NBArank 2021: Where Edwards, D-Rose and Hayward check in among Nos. 100-51

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Our NBArank countdown is back for its 11th season.

Which rookies are making their debuts on our annual list? Which young stars are beginning their ascent up the league’s hierarchy? Which players dropped after disappointing 2020-21 campaigns?

Here’s who made the cut as we break down the league’s top 100.

To get the final NBArank prediction, we asked our expert panel to vote on pairs of players: Kevin Durant vs. James Harden, Luka Doncic vs. Zion Williamson, Stephen Curry vs. Giannis Antetokounmpo … and the list goes on.

We asked, “Which player will be better in 2021-22?” Voters had to predict what they expected from each player during the season.

Here are the first 50 players, from No. 100 down to No. 51:

Note: Due to knee injuries that will sideline both for most of the 2021-22 season, the LA ClippersKawhi Leonard and the Denver NuggetsJamal Murray were excluded from this season’s rankings.

The top breakout candidates of NBArank 100-51


Portland Trail Blazers | SF
2020 NBArank:
NR

One big question: Will Powell fit as well in Portland as after a midseason trade? Adding Powell helped the Blazers’ starting five take off in the second half of the season, outscoring opponents by 15.5 points per 100 possessions — second best in the league among lineups with at least 250 minutes played, per NBA Advanced Stats. The five-year, $90 million deal Powell signed this summer is a bet on that continuing. — Kevin Pelton


Atlanta Hawks | PF
2020 NBArank:
No. 85

One thing to watch for: Gallinari’s 3-point shooting has been one of his calling cards since he entered the NBA in 2008 with the Knicks. With 1,314 career 3-pointers, Gallinari sits just 12 behind Mitch Richmond for 50th on the NBA’s all-time list. Once he passes Richmond, Gallinari will become just the fifth member of the top 50 listed at 6-foot-10 or taller (Dirk Nowitzki, Rashard Lewis, Peja Stojakovic and Kevin Durant). — Andrew Lopez


Memphis Grizzlies | C
2020 NBArank:
No. 70

Swing skill: Adams has never been an explosive leaper, but he developed into an efficient and prolific pick-and-roll finisher when paired with Russell Westbrook in Oklahoma City. He was rarely used in that role last season with the Pelicans, but perhaps that facet of Adams’ game will be reignited by playing with Ja Morant, another dynamic point guard who is a terrific passer. — Tim MacMahon


Denver Nuggets | SF
2020 NBArank:
NR

Cause for concern: Health. Unfortunately, Barton has barely been a part of the Nuggets’ last two playoff runs. After missing the entire 2020 trip to the Western Conference finals due to a knee injury, a hamstring sidelined him until the final three games of Denver’s 2021 sweep at the hands of the Suns. Although the focus is on Jamal Murray’s health, having Barton back for the playoffs will also be key for the Nuggets. — Pelton


Houston Rockets | SG
2020 NBArank:
NR

One thing to watch for: Given his immense talent and opportunity on a young Rockets team, expect Jalen Green to lead all rookies in scoring and make a strong case for Rookie of the Year, similarly to Anthony Edwards a season ago. Keep an eye on how quickly the explosive 6-foot-6 guard is able to impact winning on both ends, along with his efficiency. Circle Nov. 10th on your calendar, as Green and the Rockets will go head-to-head with No. 1 overall pick Cade Cunningham and the Pistons. Green has long considered himself the top prospect in his age group, and this matchup gives him another chance to make his case that he’s the best rookie in the NBA. –– Mike Schmitz


Atlanta Hawks | SG
2020 NBArank:
NR

One thing to watch for: Huerter proved to be a utility player for Atlanta during the 2020-21 season. He came off the bench and started as the Hawks shuffled lineups while dealing with injuries. In the playoffs, Huerter averaged 11.4 points in 10 starts (including 27 points in Atlanta’s Game 7 win over Philadelphia) and 10.6 points in eight games off the bench. — Lopez


