NBA One on One: A Look At ESPN’s NBARank
If you are a true fan of the NBA and the ESPN (and let’s face it, with the lockout and all, there are few of us left) then you and your friends had to be among the thousands of people screaming at ESPN’s Ranking of every single player in an NBA uniform.
My friends and I were among them, including a long-distance email chain that has since spurred what amounts to a 200-email conversation over whether Tony Parker is an elite point guard.
With arguments like that going on in my real life, I thought I would also bring those same conversations to my fake life: the internet! So from here on out, we are going to take ESPN Rankings (as well as some other sources) and compare some of the best players in the league against other players and see whether or not ESPN got the rankings right. That series of posts will be creatively named “NBA One on One.”
But before we do a deep dive into any two players, I wanted to give you all an overall feel, in “Five Points of Contention,” of how I (and some of my friends) feel about ESPN’s rankings.
Point of Contention #1: Is LeBron James the Best Player in the NBA?
After what happened to LeBron in the NBA Finals against the Dallas Mavericks, most people have moved away from calling LeBron James the best player in the NBA. However, when you’re trying to do an objective analysis of a player’s ability, it’s almost impossible to rank LeBron James anywhere but #1. ESPN analysts were asked to rank players based on their abilities on a scale from 1 to 10. You can’t give LeBron James a 9 and then give somebody else a 10, so it makes sense that he would be ranked #1. Even knowing how the grading was done though, I can’t excuse the rankings because the system was flawed. LeBron James can’t be deemed the best player in the NBA when on the biggest stage, he didn’t even show up.
A Friend’s Take: “LeBron James failed his final. Sure, he was talkative, diligent, and turned all of his homework in on time during the semester, but when you bomb the final, I can’t give you an “A” for effort.”
Point of Contention #2: Is Chris Paul (#4) actually better than Derrick Rose (#8)?
It’s actually a trickier question than one might have thought. Looking at the season as a whole last year, these two guys were actually pretty even in terms of what they produced. That being said, Paul’s team is a lot worst without him than the Bulls are without Rose. That did, however, swing a little more in Rose’s favor after the All-Star break, when Rose turned up his game a notch and Paul’s knee injury caused Paul to fall from his November and December performance. Thus, as it stands at this very point and time, Rose is the better player. But the argument for whom to take could easily come down to which type of point guard you want for your team, which makes this question even harder.
A Friend’s Take: “Derrick Rose was the MVP. Need I say more?”
Point of Contention #3: I love Time Duncan (#19), but he’s way too high.
Tim Duncan wasn’t Tim Duncan last season. He was just some old guy who would appear to have a lot of potential if he were 22 or 23 years old. At his advanced age, Duncan just isn’t going to be dominant player any more, no matter how fundamentally sound he is. He was very serviceable on the boards, which is why he will always have a starting job in this league, but his offense and defense are so mediocre now, that it’s impossible to justify saying that in league wide draft, any GM would take Duncan in the first round.
A Friend’s Take: “If Duncan is better than Zach Randolph (#20), how did the Spurs lose to Memphis in the first round?”
Point of Contention #4: Do people know who LaMarcus Aldridge (#23) is?
Playing in the Great Northwest really has cost Aldridge a lot of exposure and lot of advertising dollars. The man is far better than his #23 ranking would suggest. If you asked the Boston Celtics to trade Paul Pierce (#21), Kevin Garnett (#22) or Rajon Rondo (#17) for Aldridge, they pull the trigger on each of those three options, right? Aldridge was a beast this season, and he’s far better than Kevin Love (#16), who is only ranked that high because of his fraudulent double-double record.
A Friend’s Take: “Aldridge is the quintessential Matt Forte. He does a lot of different things well, and his “failure” to excel at one thing cost him “prestige” in the eyes of many NBA followers.”
Point of Contention #5: I hate to be that guy, but isn’t Dirk Nowitzki (#5) the best player in the NBA?
Ask yourself this question: if Dirk Nowtizki and LeBron James switch teams and perform the exact same way they did in the NBA Finals, don’t the Miami Heat win the championship instead of the Mavericks? I think so. So if Dirk could win the Finals with his cast of characters and then switch with LeBron and beat James with the Heat’s cast, that to me says that Dirk is the best player. This debate is actually how the whole “LeBron flunked the final” analogy came up. We know Dirk doesn’t usually do that well on tests throughout the semester, but on the standardized test that is the Finals, Dirk scored in the 99 percentile and LeBron was an average 70 percentile test taker at best. If the NBA Finals were the GMAT, Dirk would be at Harvard Business School and LeBron would be going to the business school at Clown College.
A Friend’s Take: “I can’t say Dirk is the best player in the NBA, but at this stagnant point in time when no NBA games are being played or have been played since Dirk hoisted up the trophy and the NBA MVP award, I have to say that Dirk is better than LeBron James.”
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