SB Nation NBA has released its projection of the league's top 100 players come 2017, an exercise in equal measures absurd and excellent. Of note for D.C. fans is the inclusion of three Wizards (John Wall, Bradley Beal and Otto Porter at Nos. 20, 38 and 97, respectively) on the list, a tally I suppose you'd consider average in a 30-team league.
The three Wizards themselves shouldn't surprise. Wall, Beal and Porter are the obvious Big 3 on a roster depressingly bereft of (promising) young talent given the team's years-long stated mission of rebuilding through the draft. Even so, my initial reactions to the Wizards' rankings were a) indignation that Wall fell all the way to No. 20, b) satisfaction that Beal slotted in the top 40, and c) mild surprise that Porter cracked the top 100, given his underwhelming summer league and projection as a glue guy.
But then I looked at the rest of the list, and the Wizards' standing made much more sense. Sure, I might have ranked Wall slightly higher than No. 20, ahead of Jonas Valanciunas and Brook Lopez, but that might just be my hometown bias shining through. Wall has as much potential as (almost) anyone on this list, but given his career production thus far, it's hard to favor him over anyone in the top 15.
As for Beal, he's also right around where he should be, in my opinion. To be considered a future top 40 player after only one professional season is no small accomplishment. He's also the third-highest ranked member of the 2012 draft class on this list, behind big men Anthony Davis (reasonably ranked at No. 7) and Andre Drummond (absurdly ranked at No. 3). For what it's worth, Harrison Barnes came in at No. 40, while Damian Lillard fell to No. 42, presumably due to his age (read: lack of upside).
My surprise over Porter's inclusion subsided once I saw an oldish Paul Millsap, criminally under-ranked Kemba Walker, and 16-year-old ranked nearby. And really, I shouldn't have been surprised to begin with, considering I wanted Porter over Nerlens Noel (who came in at No. 25) with the No. 3 pick in the 2013 NBA Draft, and expect him to become one of the league's better role players in due time.
In terms of how the Wizards stack up with the rest of the league, nine teams have more players on the list: the Cavaliers and Pelicans each have five, while the Bulls, Pistons, Hawks, Bucks, Thunder, Rockets and Nuggets each have four. Meanwhile, another 10 teams tie the Wiz with three members on the list: the Heat, Celtics, Bobcats, Pacers, Magic, Clippers, Warriors, Jazz, Timberwolves and Trailblazers. So, depending on how you analyze this stuff, you could say the Wizards finished anywhere from 10th to 20th on this list, which is to say, right in the middle of the pack. And that's with three players who in 2017 will still only be 27, 24 and 24.
But I think a closer look shows that the Wizards' young talent is actually better than this list might indicate. For instance, sure, the Cavs have five players in the top 100, but outside of Kyrie Irving, those players include two forwards who probably can't play next to each other, a guard ranked significantly-and-deliciously lower than Beal despite being drafted one pick after him and a center who may never be fully healthy again. Similarly, the Pelicans' crop includes one legit star (Davis) and a borderline All-Star point guard, but also a perennially-injured shooting guard, an overrated wing, and Ryan Anderson (??). The Bulls have three "meh's" to go alongside Derrick Rose, all four Nuggets (including an old friend) rank in the bottom half of the list, and somehow John Henson, Chandler Parsons and Terrence Jones all made this list.
You can go through and find similar issues with nearly all of the teams with three or more players in the top 100. So while the Wizards may not have the best young talent in the NBA, I think an argument can be made that of the teams with three or more players on this list, their young stars fit together the best of any group not named the Thunder.
Admitting my own personal bias upfront, were I to rank NBA teams based on the players they have on this list, I'd only have the Thunder, Heat, Rockets and Clippers as obviously ahead of the Wizards, due to their overwhelming star power. Solid arguments could be made for the Pistons, Pelicans, Warriors, Pacers, and T-Wolves, as well. But I think the point stands that, without knowing how the next four years of free agency and drafts will alter the NBA's landscape (and noting that several players on this list aren't even in the NBA yet), the Wizards are sitting fairly pretty with their three young stars.
What do you guys think?