New Orleans Pelicans | C
2020 NBArank:
NR

Swing skill: Rebounding. The Pelicans were already an elite rebounding team last season, finishing first in offensive rebounding percentage (30.2%) and third in defensive rebounding percentage (75.5%). Valanciunas finished fifth and third in those categories, respectively, while averaging a career-best 12.5 rebounds last season. — Lopez


New York Knicks | C
2020 NBArank:
No. 92

One thing to watch for: Free agency looms. Robinson’s talent, particularly his shot-blocking, is unquestioned. But after missing the final three months of last season with a hand fracture and the Knicks signing Nerlens Noel to a three-year deal this offseason, Robinson has a big year ahead of him to attempt to establish his value ahead of unrestricted free agency next summer. –– Tim Bontemps


Miami Heat | SG
2020 NBArank:
No. 75

One big question: Will Robinson live up to his $90 million contract? The Heat sharpshooter has shown he can let it fly at the highest level — but now he’s got to prove he’s worth the investment that Pat Riley, Erik Spoelstra and his staff believe he’s worth after inking a big deal over the summer. Robinson’s continued growth will be crucial for a Heat team trying to claw out of the East again. –– Nick Friedell


New York Knicks | PG
2020 NBArank:
NR

One big question: Can Rose repeat his 2020-21 season? After arriving in New York in a midseason trade and reuniting with head coach Tom Thibodeau, Rose was a revelation thanks in part to an over 41% clip from 3-point range with the Knicks. Rose’s performance this season will determine whether those numbers were a fluke or something sustainable. –– Bontemps


Utah Jazz | PG
2020 NBArank:
NR

One thing to watch for: Clarkson remains a classic gunner, but the reigning Sixth Man of the Year has refined his shot selection under head coach Quin Snyder, rarely firing from midrange. He attempted only 48 midrange shots last season and a career-high 599 3s. Don’t be surprised to see Clarkson launch 700 3-point attempts this season, a total hit by six players in NBA history. — MacMahon


Portland Trail Blazers | PF
2020 NBArank:
No. 60

One big question: Can he regain his offensive impact? Covington has proven to be an elite help defender during his career, and last season he tied for 12th in the NBA in defensive real plus-minus as one of the most impactful defenders in the league. However, his overall RPM was still negative, indicating he had little impact on the Trail Blazers’ offense. Covington averaged only 8.5 PPG in 32 MPG last season, his lowest scoring average since his rookie year, and he shot only 40.1% from the field. With Carmelo Anthony gone, Covington has the opportunity to slot into his more comfortable stretch-4 role on offense. — André Snellings


Philadelphia 76ers | SG
2020 NBArank:
No. 91

Swing skill: Philadelphia swapped Josh Richardson and a second round pick for Curry on draft night in 2020, and he provided everything the 76ers hoped for, and then some. He’s now shot 45% from 3-point range each of the past three seasons, fully establishing himself as one of the league’s best deep threats, and he gives Philadelphia the spacing it desperately needs around MVP candidate Joel Embiid. — Bontemps


Charlotte Hornets | SF
2020 NBArank:
NR

One thing to watch for: Bridges shot 50.3% from the field last year and appears on the verge of a breakout season alongside a young core led by LaMelo Ball. At 23, Bridges still has plenty of room to grow. He shot 40% from beyond the arc last season for a Charlotte team that just missed the playoffs. — Friedell


New Orleans Pelicans | PG
2020 NBArank:
NR

Swing skill: Clutch shooting. Graham has finished in the top six in the NBA in 3-pointers made during “clutch time” — when the score is within five points in the final five minutes of a game or overtime — in each of the last two seasons. And he did so last season even while taking more of a backseat role to LaMelo Ball and Terry Rozier. The Pelicans struggled in the clutch at times a year ago (17-22 in such games), so Graham’s ability should help. — Lopez


Houston Rockets | PG
2020 NBArank:
No. 81

One big question: Can the Rockets work with Wall’s agent Rich Paul to find a new home this season for the veteran point guard? Wall’s supermax contract, which has $91.7 million remaining over the next two seasons, certainly complicates matters. All parties agree that he isn’t a fit with the rebuilding Rockets, who are putting Wall on ice and prioritizing the development of their young backcourt of Kevin Porter Jr. and rookie Jalen Green. — MacMahon


