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Liberty Ballers drafts the top 100 NBA players for 2020-21

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Los Angeles Lakers v Philadelphia 76ers Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

In the summer of 2019, Liberty Ballers drafted ten teams of five players to come up with the top 50 players in the NBA for the upcoming 2019-20 season. While all top-50 lists are arbitrary, by having writers draft players they want on their teams, we hoped to give more context to the issue of ranking star players on bad teams versus elite role players. We also acknowledged drawbacks to this method, most significantly the fact that teams’ previous picks influence later suggestions. Still, it was a unique look at the league’s top players.

For the 2020-21 season, we decided to wait until a few weeks into the season to do our top NBA players draft, and we decided to make it a top-100! The goal is for each writer to form what projects to be the best team over the rest of the regular season and playoffs.

Players who are out long-term or indefinitely due to injury were ineligible, with the exception of CJ McCollum, who fractured his left foot after he was already selected.

Nine Liberty Ballers writers (Dan Olinger, Dan Volpone, Dave Early, Steve Lipman, Tyler Monahan, Emily Anderson, Tom West, Jackson Frank, and Sean Kennedy), as well as former-Liberty Baller and current Rights to Ricky Sanchez writer Adam Aaronson, participated in a ten-round, ten-team snake draft to come up with our top 100 NBA players for the 2020-21 season.


Below are the results of the draft, along with where each player was drafted last year (LY). If the player is currently a rookie or was injured last season, his position in last year’s draft is denoted as N/A. If the player was eligible to be drafted in last year’s top-50 draft but was not selected, his position in last year’s draft is denoted as NR.

