The 100 best players in the NBA: how to evaluate Kawhi Leonard, and other question marks that will decide the fate of the contenders

There are as many arguments as players CBS Sports’ Top 100 NBA Listwhether Giannis Antetokounmue, Stephen Curry or Kevin Durant belong in the lead is how many places LeBron James should have fallen where enigmas like James Harden and Russell Westbrook belong.

But among the most intriguing — and poignant in terms of contenders — is that of three potential players who won’t have played a meaningful game in nearly 18 months: Kawhi Leonard, Jamal Murray and Ben Simmons.

While each player’s ratings fluctuate due to time spent away, making judging their potential effectiveness in the 2022-23 season even more difficult, each will be a vital cog in their team’s championship hopes.

Leonard comes in eighth, a place he’ll need to get past this season if he’s clippers To contend for a title, which is something many NBA watchers – including those in Vegas, who put them at around +700 – believe can be achieved.

Murray and Simmons come deeper on our list, at 35th and 42nd, respectively, and each is able to outpace or underperform our best-guess here. Simmons, in particular, could swing wildly by the end of the season in the NBA’s superstar pool, but both players will be key to their team that lives up to championship expectations.

All three of these players, and their places in the NBA standings, captivate for various reasons. The lure of Kouhi was what it was – one of the greatest things ever, when he seemed ready to beat LeBron so much that he’s the only man in NBA history to win the MVP in the Finals with three different teams.

For Murray, cuteness is what it can be. And for Simmons, that is a concept that may never come back again.

Greatness is a fickle thing, and in absentia it has a way of distorting our memories of what the player was like, or into what the player can take back. This is certainly true in these three cases.

Murray seemed poised to help Denver become a perennial threat in the Western Conference, but his injury problems and those of fellow Top 100 teammate Michael Porter Jr (#64) made nuggets A vehicle to display the best player from one person instead of the contender.

The last time Murray played in a postseason, the Nuggets made it to the conference finals. Last season, without him, they had one simple win in the opening round series with the ultimate champion Golden State Warriors.

If Murray can get it all together, jumping players like Jrue Holiday (No. 25), Harden (No. 21) and even aging Chris Paul (No. 18) — and add the firepower behind Nikola Jokic (No. 4) — could change quickly.

Simmons is the weirdest of the bunch, for all the reasons we know. He might turn up here 42, but he’s a former Rookie of the Year, All-Star, All-NBA, and All-Defense super talented player. As in, it’s good.

Well kinda.

We know he can’t shoot, and that his exit from Philly was uglier than Kim and Kanye’s ongoing divorce. He hasn’t played, for physical and/or mental reasons, since the humiliation he inflicted himself in the playoffs over a year ago.

year from now? He could be at the bottom of the list, or even completely off the list, along with guys like Westbrook, who have barely made the cut. Or it could be much higher. If things go in that direction – to the top 20 where the player belongs with his gifts – then Networks Might be the most dysfunctional team in the league And the The most talented.

Then there is Kohi. It’s the hottest question mark on this list (and the NBA). He’s No. 8 now, but at 31 he’s much younger than the opening night ages of Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant (34) and LeBron, the ageless wonder of 37 years.

Well-calibrated with managing the loads that define his style in a long season, Kohhi’s health could easily find himself among the top five players on next year’s roster. And if that happens — if most of us hedge here at CBS Sports because we know what Cowhie was but not what would be too conservative — the Clippers would be among the top teams in the league.

The list we put together at CBS Sports for the game’s 100 best players comes after many weeks of reflection and conversations with people across the league, and the inevitable discussions and disagreements are part of the goal.

I think Durant is too high and Ja Morant too low, and young players like Anthony Edwards and Evan Mobley are going to jump a lot beyond what most NBA followers see now. But all that and more, right or wrong, is based on what we think we know, from what we’ve already seen – or from what history tells us we’ll see.

But it’s different for Leonard, Murray, and Simmons. His placement on this list, and the questions related to their upcoming seasons, are colored as much by their absences as we think we know about them.

So, we go into the unknown, with three potentially great players trying to show that their future is as bright as their past.

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