Cleveland Cavaliers | PG
2020 NBArank:
NR

Swing skill: Garland is entering his third season and could be poised to take another step forward. He finished his second year strong, scoring 20 or more points in nine of his last 14 games. If Ricky Rubio remains with the Cavs, the point guard could get Garland better looks. Cleveland invested in big men this offseason by extending Jarrett Allen, drafting Evan Mobley and trading for Lauri Markkanen. They’ll need Garland’s shooting. The guard could break 40% from 3-point range. — Ohm Youngmisuk


San Antonio Spurs | PG
2020 NBArank:
No. 83

One thing to watch for: With DeMar DeRozan gone, will Murray take on a bigger role in the Spurs’ offense? Already a standout defender, Murray took a jump last season averaging career highs in points (15.7), rebounds (7.1) and assists (5.4) with four triple-doubles. — Lopez


Cleveland Cavaliers | PF
2020 NBArank:
NR

Cause for concern: Markkanen looked like he could be one of the league’s promising big men after averaging 18.7 points and 9.0 rebounds in his second season, but his numbers steadily declined to 13.6 points and 5.3 rebounds per game in 2020-21. Markkanen now finds himself on a Cavs squad that has emerging big man Jarrett Allen to go with primary scoring guard Collin Sexton, shooter Darius Garland and rookie big man Evan Mobley. Markkanen will have to make the most of his opportunities, as a lot of players will be getting their touches in Cleveland. — Youngmisuk


Charlotte Hornets | PG
2020 NBArank:
NR

One thing to watch for: Year two alongside LaMelo Ball. Rozier’s three-year contract with Charlotte in 2019 was seen by many as an overpay. Instead, he has proven to be a perfect fit with the Hornets, especially now that he’s playing alongside LaMelo Ball, allowing him to be a ballhawk on defense against opposing point guards and play shooting guard offensively. As a result, the Hornets signed Rozier to a multi-year extension this offseason. — Bontemps


Indiana Pacers | SG
2020 NBArank:
No. 46

Swing skill: 3-point shooting. Whether as a reserve with the Nets or as a starter after being traded to Indiana and overcoming renal cell carcinoma of his left kidney, LeVert has shown he can get buckets. To move up this list, he must get them more efficiently. Getting back to the 36% 3-point shooting LeVert managed in 2019-20 would be helpful. He’s shot just 32% on 3s after the trade. — Pelton


Dallas Mavericks | SF
2020 NBArank:
NR

Swing skill: Hardaway’s range and quick trigger have been key to him emerging as an excellent complement to Luka Doncic. He’s ranked among the most efficient high-volume spot up shooters over the last two seasons, averaging 1.18 points per possession, according to NBA.com/stats. That’s in large part due to Hardaway cashing in on looks generated by Doncic. According to Synergy data, Hardaway has shot 40.1% on 3s off of Doncic passes in that span. — MacMahon


Memphis Grizzlies | SF
2020 NBArank:
NR

One thing to watch for: Morant lobbied hard for Brooks to be an All-Defensive selection after the Grizzlies’ shooting guard harassed Stephen Curry about as well as possible during Memphis’ play-in victories. It was too late — ballots were already in — but Brooks has certainly earned his way into that conversation. He takes great pride in always guarding the opponents best guard or wing scorer and is a physical, relentless defender reminiscent of Grizzlies great Tony Allen. — MacMahon


Golden State Warriors | SF
2020 NBArank:
NR

One big question: Can Wiggins replicate his two-way effort again for the Warriors? One of the biggest knocks on Wiggins after being acquired by the Warriors was whether he would provide the consistent effort on both ends of the floor that wasn’t always apparent during his time with the Timberwolves. “Two-Way Wiggs” answered that question in his first full season with the Warriors — drawing praise from coaches and teammates for his ability to change the game on the defensive end. –– Friedell


