Are Thomas, Embiid headed in opposite directions? #NBArank hits the top 50

From ESPN - September 13, 2017

For the seventh season in a row, is ranking the top players in the NBA. Who will be the best player next season?

To get the final ranking, we asked our expert panel to vote on pairs of players.

Kevin Durant vs. LeBron James. Kyrie Irving vs. John Wall. Russell Westbrook vs. James Harden.

We asked, "Which player will be better in 2017-18?" To decide, voters had to consider both the quality and the quantity of each player's contributions to his team's ability to win games.

We will continue our countdown of the top 100 players over the next two days. If you want to get involved in the discussion or just follow along, use the Twitter hashtag #NBArank. You also can follow along @ESPNNBA and on Facebook.

Here are Nos. 31-50.

#NBArank: 31-50

50. Patrick Beverley

Stats & Info: A few years ago, you'd watch Beverley and marvel at the bevy of high-intensity plays that do not show up in the box score. Thanks to player tracking, they do now and it helps Beverley shine as a hustle stats All-Star. He led all players in loose balls recovered per game in 2016-17, ranking fifth in total "50-50s" recovered despite ranking outside the top 100 in total minutes played.

49. George Hill

Stats & Info: Hill parlayed a career season into a three-year, $57 million contract with the Kings this offseason. If his play mirrors that from 2016-17, he will be far more than simply a tutor for top-five pick De'Aaron Fox. Hill figures to carry a significant scoring load in Sacramento, something that could bode well for the Kings. Last season, the Jazz went 15-1 in games Hill scored at least 20 points, the best such mark for any player that finished with 10 or more 20-point games.

48. Ricky Rubio

Stats & Info: Given today's fascination with spacing and the rise of the scoring point guard, it's easy to see how Ricky Rubio can get lost in the shuffle when discussing the game's best floor generals. Yet despite his limitations, Rubio is a viable tip of the spear on both ends of the floor, as he's one of just three point guards in NBA history with career averages of eight assists and two steals per game, alongside Chris Paul and John Stockton. Rubio's heady game should be a perfect fit in Utah.

47. Goran Dragic

Stats & Info: Dragic did not receive a single All-NBA vote despite delivering a season nearly identical to 2013-14 when he was named third-team All-NBA and won Most Improved Player. Dragic remains one of the game's best at probing the paint, ranking third in the NBA in drives per game last season.

46. Steven Adams

Stats & Info: Adams battled alongside Russell Westbrook more than any player, as 94 percent of his minutes came alongside his MVP teammate. An underrated part of Adams' game is filling the lane, as he has finished in the 90th percentile in points per play in transition each of the past two seasons, making him an ideal fit next to the tempo-pushing Westbrook.

45. LaMarcus Aldridge

Stats & Info: Entering his first season with the Spurs in 2015-16, Aldridge was ranked 13th in #NBArank. After falling to 23rd last season, Aldridge fell 22 more spots to 45th, leaving the Spurs with just a single top-40 player. Of the top 20 players from our 2015 rankings, only Dwight Howard has dropped further.

44. Jusuf Nurkic

Stats & Info: Nurkic showed flashes that he's capable of becoming the third cog the Blazers so badly need. An untimely injury and doomed opening-round matchup with the Warriors in the playoffs last season may have delayed enthusiasm, but there's reason to be optimistic in the Northwest as the Blazers outscored teams by 11.3 points per 100 possessions in more than 400 minutes with Nurkic on the floor alongside Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum. That pair was a whopping 15 points per 100 possessions worse when sharing the floor without Nurkic.

43. Andre Iguodala

Stats & Info: A steadying hand the entire season, Iguodala led the entire NBA in assist-to-turnover rate during the regular season. In the NBA Finals, he once again led the Warriors in plus-minus, just as he did during their run to the title in 2015.

42. Otto Porter Jr.

41. Hassan Whiteside

40. Al Horford

39. DeMar DeRozan

38. Jae Crowder

37. Eric Bledsoe

36. Myles Turner

35. Khris Middleton

34. Kemba Walker

33. Isaiah Thomas

32. Joel Embiid

31. CJ McCollum


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