Each year, Sports Illustrated unveils their "top 100 players in the NBA", and on Monday, the 2014-2015 edition went live. While SI.com listed only players 100 through 51 in their initial post, there were two members of the Atlanta Hawks included, with both point guard Jeff Teague and swingman Kyle Korver garnering recognition.
Here is what SI's Rob Mahoney had to say about Teague, while ranking him at number 92:
Teague showed real improvement in using his quickness to maneuver from the perimeter to the rim with the ball in his first season with coach Mike Budenholzer.
Where Teague struggles is in deciding when to drive into the help (to draw contact) and when to steer around it, a split difference leading to both an underwhelming performance on attempts in the restricted area and a free-throw rate that’s lower than it could be. Teague's jumper is in a similar middle ground, as his good balance and follow-through haven’t translated to consistent accuracy. But the foundation is in place, both with Teague’s skill set and the combination of teammates and system, for continued progress. It's now on Teague to take those next steps.
It is undeniable that Teague flashed improvement in his first season under Mike Budenholzer, but it is certainly debatable that he has reached the status of a top 100 player. Continued defensive lapses have limited Teague's development to this point, and while he certainly could make strides in that area in year two with Coach Bud, this builds in a bit of projection to his game.
Kyle Korver ranked number 74 on the list, and he was described in glowing terms by Ben Golliver:
No player in history has shot better while launching as many threes as Korver did last season (47.2 percent on 392 attempts).
That astonishing combination of efficiency and volume perfectly illustrates Korver’s standing as the NBA’s premier shooting specialist. One might rightly assume that Korver has an easier life than say, Stephen Curry, as the Hawks’ swingman is not responsible for running an offense or creating many of his own shots off the dribble. Make no mistake, though: Korver still works hard for his offense, scurrying tirelessly through screens, dealing with defenders who are committed to denying him clean looks, and commanding star-level attention or more when he is off the ball.
As Atlanta’s season went sideways because of injuries, it became clear that Korver -- a fine, active all-around player -- wasn’t going to make a sudden, late-career leap from quality niche filler to lead option on a solid offense. But his positive impact on both sides of the ball was indisputable: With Korver on the court, Atlanta’s offensive efficiency rose from 100.3 to 105.4 and its defensive efficiency improved from 106.5 to 102.4.
It is always refreshing to see Korver described in a positive light without framing him as a pure "specialist", and Golliver references his "all-around" play. Kyle has been an underrated defender for years, especially from a conceptual perspective, but at the same time, listing him as a top-75 player in the league may signal the end of Korver's days as a vastly "underrated" commodity.
What do you think of the initial rankings? Where should Al Horford and Paul Millsap arrive in the top 50? Feel free to drop us a line in the comments.