By: Will Stevenson
41. Dirk Nowitzki
He’s still here! The guy with the blond tips that couldn’t hold his own on the block is still in the NBA Top 50. The Mavericks themselves have whiffed ever since Lebron went to the Miami Heat and Tyson Chandler left to Phoenix, as Dallas has missed on every free agent they’ve gone after. In the process, they’ve asked Dirk to take a discount, and he did. Well this summer, he got paid like the rest, and the Mavericks are still bad. Dirk’s dealing with an Achilles, so that doesn’t bode well for the season. Either way, his post game was something to watch.
42. Nikola Jokic
Sometimes you need to strike gold. Ever since the Carmelo trade, the Nuggets have been struggling to find players that would elevate them in the Western Conference. From Wilson Chandler, to Danilo Galinari, to Kenneth Faried, the Nuggets have signed marginal/slightly above average talent to stay relevant. It looks like the Nuggets have found a big man in Nikola Jokic. He has post moves, can shoot and defend. He’s on a rookie/overseas contract at the moment, so he’ll be vastly underpaid and a steal for the next few seasons.
43. Eric Bledsoe
- Suns | PG | @EBled2
- Last year’s rank: 37From sixth man at Kentucky to starter in the NBA. Eric Bledsoe isn’t up there with the elite point guards, but he is a guy who can command respect fro those guys on the floor. Here’s the thing, he can’t stay on the floor. Knee injuries have bothered Bledsoe for most of his career, and with Devin Booker and T.J. Warren surging, he may be a trade commodityy. Nevertheless, his scoring and ability to push the pace makes up for him being undersized. Once those knees go, he’ll fall further down the list.
44. Nicolas Batum
- Hornets | SG | @nicolas88batum
- Last year’s rank: 71Charlotte had to pay somebody, and here he is. Batum is a sometimey player, not like Jeff Green, but almost. Batum can handle, shoot, pass, run pick and roll, defend, and cut to the basket. He can do all these things, but just not at the level his contract would assume.
45. Andrew Wiggins
Scoring wings are hard to come by. Number 1 picks that actually do what you expect are hard to come by as well, especially early in their career. He drives, shoots jumpers and gets to the line. He can’t shoot consistently yet, but he has time to grow. Will he be able to grow as an offensive player under Thibs? Time will tell.
46. Devin Booker
- Suns | SG | @DevinBook
- Last year’s rank: 323Usually young college players give us hustle, athleticism, free throws, dunks and the ability to be their defender off the dribble. This guy can score. He’s young, doesn’t always take the best shots, but Booker is a player who can put up numbers for a Phoenix team that has been searching for everything since the D’Antoni era.
47. Dwight Howard
- Hawks | C | @DwightHoward
- Last year’s rank: 14Welcome Back Carter! I gave up hope on Dwight after last season. Dwight the human being was all over TNT trying to explain himself, and Dwight the player was underused, unappreciated, and deteriorating right before our eyes. Look at him now! He’s in Atlanta, which seems to be Orlando 2.0 without as much threes. He’s able to be the main rim protector, but also has guys like Millsap, Bazemore, and Sefolosha to defend the perimeter. The Hawks are winning, Dwight is happy and healthy, and he looks to have rejuvenated himself in his hometown.
48. Victor Oladipo
- Thunder | SG | @VicOladipo
- Last year’s rank: 58Oladipo should sent Kevin Durant a Christmas Card that reads, “Thanks for the hook-up.” He received his extension this season, and will be looked at as the second scorer next to Westbrook. He can sometimes shoot, he can drive, sometimes pass and sometimes defend when he wants to. I wonder if Oladipo will become Reggie Jackson with a contract before the contract.
49. Brook Lopez
- Nets | C | @BrooklynNets
- Last year’s rank: 51Brooklyn has been trying to trade Brook Lopez since they got him. The archaic center has been limited by injuries, but is an offensive motor once he’s on the floor. He doesn’t p;ay much defense, but his offensive game certainly makes up for it. The Nets have picked up the pace this season, scoring over 104 ppg, but that has deterred Lopez, who is now shooting threes, and making them. He’s great on the block, his jumper is nice, and now he can roam around the perimeter when needed. I know the Nets need draft picks, but he’s a bargain for the deal he has.