Hassan Whiteside is the surprise of SI's Top 100 NBA Players of 2016 list.
Goran Dragic, Luol Deng were likely candidates, while Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh are perennial All-Stars. This makes the Miami Heat one of the few teams in the NBA to have all five of their starters included in SI's exclusive list.
Three facts stand out regarding Whiteside:
1. He is the only player on the list making less than $1,000,000 per season. That compares to Kobe Bryant's $25,000,000 paycheck, who was not even considered as one of SI's top 50 players.
2. Whiteside played the least amount games in the NBA, 67, of anyone on the list. The only other people with an under 100-game sample size are Nerlens Noel at 75 games and Andrew Wiggins with 82 games.
3. He is the only player on the list that was called up from the D-League, that is, his salary at the start of last season was paid by the NBDL.
At this point last year hardly anyone even knew Whiteside was a professional basketball player. There was absolutely no thought that a player with his troubled background would possibly be included in the top 100 list for the 2015-16 season. All the other choices are proven NBA veterans with a solid track record, or top draft picks.
The select 100 represents about 22% of the NBA players, which means most teams would have 3.3 top-100 players, or somewhere between 3 or 4 on average. The Heat with five representatives out of 15 team members did well in the survey. This raises the bar for a post-season appearance by the team this season even higher.
When SI's list is complete we'll see what teams, if any, have more than five top 100-selections. On the flip side, it'll be interesting which teams have the least talented players. Also how do the selections correlate with team payrolls? Do the teams with the highest payroll have the most selections, while do the lowest-paid players receive the least love from SI?
Looking forward, on the Heat team today, who might be candidates to be named to SI's 2016-17 top-100 list? Justise Winslow could possibly have a top-100 year as a rookie. Amar'e Stoudemire promised the media he will bounce back with a vengeance. Josh McRoberts or Gerald Green might be elected as most improved players, if they get enough minutes on the court.
Then there is the possibility of getting a Kevin Durant or other elite player via the trade route. Lightning could strike twice if an obscure player comes out of nowhere, such as Greg Whittington or Keith Benson, to become an elite player. Realistically though, most of the selections on this season's SI list are known qualities who simply shuffled their places in the pecking order.
On the current NBA rosters, a surprising 38% of the players spent some time with D-League teams. If the trend continues there could be some call-ups like Whiteside during the season who make an unexpected impact in the league. Injuries will play a big role in seeing how many of the top-100 selections keep their spots, and who their replacements will be. Stay tuned for a November update on where the top-100 players stand once the action begins.