NBA top 100 players: How to evaluate Kawhi Leonard, other question marks who will decide fates of contenders

There are as lots of arguments as gamers on CBS Sports’ leading 100 NBA list, from whether Giannis Antetokounmpo, Stephen Curry or Kevin Durant belong in the leading area to the number of locations LeBron James need to have been up to where enigmas like James Harden and Russell Westbrook belong.

But amongst the most fascinating — and, in regards to competitors, impactful — statuses is that of 3 potential star gamers who have actually not played in a significant video game in almost 18 months: Kawhi Leonard, Jamal Murray and Ben Simmons.

While each of the gamer’s rankings are altered by their time away, that makes evaluating their most likely efficiency in the 2022-23 season much more hard, each will be an essential cog in their group’s champion hopes.

Leonard is available in at No. 8, an area he’ll require to exceed this season if the Clippers are to contend for a title, something lots of NBA watchers — consisting of those in Vegas, who put them at around +700 — think is achievable.

Murray and Simmons can be found in much deeper on our list, at No. 35 and No. 42, respectively, and each can out- or under-performing our finest guess here. Simmons, in specific, might swing hugely by the season’s end in the NBA’s pantheon of stars, however both gamers will be crucial to their group measuring up to champion expectations. 

All 3 of these gamers, and their locations in the NBA chain of command, mesmerize for various factors. The lure of Kawhi is of what was — of all-time success things, when he appeared poised to beat LeBron to the mark of being the only guy in NBA history to win a Finals MVP with 3 various groups.

For Murray, the pull is what might be. And for Simmons it is the concept of what might never ever be once again.

Greatness is an unpredictable thing, and in absentia it has a method of skewing our memories to what a gamer was, or to what stated gamer can recover. That’s definitely real in these 3 cases.

Murray appeared poised to assist Denver end up being a long-term threat in the Western Conference, however his injury troubles and those of fellow leading 100 colleague Michael Porter Jr. (No. 64) have actually made the Nuggets an automobile for a one-man MVP program instead of a competitor. 

The last time Murray played in the postseason, the Nuggets made the conference finals. Last season, without him, they handled simply one meager win in their opening-round series with the eventual-champion Golden State Warriors.

If Murray can get it together, leapfrog gamers like Jrue Holiday (No. 25), Harden (No. 21) and even an aging Chris Paul (No. 18) — and include firepower behind Nikola Jokic (No. 4) — that can rapidly alter.

Simmons is the most strange of the group, for all the factors we understand. He might clock in here at No. 42, however he’s a previous Rookie Of the Year, All Star, All-NBA and All-Defense ultra skill. As in, he’s great.

Well, sort of.

We understand he can’t shoot, which his exit from Philly was uglier than Kim and Kanye’s continuous divorce. He hasn’t played, for physical and/or psychological health factors, given that his self-inflicted embarrassment in the playoffs more than a year back.

A year from now? He might be suffering at the bottom of out list, or perhaps off of it totally, in addition to people like Westbrook, who simply hardly made it. Or he might be much, much greater. If things go that instructions — into the leading 20 where a gamer with his presents belongs — the Nets might be the league’s most inefficient group and its most gifted. 

Then there’s Kawhi. He is this list’s (and the NBA’s) essential enigma. He’s No. 8 now, however at 31 he’s significantly more youthful than the Opening Night ages of Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant (34) and LeBron, the 37-year-old ageless marvel. 

A healthy Kawhi, well-calibrated with the load management that specifies his method to a long season, might quickly discover himself a top-five gamer on next year’s list. And if that takes place — if the hedging the majority of us did here at CBS Sports due to the fact that we understand what Kawhi was however not what he will be ends up being too conservative — the Clippers will be amongst the league’s finest groups.

The list we have actually created at CBS Sports of the video game’s leading 100 gamers follows lots of weeks of idea and discussions with individuals throughout the league, and the inescapable arguments and arguments belong to the objective. 

I believe that Durant is too expensive which Ja Morant is too low, which young gamers like Anthony Edwards and Evan Mobley are going to make a leap well beyond where most who follow the NBA see them today. But all of that and more, ideal or incorrect, is based upon what we believe we understand, from what we have in fact seen — or from what history informs us we will see.

But it’s various for Leonard, Murray and Simmons. Their positioning on this list, and the linked concerns of their approaching seasons, are colored as much by their lacks as what we believe we understand about them.

So, into the unidentified we go, with 3 possibly excellent gamers attempting to reveal that their future is as brilliant as their past.

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