Prior to the start of each NBA season, top-100 lists dominate the landscape, albeit for only a few days. In 2020-21, there is (much) less time to dissect every angle before opening night arrives but, this week, ESPN began the top-100 frenzy with a two-part release. Given the hefty investment in the roster of Atlanta Hawks, it comes as no surprise that the team has multiple players on the list but, in on-brand fashion, there was plenty of controversy with this particular ranking.
At the top for the Hawks, Trae Young comes in at No. 29 overall, with the third-year point guard coming off an All-Star appearance last season. Unquestionably, this will be seen as a disappointingly low ranking for Young, especially through the prism of what he was able to accomplish last season. In fact, Young’s placement behind players like CJ McCollum, Zion Williamson, Jamal Murray and Donovan Mitchell goes beyond merely controversial into (highly) questionable.
Young was the only player in the top 50, however, and the placement of two players was particularly jarring. Bogdan Bogdanovic lands at No. 62 overall and, despite a minor quibble here or there, that is a perfectly appropriate ranking. In the case of John Collins and Danilo Gallinari, their placement is more vexing.
After coming in at No. 47 on the same list prior to 2019-20, Collins slips to No. 84 overall. While he did endure a 25-game suspension, Collins also performed at the highest level of his career by a significant margin, improving his defense and averaging 21.6 points and 10.1 rebounds per game. Collins also posted an obscene 65.9 percent true shooting that included a 40 percent clip from three-point range, and it is baffling to see him outside the top 80 on a list such as this.
Elsewhere, Gallinari is at No. 85 and that also feels quite low for the 32-year-old forward. Gallinari doesn’t have the counting stats that Collins produced last season, but he is an incredibly efficient and effective offensive player. Despite defensive concerns, this placement is at least 20 spots too low for Gallinari, even if the bizarre placement of Collins will draw the headlines in Atlanta.
For a bit of context, Collins and Gallinari rank behind Dejounte Murray, old friend Dennis Schroder, Aaron Gordon, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Montrezl Harrell, Tyler Herro, Christian Wood and others. In short, that is not a reality that I’m familiar with.
Finally, Clint Capela was omitted from ESPN’s top 100 list entirely, and that is also strange. The veteran center was No. 53 in the same rankings a year ago and, while he did lose part of the 2019-20 season to injury, there is no reason to think Capela will be seriously affected by that ailment for the upcoming season.
A list like this doesn’t actually mean anything and, ultimately, these collections are created almost entirely to produce discussion. Still, the placement of Collins in particular is enough to ruffle plenty of feathers in Atlanta, and this is the kind of thing that could be used as motivation alongside the Hawks’ lack of national television games for the upcoming season.