Detroit Pistons | PG
2020 NBArank:
NR

One big question: How will Detroit use him? Cunningham’s versatility, on-court maturity and skill level make him a favorite for Rookie of the Year. Along with his ability to add value from beyond the arc (50% at summer league) and make the right reads offensively, it’s worth watching just how long the Pistons will try to pair him with last year’s top-10 pick Killian Hayes. Cunningham is far more effective when he’s finishing the majority of possessions with a pick and roll or isolation, as opposed to standing in the corner like he was at times during the Las Vegas Summer League. –– Schmitz


Brooklyn Nets | SF
2020 NBArank:
No. 100

One big question: Can he bounce back from playoff disappointment? It’s hard enough to guard Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving in a vacuum. Add in Harris flying around the perimeter alongside them, forcing defenses to pay attention to him, and it makes the task all the more difficult. Harris had a rough series against the Milwaukee Bucks in the second round of the playoffs, but he remains one of the league’s best 3-point shooters, and will help make the Nets the league’s most complete offense this season. — Bontemps


Portland Trail Blazers | C
2020 NBArank:
No. 53

One thing to watch for: How Nurkic fits defensively. Don’t blame Nurkic for the Blazers’ 29th-ranked defense in 2020-21. With their starting center on the court, they defended at a rate far better than average. Terry Stotts’ conservative scheme kept Nurkic around the basket and in position to challenge opponents’ shots. It will be interesting to see whether new head coach Chauncey Billups changes things up to better fit Portland’s other center options — and whether those changes test Nurkic’s mobility. — Pelton


Sacramento Kings | SG
2020 NBArank:
NR

One big question: Haliburton showed why so many teams were high on him in the draft, averaging 13 points and 5.3 assists before a knee injury ended his rookie season. But now the Kings have a crowded backcourt with point guards De’Aaron Fox and first-round pick Davion Mitchell. How will head coach Luke Walton make it all work with three point guards? Will the Kings make a trade? There’s more than one big question surrounding Haliburton. — Youngmisuk


Toronto Raptors | SF
2020 NBArank:
No. 68

One thing to watch for: An expanding offensive game. Anunoby has slowly but steadily developed into one of the league’s best wing defenders, while also growing his offensive game. Toronto has been captivated by his potential since the Raptors drafted him in 2017, and if he’s able to take a leap this season offensively, it could be what allows Toronto to remain a true factor in the Eastern Conference even after losing Kyle Lowry to the Heat. — Bontemps


Memphis Grizzlies | PF
2020 NBArank:
No. 43

One big question: Durability, of course, is the biggest question mark on Jackson after knee injuries have limited him to 126 games in three years, including only 11 last season. Even if healthy, can Jackson rebound as well as you would expect from a 6-foot-11 and 242-pound big man? If so, it opens up the possibility of him playing significant minutes at center — and the Grizzlies surrounding Ja Morant with four 3-point threats. — MacMahon


New York Knicks | PG
2020 NBArank:
No. 48

One big question: What will Kemba bring to the Big Apple? Last season was a disappointment for Walker in Boston, including missing the final two games of the team’s first-round loss to the Nets with a bone bruise in his left knee. He still finished the season averaging 19.3 points and 4.9 assists per game. After being traded to Oklahoma City in the offseason, he was waived and signed by his hometown Knicks. If he can replicate his Boston production — let alone surpass it — the New York City legend’s return home will be an unqualified success. — Bontemps


Denver Nuggets | PF
2020 NBArank:
No. 78

One thing to watch for: Gordon’s role on offense. Miscast as a go-to scorer in Orlando, Gordon settled into a more appropriate role as a cutter and diver alongside better talent in Denver. His 54% 2-point shooting after the trade deadline was the best of his career. With the Nuggets’ guards sidelined, Gordon was forced to do too much in the playoffs, and his 2-point accuracy sank to 45% in a disappointing run. A healthy Jamal Murray would do wonders for Gordon. — Pelton