  1. (Dan O): LeBron James (LY: 7)
  2. (Dan V): Kevin Durant (LY: N/A)
  3. (Dave): Giannis Antetokounmpo (LY: 3)
  4. (Steve): Kawhi Leonard (LY: 2)
  5. (Tyler): Luka Doncic (LY: 24)
  6. (Adam): James Harden (LY: 6)
  7. (Emily): Joel Embiid (LY: 5)
  8. (Tom): Steph Curry (LY: 1)
  9. (Jackson): Nikola Jokic (LY: 9)
  10. (Sean): Anthony Davis (LY: 4)
  11. (Sean): Jayson Tatum (LY: 31)
  12. (Jackson): Damian Lillard (LY: 11)
  13. (Tom): Jimmy Butler (LY: 18)
  14. (Emily): Chris Paul (LY: 47)
  15. (Adam): Paul George (LY: 8)
  16. (Tyler): Bradley Beal (LY: 17)
  17. (Steve): Kyrie Irving (LY: 12)
  18. (Dave): Devin Booker (LY: 25)
  19. (Dan V): Khris Middleton (LY: 27)
  20. (Dan O): Bam Adebayo (LY: NR)
  21. (Dan O): Kyle Lowry (LY: 43)
  22. (Dan V): C.J. McCollum (LY: 33)
  23. (Dave): Donovan Mitchell (LY: 49)
  24. (Steve): Zion Williamson (LY: 16)
  25. (Tyler): Karl-Anthony Towns (LY: 10)
  26. (Adam): Rudy Gobert (LY: 13)
  27. (Emily): Jaylen Brown (LY: NR)
  28. (Tom): Jrue Holiday (LY: 21)
  29. (Jackson): Ben Simmons (LY: 19)
  30. (Sean): Malcolm Brogdon (LY: 50)
  31. (Sean): Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (LY: NR)
  32. (Jackson): Pascal Siakam (LY: 23)
  33. (Tom): Domantas Sabonis (LY: NR)
  34. (Emily): Brandon Ingram (LY: NR)
  35. (Adam): Jamal Murray (LY: NR)
  36. (Tyler): Robert Covington (LY: 29)
  37. (Steve): Victor Oladipo (LY: N/A)
  38. (Dave): Trae Young (LY: 36)
  39. (Dan V): Myles Turner (LY: 34)
  40. (Dan O): Marcus Smart (LY: NR)
  41. (Dan O): Gordon Hayward (LY: NR)
  42. (Dan V): Mike Conley: (LY: 28)
  43. (Dave): Draymond Green (LY: 20)
  44. (Steve): Nikola Vucevic (LY: 38)
  45. (Tyler): Jaren Jackson Jr. (LY: 32)
  46. (Adam): Kristaps Porzingis (LY: 42)
  47. (Emily): Aaron Gordon (LY: NR)
  48. (Tom): Danilo Gallinari (LY: NR)
  49. (Jackson): Brook Lopez (LY: 41)
  50. (Sean): Michael Porter Jr. (LY: NR)
  51. (Sean): Christian Wood (LY: NR)
  52. (Jackson): Mikal Bridges (LY: NR)
  53. (Tom): Kemba Walker (LY: 14)
  54. (Emily): Seth Curry (LY: NR)
  55. (Adam): Jerami Grant (LY: NR)
  56. (Tyler): Ja Morant (LY: NR)
  57. (Steve): Zach LaVine (LY: NR)
  58. (Dave): Tyler Herro (LY: NR)
  59. (Dan V): De’Aaron Fox (LY: 37)
  60. (Dan O): Fred VanVleet (LY: NR)
  61. (Dan O): OG Anunoby (LY: NR)
  62. (Dan V): Tim Hardaway Jr. (LY: NR)
  63. (Dave): D’Angelo Russell (LY: NR)
  64. (Steve): DeMar DeRozan (LY: NR)
  65. (Tyler): Buddy Hield (LY: 39)
  66. (Adam): Russell Westbrook (LY: 15)
  67. (Emily): Julius Randle (LY: NR)
  68. (Tom): Bojan Bogdanovic (LY: NR)
  69. (Jackson): Joe Harris (LY: NR)
  70. (Sean): Dejounte Murray (LY: NR)
  71. (Sean): Tobias Harris (LY: 30)
  72. (Jackson): Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (LY: NR)
  73. (Tom): Josh Richardson (LY: NR)
  74. (Emily): Andre Drummond (LY: NR)
  75. (Adam): Duncan Robinson (LY: NR)
  76. (Tyler): DeAndre Ayton (LY: NR)
  77. (Steve): John Collins (LY: NR)
  78. (Dave): P.J. Tucker (LY: 46)
  79. (Dan V): Luguentz Dort (LY: NR)
  80. (Dan O): Serge Ibaka (LY: NR)
  81. (Dan O): Joe Ingles (LY: NR)
  82. (Dan V): Chris Boucher (LY: NR)
  83. (Dave): Larry Nance (LY: NR)
  84. (Steve): Shake Milton (LY: NR)
  85. (Tyler): Davis Bertans (LY: NR)
  86. (Adam): Eric Bledsoe (LY: NR)
  87. (Emily): Collin Sexton (LY: NR)
  88. (Tom): Maxi Kleber (LY: NR)
  89. (Jackson): Donte DiVincenzo (LY: NR)
  90. (Sean): De’Andre Hunter (LY: NR)
  91. (Sean): LaMelo Ball (LY: N/A)
  92. (Jackson): Justin Holiday (LY: NR)
  93. (Tom): Jarrett Allen: (LY: NR)
  94. (Emily): Harrison Barnes (LY: NR)
  95. (Adam): Al Horford (LY: 26)
  96. (Tyler): Otto Porter Jr. (LY: 40)
  97. (Steve): Clint Capela (LY: NR)
  98. (Dave): Royce O’Neale (LY: NR)
  99. (Dan V): Terry Rozier (LY: NR)
  100. (Dan O): Danny Green (LY: NR)

Here’s what each writer had to say about their team.

