clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Because it's the offseason: Ranking the mid-major players in the NBA

We have a feeling you already know who No. 1 is.

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

While some are gearing up for the start of football season, the offseason drags on for the rest of us. What better way to pass the time than by ranking things? The following list surely won't cause any disagreement whatsoever among college and NBA fans alike, so here we go: behold, the top 10 mid-major players in the NBA.

10. Kent Bazemore: Old Dominion

With a proven niche for himself in Atlanta, Kent Bazemore will surely complete the return to his ODU dominance for the Hawks next season. Rounding out the 2015-16 year with 11.6 points per game, Bazemore established himself as a capable shooter, especially from inside the key, but he will have more responsibility in the upcoming year with the absence of Jeff Teague. Now, with the addition of Dwight Howard as a primary rebounder, Bazemore will have the opportunity to let it fly.

9. Elfrid Payton: Louisiana Lafayette

Though Payton lacked consistency for the Orlando Magic last year, the point guard has a bright future ahead of him, especially under new coach Frank Vogel. In the 2015-16 season, Payton dished out 6.4 assists per game and under Vogel, a solid coach for point guards Monta Ellis and George Hill, Payton's numbers should only improve. It is also likely that Payton will up his 10.7 points per game average with increased playing time and more freedom beyond the arc. Unlike former head coach Scott Skiles, Vogel has clarified Payton's role in increasing the pace of the game for the Magic, and that starts with more than 30 minutes of playing time. Look for Payton to use his length and sharp-shooting to lead himself to a breakout season.

8. Kenneth Faried: Morehead State

Any guy who can have a 25/25 game is a star in my book. Especially Faried. The buzz around him may have been a tad quieter as the Nuggets continue to sputter, but nevertheless, he quietly averaged 12.5 points per game and 8.7 rebounds. His name has surfaced in a number of trade rumors, and perhaps a move will put him in the spotlight and remind more fans of his Morehead State savagery.

7. Hassan Whiteside: Marshall

Whiteside is similar to Faried in that he is strong on the interior, but Whiteside took all areas of his game to the next level last year. He closed the season with 14.2 points, 11.8 rebounds and an insane 3.7 blocks per game. The difference from the two players comes in that Whiteside had solid playmakers around him.

6. Paul Millsap: Louisiana Tech

Millsap is a proven scorer, rebounder and shot blocker. In other words, he has a huge presence for the Hawks and is coming off of one of his best scoring seasons ever with 17.1 points per game. Although it may be unlikely for Millsap to match the numbers he had last year, he has relatively few flaws in his game as he finished the year with his highest free throw percentage and solid consistency behind the arc. Even better: Millsap nearly averaged a double-double.

5. C.J. McCollum: Lehigh

McCollum finished last season with fire, also known as a 41 percent three-point mark and an average of 20.8 points per game. What he lacks in rebounding and defense is gained in sharp shooting and speed, enough so that McCollum has ripped himself from Damian Lillard's shadow. With playoff success against the Warriors last year, I wouldn't be surprised if this is the beginning of his rise to superstardom. With more confidence than ever, McCollum will be in good shape to repeat his performance against Duke in the 2012 NCAA tournament.

4. Paul George: Fresno State

George came back from his leg injury in 2014 better than ever. Reaching highs in points, assists and rebounds, George stepped up for his team big time and continued his strong defensive play. If George continues to get open looks with emerging star Myles Turner and Jeff Teague, then he will be a consistent scorer for a long time.

3. Damian Lillard: Weber State

Standing beside McCollum is another scoring machine: Damian Lillard. The sixth-leading scorer in the league came with dynamite every game of the year, scoring under 15 points only seven times. Lillard is ahead of McCollum because of his significance to the Blazers as a whole. As the primary ball handler and playmaker, if Lillard went down, McCollum would not have the same opportunities.

2. Kawhi Leonard: San Diego State

The most athletic player in the game, Leonard also stars in all categories of play. Averaging 21.2 points per game along with 6.8 rebounds, Leonard is transforming into the newest star of the Spurs. The stats don't even do justice to his high-level defense or consistency when it comes to jumpers attempted, but that just means another year of Kawhi doing his thing. Just wait for his playoff run, because it's coming.

1. Steph Curry: Davidson

Duh. The two-time MVP and one-time NBA champion has shown he’s much more than a three-point specialist. Not only did he come off the best season of his career with 30.1 points per game, but he finished with an unheard of 50 percent three point shooting mark. The guy's got game, and is on his way to becoming an NBA legend. Next year, he'll be even hungrier and have another worthy player by his side, Kevin Durant.