcourt partnership with Rudy Gobert, and provides a very consistent presence for the Jazz. -- Maloney
Dario Saric Philadelphia 76ers PF
Saric isn't great at anything, but he's good a lot of things and is the kind of opportunistic scorer that perfectly complements the pass-first Simmons and the traditional No. 1 option superstar that is Embiid. Saric spaces the floor, competes as a switchable defender and is a sneaky rebounder, even if he never looks to be more than a few inches off the ground. When he's humming, the 76ers are really good offensively. Saric's role as a floor spacer and periodical offensive catalyst will be even more vital with the departures of Ersan Ilyasova and Marco Belinelli, who carried the Sixers at times in the playoffs last season. -- Botkin
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Tyreke Evans Indiana Pacers PG
Evans was one of the biggest bargains in the NBA last season on his one-year, $3.3 million contract with the Memphis Grizzlies. Now signed to a one-year, $12 million contract with the Indiana Pacers, Evans' career -- which once seemed bound for stardom until injuries and an inability to make shots made him stagnate -- is now resuscitated. Evans averaged more points per game last season (19.4) than any year since his Rookie of the Year campaign in 2009-10, and he has turned himself into a very good shooter, hitting 3-pointers at a near-40 percent rate last season. -- Forgrave
Robert Covington Philadelphia 76ers SF
Covington is the definition of a 3-and-D wing, and he might just be one of the best in the NBA. He was first-team All-Defensive Team last season, but his struggles as a shooter, and really just from an overall impact standpoint, in last year's playoffs have been well chronicled. If he can prove to be a more consistent shooter this year, he should vault up this list, because the defense, motor and versatility are all elite. -- Botkin
Lauri Markkanen Chicago Bulls PF
Markkanen was unlucky to have been a part of one of the best rookie classes the league has ever seen, because in other seasons he would have been a contender for Rookie of the Year. He's big and strong, can really shoot it from the outside and looks to be a cornerstone piece for the Bulls moving forward. -- Maloney
Andrew Wiggins Minnesota Timberwolves SF
The glow has mostly worn off with Wiggins, but he has averaged about 20 points in the first four years of his career and, in certain one-on-one situations, he can remind you why he was seen as an elite defensive prospect coming into the league. He has a long way to go in terms of being a reliable, complete player, but hey, he is still 23. -- Herbert
Andre Iguodala Golden State Warriors SG
He's not the player he used to be, but he's still an elite defender in spots and a coach-on-the-floor pillar of Golden State's vaunted Death Lineup. He'll still make timely 3-pointers, even if the defense is happy to let him take as many as he'd like, and he'll always settle the Warriors down when they start to get a little crazy. Igoudala has been the ultimate luxury, and pro, in coming off the bench during this four-year Warriors run. Carmelo Anthony ought to pay attention. -- Botkin
Ricky Rubio Utah Jazz PG
Three-point shooting has always kept Rubio from realizing his potential as a near-elite NBA point guard, but last season marked a step in the right direction, as he shot an acceptable 35.2 percent from 3-point range in his first season with the Jazz (he'd been a career 31.5 percent 3-point shooter before last season). Rubio's elite passing ability and elite defense made him a vital player for the NBA's most surprising team last season. -- Forgrave
Lonzo Ball Los Angeles Lakers PG
OK, we all know Ball struggled to shoot last season. If that's the only leg you have to stand on when calling him a bust, or even a disappointment, in his first season, you better come up with something better. This guy is already an elite passer and positional rebounder, and an above-average defender with the length and instincts to become elite. As far as the shooting, that got much better as last year went on. For stretches he was really good. Ball was always going to be a player who thrives most with talent around him, as he needs players who can take advantage of his passing and pace-pushing instincts and also relieve the one-on-one scoring burden he'll probably never be suited to handle. In case you haven't heard, the Lakers signed LeBron James. How's that for surrounding talent? Ball is in line for a big second-year leap, in my opinion. -- Botkin
