We’re only four weeks away from the start of the NBA season, which means it’s time for ESPN’s top 100 players existing. In last year’s list, ESPN included four nicks in the top 100 teams. They did the same thing this year, but it includes two different players.
Robinson, who finished 93rd last season, is back on the list after another strong season. Ranked 98th, Robinson barely made the cut, but is still recognized as one of the league’s top winners. If he can stay healthy, which has always been a concern of his, he should make huge use of Jalen Brunson and his gaming ability. Coming into a sparkling new stretch in the off-season, Robinson will be relied upon not only for his ability to finish, but also to protect his edges. With the Knicks’ perimeter defense looking weak, the Knicks would need Mitchell to beat his rankings if they were to make any kind of noise at the conference.
Julius Randle remains comfortable in the top 100, but has slipped to nearly 30 places where he is only 71st now after a bad season. This is a very important season for Randall. There is a chance that if he can thrive with Bronson’s arrival. Perhaps he can push himself higher in next year’s edition of this list. But if he repeats his performances from last season, he may see himself barely making the list next season.
Ranking slightly ahead of Randall is the newly acquired Bronson. The former Maverick, who was missing from last season’s roster, jumped himself to 67th on this year’s roster after an incredibly effective season. He went from averaging 12.6 PPG and 3.5 APG to 16.3 PPG and 4.8 APG, and cemented himself as a top player when he was tasked with leading the Mavericks into the playoffs without injury to Luka Doncic. There are still questions about whether or not he can be the number one man, but Knicks seems to believe in him, as evidenced by his new $104 million contract. With the keys to attacking and a bigger role than ever, he can take the next step and see himself become the 50 best player this season.
Last but not least is RJ Barrett, Nick’s highest ranked 63rd. His ranking might not be incredibly high when considering his age and ability, but this ranking was still surprising. Barrett, for the majority of his NBA career, has been underestimated and even disrespected at times. Often overlooked by many analysts, reporters, and ratings, it was easy to assume that ESPN ranked Barrett much lower. After all, ESPN left Barrett away from 25 under 25 list. Barrett’s admission here was definitely a nice change of heart since he was left out of last year’s edition of this list. However, there will still be a lot of pressure on him because the Knicks have 120 million reasons to hope he can rank higher on next year’s list.
Mitchell and Randall seem to be pretty much categorized while Barrett and Bronson might seem underrated at first glance. But if you look at the rest of the list, it becomes increasingly difficult to choose men to include in the dropdown list. Sure, there are players like Marcus Smart at age 34, or Michael Bridges at age 49 who look very high given their stats, but it’s hard to argue with their roles on the teams vying for the championship. If anything, this list is an annual reminder that the league is filled with extremely talented youngsters and that even players like Bronson and Barrett, who are respected by many Knicks fans, are having a hard time cracking into the top 50.
With 30 teams in the league, having four players in the top 100 isn’t a bad thing, but the fact that not a single Knicks player ranked higher than 63 is stark proof that no one thinks this team has elite talent. With the four on this list and a few other really strong players like Evan Fournier, Isaiah Hartenstein, Obi Tobin, Emmanuel Quakley and Quentin Grimes, the Knicks have some really cool bits. But even after the season’s great moves, this list is still star-free. For this reason, if the Knicks are to defy expectations and re-emerge in a playoff match, these players will either have to top their ratings or the team will have to come together and be more than just the sum of their parts.