#NBArank: Players Nos. 11-30

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Thursday, September 14, 2017

For the seventh season in a row, ESPN.com is ranking the top players in the NBA. Who will be the best player this 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.

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. 11-30.

#NBArank: 11-30

30. DeAndre Jordan

Stats & Info:Jordan is coming off his third straight All-NBA season but enters 2017-18 without Chris Paul, who assisted on over twice as many Jordan makes as any other Clippers player over the past three seasons. Can Jordan remain relevant on the offensive end without Paul? In 21 games he played without the star point guard last season, Jordan averaged just 11.7 points.

29. Marc Gasol

Stats & Info:Gasol set career highs last season in scoring, field goal attempts and usage percentage, and could play an even larger role this season as he and Mike Conley are the only Grizzlies players ranked inside our top 150. Gasol is King of the High Post, as he averaged over two more elbow touches per game than any other player, averaged more assists from the elbow than any other player and ranked third in points per game from the elbow behind only Anthony Davis and Carmelo Anthony.

28. Bradley Beal

Stats & Info:Beal jumped 37 spots from last season, the highest among any player in this year's top 40. Beal could have easily been an All-Star last season as he averaged more PPG than any player who didn't make the All-Star team in the Eastern Conference. With Paul George, Jimmy Butler and Paul Millsap now in the West, Beal is a strong candidate to make his first All-Star team in 2017-18 should his production carry over.

27. Paul Millsap

Stats & Info:There's a good chance we're underestimating Millsap, as he's ranked inside the top 15 in ESPN's real plus-minus each of the past three seasons. Though he's now 32, Millsap long has been one of the league's most versatile defenders and should help improve a Nuggets team that ranked 29th in defensive efficiency last season.

26. Kevin Love

Stats & Info:If/when the Minnesota version of Love returns this season, just remember that we told you so. The Cavaliers played 136 minutes last season in which Love was on the floor without both LeBron James and Kyrie Irving. In that time, Cleveland outscored opponents by 10.1 points per 100 possessions with Love averaging over 33 points and 15 rebounds per 36 minutes with a usage rate over 40. Especially with the prospects of Isaiah Thomas out to start the season, be on the lookout for some heavy doses of Minnesota Kevin Love.

25. Kyrie Irving

Stats & Info:Close your eyes and imagine Irving dancing with the rock and then scoring on a step back or dazzling finish at the rim. He does it all the time and the stats would agree with the eye test that there might not be a better scorer off the bounce. During the regular season, Irving had the highest effective field goal percentage on shots following seven or more dribbles among the players to take five such attempts per game. During the NBA finals last season, Irving attempted 10 such shots per game, nearly twice as many as any other player, and converted at a more than respectable clip of 49 percent on 2-pointers and 39 percent on 3s.

24. Blake Griffin

Stats & Info:Maybe it's because he has missed so many games or doesn't dunk the way he used to, but Griffin has reached the point where he might be grossly underrated. Griffin, LeBron James and Kevin Durant are the only forwards who have posted a player efficiency rating of at least 22 in each of the past six seasons.

23. Mike Conley

Stats & Info:Entering his 11th season, Conley has still somehow never made an All-Star team. Since entering the NBA in 2007-08, he has the most career win shares among players who have not made an All-Star team and has ranked inthe top 6 among point guards in real plus-minus in three of the past four seasons.

22. Kristaps Porzingis

Stats & Info:He protects the rim like Rudy Gobert and shoots 3s like Dirk Nowitzki in his prime. The next step for Porzingis is consistently carrying an offense, as he ranked just third on the Knicks in usage percentage last season behind Carmelo Anthony and Derrick Rose. Some evidence that Porzingis still isn't the "give it to him and get out of the way" offensive threat? He shot just 38 percent last season on shots in which he held the ball two or more seconds before shooting.

21. Kyle Lowry

  • Raptors | PG | @Klow7
  • Last year's rank: 18
  • 2017-18 projected RPM: 5.76

Stats & Info:If you're wondering why Lowry comes in 18 spots ahead of DeMar DeRozan, here's a clue: When DeRozan was on the floor without Lowry last season, the Raptors were outscored by 0.4 points per 100 possessions. When Lowry played without DeRozan, the Raptors outscored teams by 10.8 points per 100 possessions.