Marcus Smart Boston Celtics PG
As difficult a player as there is to assess in the NBA, Smart brings elite defense, intensity and intangibles while remaining one of the worst shooters in the league. He knows his role for the Celtics, though, and he helps them win a lot of games. -- Ward-Henninger
Deandre Ayton Phoenix Suns PF
Not all of our panelists had this year's No. 1 pick in the Top 100, but those who did think that his size and upside outweigh the concerns about his defense and feel for the game. It will be interesting to see what role Ayton plays in Phoenix and what kind of chemistry he builds with Devin Booker. -- Herbert
Josh Richardson Miami Heat SF
The NBA has become all about two-way wings, and Richardson is among the best. A lock-down defender who shot 38 percent on his 3-point attempts, he was arguably the Heat's most reliable player last season. -- Ward-Henninger
Julius Randle New Orleans Pelicans PF
Randle is a divisive player. He's a bit undersized for a big and doesn't possess an outside shot, but he's also incredibly strong and a decent playmaker. It will be fascinating to see how he pairs with Anthony Davis after signing with the Pelicans in the offseason. -- Maloney
Jusuf Nurkic Portland Trail Blazers C
Nurkic had a slight regression last season after dazzling in 20 games with the Blazers to end the 2016-17 campaign, but he remains a consistent scorer, rebounder and rim protector. Portland was significantly worse defensively when its big man was off the court. -- Ward-Henninger
Andre Roberson Oklahoma City Thunder SG
Roberson is one of the best, most versatile defenders in the league, and together with Paul George forms a devastating defensive duo on the wing. Hopefully he will be able to stay healthy this season after playing just 39 games last season due to a torn patellar tendon. -- Maloney
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Nikola Mirotic New Orleans Pelicans PF
Opening up the offense as a prototypical stretch-four, Mirotic was a big part of the Pelicans' second-half tear last season after the DeMarcus Cousins injury. He shoots it from well beyond the 3-point line and is a surprisingly effective rebounder. -- Ward-Henninger
Will Barton Denver Nuggets SF
Barton is one of the league's ultimate instant-offense guys. Whether he's coming off the bench or starting, few players can heat up the way Barton does at times. He can really shoot it from the outside, and, as he proved last season, is a solid playmaker as well.  -- Maloney
Kyle Kuzma Los Angeles Lakers PF
Kuzma surprised many last season by occasionally outshining fellow rookie Lonzo Ball. In his first NBA season, Kuzma displayed his diverse offensive arsenal to the tune of 16.1 points per game. It will be interesting to see how his game progresses with the new Lakers additions. -- Ward-Henninger
Jeff Teague Minnesota Timberwolves PG
Teague is just really solid. He's going to go out every night and get you 12-16 points, five to eight assists, hit a few 3-pointers and run the team without making many mistakes. That can lead to criticism because he's not usually making game-changing or spectacular plays, but Teague just gets the job done. -- Maloney
Jonas Valanciunas Toronto Raptors C
Even though Valanciunas sometimes finds himself on the bench during crunch time, he's a crucial part of the Raptors' ensemble attack. He's as consistent as they come, pretty much averaging 12 points, nine rebounds and one block per game for the past five seasons in Toronto. -- Ward-Henninger
Terry Rozier Boston Celtics PG
Rozier showed notable improvement early last season, but really burst onto the scene after assuming an increased role following injuries to Kyrie Irving and Marcus Smart. He's still probably more of a scorer than a true point guard, but either way he proved in the playoffs that he's for real. -- Maloney
Fred VanVleet Toronto Raptors PG
VanVleet came out of nowhere last season to become one of the most important players on a Raptors team that finished with a franchise-record 59 wins. He proved he can score and defend, and earned crunch-time minutes in the playoffs because of it. -- Ward-Henninger
Thaddeus Young Indiana Pacers SF
OK, so maybe Young doesn't belong in graphics with all-time greats like LeBron James, Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, but he does deserve more credit than he gets. Young is a terrific role player, and his effort on both sides of the ball was key to the Pacers' turnaround last season. -- Maloney
