Three members of the Portland Trail Blazers -- LaMarcus Aldridge, Damian Lillard and Nicolas Batum -- appear in SB Nation's "Top 100 Players Of 2017" look-ahead list. Hopefully the premise should be self-explanatory. If not, more details on the idea -- and the method -- are here.
Aldridge placed No. 21.
I'm not going to lie: I was a little surprised to see that Aldridge was already 28 when we were making the list. He's only 14 months younger than Chris Bosh! Just like his fellow Dallas native, Aldridge's game might be more suited to being the No. 2 player on a good team. If he can get himself in a situation where he's the No. 3 player (*cough* Houston) on a great team, he'll have a chance to win multiple championships, too. He's not flashy and his rebounding stats have always been a little low, but a 6'11, 240-pound player with his size, athleticism and shooting touch will be an excellent player for a very long time. - Jonathan Tjarks
Lillard placed No. 42.
There are two major things to remember about young players and, specifically, rookies. One is that players tend to be better at age 27 than age 22. The curve is a bell in most cases. Players peak in their late 20s. In theory, having an awesome 21-year-old is better than having an equally awesome 23-year-old, because history says that when the 21-year-old is 23, he'll be more awesome than the 23-year-old had been.
But the other thing is that the rookie season is just about every player's most difficult. There's a huge learning curve between college or international ball and the freaking NBA. It's even bigger for players coming from lower conferences or leagues: You go from playing against future insurance agents to future Hall of Famers.
That Damian Lillard had such a spectacular season facing that learning curve -- despite being further along the age curve (22) than other elite young point guards -- says something. In conclusion, Dame! - Tom Ziller
Batum placed No. 61.
He needs to become more efficient, and he needs to finally put those defensive tools to use and become that lockdown guy on the perimeter. But if he can do those things -- and I don't think either is out of the question -- he'll be a really nice player for a long time. He's not yet 25, and for whatever reason, I think he still has a lot of potential. He's never going to be an all star, but if his defensive ability catches up to his physical tools, he'll be pretty good. -Conrad Kaczmarek
Dave offers some quick commentary on all three placements as well. Just click the links.
-- Ben Golliver | email@example.com | Twitter