20. Gordon Hayward

Stats & Info:Hayward ranked 26th in the NBA in scoring last season, which is nice, but it's probably not something that makes you think "he could absolutely be the No. 1 option on a title contender" -- until you realize he did it on fewer than 16 attempts per game for a team that played at the NBA's slowest pace. If he scored at the same rate but took the same number of shots that Kyrie Irving needed to average 25.2 points, Hayward would have come in at 27.3 PPG, which would have ranked in the top five in the NBA in 2016-17.

19. Klay Thompson

Stats & Info:On the rare nights the Warriors lost last season, there's a good chance Thompson looked mortal, as he sported a PER of just 7.9 in losses, which was 11.4 points worse than in Golden State's wins. Though three of his teammates rank higher, it's difficult to overstate Thompson's importance. In fact, of the over 280 players who logged at least 1,000 minutes, Thompson had the single largest disparity in PER from wins to losses.

18. Damian Lillard

Stats & Info:Lillard just keeps getting better and has now increased his scoring and PER in each of his five seasons. He's coming off the best shooting season of his career while also posting his lowest turnover percentage. Although Portland had the misfortune of running into Golden State's buzzsaw each of the past two postseasons, Lillard averaged 30 points in those series. The only player to average more points against the Warriors over the past two postseasons is LeBron James.

17. DeMarcus Cousins

Stats & Info:The idea of having either Cousins or Anthony Davis on the floor at all times for the Pelicans might be enticing on paper, even if it didn't work last season. When Cousins was on the floor without Davis, the Pelicans were outscored by 12.6 points per 100 possessions. Swap Davis for Cousins and the Pelicans outscored teams by 8.8 points per 100 possessions, a net swing of over 21 points. Though his talent is undeniable, Cousins still has not shown the ability to translate that talent into team success.

16. Nikola Jokic

Stats & Info:Jokic posted a PER of 28.4 after Christmas last season, which ranked third behind 2016-17 MVP Russell Westbrook and All-NBA and all-defense selection Kawhi Leonard. A brilliant offensive player who essentially plays point-center, the next step in Jokic's ascension to superstardom is on the defensive end. On the 26 players who started at least 40 games at center, Jokic ranked 24th in block rate.

15. John Wall

Stats & Info:Wall's struggles against Boston in the conference semifinals exposed somewhat of a limitation when it comes to executing in the half court. In fact, Wall ranked lower than every other player in our top 50 in points per play in the half court last season.

14. Rudy Gobert

Stats & Info:Nobody protects the paint quite like Gobert, who contested a league-high 10.2 shots at the rim per game last season. Though Draymond Green won NBA Defensive Player of the Year, it was Gobert who led the league in defensive real plus-minus, finishing with the best mark by any player over the past three seasons.

13. Paul George

Stats & Info:Not only does George give the Thunder another shot creator to take pressure off Russell Westbrook, he's a lengthy defender who can switch at least four positions. Since 2012-13, the only perimeter player with more defensive win shares is two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year Kawhi Leonard. George's presence gives OKC potentially the best defensive starting five in the NBA.

12. Karl-Anthony Towns

Stats & Info:Towns was named the most likely first-time All-Star by our Summer Forecast panel in August. He averaged over 25 points and 12 rebounds last season, becoming only the second player to put up those numbers and not make the All-Star team (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was the first to do so in 1977-78).

11. Jimmy Butler

Stats & Info:Butler is a late-game assassin as he posted a clutch-time PER of 44.5 last season, which ranked second in the NBA behind only Russell Westbrook. One of the game's best at drawing fouls, Butler sank 59 of 62 free throws in clutch situations last season. Butler should help cure some of Minnesota's late-game woes as the Wolves lost 12 games last season in which they led entering the fourth quarter. That was the most such losses by any team in the Western Conference.

Analysis provided by ESPN Stats & Info's Micah Adams.