45. Tobias Harris
Tobias Harris made a name for himself in 2018 as the star player on an overachieving Clippers team that unexpectedly made the playoffs. His exceptional performance in L.A. leading up to the playoffs precipitated the talent-laden Philadelphia 76ers to trade for Harris before the deadline, adding his offensive skills as a fourth option behind Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, and Jimmy Butler. Tobias’ contributions added additional offensive firepower to the 76ers, who were a Kawhi Leonard buzzer-beater away from advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals. During the offseason, Harris secured a five-year, $180 million contract with the 76ers–one of the largest NBA contracts ever. He immediately found himself under more scrutiny than he’d ever faced before. Harris has yet to step up to warrant that amount of money. Tobias is struggling to find his footing, but his inconsistent play can be primarily attributed to Embiid and Simmons coming in and out of the lineup. As a third option, Harris fits perfectly on a healthy Philadelphia team. He is productive from mid-range, has the size to power through defenders in the post, and is a solid facilitator for his position. Tobias Harris is a valuable offensive asset, but, moving forward, he needs to be more aggressive when he is the best player on the floor in order for the 76ers to compete at a high level every night.
44. Zach LaVine
It’s time to put an end to the myth that Zach LaVine is just a dunker. There’s no question that his talents extend beyond the dunk contest–his athleticism is unmatched. LaVine’s explosive scoring and lethal three-point shooting make him an elite offensive player. The other side of the ball is a different story for LaVine. At six-foot-six with a six-foot-eight wingspan, Zach has the tools to be an effective defender, but the Bulls have one of the worst-rated defenses in the league when he is on the court. On November 23, 2019, LaVine racked up a career-high 49 points, including a buzzer-beater to win the game. He had zero assists. Although Zach does not play point guard, his playmaking skills have yet to take the much-needed leap to justify how often he is given the keys to the Bulls’ offense. Zach average 3.4 turnovers per game, 10th among all players. There is a common belief that LaVine has “no help” in Chicago, but the situation appears to be more complicated than that. On a team where the ball is largely in Zach’s hands, his style of play could be limiting the franchise’s overall potential. The Bulls should look to reassess how to better capitalize on his All-Star caliber performance. Paired with the right system and complementary talent, Zach LaVine has the ability to raise the level of those around him, and stimulate success.
43. DeMar DeRozan
(San Antonio Spurs)
The Spurs have had a disappointing season and were on track to break their streak of 22 consecutive playoff appearances. Despite San Antonio’s struggles, DeMar DeRozan managed to post the most efficient season of his career, averaging 22, 6, and 6, while shooting over 52% from the field. His style of play fits perfectly into the late ’90s NBA. He has some of the best footwork and is also one of the best mid-range scorers in the league. Unfortunately, the evolution of the NBA has not favored DeRozan’s game. In the modern era, he becomes an immediate liability on the offensive end due to his three-point shooting. Aware of his weakness, he has taken fewer threes the last two years, helping to increase his productivity. Averaging over 20 points with less than one three-point attempt a game highlights his impressive mid-range proficiency. Still, the three-point shot presents a big hole in his game that minimizes his overall offensive impact. DeMar is expected to decline his player option, and if he does, he will become an unrestricted free agent this offseason. Although there is a possibility that he will return to the Spurs, declining would allow him to explore opportunities elsewhere. As one of the best possible free agents on the market, expect DeMar DeRozan to draw significant interest from multiple teams.
42. CJ McCollum
(Portland Trail Blazers)
CJ McCollum is often considered the “Robin” of the star backcourt duo led by Damian Lillard’s “Batman.” As a great second option on offense, McCollum complements Lillard extremely well, lending the Trail Blazers a potent scoring pair. In 2019, the Trail Blazers proved that they could compete against the top teams in the West. CJ’s scoring played a crucial role in lifting the team over the Nuggets in seven games to get to the conference finals. McCollum is a certified bucket getter–able to score from anywhere on the court. He’s practically automatic from mid-range and has been a consistent threat from three throughout his career, never averaging less than 37% from behind the arc. McCollum has been especially dominant in the ten games since the All-Star break, putting up 29 points, shooting 48% from the field, and dishing out seven assists a game. When Damian Lillard is out, McCollum always steps up as the primary ball-handler. On February 23 with Lillard sidelined, CJ started at point guard, nearly achieving a triple-double with 41 points, nine rebounds, and 12 assists, leading the Trail Blazers to a close win over the Pistons. He matched that with another 41 point performance on March 2 in which he also started at point guard. Even though CJ McCollum is best utilized as a second option, when the situation arises, he is more than capable of stepping up and fulfilling a larger role.
41. Jrue Holiday
(New Orleans Pelicans)
One of the most complete combo guards in the league, Jrue Holiday is the definition of a star two-way player. He has the strength to attack the basket and the ambidexterity to finish at the rim with either hand. What truly sets Jrue apart is his stellar defense. Since he’s a great perimeter defender, Coach Alvin Gentry can count on him to lock down the best player on the opposing team. Holiday’s quick hands enable him to average nearly two steals a game by prodding the ball loose and picking off passes. One of his strengths is generating offense off of the turnovers he forces. Holiday brings a veteran presence and valuable leadership to the Pelicans. With arguably three up-and-coming stars behind him, it’s not clear how he fits into the Pelicans’ long-term plans. On a team where Lonzo is orchestrating the offense, Ingram is taking the shots, and Zion is dominating in the paint, Jrue has still been able to average 20, 5, and 7. We have seen Holiday excel on the big stage–he locked down Damian Lillard and averaged 28 points per game in the first round of the 2018 playoffs. He, alongside Anthony Davis, swept the third-seeded Portland Trail Blazers, sealing the deal with a monster 41 point performance in game four. Jrue’s strengths could be a critical asset to one of the top teams in the NBA. With his defensive abilities, Holiday could shine, pushing a high-caliber team over the threshold to win a championship.