10 Things Dead Wrong with ESPN's NBA Player Rankings
Before we get started on what is completely wrong about these rankings, I think it’s important we talk about how ESPN ranked the players.
We asked our ESPN Forecast Panel to rate each player on a 0-to-10 scale, in terms of the overall play for each player for upcoming NBA season.
That being said, the ESPN Forecast Panel got a lot wrong. Here are the top 10 problems in the rankings based on who the players were ranked below and above. For example, ranking Kevin Durant at No. 2 wouldn’t make any sense if the No. 1 ranking was someone like Mario Chalmers, but it would make sense if the No. 1 was LeBron James (which it is).
Capeesh? Alright let’s get started.
10. Manu Ginobili at No. 86
Manu Ginobili had one of the worst postseasons ever last year, but he is still one of the most talented players in the NBA. He has the ability to heat up at any moment and completely change a game. Are we forgetting about Game 5 of the NBA Finals last season where he scored 24 points and added 10 assists?
Look, his turnover frenzy during the playoffs last season was really hard to watch—I’m not kidding, I literally covered my eyes multiple times. But I still believe in Manu. If we are looking ahead and not back, Ginobili had an entire offseason to rest up, refocus, watch film and get better.
The former Sixth Man of the Year absolutely does not deserve his ranking at No. 25 from last year, but at No. 86 he is 23 spots behind Eric Bledsoe who averaged 8.5 points per game and 3.1 assists last season. He is better than that and will prove it this season.
9. Pau Gasol at No. 29
Pau Gasol should not be this high. Pau is one of the best big men in the game, but he’s been severely less effective for the last couple of seasons. He’s also prone to injury.
He’s obviously tremendously skilled and talented. In fact, he’s just one of five players in NBA history to average 13 points, seven rebounds and two assists for all of his first 12 seasons (courtesy of ESPN Stats and Information via ESPN Ranking linked above).
He’s ranked ahead of Andre Iguodala and Mike Conley Jr. If we’re talking overall play including defense and steals, these guys should definitely be in front of Pau.
8. Tim Duncan at No. 16
Tim Duncan is the best power forward in the league and possibly in history. To put him at No. 16 behind Blake Griffin and Dwight Howard is definitely a snub. Duncan is aging, but he seems to be getting better with age.
After averaging 13.4 points per game in 2010-11 and 15.4 in 2011-12, last season he averaged 17.8 points per game and almost won another championship with the San Antonio Spurs.
Timmy continues to improve and still has a chance to win his fifth ring this year at 37 years old.
7. Derrick Rose at No. 9
I know Derrick Rose hasn’t played a game in a year-and-a-half, but the youngest MVP in NBA history deserves to be higher than No. 9. This guy is out of this world when healthy and after an entire season off, he’s very well-rested and ready to go.
Apparently during his long period off from basketball his vertical increased by five inches as reported by Nick Friedell of ESPN. Is that even possible?
Rose is amazing. He's virtually unguardable with his crazy quickness and explosive first step. He has to be higher than No. 9 and absolutely should not be ranked below Dwight Howard and a very young Kyrie Irving.
6. Tony Parker at No. 12
Tony Parker’s ranking increased which would make sense after his excellent season last year, but his ranking climbed just four places from No. 16 to No. 12, which doesn't make sense since his terrific season garnered some MVP buzz. Tony Parker is one of the best point guards in the game. To put him below Dwight Howard who may be in the same situation he was last year where his coaches try to make the Twin Towers offense work, doesn’t make sense.
Parker is with pretty much the same group of guys he’s always played with. Knowing your team as a point guard can only improve your ability to run your offense without many turnovers.
Tony Parker is very quiet about his scoring. He doesn’t rise up and dunk on anyone, he doesn’t shoot many threes, but he gets the job done. He is quick, he is crafty and he is one of nine players in NBA history to score 3,000 points and earn 900 assists in his postseason career (courtesy of ESPN Stats and Information via ESPN Ranking). The other eight players? Six of them are Hall of Famers and the two active players are LeBron James and Kobe Bryant.
But he’s only the 12th-best player in the NBA? No, ESPN, just no.
5. Camelo Anthony at No. 15
Carmelo Anthony is one of four players in NBA history to average at least 20 points, four rebounds and two assists in each of his first 10 seasons (courtesy of ESPN Stats and Information via ESPN Rankings.) The other three: Kareem Abul-Jabbar, Oscar Robertson and LeBron James.
Melo is one of the best scorers in the league. He’s never even averaged below 20 points per game for his entire 10-year career. And last season he averaged 28.7 points per game.
I like that the importance of scoring has decreased in rankings like these, but come on. He is ranked below Blake Griffin and Paul George. There is no way Melo isn’t a top-10 player in the NBA.
4. Russell Westbrook at No. 5
ESPN did acknowledge that they ranked Russell Westbrook before his most recent injury setback, but I'm still not convinced he deserved this rating before his most recent surgery. Westbrook is a phenomenal player. He is quick, explosive and the Oklahoma City Thunder really struggled without him even with outstanding play from Kevin Durant.
But to have him at No. 5 coming back from an injury (even before his second surgery) four spots above Derrick Rose is just wrong.
3. Blake Griffin at No. 14
I’ve used Blake Griffin as a reason why these rankings make no sense several times already, so I think it’s time to acknowledge how ridiculous his ranking is.
If this was a ranking on potential, Griffin and Dwight Howard would be at the top of the list, but this ranking is predicting “the overall play” for this upcoming season, which means the players will have to actually produce.
Griffin is a phenomenal talent. He is a walking highlight reel. But, he can barely even shoot a jumper or a free throw. Last season he shot 34 percent from 10 to 16 feet and 66.7 percent from the free-throw line. Absolutely no way should he be ranked above Tim Duncan who shot 43.1 percent from 16 feet to three-point range and 82 percent from the free-throw line and helped lead his team to the NBA Finals last season.
2. Dwight Howard at No. 7
Dwight Howard should be a beast. He’s a 6’11” three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year who averaged 17.1 points per game and 12.4 rebounds per game to go along with 2.4 blocks per game last season in a tumultuous environment with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Not too shabby.
BUT, the rankings are about this upcoming season—a prediction on how these players will play. Well, much like when he was in LA, Dwight isn’t the only big man on the team. His coaches are in experimental mode trying to figure out how center Omer Asik and Dwight Howard can work together. Remember when Mike D’Antoni tried this?
D12 is an excellent player, but I think the experimentation of the two big men will get in the way of his production this year and ranking him as high as No. 7 above Tim Duncan, Kobe Bryant and Derrick Rose is just wrong.
1. Kobe Bryant at No. 25
Kobe Bryant is not what he used to be. He is aging and an Achilles tear is not an easy thing to come back from, but the Black Mamba is not just your ordinary player. His drive and will to win is one of a kind.
He may not be the Kobe he once was, but he is one of the greatest of all time. He almost single-handedly led a weak Los Angeles Lakers team with zero chemistry to the playoffs last season, averaging 27.3 points per game, which is the highest scoring average by any NBA player in history who started the season at the age of 34 (courtesy of ESPN Information and Stats via ESPN Rankings).
The ESPN Forecast Panel had a huge challenge to rank 500 NBA players. There are a lot of great players in the NBA and with different positions and different strength and weaknesses I’m sure it was tough. But, they definitely missed the mark on these 10.