Spencer Dinwiddie Brooklyn Nets PG
Dinwiddie took on an expanded role due to injuries to Jeremy Lin and D'Angelo Russell last season, and he made the most of it. He averaged a solid 12.6 points and 6.6 assists, getting some clutch baskets along the way. -- Ward-Henninger
T.J. Warren Phoenix Suns SF
Warren flies under the radar a bit because he plays on a bad Suns team and doesn't have an exciting game. But man, for a wing who can't shoot, he can really get buckets. Unfortunately for him, he really doesn't do a ton else out there. -- Maloney
Brook Lopez Milwaukee Bucks C
The plodding 7-footer was headed the way of the dodo until he revitalized his game by extending to 3-point range. He's not mobile, but he can block shots and is an efficient scorer and floor-spacer in small stretches. -- Ward-Henninger
P.J. Tucker Houston Rockets SF
Tucker is one of the more fascinating players in the league. He's just 6-6 but has no problem operating as a small-ball center for the Rockets at times thanks to his incredible strength. Though he doesn't always put up big numbers, he has a huge impact on the defensive end, and always shows up in big games. -- Maloney
Marvin Bagley III Sacramento Kings PF
Bagley was phenomenal in his lone season at Duke, and the Kings are hoping he can become the franchise player they've craved since the departure of DeMarcus Cousins. His scoring ability should translate immediately to the NBA. -- Ward-Henninger
Serge Ibaka Toronto Raptors PF
Though he's no longer the player he was at his peak with the Thunder, Ibaka is still a very solid big man thanks to his improved outside shot. He's also a pretty good barometer for how the Raptors will play. When Ibaka is energized and playing with confidence, the Raps are really hard to beat. -- Maloney
Darren Collison Indiana Pacers PG
Collison flies under the radar, but the nine-year vet continues to be a consistent presence at the point guard position. He's made over 40 percent of his 3-pointers for the past three seasons, including a league-leading 46.8 percent in 2017-18. -- Ward-Henninger
Nikola Vucevic Orlando Magic C
Stranded on terrible Magic teams, Vucevic just keeps churning out solid season after solid season. He's a double-double machine, and last season started to show an ability to knock down 3-pointers consistently. He can't carry the Magic by himself, but damn if he won't try. -- Maloney
Dwight Howard Washington Wizards C
Howard's numbers are still there (16.6 points, 12.5 rebounds, 1.6 blocks per game last season), but he's declined defensively and his efficiency has dropped. He won't need to score as much in Washington, so we'll see if he can embrace a more limited role. -- Ward-Henninger
Avery Bradley Los Angeles Clippers SG
After becoming a fan favorite in Boston for his tenacity on the defensive end, Bradley turned in a disappointing, injury-plagued campaign last season split between Detroit and Los Angeles. Still in possession of a consistent outside shot, it will be interesting to see if a now-healthy Bradley bounces back this season with the Clippers. -- Maloney
Enes Kanter New York Knicks C
Given his defensive shortcomings, Kanter stays on the court because of his remarkable ability as an interior scorer and rebounder. He'll take on a larger offensive role with Kristaps Porzingis still recovering from his knee injury. -- Ward-Henninger
Nicolas Batum Charlotte Hornets SF
The do-it-all forward has slowed down a bit over the past few seasons, but he's still one of the most versatile players around. Still, the Hornets will need him to recover a bit of his old form -- especially from behind the 3-point line -- if they want to make it back to the playoffs. -- Maloney
Despite solid numbers (14.0 points, 11.4 rebounds, 1.7 blocks per game), Whiteside became nearly unplayable during the stretch run for the Heat, including the playoffs. He claims that he and the team have gotten on the same page this offseason, so he'll look to return to the borderline All-Star form he displayed during the 2016-17 season. -- Ward-Henninger
John Collins Atlanta Hawks PF
Yes, there were some stars at the top of the group, but one of the reasons last season's rookie class was one of the best ever was because of the depth. Because of players like Collins. An incredible athlete, Collins nearly averaged a double-double, protected the rim and was always a threat to put someone on a poster. -- Maloney