Washington Wizards | PG
2020 NBArank:
No. 49

One big question: Is he ready for a full-time floor general role? Dinwiddie developed into an elite sixth man that ultimately ended up playing well as a starter for a good portion of the 2019-20 season as an injury replacement. Dinwiddie produced better volume (21.3 PPG, 7.3 APG) in 49 games as a starter, but his scoring efficiency dipped compared to the 15 games he came off the bench. This offseason he was brought in by the Wizards to be a full-time point guard for the first time in his professional career. — Snellings


Utah Jazz | SF
2020 NBArank:
No. 73

Swing skill: Bogdanovic torched opponents when given wide-open 3-point looks during his first season in Utah, hitting 50.5% from long range when he had at least six feet of space, according to NBA.com/stats. That number dipped to 40.7% last season — when he was coming off surgery on his shooting wrist — an efficient clip, but not elite. — MacMahon


Phoenix Suns | SF
2020 NBArank:
NR

Swing skill: The prototype 3-and-D player in the modern NBA. Good size, strength and versatility give him the tools, and his defense-first mentality make him a highly valuable role player who barely blinked under pressure in last year’s playoff run. He has developed into a lethal 3-point shooter who stands in the corner poised to launch. — Brian Windhorst


Indiana Pacers | PG
2020 NBArank:
No. 39

One thing to watch for: The fit under a new head coach. Brogdon has more than lived up to the free agent deal he signed with Indiana two years ago, including averaging over 21 points, five rebounds and five assists per game last season for the Pacers. He should prove to be a perfect fit under new head coach Rick Carlisle, who has a history of getting a ton out of his lead ballhandlers. — Bontemps


Atlanta Hawks | SG
2020 NBArank:
No. 62

Cause for concern: Bogdanovic missed 28 games last season and didn’t really find his flow with the Atlanta offense until later in the season because of the missed time. When he did find his way back into the starting lineup, he averaged 21.1 points over his final 25 regular season games. His numbers took a dip in the playoffs as he played through another injury, but if Bogdanovic is healthy, he provides an excellent No. 2 playmaking option behind Trae Young. — Lopez


Minnesota Timberwolves | PG
2020 NBArank:
No. 69

One big question: Can he stay healthy for an entire season? Because of injuries, the former No. 2 overall pick has been in and out of the lineup since being traded to Minnesota in February 2020. But in his last 22 games, Russell showed promise alongside Karl-Anthony Towns and Anthony Edwards. If the 25-year-old can stay healthy and return to All-Star form, he could prove to be one of the best young point guards in the game. — Baxter Holmes


Utah Jazz | SF
2020 NBArank:
No. 89

Cause for concern: The Jazz would be wise to carefully manage Ingles’ minutes, especially early in the season, after he played an essential role in the Australian men’s basketball team’s successful quest for its first Olympic medal. It was a physically and emotionally draining summer for Ingles, who turns 34 in October. Utah has slightly trimmed his minutes the last two years, and Ingles is coming off his best season. — MacMahon


Cleveland Cavaliers | C
2020 NBArank:
No. 96

One big question: After being traded to Cleveland, Allen began to show what he can do offensively. He averaged 13.2 points and 9.9 rebounds, and is poised to take another major step forward. (There was a stretch in March when Allen had a double-double in seven of eight games.) The Cavs, though, drafted lottery talent Evan Mobley and added Lauri Markkanen. Cleveland gave Allen a $100-million extension, but how will the pie of touches be divided between the Cavs’ big men? — Youngmisuk


Houston Rockets | PF
2020 NBArank:
No. 55

Swing skill: Wood, whose breakout season with the Rockets was interrupted by ankle sprains, is one of the NBA’s most versatile bigs in the pick-and-roll. He’s a threat to pop or roll, making it difficult for defenses to settle into coverage schemes, averaging 1.18 points per possession after screening for a ballhandler last season. The rapport Wood builds with young guards Kevin Porter Jr. and Jalen Green will be critical for the Rockets’ present and future. — MacMahon