Dan Olinger

Starters: LeBron James, Kyle Lowry, Marcus Smart, Gordon Hayward, Bam Adebayo

Bench: Fred VanVleet, OG Anunoby, Serge Ibaka, Danny Green, Joe Ingles

Though it was not my intention when we started this project, my team ended up being a basic recreation of the 2018-19 NBA Champion Toronto Raptors, only with Kawhi and Marc Gasol swapped out for LeBron and Bam Adebayo. While I’d hear the argument that there may be other players in the NBA better than LeBron at this very moment, there is no player in the league that is easier to build around. He is the gold standard of a heliocentric creator, an all-time scorer and can practically defend positions 1-5 when called upon. His being surrounded by four good to flat out excellent passers in the starting lineup and 2.5 three point threats (depending on how you feel about Smart) make that lineup a monstrous proposition on offense. Not to mention, with Bam’s rapid improvement as an off-the-bounce shooter this season, that gives us five guys who can create a bucket late in the shot clock when called upon, and on defense we can switch everything and wreck fools left and right.

The bench is filled with shooting, shooting and more shooting, with two dudes in VanVleet and Ingles who can effectively run ball screens and will feast out of pick and pops with Ibaka, meanwhile OG and DG lock up whoever the opponent’s best wings are. The great thing about this bench too is that with their shooting acumen and above average defensive competency they can all slot into the starting lineup should any adjustment be needed. As far as teams here that scare me, the one thing my squad is true top-level height, and though Bam, Ibaka and even OG are strong enough to bang with any big they cross paths with, matchups with Jokic on Jackson’s team, Embiid on Emily’s team and Adam’s supersized lineup of Porzingis and Gobert could wear out my team inside, though I do feel confident that LeBron and our assortment of shooters + defenders would find ways to expose taller, slower lineups on the other end.

Dan Volpone

Starters: Mike Conley, C.J. McCollum, Khris Middleton, Kevin Durant, Myles Turner

Bench: De’Aaron Fox, Tim Hardaway Jr., Luguentz Dort, Chris Boucher, Terry Rozier

I feel good about how my team shaped up. I have three great scorers in Durant, Middleton, and McCollum, and in the fifth round I got Mike Conley, who leads the NBA in Total Raptor and Raptor-WAR so far this season and deserves to make his first career All-Star game. To round out my starting lineup, I have a fantastic rim protector and stretch-five in Myles Turner.

Off the bench, I got a steal in De’Aaron Fox, who’s off to a nice start this season, taking and making more 3s than ever. Tim Hardaway Jr. and Terry Rozier provide scoring, and Luguentz Dort is turning into a fantastic young 3-and-D player. Chris Boucher is having a breakout start to the season, and while he’s just 6’9” and 200 pounds, he provides the 3-point shooting and rim protection I was looking for in my backup center.

Emily’s team would likely give me a hard time, as we’ve seen time and time again that Myles Tuner can’t guard Joel Embiid, and I don’t need to see Chris Boucher try to know he can’t either. My group is small, and McCollum’s injury is a bummer. Even so, I’m happy with my team and its hypothetical chances against the others.

Dave Early

Starters: Trae Young, Donovan Mitchell, Devin Booker, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Draymond Green

Bench: Tyler Herro, D’Angelo Russell, P.J. Tucker, Larry Nance, Royce O’Neale

A hamstring for Book, and a concussion for the Rookie-of-the-Year runner-up has taken a little wind out of my early season sails. I contemplated Joel Embiid and Anthony Davis with the third overall pick here, but Joel hit the injury report with a knee issue the night we drafted so I went with the Greek Freak. I followed that pick up with a slew of high scoring All-Stars: Book, Mitchell, Young. My best value pick is easily Young at 38. I know he’s not a good defender and that’s how he slid to me here. I was expecting to go for a wing defender like Marcus Smart, or take an upside bet with Kristaps Porzingis, but my competitors just gave me too much value here so I took it. Even though there are relatively few teams selecting and we’re all super stacked, I’m not sure every team has 4 bonafide All-Stars and I just might be one of the few that does.

