Four Boston Celtics make Sports Illustrated top-100 NBA player ranking

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Four Boston Celtics can be counted among Sports Illustrated’s 2020-21 top-100 players, and while it might not surprise you which ones they are, it might given where the authors ended up placing them.

Rather than a ranking article that bases NBA players’ rankings on their potential trade value, what they ought to earn on the open market, nor their statistical output vs. the cost of their contract according to Woo, but instead “attempts to account for the entirety of a player’s impact—on offense, on defense, structural and otherwise—and tends to favor those with the most malleable skill sets.”

So with that caveat in mind, which Celtics made the cut, at what rank — and why?

No. 68 - Marcus Smart

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Smart is the lowest-ranked of the four Boston players who made the list, who Woo has a high opinion of despite the Flower Mound native's shooting coming back down significantly from his 2018-19 levels. "There will be nights he struggles to find the net, and others where ... Smart shifts can swing the outcome of a game," explained Woo. "He’s ... earned first-team all-defense honors in consecutive years. And in an exercise like this that attempts to remove players from their contexts, his situational worth to the Celtics might even be slightly undersold."

No. 38 - Jaylen Brown

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

According to SI's Ben Pickman, there isn't a team in the league that could use a Jaylen Brown on their roster, and we're inclined to agree. The veteran wing is finally coming into his own, and could well make a ranking of 38th-best seem comical by the end of the season. "Brown is the kind of player who can fill in gaps offensively, shooting well from the outside, breaking out in transition, or create a bucket for himself in mismatches," explained Pickman. "Defensively, Brown isn't Marcus Smart, but he’s more than capable of guarding his position on the ball, and his athleticism means he can match up against both guards and forwards credibly."

No. 31 - Kemba Walker

Mike Ehrmann/USA TODAY Sports

Rohan Nadkarni thinks that Walker has found a good landing spot with the Celtics, who don't need him to be the primary scorer in the back end of his career, though are also comfortable letting the UConn product take over when he's cooking. "He’s a high-volume, high-efficiency three-point shooter, and the stepback, midrange J is still as pretty as it was at Connecticut nearly 10 years ago." "Walker experienced knee issues last season that will also cause him to miss the start of this one ... When he does return to play, [he] is going to have one, two, three, however many of those nights when the ball can’t help to go in," Nadkarni added.

No. 17 - Jayson Tatum

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

As recently as a year ago, if you had told most Celtics fans Jayson Tatum would be ranked at No. 17 among the NBA's best players by Sports Illustrated, you'd likely would have been happy to hear the news. Now, if anything, it feels too low -- a testament to his growth in 2019-20. "Tatum has the talent to be a scoring leader one day," shared Nadkarni. "He can get a bucket from the outside, from the midrange, or by making his way to the rim for a finish or foul." "Few guys this early in their career are supposed to have such a layered offensive game, but Tatum plays with the smoothness of a 10-year-vet." [jwplayer C4utgqPS-z6KDnl0B] [lawrence-related id=44483,44473,44451,44433] [listicle id=44238]