Cleveland Cavaliers | SG
2020 NBArank:
NR

One big question: Sexton emerged as one of the league’s top scorers, finishing 22nd in scoring at 24.3 points per game. But the Cavs have added more talent. They gave Jarrett Allen a $100-million extension, traded for Ricky Rubio and Lauri Markkanen and drafted Evan Mobley third overall. Also, Darius Garland is entering his third season and is ready to show more of what he can do. Sexton will still be the primary scorer, but there could be fewer touches. — Youngmisuk


Charlotte Hornets | SF
2020 NBArank:
No. 45

Cause for concern: After signing with Charlotte last offseason, Hayward helped the young Hornets make a strong push for the playoffs. But, as they often have in recent seasons, injuries derailed his season, and kept him from being part of Charlotte’s failed attempt to get out of the play-in tournament. For the Hornets to get out of the glut of teams fighting for playoff spots in the East, Hayward will have to prove he can stay on the court. — Bontemps


Chicago Bulls | PG
2020 NBArank:
No. 54

Swing skill: In the last two seasons in New Orleans, Ball improved his 3-point shooting, going from 31.5% on 5.3 attempts per game during his first two years with Los Angeles to 37.6% on 7.2 attempts per game. Ball’s free-throw shooting also jumped to 78.1% last year with the Pelicans. — Lopez


Toronto Raptors | PG
2020 NBArank:
No. 40

One thing to watch for: For the past few years, VanVleet has served as Kyle Lowry’s understudy and sidekick. Now that Lowry has gone to Miami, it will be surreal seeing the two of them face off against one another in Toronto when the Heat go north of the border on Feb. 3. In the meantime, it’s on VanVleet to try and return the Raptors to the playoffs. — Bontemps


Atlanta Hawks | C
2020 NBArank:
NR

Swing skill: There’s a case to be made that Capela is the best rebounder in the NBA. Capela led the league in total rebound percentage (23.0%) on his way to a career-high 14.3 boards per game. In his first full season with the Hawks, Capela also continued to prove that he was one of the top lob threats in the game, thanks to some well-timed passes from Trae Young. — Lopez


Atlanta Hawks | PF
2020 NBArank:
No. 84

One big question: How will Collins’ role continue to evolve? In 2019-20, he averaged career highs in points and rebounds, putting up a 21-10 stat line. But last season, as Atlanta acquired more scoring and Clint Capela started playing center more, Collins’ numbers dipped to 17.6 points and 7.4 rebounds per game. But the end product was exactly what Collins and the Hawks wanted: wins. — Lopez


Jerami Grant | SF
2020 NBArank:
No. 88

One thing to watch for: Grant’s numbers alongside the No. 1 pick. The 27-year-old is coming off his best season yet — a career-high in points (22.3), assists (2.3) and minutes (33.9) — and he was a finalist for Most Improved Player. With top pick Cade Cunningham running point guard, Grant’s production — especially in transition — should rise, as Cunningham should help spread the floor and give Grant more opportunities. Keep an eye on Grant’s shooting attempts; he averaged 17.3 field goal attempts per game last year, a number that should decrease with the offense becoming more balanced. — Holmes


Minnesota Timberwolves | SG
2020 NBArank:
NR

One big question: Can he become an All-Star in his second year? It’s no secret that Edwards is already one of the NBA’s most dynamic scorers, so expect several 40-point games during his sophomore campaign, highlighted by powerful drives to the rim and deep step-back 3s. What could catapult Edwards into All-Star territory is if he’s able to help turn Minnesota into a winner with a full season alongside Karl Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell. To do that, Edwards will have to buy in on the defensive end (the Timberwolves finished 28th there last season) and continue evolving as a decision maker. Edwards has 25-5-5 potential and the talent to lead the NBA in scoring. –– Schmitz


Sacramento Kings | SG
2020 NBArank:
No. 87

One thing to watch for: When the Kings visit the Lakers for the first time on Nov. 26, Buddy Hield might think back to the trade rumors that had him linked to the Lakers prior to Los Angeles acquiring Russell Westbrook on draft day. Hield certainly would have been a good fit for the Lakers with his perimeter shooting. We’ll have to see if Sacramento makes a move this season. — Youngmisuk

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