Once I saw my Booker, Mitchell, Young starting lineup, I realized I needed defense and leadership, so I burned a very high value pick on Draymond. I know his advanced stats haven’t painted the picture of a elite defender lately, however, I’m betting here that he’s wizened enough to take his foot off the gas in these purgatory seasons.

My Tyler Herro and D’Angelo Russell picks are probably where I messed up. Maybe I should have taken OG for perimeter D, since that’s what I’m lacking, then come back for either Herro or D-Lo. And that dictated the rest of my draft as I had to go big time defense with veteran leadership to help our All-Star Youth. But with Giannis, Draymond and Tucker, I think we can win a chip by hitting the most 3s in the NBA and playing a supped up version of what Houston did a year ago in the bubble.

Who scares me the most? Olinger. I expect to see that fucker in the Finals. LeBron, Bam, Smart, Lowry? May not score much against them.

Steve Lipman

Starters: Kyrie Irving, Victor Oladipo, Kawhi Leonard, Zion Williamson, Nikola Vucevic

Bench: Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan, John Collins, Shake Milton, Clint Capela

I’m very happy with how my team turned out. I took Kawhi with my first pick, as very possibly the best two-way player in the league, especially in the playoffs. I was able to add guys like Kyrie, Oladipo, Zion, Vuc, LaVine and DeMar who all are really skilled at generating their own offense, which is especially important in the playoffs. Vuc isn’t a high-level rim protector, but Capela can spell him in a defense-for-offense sub at the end of a game.

Teams that could give us a hard time: Dan Volpone’s team (swoon) is going small, which could be difficult for mine as Zion hasn’t been able to defend much of anyone in the league, much less small and skilled guys like KD, Khris and CJ. My team may have a hard time defending Jackson’s team, as we’re thin on point guard defenders and Dame could go off. His team would be a great passing team as well, with Jokic, Dame and Simmons all out there. But I feel like given the potentially cramped spacing Siakam+Simmons could result in, my team would prevail. Finally, would like to point out that my team is remarkably handsome, overall.

Tyler Monahan

Starters: Luka Doncic, Bradley Beal, Robert Covington, Jaren Jackson Jr., Karl-Anthony Towns

Bench: Ja Morant, Buddy Hield, Otto Porter Jr., Davis Bertans, DeAndre Ayton

I really like my combination of elite shot creation and clutch play with Luka Doncic and Bradley Beal mixed with guys like Covington and Jackson who don’t need the ball in their hands a ton to make a difference. I kind of wish I took Rudy Gobert over Karl-Anthony Towns, just to have a defensive anchor, but alongside Jackson I think it’s passable defensively and KAT gives me an elite shooter at center also. Spacing was the name of the game for my bench; they can clear out and let Ja Morant drive to the lane or dump off to DeAndre Ayton when necessary. The team I’m most worried about would be Dan Olinger’s — any team with LeBron and even average players is a contender. The grittiness of having Lowry, Smart and Adebayo in the starting lineup is a scary thought.

Adam Aaronson

Starters: James Harden, Jamal Murray, Paul George, Kristaps Porzingis, Rudy Gobert

Bench: Jerami Grant, Russell Westbrook, Duncan Robinson, Eric Bledsoe, Al Horford

Once I had James Harden on my team, I had a clear vision of how my roster would be constructed: I’d add a few perimeter creators (Paul George, Jamal Murray, Russell Westbrook) to ease Harden’s burden on the offensive end, and then focus on defensive versatility (George, Eric Bledsoe, Jerami Grant). With an elite rim protector in Rudy Gobert, I had a lot of optionality as far as building a defense goes. It gave me the confidence to spend a few picks (Westbrook, Duncan Robinson) on potential liabilities who gave me something significant offensively. In the end, I felt I had the perfect blend of shooting, scoring, initiating and perimeter and interior defense.

Emily Anderson

Starters: Chris Paul, Jaylen Brown, Brandon Ingram, Aaron Gordon, Joel Embiid

Bench: Seth Curry, Julius Randle, Andre Drummond, Collin Sexton, Harrison Barnes

My main strategy was to pick the best player available, so its a steal that I got 20-21 MVP front-runner Joel Embiid at number 7. I feel like that is all I need to say, as we’ve seen time and time again how he can carry his team to victories over opponents, but I’ll say more. Chris Paul is a proven leader on the floor, who can create shots for his teammates - which now includes a top-5 3-point shooter in Seth Curry. Jaylen Brown has taken another huge leap this year, and he is a good person. If you’ve ever heard me on the Gastro Blues pod (shameless plug) you know that good character is important to me. Aaron Gordon has the goods, but maybe needs a change of scenery, so I picked him up to see what he can do. If he doesn’t bring it, I have All-Star Julius Randle waiting to take his place on the bench. Rounding out my team are young guys who can get points (Ingram, Sexton), a good backup center (Drummond), and Harrison Barnes.

Tom West

Starters: Steph Curry, Jrue Holiday, Jimmy Butler, Danilo Gallinari, Domantas Sabonis

Bench: Kemba Walker, Bojan Bogdanovic, Josh Richardson, Maxi Kleber, Jarrett Allen

Steph Curry was an easy pick at No. 8 — he’s the greatest shooter of all time and he’s been brilliant as usual this season. I was hoping Anthony Davis would fall to me at 13, but once he was off the board I opted for Jimmy Butler for an elite mix of playmaking, driving, a ton of free throw opportunities, and smart off-ball play, with quality wing defense. From there, I wanted to support Curry with versatile All-Defense talent and complementary offensive play, so Jrue Holiday made a lot of sense. As I still needed a center, I opted to take one of the most talented players (at any position) left in Domantas Sabonis. He can serve as an interior scoring/passing hub when need be, but he also does so many things at a very high level — such as his screening, offensive rebounding and finishing — that can support the offense. He’s growing as a three-point shooter, too. Danilo Gallinari is a super efficient, well-rounded scorer who can do a bit of everything offensively, and gives me another high-level shooter next to Curry.

My final five picks didn’t turn out quite as I hoped. Kristaps Porzingis, Dejounte Murray and Larry Nance Jr. were all drafted a couple of picks before the spots where I planned to take them. But never mind... Kemba Walker is a dynamite shot creator and shooter to have as my sixth man. Josh Richardson provides more strong perimeter defense. Bojan Bogdanovic got off to a slow start this season after coming back from wrist surgery, but he was awesome in 2019-20 and adds excellent shooting and complementary creation. Maxi Kleber is one of the most underrated players in the NBA — he’s a really good defensive big with the agility to switch out onto smaller players and offer some rim protection. He also creates the option for smaller five-out lineups. Finally, I went for Jarrett Allen for good rebounding, athleticism as a roll man, sound screening, solid mobility on defense, and stout rim protection.

My main concern is not having a better defensive center to anchor my starting five, but Allen and Kleber can step in when needed and there are several plus perimeter defenders on the roster. Overall, I think my team has plenty of shot creation inside and out, good shooting, a few high-end playmakers, and enough defensive ability available when factoring in the bench.

Adam and Jackson’s teams are both particularly threatening. Besides their respective offensive stars, the defense and size they have probably presents more of a challenge for the guys on my roster. Dan Olinger’s team is a two-way force, too.

Jackson Frank

Starters: Damian Lillard, Mikal Bridges, Ben Simmons, Pascal Siakam, Nikola Jokic

Bench: Joe Harris, Brook Lopez, Donte DiVincenzo, Justin Holiday, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope

My first two picks shaped the path forward, establishing a scalable, dominant offensive duo that require significant defensive insulation. Both Jokic and Lillard are limited defenders, particularly the latter, who can only credibly guard one position. So, landing rangy, multi-positional wings in Simmons and Siakam helped me shore up some gaps there. But, of course, those two are downhill-oriented scorers and offensive players who operate best with lots of space to maneuver. Building a stockpile of two-way floor-spacers became the emphasis and I didn’t worry much about ball-handling for any of my remaining picks under the assumption Lillard, Jokic, Simmons and Siakam would dominate on-ball reps. I also targeted a stretch 5 with rim protection (Lopez) and dribble hand-off partner (Harris) to pair with Simmons, as those are two archetypes that suitably complement him. There are no defensive weakpoints outside of my virtuoso offensive bedrocks and only one non-shooter, who is insulated by a bevy of high-level shooters. Selecting so low in the first round limited how good my top guy could be, but I feel pretty good about landing a current MVP candidate in Jokic and am quite pleased with how I approached the subsequent team-building.

Sean Kennedy:

Starters: Malcolm Brogdon, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Michael Porter Jr., Jayson Tatum, Anthony Davis

Bench: Christian Wood, Dejounte Murray, Tobias Harris, De’Andre Hunter, LaMelo Ball

Versatility is the name of the game for my team. While not everyone on my roster is an elite shooter, everyone can space the floor well enough to facilitate a 5-out offense – no plodding, interior big men or negative perimeter gravitational fields like Giannis or Simmons here. I also really like the length of my roster, particularly at the guard positions. No one on my team stands shorter than 6-foot-4, and the interchangeability of Brogdon and SGA to play either on or off ball should allow the offense to attack the weaker matchups in pick-and-rolls.

Of course, AD and Tatum are the blue chippers here, and I love that they’re both capable of playing inside or outside, and guarding at a top level across multiple positions. Switching will not be an issue within this defensive scheme. If Davis gets ornery about playing the 5 against a burly opponent, I reserve the option to insert Christian Wood into the starting group, downshift AD and Tatum, and move MPJ to the bench. The rest of the bench continues the length and versatility theme of this squad, and I brought Ball into the mix late as a potential chaos factor to steal the ball and throw crazy outlet passes to my long-limbed gazelles. An opponent with a dominant interior force, e.g. Embiid, could give this team some trouble, and there’s not an elite playmaker from the guard position, but with excellent defense across the board, and enough versatile offensive options, I like my squad’s chances against anyone.


This chart shows all ten rosters in draft order:

Vote for the best roster in this poll:

Poll

Who drafted the best team?

This poll is closed

  • 12%
    Dan Olinger
    (46 votes)
  • 3%
    Dan Volpone
    (13 votes)
  • 24%
    Dave Early
    (95 votes)
  • 6%
    Steve Lipman
    (25 votes)
  • 2%
    Tyler Monahan
    (11 votes)
  • 5%
    Adam Aaronson
    (22 votes)
  • 19%
    Emily Anderson
    (73 votes)
  • 12%
    Tom West
    (49 votes)
  • 9%
    Jackson Frank
    (37 votes)
  • 2%
    Sean Kennedy
    (11 votes)
382 votes total Vote Now

In addition, let’s take a look back on last year’s draft with Adam Aaronson, Steve Lipman, Dan Volpone, Adio Royster, Andrew Favakeh, Justin Carter, Brian Murphy, Emily Anderson, Jackson Frank, and Sean Kennedy. The below roster shows those ten rosters in draft order:

Now that the 2019-20 season is behind us, vote for who had the best roster for last season in the poll below:

Poll

Who had the best team for 2019-20?

This poll is closed

  • 8%
    Adam Aaronson
    (9 votes)
  • 5%
    Steve Lipman
    (6 votes)
  • 19%
    Dan Volpone
    (22 votes)
  • 14%
    Adio Royster
    (16 votes)
  • 9%
    Andrew Favakeh
    (11 votes)
  • 0%
    Justin Carter
    (1 vote)
  • 15%
    Brian Murphy
    (17 votes)
  • 10%
    Emily Anderson
    (12 votes)
  • 6%
    Jackson Frank
    (7 votes)
  • 9%
    Sean Kennedy
    (11 votes)
112 votes total Vote Now

Let us know any other thoughts you have about our 2020-21 top-100 draft in the comments!